Commercials: Over and Over and Over
By: Mark Winter
I don’t want to sound too much like Andy Rooney here (now try to not read this in his voice). I watch limited TV, but when I do, I’ve noticed commercials have started to follow of similar pattern: multiple brands and multiple messages all using the exact same execution to make us, the consumer, buy the product. I know this is not new. Commercials follow trends and their long-term campaigns should be consistent, but this is different. For the most part, this is the same commercial from different brands, categories and messages. And they’re all executed the same way.
I first noticed it around the holidays. I was able to predict the payoff of the commercial as it started, commenting on (as my wife would attest) how each one was exactly the same formula as the other brands before it.
Here are three of the most recent examples I am speaking of – I will leave the brand names out to protect the innocent; but I guarantee if you have watched TV in the past few months, you have seen a commercial like these.
1. The Santa Commercial. No matter the brand or product, Santa checks someone off the naughty and nice list. That’s it. A product is involved; Santa interacts with them and checks them off the list. Someone makes a joke to Santa, and he makes the naughty list (no new car for you). Someone needs a phone? Santa checks you off the nice list (new phone under the tree). I saw this same execution for cars, phones and multiple types of other products. It was all the same concept. Hasn’t this message been done to death? Does it make any of these products stand out from the crowd or indicate why we should even want to buy them?
2. The Dancing Commercial. This current trend is going on right now; I just saw a new one this week. People are dancing in slow motion, completely overjoyed because of (insert any product here). A new sandwich is launched at the local sandwich shop; people are dancing on the tables and in the streets. New car launched? Dancing in slow motion. Money from your tax return? Dancing. New phone plan? Dancing. Does this say anything about the brand except: “Expect to be so happy that you’ll dance like a maniac?” With the costs of this type of traditional media doing nothing but rising, does this type of tactic actually pay off?
3. The Actions That Sound Like Music Commercial. Again, multiple types of products all using the same execution: actions, product clicking, stomping and laptop folding. It all comes together to make some form of music. I remember being interested in this type of music interaction from everyday objects when I saw “Stomp.” That was 16 years ago.
I know many creative people who work in this industry and try to consistently come up with that “new spin” on a sometimes “old message.” They are usually very creative individuals with a solid drive to challenge the status quo. I also understand it’s not easy, and the challenge to get your message to stand out is much, much harder than it was even five years ago.
So why do we end up with these same messages, the same way, across multiple products and multiple brands? Is it possible to have a truly unique way of messaging a product anymore? Does the consumer respond to these tactics, or, like a Hollywood movie script, is it better to do what has been tried before to ensure success? I believe it is always better to be unique than to follow the crowd, even if that is more of a risk. Execution can be a tricky business when multiple parties are involved, and at the end of the day, the best ideas are sometimes left on the cutting room floor. However, if it was my money and my product, I would want to ensure my commercial didn’t look, act and sound like every other product on the market.
Why do you think we see these trends in marketing and messaging, and what are your favorite commercials that are doing it right?