Most viral video ads have a "do you believe this?" "how did they do that (or "did they really do that?") and "you gotta see this" factor that sparks sharing, regardless of the brand appropriateness of the content. The upside of this convention is massive distribution online. The downside? Hit or miss targeting. Who knows why someone shared the video of that dazzling scene and whether it connects at all with the product? Worse, unfortunately and increasingly, this one-upmanship means an arms race of digitally generated imagery. As ads become entire "Inception"-style worlds of surreal impossibilities I find my old-fogeyism pushes upwards. Is enough CGI going to desensitize us to genuinely artful and mind-bending imagery? When worlds can bend upon themselves with absolute visual verisimilitude, when houses become trampolines for giants that hop across landscapes, what is left to dream about? What is left to make us gasp in awe?
What is left is the wonder of the human animal doing its own visual effects. This is what made vaudeville the great entertainment of the early 20th Century and what keeps us aghast at Cirque du Soleil in an age of films like "2012" and "Transformers."
And so it is refreshing to see a viral video climb quickly up the charts from Samsung in France. The "Unleash Your Fingers" spot is in support of the Galaxy S II mobile phone release. Touch, obviously is the brand hook. The barren, backlit staging focuses us on the talented performer's hand gymnastics, which are sharply tuned aerobatic dance machines. I love the way the ad opens with him eyeing the contours of the screen itself and anticipating the end shot, which makes the point that all of this action is dramatizing a touch phone's flexibility and creative possibilities.About halfway through the spot the inevitable digitization monster rears its head and his precise hand motions get augmented and even obscured by animations. Does this undermine the appeal of the basic conceit at work here? Somewhat, I think. I would have liked to see the performer's hand gymnastics in the raw, and I am not entirely sure that the final effect connects the message with the handheld smartphone product as effectively as it might have if the digital accoutrements hadn't been underplayed more. Still the full visual effect, connecting human dexterity with digital tools is a sharp example of medium, message, and execution serving the product well.