FOCUS WHEN CREATING -- in a commercial world


Our conversation turns to the subject at hand, commercials.

I reviewed and graded 4 commercials in a fun podcast interview I did this week with branding expert Christie Bishop. Her hit podcast series is called Commercial Grade which was borne out of popular segments she created for the Adam Carolla Show. I’m providing links to those commercials and my notes for those who might be interested in viewing the commercials we discussed in the podcast. Check out the podcast for an in depth look at what really goes into creating music scores and jingles for advertising campaigns.

Article about “Behind The Music, Part 1” is available here

Derek Jeter Retirement ad w/ Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”

This spot gets an A from me. It hits the bullseye on so many major points. The black and white color transfer feels like a part of the storied history of the NY Yankees and of NY city. The shot of the bridge might be authentic historical footage (it tries to be at least). It’s a little blurry and distressed which creates a sense of timelessness.

Frank Sinatra’s song “My Way” is a definitive song for reminiscing about life.  It also has a NY song vibe to it. Sinatra was one of the greatest American recording artists and a rebel, so that’s a nice association with Derek Jeter.

The Gatorade logo at the end is married to Jeter’s jersey # 2 (too bad he wasn’t Pee Wee Reese, then Gatorade could be #1). The logo is strong co-branding of two massive brands.  The spot shows people and places near Yankee stadium connecting with Jeter in every day life. That helps viewers feel connected to Jeter by example. It helps viewers get a taste of what it would be like to live in New York and/or follow the Yankees.  It’s an overall WIn/Win/Win for Derek Jeter, the Yankees and Gatorade due to the powerful “dream come true” associations throughout. It also calls upon Lou Gehrig emotions a little at the end.  The cap tip, the background of Yankee Stadium and cheering sound is reminiscent of the film Pride of the Yankees. 

Farmers Insurance “Hall of Claims: Rooftop Parking”

This spot gets a B+ from me. There’s clean clear storytelling throughout and sound design reinforces it. There’s no music in the body of the spot, just a musical logo at the end.  I think the lack of music allows the sfx to more clearly tell the story. It’s well story boarded and executed to perfection by the director and creative team.

There are 4 basic sections:

Section 1 states the premise that Farmers has seen almost everything, so they know how to cover almost anything.

Section 2 shows an extraordinary car crash (which everyone loves to see), but goes further to link a little boy at play while posing the question about strange forces.

Section 3 considers strange forces at work, then pauses, no, there are no strange forces or aliens or other bizarre things at work.  The only thing at work is that accidents really happen and Farmers Insurance is an expert in covering them. The lead character states they’ve been around and have seen a thing or two (which is a down home trustworthy way of saying we’re experts). He also says it with an authoritative voice with heavy room tone.  The location appears to be a knowledge center of some kind.  Which is a good image association.

Section 4 is the  branding section with a visual logo and music logo (or short jingle).

I gave it a B+  because it’s an effective ad, but it dumbs down the reality of an insurance claim, which is serious stuff

2019 Cadillac XT4 “Joy” Song by Jessie J

The spot starts with an ear catching Star Wars-ish whoosh sound and visual when introducing the Cadillac. It’s followed by 3 beats on the letters X, T, 4   followed by the lyrics “Got a booty like a Cadillac but I can send you into overdrive. There are curvy body shots of the car to match. This music tells me the car looks good. The lyrics Bang Bang there goes your heart tells me it’s gonna be exhilarating too.

Then the voice over says it’s unmistakable (so it’s unique) and further says driving is wonderful wherever it takes you, while supers show the cost of the car. There’s some double messaging to save time. The only minor negative is they had to show the price with a disclaimer (some of which you can read and some of which is in micro print).  This immediately takes the foot off the gas pedal of this being an image spot and makes it a little retail-y. It also not great to play a song over a price tag (makes it a hard sell).

There are more Star Wars efx at the end.  I’d say this grade is an A- for effectiveness, but with B minus deductions for slightly cheezy Star Wars visuals, price on screen with disclaimers and slightly weak ending.  Regarding the ending,  there’s no real payoff to the narrative, the spot just stops.

Apple First Gen iPod “Jerk It Out” - Ceasers

This is a commercial you just wanna stare at when it pops on the screen. It’s hypnotic due to the textural consistency of the music and visuals. The visuals are also creating a world of their own in black, green and white. The choreography is modern and energizing, and the product (iPod and ear buds) is always stark white against the green and black, so it really pops. Fresh visuals and the song cut together like a music video.

It feels less like a commercial than most commercials. Compared to Cadillac, this commercial is creating pop culture. The GM spot is borrowing from pop culture. Both are good ideas for advertising effectiveness. Creating a spot like Apple did here is extremely rare and difficult to replicate. The only copy on the screen says “life is random” and that relates to shuffle mode on audio players. Nice tie in there.

The arrows on the screen also work well to mis-direct the choreography and give it a sense of randomness to match the random playful energy of the dancers. Apple’s pricing on screen is different than Cadillac’s pricing on screen because there are no disclaimers or tiny print on screen to cheapen the look.

It’s also integrated seamlessly into the green and black world. The price on screen is white like the product. The white Apple logo makes for a strong ending with the music button. It all ends together nicely, the product, price and logo.

I grade this spot with an A all the way. It’s text book advertising. It’s ironically a modern looking add but it adheres to old school axioms throughout.  It’s hard to beat old school advertising form and structure.

The interview is also available on iTunes and Goolge Play.

Christie Bishop’s podcast is called Commercial Grade and she hosts a segment on the Adam Carolla Show.