Don’t Sell, Entertain: The Effectiveness of Entertaining Ads

May 14, 2014 | By: Jessie Gould | 3 min read

Don’t Sell. Entertain.

“I don’t like when ads take matters too seriously,” I hear echo in from the other room from a heated discussion about unimaginative car commercials. “Yeah,” another adds, “If it’s not clever it’s not worth it.”

Talking geckos, dancing ponies, and wordplay (think Kmart’s “Ship my pants”) – these are the marks of modern age advertising. Advertising isn’t just about products. Viewers want to be entertained.

Why the long face?

While the desire for entertainment is not new, the recent trend of wanting the fun and the bizarre is largely due to America’s workaholic culture. Overworked individuals are looking for ways to fully enjoy their short spans of downtime. Some 39% of consumers across age groups say they don’t have enough leisure time.

Americans are anxious and stressed, they are looking for ways to escape work and life pressures. These  consumer feelings manifest themselves in engagement across the market; for example, 63% of all consumers over 18 and about half of those over 45 use their mobile device to play a game in a given week. We’re seeing a rise in gamification across all sectors, from exercise apps, to Expedia points to project management platforms. In addition, traditionally child-oriented brands such as Disney and Barbie maintain their popularity their consumers through their adult years.

Consumers are bombarded on all sides by brands trying to sell products. Their attention is minimal and saturated. Consumers are familiar with all of the advertising strategies and tricks, it doesn’t matter if your product is the best thing since Netflix; boring advertising is boring advertising and it won’t compete with more diverting activities. Leisure time is expected to be fun and playful, and brands that want to be a part of that leisure time should follow suit.

Utilizing the trend

Some brands caught onto this trend quickly and have focused on creating ads that are more than just ads. Viewers expect to be enthralled by stories, not bored by a list of product benefits. Below are some commercials that have broken the mold to entertain their viewers. Let’s take a look at what makes them successful.

Jack In The Box: Bork

Yeah, it’s a weird video. Jack In The Box has been cultivating a quirky brand image through its commercials for a while now and doesn’t seem to be slowing down. “Jack” lives to create burgers and is always showing off his latest inventions, this time putting bacon inside the patty by engineering a cow-pig hybrid. The music, the bright colors, and the farm setting all give the feeling that we’re watching a kid’s TV show, yet this was the company’s Super Bowl ad. It works because it’s just weird enough to make you look twice.

Subaru: Best Friend

Car commercials don’t deviate much from the standard list of specs, safety features, and awards. Throw in some scenes of the car speeding across the desert, maybe a high-tech look at the interior, and you have yourself a commercial. Subaru takes a different approach. It’s an exercise in branding, with the focus being mostly on a dog rather than the vehicle. Why did it work? It’s a story communicated in 30 second with enough emotion to draw attention. Note: The millennials in the other room were impressed.

WREN Studio: First Kiss

WREN studios asked 20 strangers to kiss for the first time…
The video went viral, framed as a social experiment. The opening slide calls it nothing more than “First Kiss: a film by Tatia Pilieva.” However, a little link in the description says that the film is “Presented by WREN.” Sure enough, the video is a covert advertisement for a small online clothing store, and all the actors in the video are wearing pieces from the shop. While it seems like the initiative could not have been entirely successful given the lack of branding elements in the actual film, the controversy that arose when the film’s true source came into the spotlight surely sparked interest in the otherwise small and very unknown brand.

Axe: Soulmates

A guy trying, era after era, to catch the attention of a girl he fell in love with in the Stone Age? Sounds more like a romance novel than a commercial. While the video doesn’t deviate much from Axe’s usual “we’ll get you a girl” message, the storytelling is charming and unexpected. The ending is clever enough to leave a lasting impression. And who doesn’t love a good love story?

The takeaway

If you want to be a part of your audience’s leisure time, be entertaining. And this isn’t just for commercials - Entertainment carries value across all mediums in all industries. Take the time to explore how to inspire warm feelings in your audience.

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