Sunday, May 18, 2008


As usual, advertisers - with a few notable exceptions like Nike - are getting it wrong.

Everywhere clients are asking for higher production values, sleeker looks, 'bigger' feels. Something 'grand' to match the scale of the brand. And, agencies being what they are, are giving it to them.

When in reality, what real people are being turned on by is the exact opposite.

Out of all of the things that take off, all of the things that go global, all of the things that get emailed between friends and spread like wildfire across the globe, most are small. Low production values - home shot videos, shaky unedited footage of bulldogs on trailers pulled by bicycles, cats trying to catch fish from ponds...

Popular culture has gone from everyone looking forward to the occasional extravaganza - a blockbuster film, a major sports event - to a constant stream of low-budget, lo-res, interesting things in everyday places.

We're getting used to advertising being one step behind, so it's no surprise that there a very few examples of the ndustry co-opting the movement. (One of few examples is the brilliant Nike Ronaldinho 'Crossbar' spot, which has been forwarded literally millions of times on youtube.) But real culture has already cottoned onto it. Last year's Cloverfield is one example of a director doing something big by deliberately keeping it small: the whole film was shot like a shaky youtube video. And the handheld feel wasn't just a technique, it was the basis for the entire idea of the film; a military expedition force finding an abandoned video camera after a great catastrophe. Needless to say, the movie was one of the biggest cultural events of the year.

The situation is clear on both big and small scales. I uploaded an TVC to youtube about two months ago. The cost of the ad was about US$300,000. More recently, last week I uploaded a video of my dog eating a pizza, shot on a $500 video camera and edited on a $1500 computer. In one week, the dog video has received 125 times more viewings than the ad has garnered in two months.

It doesn't matter how 'big' clients want to make their communications. People aren't always looking for big things. Low production quality is equated with realness, honesty, likeability and charm. I'm not saying it's right for every client, but it's something we should push every now and then.

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