Concepts that Kill the Content

Planit Agency
February 25, 2010

We often talk to clients about breaking through the clutter to reach a greater audience. But sometimes a creative concept meant to break through the clutter only clutters the message itself. Overall, it seems like the cell phone companies and carriers are the biggest culprits, but take a look at my list of a few national campaigns that I think miss the mark due to the concept.

Sprint: The "Now" Network

Don't get me wrong, from a visual standpoint these commercials are beautifully executed. From the high gloss of the motion-graphics to the imaginative display of information, the Sprint ads are top-notch. But, after viewing this campaign in its many forms, I am still lost. For instance, are we supposed to assume that Sprint is Big Brother tracking our every activity? The voice-over delivers quirky lines that only slightly match what's happening visually, leaving me slightly lost. At the end of the commercial, I don't know what Sprint is trying to sell me.

Progressive Insurance

Yes, they have a different approach to selling insurance. I'll give Progressive that much. But, are we supposed to think that their store locations look like the live-action set of the Jetsons? I get so caught up in their campy spokeswoman and space-age set, that I never actually learn why they call themselves Progressive.

5 Gum: "Stimulate your Senses"

I don't even know where to begin. Maybe I should start with the reality of things—we're selling bubble gum here. Just the cost of this production and the visual effects of this insane concept could have fed a starving nation for 15 years. Have we forgotten that gum just freshens our breath for about 12 minutes and then we're done with it? Does such a short-lived treat warrant a Mad Max meets Bio-Dome meets American Gladiators creative execution? I think not. Now where's my Bubble Tape?

Palm Pre

OMG. You're selling a cell phone, not a day-pass to Terabithia. This is a great example of when advertising tries way too hard. Maybe I'm sensitive to the gimmicks because I work in this industry, but this takes the cake. Over-the-top theatrics, lofty and reaching copy, and M83's spectacular but un-fitting "Lower Your Eyelids to Die With the Sun" to bring it all in for the kill…or over-kill, I should say. It's almost laughable to see the trivial touch-screen actions to this intense spectacle of sappy advertising fodder. In the end, you just don't care what phone they're selling.

Blackberry: "Love What You Do"

In this Blackberry campaign (that I always thought was Mastercard until I decided to write this post), I'm instantly put off by a painful cover of The Beatles' "All You Need Is Love." Beyond my personal tastes, I can't help but wonder why no one thought it would be necessary to possibly tie in the concept of "Love" back to the phone itself. A couple designers are sketching, then you see their fashion come to life on the runway, and then we're told to "Do What [We] Love and  Love What [We] Do." Then you discover it's a Blackberry commercial? But, why? So forgettable.

Cisco: "The Human Network w/ Ellen Page"

There was a time when I thought that Cisco's "Human Network" campaign was extremely poignant and powerful. Now they have Ellen Page. And weird scenarios where she is befuddled by their use of new advancements in technology. Sure, Ellen Page is a great actress, but why her? And what are they selling that they need someone like her as their spokeswoman? I'm confused.

Creative concepts should work hard for a brand without seeming like they're trying too hard to do it. At the end of the day, the most memorable commercials aren't always the most effective ones, but communicating a brand message should never become secondary, or an after-thought. The truth is, I have no stats whatsoever on whether these campaigns have been flops or major successes for each individual brand. These are merely my opinions as a consumer toward whom these campaigns are directed. Feel free to disagree and even add to the list.