There is an inextricable cynicism that comes with watching advertisements. As consumers, we accept the contract of tolerating nonsense in exchange for subsidizing our boundless entertainments. Still, the acutely demographic-based pandering can often feel condescending and grating.
Watching football? Well, get ready to be yelled at by Dennis Leary for six hours about the finer points of masculinity and Ford F-150 ownership. Checking out an MTV “awards” show? Clearasil would like a word with you, and your horrible-horrible hormones. Up late at 3 A.M.? That's how you find out that there are literally HUNDREDS of local singles awaiting YOUR -- ten-dollar-per-minute-- phone call.
That’s why when you watch something, knowing they are selling you on their brand; it’s truly unnerving when it succeeds in evoking actual human emotion.
Manhattan based ad firm, Ogilvy & Mather have been doing this for years now. This is because the firm uses an ambitious strategy of producing cinematic, brand-building, mini-films. These short pieces are often either provocative social experiments or story-driven humanist narratives.
The employment of this philosophy has culminated into “Unsung Hero”, the moving advert for Thai Life Insurance which has become a welcome viral sensation. The ad depicts the life of a young Thai man who tries to help everyone he can. 13 million-plus YouTube views later, the ad has left a sea of full-grown men and women, openly weeping in its wake.
The video is directed by Thailand's Thanonchai 'Tor' Sornsrivichai, who is the top director for Phenomena production house. Sornsrivichai has been working primarily in the advertising realm, but in lieu of fame, are accolades -- The Gunn Report named him “the most awarded director in the world” for the sixth straight year, in 2010--.
The recent body of work from Ogilvy & Mather has been impressive. Their work for Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign was particularly successful; earning the first-ever O&M Platinum award, as well as earning the Cannes Lions' Agency of the Year award for the Sao Paulo office that produced it.
The Dove ad exhibits a filmed social experiment in which, first, people describe themselves to a sketch artist who cannot see them. They are then described to the sketch artist by the other participants with whom they've been co-mingling. The results show how people may view themselves in a much more harsh light than other people see them.
While Madison Avenue has an enduring legacy of "creating want" and glamorizing excess, it’s so refreshing to see great artistic talents give a new meaning to truth-in-advertising.