Let’s recall all the good ones, and put aside the memory of the bad and the ugly
I was at a dinner table with friends, when a guest made a familiar observation “I am left cold by all advertising!” she grimaced.
Everybody grinned, but I winced. The words hurt.
Yet the declaration has a familiar ring to it. Our clients invest heavily into something and then to have viewers claim it’s lame product pushing! They invest so much good money into advertising hoping to produce returns for the brand, so it’s a pity when viewers think it doesn’t “work” but secretly, I think I know the reason why.
In my view the best ads don’t – rather are not meant to – do anything. They just need to tell great stories. They need to entertain and enlighten and that’s gotta be their only objective. In the process, if they also happen to persuade, so much the better!
Let’s take the case of the 2013 Super Bowl ad that tells the tale of an American farmer. Made by a company that makes trucks for farmers (Dodge) it’s not about horse power but about simple farmers and their importance to the food economy. This ad speaks straight to the heart of the farming community.
Similarly HBO’s “I Still Have A Soul” is awesome. Stellar cinematography, clean editing and a story of great passion told without uttering a single syllable. It gives boxing so much meaning that viewers automatically feel grateful to HBO for bringing it live to them through their late-night, Boxing After Dark series. Both those ads represent the very best of advertising content produced last year.
It makes us remember that while it’s easy to sit in judgment of author’s, musician’s, painter’s, illustrator’s, poet’s and photographer’s work, it’s not so easy to judge advertiser’s work simply because they are limited by their client’s brief and have to produce to a marketing template. Just once-in-a-while, someone rises above the brief and the outcome can be a stunning 30 second clip!
The ability to work within the limitations set by clients is indeed good as it challenges our creativity. We face a problem, we do some quick thinking and if we are lucky or brilliant, we come up with a creative solution. Otherwise, my friend is right, most advertising is imminently forgettable. Then comes something that instantly connects! It speaks directly to the consumers and they are left impressed. Those are rare works of art in advertising.
Take for instance, Dove’s documentary-style campaign on why most (indeed all) women think they are not beautiful enough. Years of social conditioning, play on their minds and they are not able to move beyond the beauty myth. In this campaign by Ogilvy Brazil filmed by John X Carey in a San Francisco loft, Dove recruits FBI-trained forensic artist Gil Zamora, who in his daily life sketches crime suspects. But for this campaign he was asked to draw portraits of women as they described themselves and then drew the same women’s portraits as a stranger, who had met them just once described them. Did the two sketches look alike! You bet not. The sketches dictated by the strangers were more flatteringly and the difference in some cases was so striking, it was shocking!
These are the kind of ads you want to share with friends and they go viral! These 30-second marketing masterpieces make you want to pause, rewind, laugh, cry, and think.
The Google-India ad for instance was the most talked-about ad in 2013, and not without reason. Nostalgic, in a down market it capitalized on the economy of friendship, set against a perfect score.
On another plane, Robinsons Drinks’ “play thirsty” ad opens with two little chums throwing pebbles at each another, horsing around and generally having a field’s day and talking! Later, they are so dog-tired, they chug some juice and collapse in front of the tube on the couch. When one boy dozes off, the other carries him up the staircase and tucks him in. Just when he is shutting the door, it dawns on the viewers that the playmate in the boy’s wishful thinking is actually his dad.
The ticker reads: “It’s good to be a dad but it’s better to be a pal.”
This one is so heart-wrenching; I wished Litmus had produced it for one of our clients!