TV Advertainment: A creative approach to commercials

If I were in charge of choosing the winners for the best, out-of-the-box TV commercials — the kind of ads that choose creativity over literal interpretation — I  would have a very hard time.

Why? More brands are thinking outside the box in terms of TV advertising than ever before thanks to new media and changing audiences. Today, it is so easy to avoid ads on television thanks to streaming services like Netflix and DVR devices. Plus, today’s millennial audience — a very large consumer demographic — is an aware and engaged group of consumers that does not respond well to the in-your-face marketing methods of TV’s past.This has led to a plethora of TV advertainment — that is entertaining advertisements on TV.

Below are three ads that would win awards, at least in my book, for choosing to entertain audiences with a creative story, as opposed to blatantly selling a product.

Third place would go to BMW for its clever new twist on the typical TV ad for an automobile— the BMW X5 commercial featuring the crazy, backseat-driving grandma.

The ad begins with a shot of a car driving down the street and the crazy-haired grandma — who you can barely see in the third-row backseat — telling her son to make a left at the drugstore. He responds that he is already aware this turn because the car’s head up display is providing him with directions. This then sparks the grandma to tell a story of how her mother used to shout, “heads up when she spotted a twister coming across the plains.” The crazy grandma then screams “heads up” and everyone in the car jumps, including the two children in the second-row backseat. Her son tells her that was loud and she explains how that how they did it on the plains because their plains people. Her son reminds her she’s from Queens. The commercial ends by showing another outside view of the car driving down the street and the words “Optional third row seating for back-backseat drivers” appear across the screen. Other than the shot of the car, there is no mention of BMW, making this ad subtle, humorous and easily relatable. After all, don’t we all know at least one annoying backseat driver that we’d love to banish to the third row?

Brand positioning statement: For back-backseat drivers.

Second place would go to Volkswagen for yet another clever rendition of a car commercial featuring humor and old women.

A part of the brand’s Old Wives’ Tales series, the ad “Old Wives Tale #4: Stinky — Three Old Wives Smelt It” features the cantankerous trio of older ladies driving down the street when Mary, the lady in the backseat, yells, “Something stinks!” Josie, the lady in the passenger seat, exclaims that the diesel must be the cause of this unpleasant odor. Terri, the driver, insists it’s not the diesel saying, “the new diesels don’t smell bad.” After some bickering Mary realizes the smell, which she describes as “marinated camel crap,” is Tuna, the famous Internet rescue dog with an under bite. The ad ends with them pulling into the parking lot of a pet groomer to get Tuna a bath and Mary saying, “Hash tag Tuna melts my heart, whatever that means.” In general, this commercial sets out to debunk the Old Wives’ Tale that diesel smells, and does so with a memorable, humorous and entertaining story.

Brand positioning statement: New diesels don’t stink.

Finally, first place, the grandest, most creatively abstract commercial of them all would be awarded to Friskies for Dear Kitten: Regarding the Big Game.

The commercial, which stems from the brand’s clever series of online short films, made its first television debut during the this year’s Super Bowl. Riddled with humor, the ad features the voice of BuzzFeed Motion Pictures’ president, Ze Frank, and centers around two adorable animals — namely a gray, grumpy old cat and an adorable orange kitten. Throughout the 1-minute, four-second commercial, the older gray cat explains game day wisdom on the newest furry member of the house, the kitten.

The film plays humorously on well-known game day stereotypes from a cat perspective, with the elder cat explaining the various parts of the Super Bowl party — costumes (jerseys) wet food (tailgate snacks) and so forth. He also tells the kitten that they have their own game to play, advising him not to hide but to “be aggressive” and jump on the table, run across laps and, in true feline fashion, to knock things over. Finally, the gray cat exposes his secret plan — to block the TV — in order to get a “custom ride to the wet food,” which he believes is the only thing worth competing for. Overall, this example of a commercial that is not literal by creative choice is truly the cat’s meow (pun intended).

Brand positioning statement: Kitty gets what he wants.


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