Monday, January 31, 2011

In harmoney with the environment

It may be one of the more bizarre creative executions ever in television advertising. The Toyota Prius “Harmony” commercial evokes memories of the Land of Oz with its use of people as metaphors of nature.

A white Prius drives the countryside. As it moves through the scenery, the sky brightens, grasses shimmer, and plants, flowers and trees blossom and presumably breathe easier - along with the butterflies - thanks to the environment-friendly Prius. The water flows clearer and the sky is a vibrant blue, all due to the cleaner emissions from the Prius tailpipe.

The visuals are striking. You can clearly see the link between humans and nature with the use of human beings (many appear to be children, and what is more precious than a child) outfitted as grass, plants, flowers, trees, butterflies, clouds and even the sun. The message is driven home: humans and nature are one and the same when it comes to the environment. We are all dependent on clean air, water and earth to thrive.

The song “Let Your Love Flow”, a #1 hit by the Bellamy Brothers back in the year of the U.S. bicentennial, is an inspired choice. It is performed by Petra Haden. Lifted from a Toyota tweet: She sings it acapella; every sound you hear, even the instruments are her.

The lyrics in this wonderful song impart a powerful message Toyota wisely wants associated with the Prius: if you let your love bind you to all living things, you’ll choose the Toyota Prius and help Mother Nature breathe easier.

“You get more power, and more space. The world gets fewer smog-forming emissions. The third generation Prius. It’s harmony between man, nature and machine.”

Have you, or will you purchase a Prius and let your cash, I mean, love flow to Toyota?

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

That’s a goat

Do you have to go all out to go all natural? It’s a provocative question that’s posed in a Hormel Natural Choice sandwich meat commercial currently airing.

The commercial opens with John’s wife shooing him over to the shared property line to ask his neighbor what’s up with his property. Doug pops up amongst a vast array of grains and vegetation, responds to John’s greeting and answers his question about the bizarre overgrowth.  “Joan is on this all natural kick,” Doug explains. John is astounded, taking in the bucolic scene in his suburban neighborhood.

“That’s a goat,” he exclaims, pointing at Doug’s roof. Sure enough, there’s a goat eating vegetation that’s inexplicably sprawling across the shingles. “Yea,” Doug sheepishly acknowledges. In the background, Joan pops up and greets her neighbor. “Hi John,” she brays in a sweet voice as she waves, revealing that she doesn’t shave under her arms and that she’s apparently unclothed, taking au naturel to an unexpected extreme. Clearly taken aback by the sight of her, John weakly returns the greeting.

Cut to a view of the house from across the street. In the blue sky above Doug’s house pops the question:

Q: Do you have to go all out to go all natural?

Up to this point I love the commercial. What a fabulous idea! True, we’ve glided through two-thirds of the 30-second spot and we have no idea what product or service is being promoted, but our attention is rapt. We can’t wait to find out.

Cut to a beauty shot of a package of Hormel Natural Choice sandwich meat on a white plate with an olive green background.

“Not with Hormel Natural Choice sandwich meat.”

Say what?! Hormel sandwich meat? Are you kidding me?

What a misfit. Did the Hormel advertising agency, BBDO, have this concept pretty well baked, sitting on the shelf waiting for a client to bite? Hormel needed a commercial to promote its Natural Choice sandwich meats that have no preservatives. All natural = No preservatives. The equation isn’t perfect for me, but the folks at Hormel loved it, or were too seduced by the creative to make a rationale decision.

I see it as a huge disconnect. The narrative doesn’t lend itself to home-made deli sandwiches. I expected it to be for a home and garden business or related product.

Exacerbate the disconnect by showing the wrong character – Doug – enjoying the all natural sandwich. Weren’t you expecting to see Joan? Didn’t you get the sense Doug was exasperated with Joan’s nature kick: that he had had about all he could stomach? I did.

“Great taste. No preservatives. Hormel. Life better served.”


“That’s a goat!” is correct. The goat is whoever green lighted this concept for sandwich meat.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

15 percent of fame

There are so many Geico commercials airing it’s almost too much, even for me. I must be square in the center of their target demographic because I see their commercials most every time I watch television. These days, I mostly tune in sporting events (I’m watching Dallas Stars hockey and the Gecko “technical difficulties disco ball” commercial is airing as I type this) and Geico is ubiquitous as an advertiser. What’s striking is I notice their logo at many sports venues while watching a game. Talk about branding.

Geico always seems to have three distinct campaigns airing simultaneously with several installments running in each. For the longest time, they had the Caveman series. Many good advertisements comprised that effort. Googly-eyes didn’t enjoy a long life, but somehow, the creative folks from The Martin Agency developed quite a few superb TV ads. The Gecko and his boss, the stately company spokesperson, have been teaming on Geico commercials for a nice stretch. Seems like it been about two years, I’d estimate. New installments keep appearing and all are very fresh. The Mistaken Identity commercial is hilarious:

Woman: “You! Oh, don’t act like you don’t recognize me. Toledo? '03?”

Gecko: No…it’s, uh…

Woman: “It’s too late, Stanley.”

Gecko: “Actually, miss, my, my name’s not Stanley.”

Woman: “Oh. Oh, I’m so sorry. From behind you look just like him. I’m just….”

Gecko: “I’d hate to be Stanley.”

No kidding.

The third series features actor Mike McGlone delivering his best Robert Stack impression, asking, “Can Geico really save you 15 percent or more on car insurance?” Here are two of my faves from this series:

Can woodchucks really chuck wood? Apparently. The commercial delivers a rather clever twist on the rhetorical question, but it’s the woodchuck’s laugh that makes the commercial a winner. It just tickles your funny bone. So does the line “Hey you dang woodchucks, quit chucking my wood!”

You either love or hate Piggy. Crying “Wee! Wee-wee-wee!” incessantly all the way home can grate on one’s nerves. Just look at Mrs. A. Clearly, she’s frazzled when Maxwell finally exits the vehicle. Many viewers probably respond the same way. To them, this commercial couldn’t end soon enough.

The pinwheels are priceless. Do you think we could get them from Geico for 15 percent off?

Why three advertising campaigns airing at the same time? Because each delivers on their powerful brand message: “Fifteen minutes could save you fifteen percent or more on car insurance” in a clean and memorable fashion. The Mike McGlone as Robert Stack commercials ask if the fifteen percent savings claim is true, and answer the question with a rhetorical question that is answered in a video snippet (Yes, Abe Lincoln was honest). The Gecko commercials reinforce the savings message, but from a completely different creative angle. The Gecko and his boss talk about the various insurance products Geico offers for boats, RVs and motorcycles and the kinds of discounts customers can receive. Googly-eyes cleverly showed prospects the stack of money they could save with Geico, and boy was that stack of money appealing. The Caveman commercials conveyed how easy it is to save fifteen percent or more on car insurance from Geico; “So simple, even a caveman…” you know how it finishes.

The brilliance in Geico’s strategy is that they don’t try to give you ten, five or even three compelling reasons to buy their insurance products. Rather, they drive home one simple and memorable selling point everyone can understand and they do it better than most anyone else.

Which is your favorite Geico commercial? Check out their YouTube page, and cast your vote here in my Comment section.