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Iconic adverts: What makes a standout tech campaign?

When poorly done, a commercial is a 30 second bathroom break. But when done well, a technology advert can spur conversation, evoke emotion, garner millions of online views – and drive sales through the roof.

So, what separates the good from the bad? The boring from the memorable? The controversial from the iconic? While there are a few tried and true universal marketing secrets (I’ll never tell), campaign success is largely dependent on the specific industry and target audience. The tactics used in a tech ad probably won’t translate to a beauty audience, and vice versa. 

Our process

Brands use Relative Insight to determine campaign impact and effectiveness by analyzing public response from social media, YouTube comments, forum posts and more. In this five part series, we’ll be breaking down iconic ads to find out just what makes them so iconic.

To determine which ads have reached celebrity status, we conducted an open-ended survey asking respondents to identify their favorite ad campaigns and explain why. We received a wide range of responses from different industries, countries and campaign mediums. From this information, we divided our analysis by industry and individually explored the following five sectors – beauty, tech, food and drink, retail and sports, and a miscellaneous category. 

Based on survey responses and online popularity judged by number of YouTube views, we chose to analyze campaigns from Apple, Amazon, EDS, Verizon and Google. Next, we pulled YouTube comments, social media, and forum conversations to combine that data with our existing survey responses. 

We uploaded the entire data set to Relative Insight, where we divided the information by campaign. Next, we compared comments from individual tech ads against comments from all other tech ads combined. This form of comparison demonstrates what viewers appreciated about each unique campaign. We were able to uncover the best bits of each commercial, giving us the recipe to a perfect tech ad.

Google: ‘Get back what you love’

1. Tug on those heartstrings

In this minute-long pandemic-era ad, Google visualizes the evolution and the eventual end of COVID restrictions through the lens of google searches which evoked strong emotions from an audience in the thick of a pandemic. Viewers admitted to crying, becoming emotional and having their heart warmed by the commercial.

“This ad just warms my heart. I never skip this ad.” –YouTube

2. Invest in good music

Many viewers admitted to watching the ad simply to hear the melancholy piano music. To the disappointment of many consumers, the track was commissioned by Google for the ad and is not available for listening on any other platforms. 

“I searched for this ad because of that beautiful piano song.” –YouTube

EDS: ‘Cat herders’

1. Tickle the funny bone

You probably don’t know what EDS is, but there’s a good chance you’ve seen this lighthearted commercial from 2000. By utilizing the widely known idiom, the commercial centers on a group of cat herding cowboys (catboys?) to prove that the impossible can be done. The comical nature of the ad resonated with audiences who called it hilarious, clever, genius, epic and brilliant.

“Whenever I need a laugh, I play this video. First time I saw it on tv, I laughed myself to tears. best. commercial. ever.” –YouTube

2. Cute sells

We’ve all heard that sex sells, but cute does too. Viewers loved the image of hundreds of cats running through the Montana countryside, hiding in trees and wading through streams. YouTube comments called the commercial cute and adorable thanks to the cats and kitties.

Amazon: ‘Alexa’s body’

1. It’s okay to be a little controversial

Viewed over 78M times, this Amazon ad depicts a wife having an emotional affair with her Alexa who she imagines as the actor Michael B. Jordan. Amazon chose to reverse gender roles and sexualize a male character, as women are often objectified in media. Many women and feminists appreciated the decision, while a largely male group of commenters found the ad hypocritical. This bit of controversy allowed the ad to skyrocket in views and exposure.

2. High production value

The choice to hire a famous and widely loved actor worked in Amazon’s favor. Many viewers sought out the video on YouTube just to see their celebrity crush shirtless in a bubble bath. Although less recognized, the female lead in the commercial also received complimentary comments on her role. This proves that high production value and quality acting aren’t just for the big screen.

“I’ve never watched an ad so many times in my entire life until now. Thank you Michael B Jordan for being in this commercial!” –YouTube

Verizon: ‘Can you hear me now?’

1. Quotable

This campaign lasted for many years during the 2000s due to its huge popularity. It’s a simple concept; a man walks through odd or remote locations while on a cell phone, asking “Can you hear me now? Good.” The line was extremely quotable, and by creating multiple commercials with the same concept meant that it was cemented in the brains of viewers.

2. Consistency 

Once you find something that works, stick with it. The actor in this campaign was used in all commercials and became synonymous with the brand. Many viewers knew him simply as the Verizon guy. So much so that years later he jumped ship and worked with a competitor for a series of ads targeting Verizon customers.

Apple: ‘iPod silhouettes’

1. Design

This Apple ad is the only fully animated commercial of the bunch. Viewers appreciated the minimalist style and editing of the design. The concept was also called cool in YouTube comments and on social media. Although an abstract word, being dubbed cool through product or marketing can help a brand stand out – and like it or not, “cool” is synonymous with Apple.

“These silhouettes are such an icon of the 2000s.” -Youtube

A tech ad can span a range of concepts and tones. It can be humorous or emotional, a one off or a series, animated or produced like an award-winning film. There is no one size fits all. But this analysis proves it’s important to remain consistent in each individual ad. If it’s supposed to be funny, commit to funny. If it’s meant to be high quality, splurge on the best actor you can find.

Check back next week for the third part of our iconic ads series, as we analyze a new set of industry specific commercials.

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