First off, a huge thanks to the wisdom and insights of Rob Matthews and David Rielly who were my guest writers for the last two articles! I would love to feature more voices moving forward, so if you’re reading this and think you want to share your perspective on the best work out there, please drop me a line. I’d love to hear from you.

This week, I’m going to focus on spectacle in advertising. The three spots we’re going to look at treat their product like a high production value superhero action movie, backed by a big attitude—and of course—big VFX

Nike Esports – Camp Next Level 2020

First up is Nike giving us their take on what it takes to be an esports superstar. It’s called Camp Next Level and everything about this spot takes things to 11 and beyond.

Why it matters: When the king of sports advertising decides to throw their weight behind esports, you have to take notice.  In this over-the-top 90 second spot, Nike brings “Just Do It” into the world of gaming. If you want to be an esports superstar like UZI or NXT, then you must put in the work and train your mind as well as your body. What I really love about this spot is the use of VFX and a crazy cutting style to elevate these esports superstars into the same pantheon as the more traditional sporting elite. Making them much more like the Guardians of the Galaxy of the MCU than the Avengers’ Thor and Captain America.

The details: This film launched in China during the month-long League of Legends World Championship held in Shanghai and is Nike’s first foray into inspiring gamers everywhere that they too can do it.

Hornbach – It Seems Impossible Until You Do It

Next up is a celebration for all those DIYers who dare to venture into the lurking unknown of home construction projects.

Why it matters: Whether you’ve got the skills or not, we all recognize the artistry, courage and sweat equity that goes into every home construction project. They’re never easy and it’s generally a force of will—with a touch of fear—in which we enter into these endeavors. While fixing a bathroom sink doesn’t have quite the gravitas as Spiderman saving a subway train full of passengers, this spot begs you to think otherwise. Dramatic music, slo-mo and shrinking the DIY’er to the size of a piece of hardware you’d probably lose if you were building a shelf, everything feels like a huge action set piece from your favorite Marvel film…but, probably mostly Ant-Man. The stakes are high and when the protagonist finally succeeds in replacing his sink, you definitely feel like they conquered the impossible. It’s a call to all the DIY’ers out there to get off your butts and take the bold leap forward. Because you too can be a superhero.

The details: I read a quote in one article on Hornbach’s marketing DNA that really stuck with me about how their notion that “a fundamental wildness or warrior spirit” is inherent and manifests when we engage in DIY projects because that energy has ”nowhere else to go.” Other fun details on this spot include that it was directed by Tom Kuntz who is verifiably commercial comedic royalty, having created the Old Spice Guy and so many more. And finally, the cinematographer is Hoyte Van Hoytema who is Christopher Nolan’s first pick, working with him on Tenant, Dunkirk and Interstellar. Not too shabby.

Apple Watch Series 6 – It Already Does That

And finally, leave it to Apple to take us on a 2:00 tongue-and-cheek action-adventure to showcase all the new features of their Series 6 Watch.

Why it matters: This one starts like so many other spots these days: “Imagine a future where…” and quickly turns that conceit on its head. Apple is definitely taking a page out of Nike’s playbook and showcasing people living their lives to the aspirational fullest: yoga, tennis, surfing, jogging, cycling, and so on. You begin to think, maybe this watch is for you if you do those things, or conversely by getting this watch you’ll start doing them. As the spot progresses, an increasingly frustrated announcer tries to raise the stakes of what this watch will be able to do in the future. And of course as she raises the stakes, so do the visual gags like a climber being rescued via helicopter, culminating with astronauts. It’s a good time throughout and certainly made me a believer.

The details: Apple clearly had a lot of fun making this one. They enlisted Helena Bonham-Carter, a performer whose dialogue and inner-monologue drive the spot and deliver a perfectly executed wink to the audience. And the slick visual style and seamless transitions were brought to life by director Craig Gillespie, who has dazzled us in the past with his films I, Tonya (2017) and Lars and the Real Girl (2007).