Family - A Seattle Advertising Agency

A Perspective That Will Make Bank Robbers Cringe


Why Comedy Is the Most Effective Way to Advertise

Spent, I collapsed into the nearest chair. Shooting food is exhausting. It was the final shot of the day, on a soundstage. There were more than a dozen dishes, representing every meal imaginable, under a canopy of lights. Every inch of the kitchen and staging area was littered with backups and stand-in dishes, rejects and alternative versions in various states of completion. The food stylists and lighting department had really outdone themselves. Unfortunately, I really screwed one of them.

As I was walking away from the set, I yelled out for everyone to join me for a round at The Joker, a little pub down the road. My gaffer was obviously miffed, and I knew why.

Exasperated, he explained that the lighting that day had become more and more complicated. By the final shot, he had pulled everything he owned off the truck, and it was gonna take him a couple hours to wrap. I shrugged my shoulders and told him the food was the hero, so I had made the day easier for the stylists. And I added, “Someone had to get screwed today. And it definitely was you, so let me buy you a beer.” He passed.

Everyone sees the world from their own perspective.

It’s the same with advertising. When you’re first spit-balling ideas, the client wants to talk about their amazing features. Marketers want to talk about the benefits of those features. And sharp copywriters ask questions like this: Who are these features going to advantage or disadvantage the most? Bam! Now you have an interesting perspective to write from. Sprinkle in a little hyperbole and – voila! – a comedic concept is born.

Take the example of the newest spot for Adobe, titled “Heist.” The cloud service is bad news from the perspective of dim-witted bank robbers.

Created for Goodby Silverstein & Partners by director Steve Rogers, the commercial demonstrates a valuable feature of Adobe Cloud Experience. Employees are served rich data about their clientele the instant they walk through the door. Good for employees; bad if you’re robbing the bank.

Do you see how telling your story from the right perspective makes all the difference? Your yawner of a “features and benefits” commercial spinning in a cul-de-sac morphs into an armored truck hurtling headlong down the freeway with the brakes out.

And the special attention paid to important details really helped the performances in this spot. Allow me to point out a couple nice little story arcs that cross in the script. And the actors took full advantage of them.

Jen, the bank teller, moves from cowering to helpful and then to waving good-bye and ending with a big smile and the delightful line, “Well, of course you can, sugar.” The bandit, Eric Johnson, goes from hard-boiled bank robber barking out orders to terrified that Jen knows his name, then to disappointed, to intrigued by the rate and finally to laughing his way out the door.

The actors’ seamless transitions from beat to beat sell this preposterous transformation. And by clearly defining each beat, they not only make the transition more believable, but funnier, too. Well, believable for the alternative reality of television commercials.

I don’t shoot a lot of food anymore. As I mentioned, it’s pretty tedious work. Though there are plenty of comedic opportunities in food. My advice? If you’re shooting food, hire Michael Dorsey from the movie “Tootsie.” He can play anything.

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Mike Johnston is a production executive and advertising creative in Seattle. He is available for freelance consulting, writing and directing. Contact Mike.

Want to learn more about what comedic characters have in common? Read all about it.

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