A couple of weeks ago Adweek ran an article that began thus:

The mighty Empire has fallen … thanks to some yogurt.

Deutsch/LA’s 2011 Super Bowl spot “The Force” for Volkswagen, which enjoyed an astonishing 41-month reign as the most shared ad of all time, has finally been dethroned—by Activia and the World Food Programme’s three-and-a-half minute music video starring Shakira, created for this year’s World Cup.

Now, I know that very little of what we do these days is actually, you know, an ad.
In fact people have taken to describing that idea you point at on the projector screen or TV as an ‘ad like object’ so wary are we of the term ‘advertising’ and its old fashioned connotations of men in suits smoking pipes and pinching secretary’s bottoms after a boozy lunch.
These days we are digital, we are experiential and we are social and there really aren’t any secretaries about anymore.
But take a look for one second at the tone of this headline, the subtext being that the old idea-led guard is dead – long live branded content, and then review for yourself the two films in question and ask yourself which actually works better as, for want of a better word, advertising, despite the fantastically high number of shares and views.
And by that I mean which does the job of communicating and selling?
The Shakira film is fun, it has sexy Shakira in it and there’s a lot of football stars too. On that level its not that different from many TV ads.
There is some stuff that I know is yoghurt but could be actually anything broadly dairy based or at least emitted from a cow from one end or other.
It has an Activia logo at the start as well as at the end for maximum impact and was viewed in its first week of airing a whopping 50 million times. At time of writing it has 230,109, 842 views.
It has had more views than the VW ad who is lagging behind with a paltry 60 million and some change.
Now, obviously branded content has its place these days, but what of the actual brand the music video purports to be promoting? let’s put an old fashioned adman’s eyepiece to the evidence before the court and ask a few fundamental questions.
Firstly, for the keener Activia fans out there you may be aware that this music video is also accompanied by a TV ad that has Shakira dancing in her own tummy like a metaphor for IBD, but that only sports a mere 170,000 views. barely registering.
And importantly it’s the music video that is claiming the bragging rights.
So are Activia getting their fair share of the 200 million views? and if people are in fact noticing the logo at either end are they rushing out to buy yoghurt? What is it saying about the yoghurt assuming they notice its involvement at all? Is yoghurt the best fit with Shakira and football?
Not much, other than a yoghurty sexiness by association. (Which has been known to work, I grant you)
In contrast the VW ad takes you on a journey, a story about a cute kid and his playful dad that brilliantly displays the remote features of the car.  The logo is only at one end, but is relevant.
At the end of the Vader spot I am left with a clear personality, a clear idea of what the car does, and a memorable message.
At the end of the Shakira video I am left with a mediocre tune and the memory of her 1960’s secretarial backside.
So what of our lives here in the pharma jungle? what has this all got to do with what we do everyday for a relatively tiny group of HCPs and patients.
Well, I came to the conclusion some time ago that my job satisfaction was about quality of work, not the numbers who see it. The Shakira Activia project may have 230 million hits but I doubt if more than a fraction of those viewers are aware that Activia was involved – or more importantly, cared either way.
When you make a communication designed for a few thousand people at most, it’s all about the message and how you deliver it effectively, getting engagement, understanding and ultimately, for our industry, motivation to prescribe.
That’s what an ad-like object should do. It doesn’t have to be an ‘ad’. Obviously the purchasing decisions are hugely different between a car and a yoghurt but I believe the principles are the same.
Good luck to Activia, I hope it works for them but I know which of these two films I’d rather have made and which would provide a better return on investment.

And once you feel that way then your audience numbers really aren’t important at all.

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