Friday, October 24, 2008

All you need is love. And cable.

Would it be okay if I jumped on an old-news bandwagon just this once?

Because I want to give a shout-out to, of all things, a television commercial. Specifically, I wish to heap praise upon the gobsmackingly charming Discovery Channel spot called “I Love The World”, quite possibly the most redemptive bit of television advertising since British Airways' "Global".

But Cowboy, you’re thinking, does this mean you’ve gone back to the dark side? Can swilling crantinis and blogging from Cannes be far behind? Don’t get your chaps in a bunch, cupcake. I’m not dusting off the black turtleneck just yet. It’s true that I think this is a great piece of advertising, but that’s not why I think it’s worth talking about. There has already been a pundit-a-thon about that. No, I think it’s actually a shining beacon of hope. To whit:

It’s first a lesson in what a brand should be about. Someone over there at Discovery Channel, having recovered from the whole Bloodhound Gang thing, had a flash of clarity: Content is not what defines a media outlet in this era. A point of view is. This is a particularly acute lesson here in the squillion-channel universe if you’re in the media business, but it’s essentially true of almost everything. Very, very few marketers can claim a sustainable rational advantage for their products. From beer to sneakers, it’s a brand’s point of view that attracts affinity and puts a product in some kind of emotional context. I want to take every marketer who wishes his brand would get out of the way so people can see the product, and every ad wonk who thinks that entertainment is the antidote to poor differentiation, and lock them together in a room to watch this spot for a few hours. No sushi until you see the light, kids.

But more than this, it’s a fragrant bloom poked into the gun barrel of public cynicism, a commodity in such abundance right now that we should be glad it’s not publicly traded. Somebody out there wrote this earnest, sincere thing. And somebody out there bought it. And then millions of people took it at face value and thought it was just lovely, and said so. Go see it on You Tube. Look at the view count. Look at the comments. Very little “They’re just trying to sell you something,” and quite a bit of, “I just love it.” While we in our ivory towers imagine that consumers are roaming the streets in torch and pitchfork-wielding mobs right now, along comes this proof that consumers are still human beings and would still prefer to be happy, given the choice.

Even for sixty seconds.