Two Ads I Like and One I Don’t – Freddie Luchterhand-Dare

Debates around advertising are as old as advertising itself. One of the most prominent discourses has explored the various mechanisms used to maneuver consumers into buying goods or services they neither need nor want.

Different interpretations exist. For some, the hard sell happens through slick imagery and embellished claims, and for others, it is a matter of deeper deception.

Vance Packard, as far back as 1957, wrote about the ‘hidden persuaders’ in advertising: or in the other words, the exploitation of our own psychology to sell us stuff.


 

The reality is that advertising has the potential to be hugely powerful, but only when it is thoughtfully conceived. It just so rarely is. Be it on TV or YouTube, content that prioritizes sheen over substance abounds. That, unfortunately, is too often a symptom of industry demands leading to unanchored creativity.

The reality is that advertising has the potential to be hugely powerful, but only when it is thoughtfully conceived. It just so rarely is

Every now and then, however, you find an advert with real punch. That kind of profundity can only occur when an advert is built on a real, even unspoken, insight about people, culture or brand. It is the adverts that ‘tell’, as well as ‘sell’.

Here are two that do it

Lexus ‘Driving the City’ – A predictive quality

https://vimeo.com/44798901


 

This was an advert made in 2002 that has found relevance fifteen years later. Shot like a perfume commercial, and coupled with a hauntingly emotive soundtrack, the advert does superficial gloss very well.

But it also hinted, whether knowingly or not, at a bigger shift taking hold in the automotive industry right now – that from ‘driving’ to ‘being’.

In a nutshell, the less the car becomes synonymous with ‘driving’ – because that equates to gridlock and speed cameras – the more the car becomes about time well-spent. For manufacturers and marketers that means talking up the interior features and sensory experience of the cabin, not the engine size or alloy wheels. (Few have realized this yet).

Or, to borrow the ad’s tagline, ‘it’s the feeling inside’ that matters.

Samsung ‘The Anthem’ – A reflective quality

I only like this advert when I don’t confuse execution with intent. And the intent is good. 

If we accept that advertising acts a cultural thermometer, reflecting and interpreting society’s anxieties, hopes, and tensions at any one time, then Samsung’s national anthem ballad makes a valid point about the fragmented state of our world – a symptom of which is a sort of cultural ‘disunification’.

It’s not new. The utopian dream of cultural one-worldism was eschewed by the Beatles, Bob Geldof and most ‘summer of love’ pop music. However, it has proved about as unattainable as a pet unicorn. Musicians, it appears, have lost the optimism.

Be it on TV or YouTube, content that prioritizes sheen over substance abounds. That, unfortunately, is too often a symptom of industry demands leading to unanchored creativity.

The current lyrical zeitgeist favors realism over idealism. Songs build up hope, only to knock it down. “When she was just a girl, she expected the world / but then it flew away from her reach”, sing Coldplay in Paradise.

The utopianism, however, lives on in advertising. And long may it. After all, we are at a time when a (mawkish, yes) advert for cultural unity has pointed relevance. Even if it does come courtesy of a new mobile phone.

One advert I don’t Like

Nike ‘Da Da Ding’ – A cultural oversight

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pJ3wXDzNew

Nike won many plaudits for its Indian female empowerment spot ‘Da Da Ding’. In a still gendered country, it was brilliant defiance; a visual manifesto.

The problem is that it feels like an advert for India, made in America. With music setting the dramatic pace, we see athletes and celebrities doing their thing, interspersed with choreographed dancing on cars (La La Land, anyone?).

But in making it so beautiful, cultural nuance and an accurate reflection of on-the-ground realities were overlooked in favor of production value. Indeed, whilst adland celebrated, Indians parodied. Enter a hugely popular spin-off video.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XiK8TIyQNo8

Conceived of Nike’s failure to highlight the women who struggle every day without appreciation or recognition, the video is a vignette of powerful juxtaposition: the women who can afford Nike trainers with those who cannot.

The ‘Other Women’ video went viral because it did exactly what Nike didn’t. It told the actual story of women in India, the one Indians could relate to.

A good reminder for everyone in the creative industry: know the host culture, and seek resonance not just recognition.

 

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