Dove's "Evolution" and "Nike +" came out as two of the big winners from the Cannes Advertising Festival. Here's what you need to know. One of these is a compelling story. The other is a compelling experience (or brand application). Both leverage digital technologies to bring the consumer closer to the brand. But I'm biased. While I think the Dove video was a wonderful short film—brilliant in fact, I feel that pursuing this model exclusively will hinder the growth of traditional Ad agencies. Take a look at this comment from Burt Helm of BusinessWeek's brand blog:
"The film prize has, until now, been the domain of 30 and 60-second spots. No more! This will only further spur the flow of hot creative talent to the Interactive department. As one veteran exec recently told me, "we're seeing a race to Berlin online." Creatives from both the digital specialist agencies as well as the traditional side see the web as the prime place to change the ad game. Now they can win just as much prestige online as anywhere else, too."
While the Web turning into prime time may be an accurate prediction—the rush to create a model around viral videos may be short sighted. You see, video distributed via online media channels aren't interactive. There's nothing interactive about it with the exception of clicking a virtual button to play it. In fact, the only re-tooling a traditional Ad agency needs to do to fulfill this model is to tell really good stories which people will distribute. They'll have to do better than the typical 30 second spot, because videos that tend to go viral are usually emotionally charged in some way. They aren't watered down. There's also a danger to seeking "prestige" via video—a video can go viral and do nothing for the brand but everything for the agency who produced it. Dove does not fit this model—but others may. Tea Partay was cute, but honestly, I forgot what brand/product it was promoting in the first place.
So agencies who go after the holy grail of viral videos, just need to make sure they staff really good storytellers. But many traditional Ad agencies already have good storytellers. They're chock full of graduates from film school who didn't go out to Hollywood for one reason or another. The "race to Berlin" as described in Helm's post is a race that the Ad agencies know how to run. They just need to run longer than 30 seconds.
But let's challenge my natural bias toward experiences over video spots. Digital firms who create user experiences don't always have the best storytellers working for them. Even if they've figured out how to design useful and usable digital applications which go beyond the Web, they sometimes lack the ability to tell a story that's as powerful as something like Dove's Evolution.
So what's an agency to do?
The reality is that we don't have to do anything. Firms who know how to tell stories can adapt and tell these stories where the eyeballs are moving (Web, mobile, etc). Firms who have designed and built good user experiences can continue to do this both on the web and in other places. But imagine the opportunity for the company, brand, or agency who cracks the experience+storyteller code. Maybe it's comes from one source—or maybe it's orchestrated through the joint efforts of internal and external resources (including consumers). Doesn't matter—as long as both storytelling+experience are there.
Or another way to look at this is if Dove had come up with a "brand application" as cool and useful as Nike's—or if Nike had produced a short film as compelling as Dove's. Wow—that would have shown some real evolution within the industry.