I spent the weekend watching college football. I went to my first game at age seven to watch the University of Michigan whomp on the Navy. I was hooked. I became the third generation of my family to graduate from Jackson High and get a degree from UM. (My oldest son is working on becoming the fourth generation.) I only applied to one school and only applied for one reason—it was the easiest way to get football tickets! (Mom says the reason I stayed a fifth year was to keep those tickets one more season. She was right!)
I love watching college football games on TV, too. Except for one thing—the horrible TV ads! Even my younger son rolls his eyes and scoffs at the lousy ads we see. We wonder who in their right mind listened to the pitches for these ads and green-lighted them.
“Okay, we’ll have this hamster because hamsters are furry and fun and sell almost as well as teddy bears. But this one will be in a hospital, wearing a diaper. And, get this … he’ll make a daring escape from the hospital to action-packed music, running faster than anyone expected, zooming around the hospital employees. Just before he leaps off the top of the hospital to freedom, he’ll grab a green blanket to use as a parachute and glide perfectly through the sunroof of our car—also driven by hamsters, because everyone knows that if hamsters will break out of human hospitals to be in our cars, humans will want to break out of hospitals to buy them, too.”
Really, Kia? That’s moving the needle for you?
My younger son is in high school, but after watching the hamster ad for the umpteenth time, he wrote a car ad in twenty seconds with only two words that will move you to tears and send you to the dealership.
Here it is …
Scene 1: Daddy gives his young daughter her own pony.
Scene 2: A montage of the girl and the pony growing up together, learning to ride, riding like the wind, winning ribbons and medals, becoming a team.
Scene 3: The girl, now sixteen, is riding her pony across a huge open field when they spot a herd of 299 horses in the distance. The pony stops and looks back at the girl. A tear forms on the girl’s cheek. She slides off her pony, removes the saddle and bridle, and sends the pony to go join the herd, slapping it on the rear while choking out the words … “It’s time.”
Scene 4: The pony runs off to join the herd of horses which then meld into a brand new 300-horsepower Mustang.
Scene 5: The girl climbs behind the wheel of her new Mustang still feeling a little nostalgic and sad. She hears a noise and smiles as she looks up to see her horse’s bridle hanging from the rearview mirror.
Scene 6: The girl drives her Mustang off into the sunset. The tagline at the bottom reads, “When it’s time …”
Fade out … (None of those cheesy tags on the end to ruin it with prices that mean nothing when you’re actually on the showroom floor picking out your model)
Ford, you can make the check out to Ian.
PS The beauty of this ad is that without Ian having read my new book Most Ads Suck (But Yours Won’t), he crafted an ad in mere seconds that 1) Told a Story that relates to buying a car, 2) Spoke to the Heart about a rite of passage—getting your first car, 3) Made only One Point that we grow up and replace our childhood items with adult items, 4) Spoke to the tribe of women who owned or wanted to own a pony, and 5) Doesn’t look or sound like any other car ad out there. That’s five of the six principles in the book!
My son is planning to go to college to study computers, but if you are an advertising agency, you might want to snatch him up before the digital world gets him. I watched a lot of football and a lot of commercials this weekend. You could use him.
PPS If you don’t have a daughter, wouldn’t ever give your daughter a pony, or can’t stand Ford vehicles on principle, this ad won’t speak to you. Choose who to lose. But every guy who ever gave his daughter a pony will be watching, as will every woman who ever wanted a pony, whether she got one or not. That’s still a pretty big audience.
PPPS The best thing every car ad in America could do right now that would make their ads significantly better would be to drop those end tags about how much down, how much a month, because those prices are NEVER what anyone actually pays (even if you are a “fully qualified GM employee”). Those tags take away from the rest of the ad and turn what might have been a solid branding message into a transactional ad with a message that belies trust instead of building it. Just sayin’ …