Ads that tell stories have staying power

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Chasers awoke early on the first Saturday in July to watch Maria Sharapova play in the Wimbledon women's finals. You might call us the skirt Chasers, but we would deny it. We were on duty, eyes fixed squarely on the telecast's b-to-b ads. Even though the story of Sharapova's comeback ended with a loss to Petra Kvitova, b-to-b advertisers, all going after the affluent business audience watching the match, served up many winners during the telecast. There were some unforced errors, too. The winners had one thing in common: a strong narrative in their ads. Chasers likes stories. IBM Corp. and its longtime agency, Ogilvy & Mather, New York, have excelled at telling stories for years, and an IBM “Smarter Planet” spot that aired during Wimbledon told a typically good one. Against the background of shots showing food moving from the field to the table, voiceover in the 30-second spot presents the problem: “Twenty-five percent of the world's food supply is lost to spoilage. That's $458 billion worth every year.” The ad then shows how IBM's technology is introducing more efficiency into the food supply chain. “When we make food smarter, we make it safer,” the ad concludes. Another consistently great storyteller advertised during the Wimbledon telecast: Apple Inc., which ran a 30-second spot, from TBWA/Media Arts Lab, Los Angeles, promoting its iPad 2. In conjunction with a series of telling images, such as video appearing on the virtual pages of The Wall Street Journal, the spot's voiceover said: “Now we can watch a newspaper. Listen to a magazine. Curl up with a movie. And see a phone call.” The spot elegantly demonstrates how the tablet is changing the media landscape—with a nagging subtext that shouts that you and your business are going to get left behind without one of these devices. FedEx Corp. also tells stories in its ads, such as “Exchange Student.” In this 30-second spot, which won a Silver Lion at Cannes for agency BBDO, New York, the “exchange student,” who is living in an apartment with a family in China, is discovered to be a businessman (who, of course, uses FedEx to handle his shipping). Sticking to his exchange student cover story, like he clings to the hoodie he wears over his shirt and tie, the businessman rushes off to “soccer practice. Or rehearsal” and assures his host family, “I'll be home by curfew.” FedEx then drives home its point, saying: “We understand. You need a partner who can help you go global.” U.S. Bancorp's U.S. Bank attempts to tell a story in its 30-second spot that ran during Wimbledon, but it's too diffuse to have an emotional impact. There are scenes of a guy in a pickup truck, a guy in a factory, women in front of a store and a dog. The visuals whipsaw between too many stories of small businesses using loans to “move from where you are to where you want to be.” This ad was created by New York's Kaplan Thaler Group, the same folks who originally brought us the branding genius for AFLAC, so it's not surprising that it has an effective mnemonic device to help viewers remember the U.S. Bank brand: what seem to be paper airplanes with the U.S. Bank logo on them soaring like small-businesspeople's dreams. Another b-to-b ad appearing during Wimbledon was from 3D Mirage, New York, for the Marquis Jets card, which allows users to buy access to time-share corporate jets 25 hours at a time. That's a pretty good story, but Marquis Jets wastes it with a static image of the jet and the Marquis Jets card. When you have an image as arresting as a jet in flight, Chasers says use it.
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