Last night I watched a show online about some of the best commercials from the 90s in France where I grew up. Most of them were just crap, others were just sh#tty good!
It got me thinking… What is a good commercial? What makes a commercial memorable? And is a good commercial also necessarily an effective commercial?
Ads that are funny, controversial, racy (although you don’t get to see here in the US fully naked women selling a yogurt – like in France), or crazy usually are the ones getting the attention (for the better or the worse), topping the advertising ranking lists and public opinion polls.
Back in the 90s, the more you paid to get exposure (on the limited media channels available at the time), the more impact you had. Nowadays, with multiple media channels available, your content gets easily diluted in the vast ocean of commercials, or it can go viral over a few minutes.
Gone are the days where you could remember a commercial for months (granted – they were not as many commercials, and they were on a limited number of media). Now, you have commercials every 10 minutes whatever medium you are on.
While effective for their shock value and viral marketing capacity commercials can be, their long-term ability to affect daily decisions are almost non-existent. What’s important is the short fame, exposure you get out of them. Advertisers mostly want short spikes in recognition for a promotion or event rather than long-term associations.
Think of some of the best commercials you have seen on TV – what made them the best and what made them memorable? Were they funny, innovative, or shocking? Did they tell a story? Did they speak to an experience you personally have felt?
Assessing the emotional impact of an ad is difficult because it is subjective. Assessing the success of an ad campaign in generated $ is easier.
Different people find different types of ads effective, but there are some common themes. Ads that you can directly relate to often have the best results.
The commercials I personally like the best are the ones that are provoking, irreverent, and non-traditional. I’m not going to change my consumerist habits out of a commercial I’ve seen on TV. For an advertiser, it is more about positioning than anything else. Content and native marketing are better ways to tell a story, in a personalized and emotional way.
Here are two 90s French commercials that I still remember and refer to today. Each one is for a very traditional French product (drink). Both companies hired provocateurs (in their own way) to direct these commercials. These ads have become iconic in France, even 20+ years later.
The first one is for Perrier, the famous French sparkling water. Jean-Paul Goude, an advertising genius at the time, made this ferocious, audacious, crazy ad. Let me know what you think.
The second one is for Orangina. Alain Chabat, a sort of French SNL comedian turned actor/director made this non-sense but hysterical commercial aimed to re-position the brand amongst a younger generation. Let me know what you think.
So, what makes a good commercial in your eyes?