Category Archives: Advertising

The Superbowl, Dabbing, Texas-Holdem and Persil

Superbowl Sunday is one of my favorite days of the year.  As both a football and advertising fan I get treated to 4 hours of non-stop entertainment!  I finally know what LOTR enthusiasts feel like when they throw in those extended edition DVDs!  It’s fantastic.

Aside from that entertaining duo I’ve also been particularly pleased with recent Superbowl outcomes.  Four out of the last five years the teams I’ve rooted for have won (the Patriots spoiled the streak last year).  But alas, last Sunday a new streak was born as the Bronco’s trashed Cam Newton and the Panthers!  Much dabbing ensued in my household.


But now that we’ve discussed the opening act let’s get to the real entertainment from Sunday.  Which is of course, the Ads.

Some of my personal favorites were Hyundai’s spot with Kevin Hart, and T-Mobile’s response to Verizon’s annoying “ball commercials” featuring Steve Harvey

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Hopefully this will be the beginning of many more Hart cameos to come.  And even more hopefully, the end all of phone commercials involving “colorful balls”, although they are more tolerable than Verizon explaining their network to me using “a door”.

I would like to say part of my bucket-list to one day work on an Ad that runs in the Superbowl.  That would be amazing!  So why are Superbowl Ads so good!?

You’re basically seeing a lot of companies go “all in” when they produce a Superbowl Ad.  They say “everyone will be watching, we have a great product, and a clever idea for an Ad, let’s do this”.  Watching what ensues is always a blast.  Some companies go for it and nail it! This was certainly true for Apple with their “1984″ spot, they held out for the “River” card and won big (if you don’t know about this kids, it’s time to do some good, old-fashioned, Wikipedia style research).

But every year it feels like there are a few companies that have a lowly pair of 3′s and say, “eh what the hell, let’s put all our chips out there anyways” (ie. Persil Laundry Detergent 2016).

I’ll admire anyone for going “all in”, adapting the “YOLO” lifestyle.  But a simple word of advice.  Success awaits the prepared.

Whether that means having a solid one-liner up your sleeve when you go to approach a girl (or dare I say it, a guy) or actually understanding what makes a good Ad when you buy that oh-so-shiny-but-ver-very-VERY-expensive Superbowl spot, make sure you cover your bases before hand.

Because perhaps the worst feeling in Texas Holdem, and in life itself, is swinging for the fences only to fall flat on your face.  I for one hope Persil learns the error of their ways and produces a killer Ad for next years Superbowl (by the way, I’m not going all-in on that hope, let’s be honest it isn’t happening).  Until then let the rest of us learn from their mistake and prepare for success the only way it deserves to be prepared for, thoroughly.


Advertising is a bunch of bologna

My roommate recently got a cat.  Subsequently my apartment value has vastly depreciated.  At least in my eyes.  I’m not really a cat person.  I just don’t find them to be trustworthy animals (on an unrelated note I love pitt-bulls).  If I had things my way, little snowball here would be packing her bags.


But let’s not dwell on things we can’t change.  It’s unhealthy.  To be honest, I’m admittedly a little fond of having a pet, even if it is a cat.  Especially since I don’t have to take care of it.  I feel like a kid having a dog again, it’s fantastic!

Taking pictures of my little friend here aroused some nostalgia in me.  I was reminded of growing up with my dog, Mickey.  Mickey was a lab we got from the pound.  Like most pets she turned out to be quite needy.

There are certain experiences all dog owners have in common.  One of such is trying to get your pet to take medicine.  Mickey would eat anything, she took on a whole stick of butter one night while my family was out to dinner.  But try and give her a pill to take, she’ll spit it out.

The only way to do it is to be deceptive.  Wrap the pill in some cheese or bologna and she’ll eat it without a second thought.

It turns out the principle transcends past feeding pets.  In his book Hey Whipple Squeeze This, Luke Sullivan discusses this principle as it relates to advertising.  At the end of the day, the point of advertising is to help brands sell their products.  But people don’t enjoy being sold to.  If your advertisements are straightforward, highlighting all the magnificent features of your product, you may not find the success you’re looking for.

However, people do like being entertained.  If your ad can make someone laugh, smile, cry, or think, etc. you might be on to something.

Here’s an example my colleague and I created for Alta ski resort.   ForrestYoung_360_Billboard1

We could have raved about the slopes at Alta, the deals they have going on, their staff, etc.  Instead we decided to tell the story of someone who is a winter fanatic.  Who even in July is counting down the days until the first snow fall in November.  This is the kind of person who would ski at Alta.

This was only for a class, but you get the point.  So next time you’re writing an ad, or any kind of content for any kind of brand, make sure you don’t shove information down your audiences throat.  Remember the take away from Frozen my friends, “conceal, don’t reveal”.  In all seriousness though, if you want your audience to come back, practice the bologna principle.  It’s guaranteed to be more satisfactory than actual bologna.  Much more.

Pursue Vulnerability

There is a somewhat common, and somewhat cruel practice often found in writing.  Author’s of novels, movies, and even advertisements use this tactic.  First, take the main character of your story, next think of the worst possible thing you can do to him/her.  And then finally, do it.  This was recently done in The Revenant, starring Leonardo DiCaprio.  It isn’t a new practice though.  Wuthering Heights, Star Wars Episode 3, Gladiator, The Truman Show, etc. all employ this style of story telling.  Even advertisements have dabbled with this strategy.  I think we will all remember the Superbowl spot Bud Light produced 2 years ago where a rancher loses his puppy.

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This ad put both the dog and the owner through the refiner’s fire.  People loved it!  We love these narratives, we eat them up!  But why?  Is it because humans are pessimistic, sadistic or revel in others misfortunes?  Quite the opposite.

I suppose there are many reasons people enjoy these kind of stories.  It is encouraging to watch someone overcome obstacles on their way to success, after all everyone loves an underdog.  But I believe more than this, we are attracted to vulnerability.

In all of our day to day encounter’s people put up a front.  Ask someone who is suffering how they are, and they will respond “fine”.  It is rare to find vulnerability.  So when we see the layers of someones life peeled back to reveal the raw, human emotion and vulnerability underneath, we are instinctively pulled in.  People relate to vulnerability, and for writers it is important to learn how to incorporate vulnerability into your writing.

So want to make your story’s more compelling?  Wether you’re writing a novel, a blog post, an ad, telling a joke, or a personal story on a first date there is a sure way to do this.  Pursue vulnerability.