The Wall Street Journal steers consumers away from the din and confusion of social media and digital messages in its new brand campaign, “Read Yourself Better.”
Crated out of The&Partnership, the push features an artful, at times bizarre, 90-second spot directed by Juan Cabral, the former creative behind iconic campaigns such as Cadbury’s “Gorilla” and Sony “Balls.” It includes a myriad of vignettes of people from all walks of life seduced, consumed, even transformed by the barrage of media messages around them—coming from their phones or computers, through ads, apps and even newsstands.
We see scene after dystopian scene of the real and digital colliding—a woman vomits a rainbow, a troll plugs feverishly away at a keyboard, pop-ups and messages take over screens, causing them to explode. Throughout, a voiceover serves as the guiding star, encouraging viewers to "read" to steer themselves in the right direction: “Read. Read yourself past the clickbait, past the junk, the mail and the pop-ups. Past the endless memes and the emojis. Past the multiple group messages. Read yourself past all the social media that’s stuffing your brain, that’s making your head feel like [a man’s head explodes in a bright yellow splash].” The V.O. then ends, “Nobody ever did anything big by reading small.”
“The idea behind ‘Read Yourself Better’ is to highlight how hard it is for consumers to navigate our overloaded media landscape and to figure out who to trust and what’s worth reading,” said The&Partnership ECD Justin Ruben in a statement. “The WSJ is a solution to this with its quality journalism based on facts. Creatively we wanted to bring the online and offline world to life in a new and unexpected way and create a visual world that also broke through the clutter.”
The track to the film was pulled from synth artist Mort Garson’s 1976 album “Plantasia,” which featured music created to help plants grow. “I feel it represents an elegant parallel with the theme of the piece, which is about the Journal as a vehicle for readers’ growth,” Cabral said in a statement.
The Wall Street Journal is just the latest brand to center its campaign on the all-consuming presence of digital and social media in consumers’ lives. Last month, HP warned consumers of the dangers of digital addiction, in a spot featuring similar references to the WSJ’s ad (like people barfing rainbows), while Miller Lite debuted a campaign encouraging people to “unfollow” it on social media.
As a journalistic enterprise, however, the Wall Street Journal’s point—to look past the clutter and find a trustworthy source—is fitting. It adheres to a similar strategy of truth seeking seen in campaigns from its competitors like The New York Times (“The Truth Is Hard”) and CNN (“Facts First”) .