More Bromance, Less Boobs in Branded Video Campaigns

Every time I happen upon a TV commercial, two questions spring to mind. First, how many liters of skin-glistening baby oil does the production team spritz during an average shoot? And second, what kind of individual speeds over to the company's web site to check out the aggressively hyped "unrated" content?

I want to meet this goober. I picture him as simple-minded and easily led, unskilled in his pursuit of Internet-grade titillation. I also sense that he doesn't learn from his mistakes ("forget the last 18 unrated and too-hot-for-tenth-grade videos - this time, Danica Patrick is TOTALLY gonna get naked. And when she does, I shall bask in her resplendent boobiness").

Hey, it works. Judging by the page views, it takes little more than the promise of low-celebrity skin to get Goober Nation to stampede over to a website for a product/service that's not on their shopping list. But can the tactic work, whether in the form of a sales uptick or a branding bump, without the sexytudinousness?



To answer that question, I accepted tele-invitations from two marketers about whom I have no feelings whatsoever, Visa and Chivas Regal. In recent ads, both promised extended campaign content warehoused online. Both implied that there would be whimsy in great abundance.

The Visa campaign, centered around a "You + Ten" promotion in which a Visa user and ten cronies can win a trip to the Super Bowl, is far less ambitious, and far more entertaining for it. The TV commercial teases the premise - misfit gang assembles around contest winner Ned and engages in what one might reasonably describe as "madcap hijinks" - and the web videos fill in the blanks, such as they are.

The campaign works because it doesn't attempt to tell the story in a linear manner. Instead, it plays up the quirk, focusing on the members of the big-game posse. The most clever of the videos posted through Monday is the one in which viewers make the acquaintance of Gary, the combed-over clerk who swiped the contest winner's Visa card. There's nothing about this guy worth knowing, but the clip still treats him with empathy. That's harder to do than affirm his loser status.

The Morgan Freeman narration isn't deadpan enough for my taste ("Indianapolis, baby. Indianapolis, indeed") and Facebook's hosting is predictably annoying (the videos can't be viewed without a "like" - or if they can, I couldn't figure out how to do it). That said, the online "You + Ten" components are a quick, easy diversion, just as they oughta be. Note to anyone, especially the nice man from American Express, who comes across my Facebook page: I don't "like" Visa that way. We're just friends.

Speaking of friends and clumsy segues, Chivas Regal has long sought to position itself as the go-to lubricant for upwardly mobile white guys with obsessively manicured facial hair. Thus it's little surprise that "Here's to Real Friends," the pair of short films teased in a recent Chivas ad, refrain from exploring the subtleties of interpersonal male communication. No, they showcase bros just bein' bros, bustin' chops and tellin' tales from their wild-but-not-so-wild-as-to-offend-conservative-booze-distributors past.

In "Here's to Big Bear," the guys recount the time they got marooned in the desert while clad in formalwear. In "Here's to Twinkle," the guys recount a long-ago attempt at post-breakup cheering. After viewing them, I am more glad than ever that my friends' conversational breadth doesn't extend beyond fantasy football and Van Halen.

The films are beautifully shot, especially the desert flashback scenes in "Big Bear," and clearly somebody labored over their look, feel and pacing. But they can't transcend the clichés of friendship that exist at their core. Maybe somewhere out there in the great bachelor beyond, there are best-bud quartets like the one featured in "Here's to Real Friends." Maybe they have nice hair and clean clothes, and maybe they laugh a little too long at jokes that aren't quite funny.

But this Chivas version of dude-dom doesn't correlate with reality, nor is its supposed ideal of platonic male friendship especially appealing. Until Chivas stops force-feeding us the company's vision of how guys interact, every piece of their marketing will continue to feel inauthentic.

1 comment about "More Bromance, Less Boobs in Branded Video Campaigns".
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  1. Michael Kaplan from Blue Sky Creative, November 23, 2011 at 6:35 p.m.

    I agree that the quartet of great-looking men in the Chivas maxi-commercial (mini-film?) don't look, act or talk anything like me and my friends.

    So what?

    Neither does anyone on television or in a movie. But I was completely hooked at the storytelling, and was intrigued until the very end.

    These four guys are the guys in the 1996 classic Swingers, only older and a little wiser (and drinking Chivas instead of brewskis). But they are still "money," and so is the creative team behind the spots.

    On the other hand, I have absolutely no interest in drinking Chivas right now, so maybe you're right after all...

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