Happy 2021 to everyone out there! I thought I’d start this year’s update with a few choice spots that use compelling visual devices or metaphors as the main driver for their messages. If you want to be making “breakthrough” creative for your clients, then there’s no better place to start than with the all-important “visual hook.”

Let’s take a look at a few examples of brands that got it right over the last 30 days.

IKEA: “Fortune Favors the Frugal”

Let’s kick things off with this amazing 1:00 film from Ikea that tackles the all-important issue of saving our planet from climate change. It’s a daunting message to champion for a company that makes massive warehouses filled with STUFF, but it’s a masterclass example of how a shift of perspective with the right creative execution can put a brand in the driver’s seat. 

Why it matters:  After four years of an administration that ignored the issue, Climate change will once again be a hot topic in 2021. Brands that align with the right issues and take causal marketing seriously have the opportunity to win allegiance and brand love from their audiences.  The key to successful causal marketing is to make sure that it organically aligns with the brand’s tenets and that the message feels authentic and comes from a human or product truth. In this case, IKEA wants us to consider changing our behaviors to prevent the collection of unnecessary waste. Luckily, they’ve got products to help us rethink how we reduce the use of plastic containers, disposable coffee cups, shopping bags, inefficient light bulbs and appliances like washers & dryers. The message feels honest and reminds us all that there are better ways to reduce waste. IKEA doesn’t own this message and none of the products they’re recommending are unique to their catalog, but that’s not really the point. Sure, IKEA would love for you to buy their products, but even if you don’t, they still win in the brand love department for taking a stand.

The details: At this point, you’re saying that’s great Gary, but what about the all-important “visual hook?” Yes, there are countless ways to talk about climate change, but how do you make it entertaining and sticky as a commercial? Well, in this case IKEA hired the very talented Tom Kuntz, who most of us know from those crazy Old Spice spots, to bring his unique creative voice into the telling. I can just see the pitch: a giant meteor (the visual hook) made up of all our trash is hurtling towards the planet like a Michael Bay movie. Sound uplifting and feel-good? Not really, but that’s because I didn’t tell you that the tone would be right out of ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ replete with a vintage walkman and retro 70’s soundtrack. The key to the spot is that as each of the people we meet demonstrates a better way to reduce waste, we see those items in the meteor cease to exist until nothing is left. Threat averted and everyone feels uplifted about saving our planet with the potential of a better world.

Google Photos: “Look at Your Photograph”

Next up, let’s pivot 180 degrees from disaster movie to the power of memes.

Why it matters:  Over at Ayzenberg we always aspire to make content that is fan-centric and feels as if it could’ve been born right out of talented fans making stuff for each other and their communities. In this spot for Google Photos, the marketing team clearly shares this philosophy and took their aim at past memes targeting a band people love to hate, Nickelback. 

The song “Photograph” was released in the early 00’s and seems like it would be the perfect nostalgia-filled soundtrack to promote Google Photos. The kicker here is that instead of going down that somewhat predictable path, they put a 2020 tweak on it and asked the band to come back and re-record it with new lyrics that revisit all of the memes that have been created about the band over the years, especially those featuring their lead singer Chad Kroeger’s hair. Herein lies the visual hook. A photographic trip down memory lane with Nickelback. Who doesn’t love a celebrity with a sense of humor who is willing to poke fun at themselves and some of their questionable past decisions? The result is a piece that feels right in the bullseye of an authentic fan-made piece, but with the polish and resources to do it at the highest level.

The details:  According to the band’s lead singer, Chad Kroeger “fifteen years ago, we had no idea that the photos on our mobile devices would become such a ubiquitous part of all of our lives. When Google approached us with the idea about marrying the song with Google Photos, we felt like it would be a fun and nostalgic way to give the song a lyrical refresh and share some of our favorite memories.” Apparently the band sent over 500 personal images for Google to consider and bring to life with the re-written lyrics. Luckily, “ramen hair” was at the top of the list!

Volkswagen: “TheWheel: ID.4 Electric SUV”

And finally, I wanted to close this week’s article with a visually dazzling spot for Volkswagen using one of the earliest forms of animation called the ‘zoetrope.’

Why it matters: If you haven’t heard of a zoetrope, let’s start with a quick history lesson. It was created in the mid 1800’s as a device to produce the illusion of motion by displaying a sequence of drawings or photographs showing progressive phases of that motion.  And why should we care? Well, Volkswagen cleverly decided to announce their new electric SUV by showing the evolution of the wheel and the progress of humankind that got us to this point—all through the use of a series of exceedingly more intricate zoetropes. This visual hook is so compelling that you can’t help but be sucked into the magic of it all. Yes, these days with Visual FX and CGI we can make the impossible seem real, but there’s something awe inspiring when the illusion can be created in-camera using photos, drawings and physics. That ingenuity not only makes for a great spot, but also transcends the spot and carries into how we feel about the product. And that’s the real magic. To top it off, there’s an altruistic message that ties it all together that just feels right, “History is made, when it’s made for everyone.”

The details: The spot was apparently a “massive technical feat” filmed in a single shot in Prague. All of the zoetropes were built from scratch by a group of artisans and engineers. They had to hand-craft, test and build each unique machine with no CG or VFX to help create the illusion.