In Praise of Product Demos

Here is a tremendous commercial, one of my favorites in a long, long time.* When you look closely, it is little more than a hardcore, wall-to-wall product sell. Nonetheless, it is also massively entertaining. I don’t know what wonderfully twisted mind decided the best way to showcase the amazing features of an adjustable ladder would be Mexican masked wrestling, but whomever they are, they earned their paycheck this quarter…

The casting is perfect. In a time of unchecked political correctness, casting Will Rubio, who self describes as an actor//comedian/sexy Cuban, and encouraging him to lean hard into the accent gladdened my heart with its pure joyfulness. “The Ladder Luchador” also features a very liberal, nee Stooges-esque reliance on physical comedy. But if you pay attention, you’ll notice that every single physical gag is a product demo. And listen to those sound effects: the Foley artist had a hill of fun with this project.

At over three minutes long, this spot will never run on television, but it is currently earning hundreds of thousands of views on the internet. Not just through the Murphy Ladder Company and Home Depot paid media placements, but through impressions earned from a wide variety of news and entertainment outlets that are sharing it. That’s where I found it.

Most people don’t realize how hard this particular brand of dopey-ness is. Or how hard-working. Big congratulations to Provo-based social media agency Harmon Brothers, whose previous credits include Squatty Potty and Poo Pourri. Masterpiece Theater this ain’t, but it is very on point for today’s audiences. In fact, one posting on YouTube features a vertical aspect ratio for mobile phone consumption. Smartly done.

PS*: Yes, I’m serious. This is my favorite product demo in a long time. Like a truly loooong time. Before this, my favorite product demo spot goes back to Penn Tennis Balls, circa 1975.

Perennial Brand Content

American Greetings created this branded content six years ago. And every year, it finds a new audience across social media. Rightly so, because while it may be simple in execution, it is brilliant in concept. And performance.

Of course you can get ahead of the idea; most viewers probably do. But if that last woman’s emotional honesty doesn’t choke you up, you may be the Tin Man.

If you are lucky enough to have a Mom, hopefully you already sent her a card. If not, for god’s sake, get on the phone. You got less than ten hours left.

The Power of Simple

In the daily deluge of news items, memes, and hot takes regarding social distancing, this one leapt off my feeds …

Astoundingly elegant, powerfully persuasive

It is a public service ad shot for the Ohio Department of Health by Real Art: an experiential production agency out of Dayton. An incredibly imaginative idea that’s perfect in execution, it racked up over 6 million views within its first 24 hours. Perhaps the only negative about this piece is how it inspires so many shameless headlines that feature the word ‘snappy.’

Real Art’s video team lead Andy Nick provided some fascinating production details on his Twitter feed. The set up for the explosive shot required 8 hours. And like most productions, time got short toward the end of the day. So much so that for the final ‘distanced’ scene, he took the precaution of supergluing the balls to the traps in case the bouncing ping pong ball thrown into their midst went awry. Remarkably, it didn’t and he captured it on the first take. Check out another view of the madness on this BTS video he shot on his iPhone from another angle.

Very impressive thinking, an even more impressive production, and an unforgettable message. This is advertising at its best. Well done Andy and team.

Rammstein ist so metallisch

How do you sell a concert tour? This seems like a pretty smart approach…

Granted, I don’t listen to Rammstein. East German industrial metal isn’t really my thing. Still, I stumbled across this link and soon found myself watching this cleverly constructed time lapse of the two and a half-day long assembly of the band’s touring stage in Dresden. It’s beautifully produced and absolutely mesmerizing. Even in this non-fan it built a powerful sense of anticipation.

So much so that I hit the old Google machine. And learned that Rammstein has been around for 25 years and is notorious for fiery, explosive live performances.

So simply by clicking this video, I’m now intrigued enough so that tomorrow when I get on the treadmill, I will search the band on Spotify.

It’s not an ad per se, but this clip is as good an example of video brand extension as I’ve seen this week. Ja, lass es rocken.

How Do You Sell Mass Media Without A Super Bowl?

It was fun last week, discussing and debating the Super Bowl ads. It felt particularly special since it’s so rare that we all share an experience. The digital/mobile takeover consigned such commonality to the past, now that we build networks conformed to our own perspectives.

When even our media gravitate toward the niches Chris Anderson famously dubbed ‘the long tail,‘ how can you attract people back to mass platforms like network television, the long tailed beast’s metaphorical body?

Like any marketing challenge, successful solutions require a brilliant strategy. Just over three years ago, some clever people promoting Denmark’s TV2 created video content that is as strategically brilliant as it is emotionally powerful …

Celebrating not what divides us but all that we share; this is a resonant insight brought to tone-perfect life through writing, casting, music, and edit. There’s such delightful surprise in the discovery of our collective commonality and the unexpected things we share.

Locked off so much of the time in our own corners, it’s helpful to be reminded of that. Helpful, and reassuring.

Four year old video content for Denmark's TV2 warmly demonstrates a strategy for attracting people back to mass media: the things we share.

Branded UX … IRL

Marketers tend to consign User Experience discussions to digital executions. But last July, South Africa and Norway gave a sculpted bench as a gift to the United Nations that perfectly embodies branded UX.

As a physical piece, it is elegantly simple: a long, spare, gracefully curving, arc.

But as a User Experience, it is quietly effective; sitting down puts you in close proximity to anyone else sharing the bench.

“Best Weapon”: a gift from South Africa and Norway to the United Nations

And that’s exactly the point. The Norwegian design firm Snøhetta took their inspiration from a Nelson Mandela quote:

“The best weapon is to sit down and talk.”

Nelson Mandela, Mandela: The Living Legend, BBC 2003

Mandela’s words reflect the United Nations’ mission to maintain international peace and security. As an experience, “Best Weapon” is entirely on brand. And in these exhausting days of showboating, self-interested politicians posturing as leaders, this sculpture’s core human truth resonates in powerful silence.

Creativity Will Save Advertising. Again.

I know, I know–it’s too late; advertising’s already dead. Digital/social/experiential/big data killed it…

The only problem is this constant, dire drumbeat sounds juicy, it creates alarm, but it’s mostly just opinion or self-promotion. It’s clickbait.

If you want facts, follow the money. In the most recent case, digital entertainment powerhouse Netflix bid $300m to buy Regency Outdoor Advertising.

That’s right, the disruptive, disintermediating, digital content giant wants to buy a billboard company.

Their motivation is fascinating. Netflix noticed that big outdoor imagery stokes social sharing. People posted lots of shots of their “Netflix is a joke” campaign to Instagram which promoted their comedy line-up.

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In other words, people share great creative.

These days, $300m might not sound like an earth-shattering number, but it represents the largest acquisition in Netflix history. Imagine; a leading digital giant offering to pay one third of a billion dollars on a oft-declared dying medium…a smart company wouldn’t do that unless they knew it worked.

And that’s a fact.

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This post originally appeared in Screen Magazine.

Taking Marketing Beyond Advertising

Today’s unprecedented access to information, demand for transparency, and empowerment of social recommendation speed the transition from mass marketing and toward more relevant and personalized communications: in short, digital video content.

Advertising improves selling, but video content improves communication. Of all kinds. Which in turn, improves sales. That’s why it’s where marketing is moving.

Make no mistake; I love great advertising. And great advertising still builds brands. But it’s no longer the only way. Because it’s not just brands that need building; businesses and organizations of every kind need to reach audiences with compelling messages.

So there’s always another story to tell.

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Bloomberg Powers Up Immersive Content to a New Level

In marketing, ‘content’ should not be a noun, and certainly never an adjective. Great content is an action verb; it doesn’t just sit there, it drives you to take action: to like, to comment, to share. Great content makes you engage.

This wonderfully imaginative content from Bloomberg does just that incredibly well. To promote a number of articles they published on the serious challenges brick and mortar retail faces today, Bloomberg developed an old school, 8 bit looking web-based video game called American Mall. The challenge? Keep a shopping mall running and profitable in an environment where every challenge seems stacked against you.

It is an absorbing task and only becomes more engrossing the more you play and explore. Most amazingly, it creates a real sense of empathy for the challenges people in this sector face today.

Play the game here

Enjoy your exploration and struggle but know that you will not win. That seems to be Bloomberg’s point, though it’s not one I entirely share. Still, when you do fail, take note of the final nemesis laughing at your demise; it’s just another wonderful detail in this clever and exceptional piece of content.

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PS: A special thank you to my relentlessly curious and marvelously informed friend and colleague, Dr. Kate Sieck, for sending this link my way.

“Video Content: Why”: a Free e-Book(let)

That’s right, free. With no purchase.

Twenty-two pages of facts, links, and thinking on the many ways video has evolved from a selling platform to the preferred communications platform.

Our world has changed. Smart companies have commissioned research to learn exactly how so I’ve been reading what they shared, sifting through the hyperbole and exaggeration endemic to the blogging world, all to catalogue the best thinking on how to leverage online video.

OnVideoContent

I want to share this thinking with anyone and everyone who may be interested. Download it, share it, use it however it may help; I simply ask that if you have feedback or input on how to make it better, share your thoughts. Our digital world is iterative which makes constant improvement a real possibility.

As I post this, we stand halfway between the end of Hanukkah and Christmas day; consider this my ecumenical Holiday gift to you. Read it in good health. And all the best for the New Year.

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PS: Find other downloadable links on this page.