At last week's Cannes Lions International Advertising Festival two viral video favorites were among the winners, and they underscored the importance of the big idea in grabbing consumers' fleeting attention spans. The Cyber Lion Grand Prix winner was "The Fun Theory," the DDB Stockholm campaign for Volkswagen that featured a piano staircase designed to encourage people to chose the steps over escalator powered ascent out of the underground station. The big idea for Volkswagen was that making ecologically friendly activities fun to do could change people's behaviors. The brand tie-in was light-handed. Without picturing a single car in an ad for an auto company, the video expressed the carmaker's theme that environmentally positive consumption could be integrated seamlessly with enjoyable product experiences.
Green could be fun.
In this case, the marketing 'big idea' was to bring the 'big idea' itself forward and make it an explicit topic rather than a sub-text. In the brief for the campaign, DDB says, "Our solution was a theory, focusing on the thinking behind the cars." In a post-Mad Men age where the media savvy viewer watches ads from Don Draper's perspective, consumers reward the ad strategy. The video has attracted over 12 million views on YouTube alone.
Speaking of going meta...
Another Grand Prix winner in the Film Lions category was a TV spot that went hyper-viral online and spawned a series of lesser spots. The Old Spice "The Man Your Man Could Smell Like" commercial was trying to apply masculinity to the liquid soap category and did so with comic, eccentric abandon, and by talking to women rather than men. The super-self-confident spokesperson slips in and out of romance novel fantasies as he comments unabashedly on his appealing to all of her romance novel fantasies.
With 11 million YouTube views, the ad sends up the romantic male ideal with such good spirit, mocking both male and female stereotyping of masculinity, that it endears itself to everyone. The follow-up ads for the Odor Blocker product in the line were noticeably less impressive because they replaced wit with silly, screaming, OTT manliness and visual gimmickry. Yeah, you will get a few million viral video views for digitally altered biceps, but thankfully it still takes some nuance to ride the Cannes Lion.