There is a web site in the United States called Dollar Shave Club. They made a name for themselves with some some clever online promotion - you know, ads made for the web and intended to become viral (which, happily, happened for the Dollar Shave Club).
An interloper has arrived on the scene. Never mind dollar shaves, let's go with Thousand Dollar Shave Society.
Like their competitor (who aren't really competing for the same dollar - or thousand dollars as the case may be) they have goe with an online promotion oozing with post-modern hipster irony.
People like funny vignettes (skits, ads, viral videos) - there is a long tradition of comic set pieces on TV - from british comedy of the 60s that stemmed from university reviews like The Footlights club - which spawned all manner of comedy franchises - to shows like Saturday Night Live, Alas Smith and Jones, In Living Color or even The Carl Burnett Show.
Ads have a tradition of being mini narratives - often with a 'boom boom' payoff at the end.
Amusing ads are a dying breed on broadcast TV - they have been overrun with stylised ads or lifestyle ads or just ads that are content to yell a retail brand's latest offer at you.
In part it is because of media economics. A simple gag can be expensive to make. In the 1980s I created an ad for Kent Heaters in which a knight returns from the crusades. His wife has, in the meantime, installed a kent log burner - 'What witchcraft is this?' "It's a Kent Darling. It burns twice. FIrst the wood, then the gases…" A simple little ad, but for which we created a set and costumes that wouldn't have looked out of place in The Hobbit movies…it was filmed, if memory serves me, by SilverScreen - one of the leading production houses of the day. And it cost a fortune - the gag at the end makes me chuckle today - if only because it was so bad - "Warms even the coldest knights." It barely aired - if it did at all - because the client got cold feet about the size of the lead talent's ample bosom - hoisted up a la balcone by her medieval costume.
Here's the kicker - an ad premised on a bad joke only has a limited life in an environment that depends, to some extent, on repetition - repeat viewing. If you know the punch line then even the funniest jokes wear thin. On the web, however, you can tell the worst jokes - real groaners and if you tell them well then there is chance that they will be shared.
Today production can be a lot cheaper than the 35mm excess of my dreadful Kent ad. You could create material on the kind of budgets that skit shows would have used - or less. And you could crank 'em out. That's the thing about viral - don't over think 'quality' - the cost of distribution is nil. Some TV series never caught on until the second series or later (Monty Python was a 'sleeper').
As for the Thousand Dollar Shave Society…I look forward to episode 2.
Augmented reality is 'a live direct or indirect view of a physical, real-world environment whose elements are augmented (or supplemented) by computer-generated sensory input such as sound, video, graphics or GPS data.'
The promo for a B movie to be shown in Australia overlays a storm sequence over the live events happening on the street in real time. It's a clever, promotional gimmick and would be highly entertaining in itself for people passing by.
Augmented reality can also be a useful utility. One of our clients, Frogs In New Zealand - an inbound tourism operator for visitors to New Zealand who speak French - have incorporated it into their guide app - when you are travelling you can can view a scene and see pinpointed places with insider information including offers and deals unique to Frogs.
The limitation of these kinds of applications really comes down to numbers. In the case of the storm promotion the concept works in the context of the street scene. It works because it is specific. The twister races towards the viewer on the street and, for moment their brains are scrambled - the real and imaginary elements are brought together convincingly. The flinch or jump back when the car flies towards them. So, from a promotional point of view, if you'll pardon the pun, its efficacy depends on the number of people passing by, divided by the number of people who pause to look and - it would seem, divided by the number of rainy days in Melbourne during the run of the film/advertising (far be it from me to disparage the weather in Melbourne - but the song Four Seasons In One Day was written about the place) - so to gain maximum effect, for the ad to be really good, the weather has to be really bad.
Offset the numbers with the cost of development, presumably the elements have to be customised to every location - so you get big potential impact but at a relatively high production cost per view.
Augmented reality is a versatile technique and it will only become more pervasive. Large scale, fixed events like the movie promotion have their place but the (un)real action will occur on smart phones and devices. The opportunities are literally mind boggling but, like most issues relating to digital technology their application should aim for scale - proliferation of devices and cheap/free distribution through app marketplaces mean a wider potential audience to offset the costs.
As a footnote, the use of 'ambient' techniques by marketers has been a trend for some time now. Often the companion video like the one I've used in this post is all anyone will ever see of the campaign. Of course, we are not the ultimate audience. judging panels at advertising awards are - hence the over-investment in production for an idea with limited media exposure.
Of course the other markets are video platforms - the persistent, vainglorious hope that a clip will go 'viral' and news media - if television news picks up a story as a tail-end filler its value can be higher than the marketer spends on the promo.
Take care though. News producers are becoming more jaded - to the extent of colluding with marketers and ad agencies directly to manufacture 'news' stunts like the famous driving dogs for New Zealand's SPCA.
Life just gets more complicated, doesn't it?
This blog is a notepad of contemporaneous and sometimes extemporaneous thoughts about creativity, strategy and ideas.