Successful Ads Keep It Real

Costanza Scarpa | 18 June 2014

Engaging people emotionally is a key part of making a successful ad. At Realeyes, we’re testing hundreds of ads every week and measuring people’s reactions to the content they’re viewing, both good and bad – and we’ve observed an interesting trend lately: the rise (or should I say the return?) of the home video.

Well, home video is perhaps not quite right. But there’s been an emerging trend for realistic ‘experience’ ads with a very amateur feel – ads deliberately filmed à la Blair Witch Project, depicting ‘real’ people, focusing on story rather than product, and reaping very high emotional engagement as a result. These ads – ads like Ford’s ‘Echt: Germans Learn A Stunning Truth at Frankfurt Motor Show’, or the Devil Baby video promoting the film Devil’s Due, for instance – are designed to entertain the same way film studios and program-makers seek to entertain. They’re light on product features, but strong on narrative, suspense, humour – all features which recurrently make for high-scoring ads in our database. They often show the product in action, but the product is not always the main focus – take LG’s ‘So Real It’s Scary’ series or Nivea’s ‘Stress Test’ – which is very tricky to pull off, and exactly why authenticity goes a long way in doing so.

It’s much easier to make a good-looking ad these days – a glossy finish has never been simpler to achieve, with post-production being as important as the shoot itself. A high level of execution is the standard. Take L’Oreal ads for instance, all gorgeous models and impossibly shiny hair rippling across your TV. These ads are so highly polished that they look perfect – and feel fake. They leave the audience cold. We’re no longer impressed by glossy perfection, because it is easy to achieve, and as a result, it’s become a common aesthetic. 

Back to ‘Ford – Echt’. Paco Erhard, a presenter, walks around Frankfurt asking Germans who they think makes the best engine in the world. The ad is insensitively shot wide angle, giving the impression that a man with a cam is following him around. Paco himself is slightly chubby, unshaven, dressed casually, and prone to offhand comments to the cameraman – Cheryl Cole he is not. 


And yet the ad garnered an exceptional EmotionAll® score. The initial ‘Attraction’ score was average, but both happiness and engagement rise exponentially as the ad continues. Viewers were engaged in the premise – letting Germans know that it’s actually Ford who won best engine of the year – and amused by the way Paco went about it. The overwhelming impression is of simple focus on narrative and humour that eschews high production values – even if a close examination of the ad will reveal that it’s expertly cut to achieve that very amateur feel, of course. 

No wonder brands have made an about-turn, leaving emotionless lustre behind in favour of realism. It’s ironically an almost anti-advertising stance, which contrasts high vs. low production values, and the hard vs. soft sell, equating emotional (and brand) honesty with the amateur, the everyman; and turning artlessness into an art form.