Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A magnificent commercial. Read this before you try to do something like it.

A beautiful piece of video showed up in my Facebook feed the other day. But before I share it with you, I feel it’s my duty to give you a little background.

Any piece of communication has two components –– the rational and the emotional. The rational component is the message. What you want people to believe. The reason why.

But what makes a piece of communication amazing is always –– always –– the emotional bit. Not the message, but the way it’s delivered.

Remember Apple’s ‘1984’ commercial? (Probably not. You weren’t even born in 1984, were you?) Created by Chiat/Day (where I used to work as a copywriter, by the way), it’s still held up as one of the –– if not the –– greatest television spots ever made. What was the message? Apple’s new computer is going to change the world.


It’s exactly the same strategy that every single computer manufacturer has used for every single new product introduction ever.

There are tons of really forgettable ways that message could have been –– and has been –– delivered. Microsoft’s Surface introduction comes to mind. Samsung’s ‘Next Big Thing’ campaign, too. I’m sure there are other good examples, but, well, like I said they’re mostly forgettable.

The way Apple chose to do it in 1983 –– having a blonde chick heave a sledge hammer at a TV screen –– that was the amazing part. (It also helped that the Macintosh happened to be truly revolutionary, but that’s the subject of a different post.)

Every once in a while, somebody who realizes the truth of what I just said will go, “Well, if the  emotional component is the part that really matters, why should I even bother with the rational bit? I mean, who needs a strategy, anyway?”

You do.

Little reason: Because your competitors are staking claims and not to do so would be stupid. 

Medium reason: Because knowing what you’re trying to communicate rationally will liberate your creative teams to come up with an amazing way to do it.

Big reason: Because nobody knows. Seriously. Nobody can consistently and reliably create amazing emotional bits, especially in the absence of rational bits. 

Sure, there are a few geniuses who are pretty good at it. And they have a better record at making amazing stuff than most. But in spite of what every single ad agency tells every single client, it’s impossible to control for all the variables or to know what’s going to resonate. 

Don’t believe me? Then explain to me why the video for Gangnam Style managed to accumulate more than two billion views on YouTube while the follow up video for the same artist, directed by the same director, and benefitting from the all the press and fame and confidence and revenue of the first, couldn’t come close?

Please. Whatever you do, don’t abandon strategy and attempt to make a spot for your version of baked beans like this exquisite little piece of perfection: 

Because biggest reason: It’s not a commercial for beans. It was written and directed by Animator Alvise Avati and produced by Animation Director Eamonn Butler as a commercial for Cinesite, demonstrating their creature animation skills. 

Oh look. A strategy: “We do really good creature animation.”

Now that you know what this video was actually created to do, go back and read through my list of reasons. Suddenly, strategy makes a whole lot more sense, doesn’t it?

Brian Belefant is a copywriter and director currently looking for his next assignment. Please call (503) 715 2852 or email belefant@me.com.