Advertising is a trade-off. A product or brand is brought to your attention in exchange for an attractive image, an emotional connection or even a laugh. The brain makes a link between the two and the product is in your head whether you admit it or not. It’s a delicate marriage between campaign strategy and brand/product that make an ad resonate. Now consider the .gif below.
Here we see native advertising (another cross-eyed, drooling beast of misguided ad strategy) turning its head to consume the world of video. Imagine you’re watching a rerun of ‘Real Desert Housewives Season 5: Armageddon.’ You don’t remember an obnoxiously blatant Taco Bell billboard in this shot when you first saw the episode, yet there it is. Is that even possible? Am I watching too much E! channel?
Yes and yes.
With this technology, spearheaded by companies like Mirriad, native signage is digitally shoehorned into all manner of video from reruns, youtube videos (even personal ones), even other commercials. Advertising meets ‘Inception.’ Adverception. Shameless product placement is nothing new, but it was always at least at the discretion of the writers and showrunners. Mirriad’s retroactive technology undermines the original creative vision, and even worse, music video procurer Vevo and Mirriad insist this technology is doing us a favor[i].
But it could get even uglier.
Imagine you upload an old video of your late grandma to Youtube for you family in Antarctica to see. In your cut, she’s walking around downtown to the beat of “Graceland” by Paul Simon, and since you can’t afford to pay for the song, Youtube compensates by inserting some harmless Pfizer ads. Everywhere. Seems weird, right? According to Mirriad’s tagline, millennials are the ‘skip’ generation, the ‘skip’ referencing a desire to fast-forward through ads. Something about that label feels more than a little condescending. It’s not that my generation wants to skip over ads because we have attention deficit disorder: it’s the opposite. The millennial generation is actually quite intelligent and self aware of the nature of advertising, and casual product placement is not as effective as it once was. That’s why a lot of recently successful campaigns undermine the predictability and heavy-handed nature of commercials. Companies such as your Geico[ii] and Old Spice stand at the forefront of button-pushing, trail blazing creativity, and my generation responds. Brands are selling to us, but we’re at least being engaged with something interesting. Let’s take a closer look at an ad that creates a strong connection.
This commercial is called “Milky Way.” It has no taglines, no dialogue, no testimonials, pop music, or even celebrity cameos. However, it is widely seen as one of the most groundbreaking commercials to ever air. Why? It’s important that the worlds of commerce and art stay as separated as church and state, though it is okay for them to inform each other. They can never tread on each other’s ground. This commercial is so amazing because it’s incredibly engaging and aesthetically pleasing and it is one of the most artistic commercials ever made. Without the blatant logo at the end, it can be an incredible short film. In this ad, the Volkswagen takes a backseat to the much more powerful story, environment, and music. The directors have portrayed such a familiar experience, such a familiar feeling that you can’t help but compare yourself to the situation, to think back on a similar experience you may have had. It’s very hard to date this video. By using an older song by an [at that time], very unknown folk singer, the commercial can dislodge itself from any specific generation, and in that way bridge a gap between generations. Even though the faces are young, the commercial resonates with all ages. The experience of driving around in a car on beautiful summer night is powerful nostalgia. Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris are the husband/wife directorial team behind this ad. Unsurprisingly, they would go on to future success directing the film “Little Miss Sunshine.” What can companies learn from Volkswagen’s approach versus Mirriad’s approach? The best a commercial can do is establish a connection. And a strong connection comes from an engaging and creative vision, not from berating our eyeballs with ham-fisted product placements. If you’re wondering, ‘When will native digital advertising start becoming prevalent?’ The answer is: it’s already happening.
Here’s a palette cleanser of 2 more excellent commercials:
[i] If you watched the commercial in that link, you just witnessed a solid reference to “The Graduate”: http://youtu.be/gjtoi6Z4lAg?t=49s
[ii] “Our vision at Vevo is to continually re-invent music video as an entertainment art form. Over 30 years ago, music videos on television were a linear, one-dimensional experience. Today, connected platforms give fans more interactive and personal ways to engage with their favorite artists,” said Rio Caraeff, President and CEO of Vevo. “Mirriad allows us to continue bringing the industry forward and improve our fan’s experience by offering uninterrupted viewing while giving brands and content partners a native, creative, scalable and targeted way to come together.” via – http://www.mirriad.com/news/mirriad-vevo-levis-launch-native-video-advertising-technology-platform/ This quote implies Mirriad and Vevo are doing us a favor by giving us the opportunity to see that not only is Pit Bull drinking Bud Light, but we, us lowly peasants, can have the opportunity to partake of the SAME product! Amazing!