Why Compare a Dog Food Commercial with a Cellphone Ad?

Why am I comparing two totally unrelated ads? Because they appeared consecutively during a show I was watching, and it goes to show you that placement is everything. Well, not everything, but when you’re creating your ad, you better darn well be thinking that you can keep up with the competition—meaning the ads that run before and after yours in a segment.

In this case, the two ads that ran back to back to back were this HTC One commercial:

And this Pedigree dog food commercial:

Now, I think we can all agree that the cuteness factor of the Pedigree ad is tough to compete with, and, honestly, I don’t think I would’ve liked the HTC One ad even if it ran next to one of those local lawyer’s commercial. But let’s take a look at why Pedigree’s is so much better and where HTC One went wrong.

The Good: Pedigree

Cuteness factor aside, let’s see what makes this advertisement so darn effective.

1. It tells a compelling story. Who doesn’t love a good rescue story? We’re hit right away with the image of this emaciated little dog. And you can immediately tell from the music that this story will most likely have a happy ending.

2. Less is more. Lets the story tell itself. Pedigree’s commercial is all images and sound. They could have actually told/spoken the story, but someone smart realized presenting the story this way was much more captivating.

3. Great copywriting. No one spoke, so we, the audience, needed something to string the story together. Again, simplicity ruled here:

  • Morgan was found as a stray. (We then see and hear the ripping open of a bright yellow and blue bag of Pedigree dog food.)
  • Morgan, three weeks later. (The music picks up a little and Morgan is seen walking—a little more filled out than before.)
  • Good food can change everything. (Flips to image of the dog happily peeking out of a car window: Morgan, adopted by Arlene.)
  • Pedigree. See what good food can do.

This really isn’t just about good copywriting, the success of this ad is due to the synthesis of sounds, images and words. And note, at the end, when Morgan is adopted by Arlene, we don’t see Arlene at all. We don’t have to. And that is the brilliance of this ad—it is completely stripped of everything that is not necessary leaving all the essential parts to shine.

The Bad and the Ugly: HTC One

HTC went simple too, but they may have stripped too much from their ad. Gary Oldman is an excellent actor, but this is a classic case of a good concept gone wrong.

1. It’s not compelling at all. It’s dark, rainy and all Gary Oldman says for the first 9 seconds is “Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…” By 9 seconds, the typical viewer is out of the room or engrossed in the other screen in front of them—their cellphone, tablet, or laptop.

2. Less is not enough. In a world in which Apple and Samsung rule and it’s tough for others to gain ground or break in, HTC needs to make sure we’re left with at least one reason to buy their phone. We weren’t, and we also weren’t left with enough motivation to go research the phone for ourselves.

3. Creative concept, but not a strong enough execution. The script is dead-on in one spot—no, it doesn’t matter what Oldman tells us, consumers will decide whether to buy the phone based on other factors. They got that right, but after telling us that the “All new HTC One is designed for people who form their own opinions,” Oldman then tells everyone to “Go ahead, ask the Internet.” So, if we’re asking the Internet, are we really forming our own opinions or are we making a decision based on everyone else’s opinion? Got a little muddy there. And, again, they didn’t give us a reason to go ask the Internet anyway.

4. Wrong choice of actor. Yes, Gary Oldman is an excellent actor and who doesn’t love his Commissioner Gordon? But why the hell did they choose him to sell you a phone? Old man (in advertising 56 is old). Wrong audience. What age group is HTC going after? Maybe we’re confused because they’re confused—HTC just wants someone, anyone to buy their phones.

5. Visually it’s too dark. Probably going for that tech feel, trying to draw in those who like sci-fi maybe. Or, more likely, making the scene Batman-like, trying to appeal to Commissioner Gordon fans. It all seems kind of dark, creepy and borderline depressing. Compare that with how light and bright iPhone and Galaxy ads are. Maybe HTC wants an audience who hates both companies and is looking for the complete antithesis to Apple and Samsung. The point is, the commercial ends and we really don’t know much of anything.

Cher Wang, HTC’s chairperson, said last year that marketing was its greatest challenge, saying her company’s “communication does have a problem but we are improving on that.” A statement from the company said they “put direct communications with consumers at the center of its overall business strategy.”

Maybe they forgot what their strategy was or didn’t tell Deutsch L.A., who created the ad. The HTC One M8 commercial is far from direct and goes out of its way to say “we don’t want to talk to you/figure it out for yourself.” For a company whose product relies on connectivity, it seems that internally, they’re not connected enough.

Bottom Line

Your commercial may look good when you’re watching it in a conference room with your colleagues, but that’s not your final test. So, when you’ve decided on the concept for your ad and again when you’ve completed it and think it’s a winner, watch it side by side with your favorite ad or even just a good, solid ad from a different brand. Does it hold up?

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