4 Ways VW’s ‘Slowmercial’ Marketing Innovation Got It WrongYou can picture the meeting. ‘I’ve just seen a shocking statistic, 80% of viewers fast-forward TV ads. That’s going to have a huge impact on impressions.’ When the hysteria died down, they hatched a plan. A marketing innovation designed to work at both normal and high speed. VW’s marketing department were so proud of their creation, they named it, a ‘slowmerical’.
And on the service, they did their job. The ad makes sense at both speeds. You get a good look at the vehicle and the backdrop looks pretty. But, there’s a huge but coming.
To be as diplomatic as possible, it’s a really terrible ad. From a practical point of view it doesn’t really sell the product. It’s not a particularly flattering image of the vehicle and it doesn’t catch the eye. More than that, it fails to achieve it’s set objective for four key reasons.
The point of this marketing innovation was to create an ad that worked at both normal and high speed. The biggest crimes an ad can commit is to be boring. We tolerate cheesy, unfunny or crass ads that at least generate a bit of brand recognition. But boredom is a killer. Even at high speed, there’s very little going on. Yes, the image retains its meaning, but there’s very little to encourage you to watch it. Imagine the four second version placed in amongst other senseless flashing images, would you’re attention really be brought back to the screen by a folding roof?
At full speed it’s mind-numbingly dull. The roof opening feels painfully slow and the voiceover does nothing to put you at ease. It actually paints a really bad image of the product.
It’s a Print Ad
Speaking of images; that’s all it is. Yes there is some movement there but it’s minimal. In truth, this is a print ad on video. The information comes from the onscreen text and the central visual is a fairly static image. They tell us that themselves in the video, they claim the fast version offers similar impact to a print ad. Turning video into print? That’s a backward step, not a forward one. In fact it would probably be a better marketing innovation if they placed it within a print magazine.
By using something so print-ad like, VW are cheating here. Yes they have made a video ad that doesn’t lose all meaning when it’s sped up. But is that really the goal. Surely the target should be an ad that is effective at both speeds. By using print ad factors for a video, VW are cheating. They’re using a theory, a still image, that works at any speed. You could play it at any speed and get a sense of what it is, that doesn’t mean we should start creating hour-long slow-motion ads.
It’s Not A Marketing Innovation
The real problem with this is that it patently isn’t an innovation. There’s nothing new here. I find it hard to shake the impression that VW were determined to create an ad that worked at both speeds. So they claimed success with something that feels half-thought.
A truly innovative ad would feel like something new. It would create a new way of telling stories, not rehash an old one.
Of course, all criticism should be constructive. So let’s through around a couple of ideas. What should a true ‘slowmercial’ look like?
Tell a Story The best ads can tell a story in 30 seconds. We’ve also seen many ads that are paired down versions of 2-3 min online versions. Surely the same theory can be applied to a 30-second ad. Possibly using recurring sequences that still make sense at high speed.
Vine Twitter’s 6-second video network hasn’t been around long, but it has taught us that you can create videos that tell a story in 6-seconds. The most effective of these make clever use of the fact that all vine videos automatically repeat, by creating an opening shot that works as both an opening and conclusion. If you get those right in a 30-second ad with a long mid-section, you may be able to create a workable ‘slowmercial.
Really, what we need here is for someone to actually innovate. We need a marketing innovation that’s actually new, that hasn’t happened yet. Yes, VW have an ad that still looks like an ad at high speed. But that’s not really the goal. I think they need to go back to the drawing board.
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