My son, the millennial, graduated from college this past weekend so I am feeling very Tevye-ish (“Is this the little girl I carried, / Is this the little boy at play? / I don’t remember growing older, / When did they?”).
Here are two spots that communicate much more elegantly not only my feelings this day but also demonstrate how product attributes are only as recruiting as the stories we tell and the emotions we elicit.
Verizon’s spot for LG’s Lucid2 does an excellent job of likening the touch-screen operation to a mother’s caress.
And Getty promotes its extensive stock video collection with this traditional, but altogether captivating love story.
This weekend, I saw “The Reluctant Fundamentalist,” a film, which, like its characters, is not what it appears. A Rashomon-like tale of families, nations and values—betrayed and upheld—it’s a story where words (like fundamentalist) have multiple meanings and actions can only be truly appreciated “from the beginning” and in their proper context.
The fundamental rules apply
If only the creative “minds” behind recent campaigns for Reebok, Mountain Dew and Ford (or, lamentably, the recent Oscars telecast) had paid as much attention to “fundamentals” as the hero in the Mira Nair movie. In their effort to be “hip” and “relevant” to their millennial target and to achieve “virality,” they overlooked a very basic truth. It’s not virality you should be chasing. It’s positive awareness, trial and brand loyalty.
Not to pile on, but did anyone with authority or credible professional experience (um, adults) consider that rape (Mountain Dew) is not funny? That violence (Pepsi) and misogyny of the most savage kind (Reebok) are not recruiting? That suicide-obstruction (Hyundai UK) is not a product attribute?
According to the various post-mortems on these and similar campaigns, marketers and their agencies are struggling to reach out and engage the newest target du jour. “What do millennials want?” is apparently the question on everybody’s lips. As the mother of a millennial I can tell you what they want—a job with a living wage and some relationship to their major after graduation, a way to pay off tuition debt before they reach social security age and the belief that there is a future to which they can make a positive contribution. Lil Wayne and edginess for its own sake do not factor into the equation.
Blaming social media (the tyranny of likes) or resorting to cheap borrowed interest (celebrities) is lazy, unprofessional and irresponsible. It’s not good for the brands you’ve been hired to promote and it’s not good for society. Our job as creatives is to face the challenge of these self-proclaimed discriminating consumers with messages and visuals that are strategic, emotionally resonating and meaningful. It’s what you’d do for any product or any consumer group at any time.
The first thing you notice when you enter “Photography and the American Civil War” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is the silence. There is a hush, an intake of breath, a softly murmured “oh my”—the same, sad quiet that you hear at Antietam, Gettysburg and Civil War sites all around the country. And no wonder. Displayed in galleries designed like tents on a battlefield, the photographs of slaughter, of slavery, of too-young soldiers dead or maimed take your breath away and make any commentary superfluous.
It took a new art form, however cumbersome and time-consuming, to re-tell the ancient story of man’s inhumanity to man. Through their work, thousands of photographers including Matthew Brady, Alexander Gardner, William Marsh and John Reekie, captured the sorrow and pity of combat and the collateral damage of injury, death and destruction. “Bloodbath in sepia,” a reviewer for NY Magazine called it.
The Civil War was one of those turning points that, in the immortal words of British historian AJP Taylor, “did not turn.” We are still fighting those battles today, although in different arenas.
Photography may have changed the way we see and experience war, but it cannot—for all its terrible beauty—wipe away the stain.