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Internet Killed the Television Star

A recent advert for sweets brand Skittles shows us a world in which a man cannot touch anything without it turning into Skittles. The advert – The Skittles Touch – says nothing positive about the brand, the taste of the sweets or the price, it simply tells the audience: Look how much of a laugh we are.

Obviously, the purpose of the advert isn’t a warning of a post-apocalyptic world in which callous colleagues care little about confectionary-celled mutants. It is instead the latest in a long line of commercials with roots reaching back years online.

Just like the mainstream music industry will often ‘borrow’ from underground trends, television advertising is now taking from the internet. The aforementioned Skittles advert doesn’t overtly sell the product, it just does what a good YouTube video does. It makes people think “This is a laugh, I’ll tell my friends about it”, covertly planting a kind of positive reinforcement in viewers.

Adverts with a loose connection – or no relation at all – to the product aren’t all that new, of course, but it’s undeniable that there has been an increase in them over the last few years. Two of the biggest examples are Muller’s 2010 clip about a cow who wants to be a horse, and Cadbury’s Dairy Milk gorilla. Again, these clips don’t scream ‘BUY ME NOW, YOU TRAMPS!’, they instead let the viewer know they’re around should they be needed. And this softly, softly approach does pay off, with both Muller and Cadbury reporting increases in profit in the period after the adverts aired.

The first thing that’s noticeable about both these adverts is the use of a 1970s/80s power ballad, a longtime staple for night clubs looking for a cheesy, ironic way to end nights. In fact, parallels can be drawn between the Muller advert and Baywatch – a end-of-night club favourite when I was at university. Both feature ridiculous slow motion shots and a power ballad soundtrack, a technique Muller has used to push their product towards a more knowing audience.

The Dairy Milk gorilla and Muller adverts also feature animals prominently. And, as can be attested by pretty anyone who’s ever been online, animals are pretty popular on the internet. Cats, in particular, are all over the bloody place. This is one of the most famous examples:

And this is a new advert from nut brand Pistachio:

They’re not the only ones getting in on the popularity of internet videos. A campaign from Crusha saw them commission Joel Veitch from Rathergood.com. They clearly wanted to draw on the success of animal-prominent videos, and he came up with this:

Of course, there is no strict formula for what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to this type of advertising. In fact, it may only be in hindsight that these similarities can be picked out. However, if marketers can recognise and even take the bold step of trying to pioneer these trends, it could be that they reap huge rewards.

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