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January 2019

bandersnatch ads

Interactive Ads: The Future Of Videos?

By V-Blog

If you have a Netflix account or are interested in high-concept films, you have probably heard about Black Mirror’s interactive film ‘Bandersnatch’. This is a psychological thriller in which you make choices along the way, and control the direction of the story. Whether this is a novelty or the future of film is up for speculation. If it’s a gimmick, however, it’s an incredibly engaging one and has led to watercooler conversations across the world.

But can this interactivity be applied to video commercials?

Well, it already has. In 2011, online streaming service Hulu introduced the ‘Ad Swap’ function. This allows the viewer to choose which advert to sit through, by giving them two or three others to pick from. This sounds like a pretty good idea, truth be told: a teenager, for instance, may be more interested in a gadget commercial than one for life insurance.

However, in practice, this didn’t work out as well as hoped. In their article ‘Commercials by Multiple Choice’, The New York Times reported that one of the problems connected with the Ad Swap option was that by the time users would select a different ad, they’d have already seen a lot of the default one. Hulu then tried delaying the start of the default ad to give users a chance to choose. This, however, proved frustrating, as the delay prolonged the ad break.

Still, this option doesn’t make the adverts, in and of themselves, interactive.

As shown in the video above, Mercedes tried something far closer to the ‘Choose-your-own-adventure’ nature of Bandersnatch. Back in 2012, they launched a campaign entitled #YOUDRIVE. This was something of an event, advertised much like a blockbuster with its own trailer and poster. The story depicted a suave musician and his female driver racing through a city to get to a secret gig, while authorities are in hot pursuit. It was divided into three parts, 60 seconds each, shown in the ad breaks of the X Factor UK. At the end of each part, the audience were given a choice of commands that they needed to tweet (for instance, #HIDE or #EVADE). The command with the majority of tweets dictated the next part.  The combination of storytelling and audience interaction was a hit: the campaign hashtag appeared 103 million times on Twitter and 30 Million times of Facebook.

BMW is another car company that embraced audience interactivity.  However, they used a different method: 360° video. The viewer is in control of the angle he or she views, but there’s also a game to play: the ad asks you to keep your eyes on the car that model Gigi Hadid is driving, a tricky task given she’s surrounded by four identical ones. A simple challenge like this keeps viewers engaged till the end and makes them need watch the commercial again and again.

Coca-Cola similarly pushed the envelope when it came to interactive ads: they created the first ever ‘drinkable advertisement’, done in collaboration with Shazam. The app detected the sound of a Coke pouring on TV, and a graphic of a filling Coke glass appeared on their smartphone screen. Viewers were then gifted with a voucher for free Coke Zero.

The increasing sophistication of online technology has opened up new storytelling doors for commercials. Interactivity is a new tool, one that is still being played and experimented with. You can decide to steer clear of this innovation or embrace it and see where it leads.

The choice is yours.

If you want to create your very own interactive video for your brand, drop us a line!

 

Bruce Micallef Eynaud

gilette ad

Gillette: The Best An Ad Can Be

By V-Blog

There was a time when the main aim of an ad was to sell a product in the most audience-friendly way possible. Sparking boycotts would have been an advertisers’ nightmare. But as Nike’s Colin Kaepernick’s ad showed, advertisers are now unafraid to risk controversy. They may be seeking just that.
Following Nike’s lead now comes Gillette’s ‘We Believe’. The concept of this advert was that the #MeToo movement has shown that the definition of what is considered ‘acceptable male behaviour’, generated by decades of media stereotypes and inappropriate role models, needs to change. That men must stand up to what is considered to be ‘toxic masculinity’ and show the young boys of today the right way to act.

The brand now questions its own world famous slogan, asking “Is this really the best a man can get?”

At one point, bullies chasing a boy rip through a screen projecting an old Gillette advert. It seems that Gillette is turning a critical eye on itself. The brand always encouraged men to be the best they can be, but it was mostly based on career success and physical strength, more than strength of character. Rather unsurprisingly, this ad has flared up controversy worldwide and sparked debates over whether this is a positive message or blatantly sexist, one that tars all men with the same brush.

The ad was viewed over 11 million times, a remarkable number given its only been on 3 days at the time of writing. However, the comment feed is almost exclusively negative, accusing it of being anti-male. A vast number of commenters pledged to switch brands. Many repeat the same catchphrase: ‘Get Woke, Go Broke’, aimed at companies pushing progressive messages. (Ironic, given Nike’s sales shot up 31% thanks to the publicity of their ‘woke’ Kaepernick commercial).
Scorn isn’t just coming from anonymous keyboard warriors. Piers Morgan, host of the popular ‘Good Morning Britain’ breakfast show, took offence. Morgan tweeted “This absurd virtue-signalling PC guff may drive me away to a company less eager to fuel the current pathetic global assault on masculinity. Let boys be damn boys. Let men be damn men”.
However, many have come out in support of the campaign. Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King, wrote “This commercial isn’t anti-male. It’s pro-humanity. And it demonstrates that character can step up to change conditions”.

On a personal note, I find it hard to empathise with the view that this is ‘anti-male’. The advert is criticising inappropriate behaviour that is often excused, wrongly, as ‘masculine’ behaviour. This can be physical fighting and cat-calling. If the critics think that the commercial is anti-male than they hold men to a very low standard.
The commercial is simply asking men to stand up for what’s right and break the cycles of violence and harassment that have been permitted for too long. If you are a man who believes that men have been given a bad reputation by the #MeToo movement, then counter that by setting the example. Show others what ‘being a man’ really stands for… As actress Whoopi Goldberg expressed on talk show ‘The View’, “What they’re basically saying is ‘Don’t Be a Jerk.’”

However, that’s not to say there isn’t an argument to be made against ‘virtue-signalling’ in commercials. One should question Gillette’s ultimate motive in creating this TV commercial. Do they genuinely want to make men think about how they can be better? Or did they purposefully create the ad for the sake of controversy, knowing that it would light a wildfire of free publicity? Does Gillette care more about the cause or the headlines?
Sure, Gillette state that they are donating 1 million a year for the next three years to non-profit organizations aimed at educating men on how to achieve their best. However, a total of 3 Million dollars is a pretty minuscule sum for a company worth 17.1 Billion. The value of the free publicity the ad generated will likely to be vastly greater than Gillette’s donations.
Sarah Banet-Weiser, professor of Media and Communications at the London School of Economics, says this:
“The Gillette ad is part of a much longer tradition of what I’ve talked about as commodity activism, where political messages are harnessed to boost the reputation of the company and to sell products”.

One may see this as capitalism hiding behind a veneer of moral righteousness, and there may be truth in that. One must acknowledge, though, that creating an advert that asks its target demographic to be self-critical is a very risky move; the consequences of which have yet to be seen. And when a world-famous brand takes such a risk to promote a positive message, that is something to be applauded. Commercials aren’t there to just plug products. Commercials can be a statement about what the brand stands for. Gillette is willing to lose the customers that don’t share their values, but they will attract those who do.

 

by Bruce Micallef Eynaud

 

A LOOK BACK AT: APPLE’S “1984” ADVERT

By V-Blog

This article will kick off a series of retrospectives on classic commercials from the advertising world: the adverts that have shaped the ways commercials are conceived, produced and distributed.

When it came to deciding which to start with, there really was only one answer: Apple’s ground-breaking advert for the Macintosh, titled ‘1984’. The advert, first shown during the Super Bowl game in December of 1983, is remarkably ahead of its time and is considered avant-garde even by today’s standards. It depicts a dystopian future closely modelled on George Orwell’s novel.

We see a herd of brain-washed workers shuffle into a large auditorium, where the projected face of ‘Big Brother’ preaches about a ‘garden of ideology’. A woman wielding a sledgehammer runs into the chamber, pursued by armoured guards. She hurls her weapon at the virtual dictator, causing an explosion of blinding whiteness. The text promises that, because of the release of the Macintosh, “1984 won’t be like 1984”.

The concept was created by Apple’s PR firm, Chiat/Day, specifically by Creative Director Lee Clow and copywriter Steve Hayden. The concept originally pitched in 1982 to promote the Apple II. The idea behind the ad was that the ease-of-use of Apple’s computers gave the power of technology to the people, rather than corrupt rulers. While it was originally rejected by the executives at Apple, Steve Jobs encouraged them to develop it for its upcoming Macintosh.

John Sculley, then Apple’s CEO, disliked the advert, but because of Job’s enthusiasm for the concept, approved it for production. Chiat/Day hired visionary director Ridley Scott to call the shots. Given Scott had recently directed sci-fi classics ‘Alien’ and ‘Blade Runner’, he was the perfect choice for the project. Under his direction, the dystopian future is incredibly atmospheric and sombre. Scott’s attention to detail is also noticeable: some of the slaves, for example, wear elephantine breathing masks, indicating the dour state of health and pollution.

The advert was shot in Scott’s native England. Looking for bald extras, cast several British skinheads, a subculture of shaven-headed youths, with a notorious reputation for racism. In retrospect, these figures seem to foreshadow the ‘Engineers’, the alien race from Scott’s recent sci-fi films Prometheus and Alien Covenant.

While Chiat/Day and Jobs were ecstatic about the final result, the Apple Board were far from satisfied and suggested Apple drop Chiat/Day as their PR firm. Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak greatly supported the ad, going so far as offering to pay for the Superbowl spot out of his own money, if it was refused. Eventually, CEO Sculley put the decision to marketing manager Bill Campbell. Needless to say, he was a fan, and the rest is history.

The ad grabbed more headlines than the actual Super Bowl game and proved so popular it generated $5 million in free publicity, thanks to repeat plays on news programmes. The 1984 advert was undoubtedly a trendsetter. It began a tradition of using the Super Bowl to premiere high-end commercials that generate huge amounts of talk. It showed the power of producing commercials in a cinematic style. And most importantly, it showed that a commercial doesn’t need to show the product to be effective. In fact, not showing the Macintosh computer is perhaps this ad’s greatest masterstroke. It built a huge amount of curiosity in the audience back then, and it doesn’t feel dated today. This style of this has become increasingly popular, such as the Sainsbury’s ad ‘1914’ or Spike Jonze’s Kenzo World fragrance commercial. They are ads that capture the feeling or spirit of the brand and intrigue the viewer to find out more.

There’s no doubt that the combination of the moody atmosphere and lack of product made this a very risky ad for Apple, but thanks to the creative team sticking to their guns, it proved to be a gamble that paid off. As Jobs himself said, “Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”

Would you like to have your own groundbreaking commercial for your business but you don’t know where to start? Drop us a line, we can’t wait to hear from you!