Creative ad campaigns instill a sense of awe and marvel in the people they target. They cause us to stand back and wonder, “How did the brand even come up with that?” When a brand gets an ad campaign right, they stand out amongst the myriad of typical, hackneyed, and lackluster ads that bombard our weekly TV programs, Pandora stations, and Hulu viewings (personal injury attorneys and campaign commercials, I’m looking at you). I for one frequently tune out less-than-interesting ads, but an extraordinary ad campaign makes me want to replay the ad and share it with the people I know. Here are four recent campaigns that distinguish themselves with innovativeness, creativity, humor, and a healthy dose of aw shucks! adorableness.
Burt’s Bees, a company that sells skin care and beauty products, set up a billboard on a busy street in Minneapolis. This billboard has an interactive element and consequently leaves the typical tacky and cheesy billboard in the dust. It was developed to promote Burt’s Bees Intense Hydration line and consists of a woman with dry, flaky skin. These flakes are made up of thousands of coupons for Burt’s Bees products. As people claim coupons by symbolically peeling away these dry skin flakes, they reveal a new image of the same woman, this time with soft, smooth, and hydrated skin.
The time-lapse video that shows the coupon-peeling-induced transformation from dry and dismal to nourished and new:
Burt’s Bees could have gone the traditional route of displaying before and after images, a cosmetic alteration caused by the use of their hydrating lotion. Instead, they had people themselves engage with the billboard and unveil a fresh-faced model, all the while receiving a discount. And yes, the idea of people peeling away skin might be slightly strange, but the concept nevertheless deserves kudos for its creative content and ability to build a steady, whirring buzz around beauty products and the Burt’s Bees brand.
To be fair, this example from UK company Bodyform, which sells feminine hygiene products, isn’t exactly an advertising campaign, but it’s so amazingly uproarious that it deserves praise. A man from the U.K. named Richard posted on the Bodyform Facebook wall pointing out the falsity in the Bodyform ads that display that time of the month as filled with exciting, enjoyable activities like bike riding, parachuting, and rollerblading. Richard states that the real monthly woman’s time is actually starkly different and rather unpleasant: his girlfriend transforms from a “loving, gentle, lady” to “the little girl from The Exorcist with added venom and extra 360 degree head spin.” Suffice it to say that Richard’s expectations set by Bodyform commercials didn’t quite match his reality.
Rather than ignoring this comically accurate wall post as most brands tend to do, Bodyform crafted a genius response in the form of this video:
This video is perfect and brilliant in so many ways: the snarky attitude and commentary of Caroline Williams (she’s an actress; Bodyform doesn’t actually have a CEO), the personal address to Richard, the dramatized reveal that “there’s no such thing as a happy period,” and the mocking, tongue-in-cheek spoof of an apology.
This video is pure mockery; it’s over-the-top, and it’s a caricatured admission of guilt. Bodyform channels humor of the SNL variety with the ridiculous proposal that Richard was the first man to realize the dreadful reality of a woman’s period, that Bodyform actually managed to maintain the illusion that periods were happy times until Richard “tore down that veil and exposed this myth, thereby exposing every man to the reality they hoped they would never have to face.” They play along with Richard, and complete with the focus groups showing men reduced to tears, this video is something out of an SNL digital short (can anyone else see Kristen Wiig as a terrific Caroline Williams?)
And the fact that the woman takes a deep drink from the glass of blue water (which, for any man living under a rock who doesn’t know, is notoriously used as a substitute for blood, aka that “crimson landslide,” in feminine hygiene product commercials) is simultaneously cringe-worthy, gag-inducing and also flawless.
This video, and Richard’s Facebook post, went viral. People have claimed that Richard is merely a pawn in Bodyform’s marketing campaign and that the original post was concocted by the company itself, but it appears on Facebook that Richard is in fact a real person. I for one hope this isn’t another illusion Bodyform will ultimately be forced to shatter.
Cow and Gate
Cow and Gate is another UK company, one that sells baby milk and baby food. They recently released this ad, created by London creative agency BETC.
Is this unrealistic? Sure. I found myself becoming unsettled and unnerved when the infants and toddlers started playing with what presumably amounts to thousands of dollars in music equipment. But this ad is still excellent, mainly because it reaches people by appealing to them on an emotional level: the wide-eyed, innocent, and full-faced babies make it difficult to do anything other than marvel and admire.
The ad is perfect right from the commencement, with the slightly mischievous smirk on the little girl’s face as she wanders into the recording studio, eyes lit up in wonder and amazement. The children are initially hesitant, unsure, and timid, but then their confidence grows, and they begin to play the various musical instruments with enthusiasm and gusto.
The idea to put children in a recording studio is quite contrived yes, but the ad unfolds naturally; the children are left to their own devices. Even the transition from discordant plucking and strumming to a cover of “Come on Eileen” happens rather seamlessly. And the emotional shift at the end of the commercial from happiness to tears back to happiness perfectly captures the tendency all toddlers have to change their emotions on a whim.
Even though this is an ad for baby food and milk products, the focus isn’t on the products or even the brand, but rather on the adorable babies; it perfectly aligns with the brand’s tagline, “Feed their personalities,” as this whole recording-studio-experiment represents an emotional, developmental nurturance of sorts.
According to Ad Age, this commercial used no special effects or computer graphics. It’s just a fantastic concept, an infant-induced musical styling, and some editing.
I’m a big fan of Google’s ads, whether it’s the Dear Sophie Lee commercial for Google Chrome or the ad that uses 30 Rock to make the case for “Going Google.” The ad for the Chromebook is also a winning ad, even though it might not have the same comedic quality of the Bodyform video or the lovability of the Cow and Gate one. It marks a new shift in Google’s marketing tactics: the Chromebook was once intended to be revolutionary, a laptop that stored everything in a browser without a hard drive or desktop software. Now, rather than pushing the Chromebook as a replacement laptop, Google is selling it as a second home computer, intended, as the tagline says, “For everyone.”
The idea behind this is simple: show the people for whom the Chromebook is intended. The magic and creativity are in the details, like the way in which (similar to Google’s other ads) the focus isn’t really on the actual product, but rather on the people who use the product. And all of these people are ordinary, everyday, relatable individuals that span a range of demographics: young and old, technology buffs and technology newbies. The commercial has a very home video-esque feel, which lends to it a certain warmth, hominess, and authenticity. It’s clearly an advertisement, but it’s not all pristine panoramas and clean angles; the footage is choppy and real, capturing fleeting, personal moments, as if we’re getting a glimpse of others’ lives by watching the commercial.
Computers are cold, impersonal products. By showing the people who use computers, Google gives a starkly impersonal product a congenial, amiable feel.
(And FYI, that infectious song playing in the background is “Negative Thinking” by The Death Set.)