Here we go the nice best spots of the decade. Why nine? Because ten is so cliche, and I could only think of nine that I would put on my list. Most of the spots are what's called (I think I read this somewhere) branded emotional storytelling. They aren't selling features, so much as connecting with emotion. Still they are all strong on message as well as execution. I had a conversation with a friend of mine in the political consulting business whether this approach would work with political ads. These are all established brands he argued, so you can sell on feeling more than the laundry list of features. I argued I thought it could work in politics, the ipod wasn't established as a brand for example when those commercials came out. It's an interesting conversation, and one I'd like to blog about some more.
Now on to the list:
Pick one, anyone. This had the most hits on youtube so I chose it. This series of ads might just be the campaign of the decade. The individual ads range from wonderful to pretty good, but the conceit works each and every time. Want to know how to make great negative ads that stick, these are a master's course. They have totally changed the Mac v. PC debate. They're sharp, but not mean spirited, on message and factual, but not full of blah, blah, blah. Most of all they entertain, they essentially pay you for your attention.
I've already mentioned this one. But briefly, it's just really good story telling. It uses genre cues -- the music, the look of the child (is it Damion from Omen -- a movie I've never seen, but I still get the cultural reference, weird how that works), color scheme, to add to the tension, how is this going to pay off? When it does it's brilliant. Again, a classic piece of storytelling in :60, that pays off at the end. Think of it this way, they could have told you how delicious milk tastes. How good it was for you, how great it washes down a piece of chocolate cake, instead they go straight for emotional connection. It's memorable and effective.
Most of the other commercials on this list, I've thought about before in the intervening years, I had forgotten about this one. Once upon a time kids, Saturn used to be a very interesting company with a great backstory and a compelling standout message. They were the Southwest of car companies. Once upon a time Saturn used to have fans and not customers. Once upon a time, it was a company that offered buyers a unique experience, that helped it stand out, to be more than a commodity.
This commercial touches on those roots. It doesn't show the car until the very end. There's no voice over telling you about the value of the car, the features, a different kind of ad, for a different kind of car company. The metaphor of people as their cars, gets your attention, what is going on? How will this pay off? In the words of one of the books on decision making I've read (Predictably Irrational, maybe) it confuses our guessing machines in our heads and that my friend gets our attention.
It's high concept but simple at the same time. It's well executed from the choice of car moments, to the music.
Now Saturn is just another car line, is it out of business, closed down by GM? Who knows, and more to my point, who cares. But once it was different. A cautionary tale of a company that loses it's way, when it forgets it's own story.