This Too Shall Pass — but you’ll want to watch it a few times

Thanks to @DaveWaite for passing this along. All the ingredients for a viral video: unpredictability, humor, authenticity… and senselessness. Wow.

Green screen state of the art

This jaw-dropping green-screen mashup reveals the how-to (or at least the what) behind a lot of relatively normal-looking location shots. The key, of course, is the quality of the background plates…. these shots demonstrate that you can focus on your foreground action with your actors, and then assemble the other elements in a virtual world, offline.

Adding snow, helicopters, explosions, reflections, background traffic, sky shots, etc. can all be done days before or months later… although the most common scenario will simply be to shorten the day by reducing the complexity of each shot. This allows smaller tech crews to get background plates while the talent can be spared from having to do retakes simply because a car in the deep background missed its cue.

By doing some tough action shots first, directors can make note of background action that occurs just before a closeup, and be able to cut to the closeup with the action still tailing out in the background of the closeup shot. By dedicating one of the cameras to the upcoming closeup shot, the background action can thus be compressed in screen time, while the talent enjoys a much better chance of getting their take right. They don’t have to be “on” at precisely the instant something happens behind them. Safer actors, more relaxed directors, more intense time-compression in editing. (Although the whole process just makes the “authenticity” bar that much higher).

Green screen for “normal” shots also means that setups involving kids can focus on the kid shots to meet stricter day length restrictions, then embellish the action afterwards.

One particular challenge, which also has a special effects solution, is the thickness of the air or apparent sharpness between the foreground elements and background. The eye of the effects house is critical here. I felt like the Times Square shot had a little too much contrast between the foreground guy and the background… and the actor’s performance seemed a little disconnected from the “reality” that was superimposed after the fact. But these were probably first takes, and no doubt the final print was a lot more believable.

By the way, I always keep a green screen 8 foot flex backdrop in my van so that any interview we do can be superimposed over any background plate we’d like to envision.

Thanks to Jeff Morin who told @GarryTan who put it on his Posterous blog, which I follow!

And the winner is… (best car Super Bowl spots)

I missed most of the Super Bowl, and had to watch the spots afterward to get my annual taste-test of advertising trends. There’s Adweek’s great coverage, USA Today’s ad meter, Ad Age’s Bob Garfield rundown, and many other opinions if you want to compare impact and effectiveness. Most agree that Go-Daddy captured the flag in an aggressive Bob Parsons assault on Worst Damn Spot (didn’t Lady Macbeth have something to say about that, like “Out… OUT!”) It’s got me looking for a new hosting provider … daddy’s going away from Go-Daddy.

I mentioned before the event that I really liked the Sonata paint spot … which came in next to last on the (humor-biased) Ad Meter but I still feel was strong in building actual brand knowledge and respect.

I chuckled at their Brett Favre spot, too, but didn’t comment on it before now.

Thanks to Carsdirect.com for compiling a scientific comparison of the actual benefit of Super Bowl car spots this year. This is worth 10 minutes of your time to compare and get an analysis based on actual brand-specific traffic.

The summary of the effectiveness ratings is as follows:

  1. Hyndai: Sonata, Favre, and spots — 1.51 rating, traffic change +155% after, +24% during
  2. Kia Sorento: 60-second Sockmonkey spot — .93 rating, traffic change +56% after,
  3. Audi A3 TDI: Green Police — .78 rating, traffic change +47%
  4. Honda Accord Crosstour: Animation of inside space — .53 rating, traffic change +14%
  5. Dodge : What men sacrifice — .40 rating, traffic change +24%
  6. VW: Super Bowl Punch — .22 rating, no brand-specific traffic change, but up 13% during the Super Bowl

Here are the spots, ranked in order of effectiveness according to Carsdirect.com. My comments on each ad follow. Mostly, I agree with their analysis, which you can read here.

In my opinion the Hyndai Favre spot suffered from a case of directorial fear — the writers were obviously worried that no one would get it, or would react angrily — so they stayed on Favre too long, explained the joke too much … and pulled the punch. I’m guessing it was client/agency fear of tapping into volatile Favre reactions. This was a case where the celebrity’s brand was bigger than the automaker’s brand … and they didn’t want to sink with a guy whose fortunes are so complex right now.

I would have spent less time on Favre — cutting the line, “When you’re older than most of the players, coaches, and fans, it’s tough to take orders from people.” Huh? Why’s that in there? Just go from “29 years.” to “I should probably retire after this.” Then, introduce the Hyundai warranty, and with the right script connections it could intercut with Brett’s “I don’t know” line to make the joke stronger and the certainty of a Hyundai future clearer by contrast. The focus needs to be on the amazing Hyundai brand promise, not Favre’s vacillation and age.

The Sonata spot is worth repeating. “Because beautiful works of art are meant to last”!

Bottom line, I agree with Carsdirect.com that Hyundai wins overall in the race to get noticed and investigated on the web, because the spots combined audience appeal with substantive claims that support the brand.

2. Kia Sorento spot

I think the visual storytelling approach in this spot holds attention and builds the brand whether you relate to the Sock Monkey phenom or not. Because it’s so catchy musically, random visually, intercut with strong product shots, and punctuated by the one-button start at the end, it supports the branding proposition: that Kia is going to surprise you if you look into it.

3. Audi A3 TDI “Green Police” spot

This one is entertaining to a progressive, Puget Sound guy like me and the folks who made it. Not sure how it plays in Peoria. Then again, Audi probably doesn’t sell many cars in Peoria. It needs to appeal to Eurofriendly, green-thinking intellectuals on the northern reaches of both coasts. For them, it’s funny to envision getting in trouble with the government for buying incandescent bulbs or setting the hot tub too high. But I also know how Midwesterners think, how Appalachian and Smokey mountaineers think… and I see a spot like this generating more heat than humor there. Methinks it mixes the brand into the brewing category 5 storm over energy/economy.

4. Honda Accord Crosstour – Squirrel animation

Now we’re hitting spots that really represent bad stewardship by an ad agency. What’s the point of spending millions on a surreal animation of the cargo space of a car most folks haven’t heard of yet?

5. Dodge Charger – Man’s last stand

This reminds me of the Burger King campaign for young, unhealthy, stupid, Type 2 diabetes-destined males… which they now admit was equally aimed at old, unhealthy, stupid, Type 2 diabetes-afflicted men and women. When are ad agencies going to learn that just because you have the power to say stupid things, you don’t have to? Is this just a cynical confession that fast, gas-guzzling machines are soon going to be a dinosaur? Why not at least do what Cadillac did and let the woman share in the ego-driven escape from reality?

6. VW PunchDub spot

Carsdirect panned this one, but I think it deserves to be ranked 2 or 3. The result was skewed because there was no specific brand to track on the Carsdirect.com site.

This VW spot is brilliantly cast and directed… a tremendous variety of people, cultures, ages. Lots of humor and excellent acting by the cast (policeman, old man with grandson, etc.) Watch it 4 times and you’ll keep seeing new things… like how well they caught flashes of each car from shot to shot, establishing continuity from scene to scene. So it’ll hold up well and help bring brand history up to date. I guess I’m a sucker for VW spots in general.

Here’s the Carsdirect summary on Hyundai, which won hands down:

Hyundai Sonata Super Bowl Commercials

  • Hyundai Super Bowl Traffic Change*: +24%
  • Sonata Super Bowl Traffic Change*: +166%
  • Seconds Advertised: Three 30 second ads plus in-game sponsorships
  • Effectiveness Index: 1.51

Hyundai featured three 30 second ads during the super bowl, the most memorable of which was for the Hyundai Sonata and featured Brett Favre in self-parody mode (seems to be his new M.O. these days). In the past, Hyundai’s ads have usually gone for a more serious tone. This year they took a more humorous approach with their Brett Favre super bowl commercial. The ad featured Favre winning the 2020 super bowl MVP and pondering retirement (once again). While at first glance it may seem like the ad didn’t draw enough of a link between Favre and their brand (I didn’t even remember which company that he’d been advertising for), it seems like the collective good-will towards Favre (as well as in-game sponsorships) translated into an effective overall Hyundai Super Bowl ad campaign.

Note: Traffic to the Hyundai Genesis, which Hyundai targeted in the 2008 & 2009 Super Bowl was up 50% despite no ad coverage. The Hyundai Super Bowl 2010 ad seems to have helped it out tremendously.

PS:

Adweek reported on a parallel survey of internet metrics by Autometrics Pulse. It reports the same first five as above, leaving out VW which did not feature a single car. Thanks to @JeffSexton for this info.

The banned Super Bowl spot I really like

Until the punch line, you’ll never guess what this ad is selling…. but it’s a great way to make a case for their product! I’m not sure why it was banned in 2006.

Best of the Pre-released Super Bowl spots – 3

Here TruTV is promoting “6 more weeks of football” with Troy Polamalu as Punxatawney Phil on Groundhog Day. I think it works great… the element of surprise is so important in these situations, and a strong connection between the surprise and the branding statement. Plus, grabbing Polamalu by the hair and seeing him in miniature, are strong comedic visuals.

Best of the Pre-released Super Bowl spots – 2

This Cars.com spot has a series of stunning precocious victories in the life of Timothy Richmond… and then links it to the fear we all have when trying to find and buy a car. Well produced, nice humor combined with pathos, holds attention until the branding statement … and then leaves a strong connection between the brand and the idea behind the spot. Like the Hyundai paint spot, it works great IMHO.

Best of the Pre-released Super Bowl spots – 1

I love this Hyundai Sonata ad… strong visuals and music that create a question that holds our attention until the payoff punch. And very well written, with a strong branding statement about quality.