Why Robots Won’t Ever Write a Great Valentine’s Day Ad
Why Comedy Is the Most Effective Way to Advertise
It was quite early. Unobserved, I slipped into the advertising agency where I had been freelancing, and left a single Hershey’s kiss on every desk. It was Valentine’s Day. As I placed the last chocolate on the last desk, I heard a voice that froze my fingers over the tinfoiled confection.
The Vice President of Something or Other was blocking the doorway, and she demanded an explanation of why I was in her office. Of course, I turned up the charm full-blast. But after I bragged about my clandestine scheme, she informed me she was allergic to chocolate, so I was basically poisoning her. She actually used the word “poison.” Twice. I immediately removed the murderous chocolate and escaped.
Some guys just can’t get it right on Valentine’s Day.
Marketers, too, have trouble – even though it’s a golden opportunity to inject humor into their advertising, because there isn’t a more loaded emotional human experience than Valentine’s Day. Comedy is a celebration of what it means to be a human being – a snapshot of the human experience. Jokes are simply truths we dare not say out loud. They hold up our foibles, flaws and insecurities and shout out to the world, “This is what it’s like to be human! This happens to everyone!”
Comedy reminds us that we’re all just struggling along, trying to do our best, and sometimes it really doesn’t work out. When we laugh at others’ suffering in a joke, we’re really laughing at ourselves, because we know it’s true. So, if comedy is a celebration of humanity, then goodness gracious, nothing could be funnier than a Valentine’s Day commercial. You’d think.
Just look at the cornucopia of dysfunctional human experiences on Valentine’s Day: unrequited love, unrealistic romantic expectations, loneliness, inadequacies, bad sex, terrible kissers, gift envy, make-believe adoration from imaginary lovers. No one should be paid to write these commercials; they write themselves. And still marketers struggle.
The traditional dish of pabulum goes like this:
Men are oafs
Women are wiser and more sensitive
The client’s product or service helps the man woo the woman
Cut to the title card
I refer you to Exhibit A from eBay.
Why create a commercial like the eBay example when you can spin the cliché on its head, like in Exhibit B from Dairy Queen?
However, it’s not all darkness and missed opportunities. The following are a few winners that caught my eye in the last year.
eHarmony, "Be My Valentine"
Galaxy Note and Edge, “Valentine”
Red Velvet Oreos, “The Bus”
According to reports, Americans spent almost $20 billion on Valentine’s Day last year. With a holiday so rich in both spending and human experiences, you’d think brands would demand better. This should be the Super Bowl of advertising.
Mike Johnston is a production executive and advertising creative in Seattle. He is available for freelance consulting, writing and directing. Contact Mike.
Want to see what we selected as our top commercials for the actual 2017 Super Bowl? Read all about it.