Big Brands Innovate the Product Demo

By Anthony Vengrove

Source: Bounty

Source: Bounty

Is it me or is the product demo making a comeback in television advertising?  They’ve come a long way since the ‘classic’ product demonstrations utilized back in the 1970’s and 80’s, and seem to be all around at the moment.  Thanks to a bit of creative and innovative thinking, today’s modern versions are quite engaging and effective.

Back in the day, product demos were utilized in a fairly generic manner and many were often portrayed in sterile and ‘scientific’ environments.  Think back to Bounty’s “quicker, picker-upper” demos that often cut to a laboratory-like setting.  I’m not implying such demos are ineffective — just a little boring, perhaps.

Here’s an example of a ‘traditional’ but very effective demo that I worked on back in the 1990’s at Grey Advertising.  Why was it so impactful?  Because it combined a relevant insight (that consumers were mistreating their gas pain with antacids) with a powerful product demonstration that communicated efficacy in a compelling and believable way.  Phazyme was a distant #3 in the anti-gas category until this campaign broke; eventually hitting #1 brand status for a period of time after steady support.

Today’s demos have evolved and may look a bit different, but they are still quite effective at ‘validating’ efficacy or communicating a key benefit.  In addition, some brands use the device simply to activate an insight or encourage their target consumer to take action. Below are four examples that recently caught my eye and engaged my curiosity.

Prudential:  How do you grab people’s attention in the cluttered retirement planning market that constantly bombards with a “start to save now” message?  You take a fairly ordinary piece of data and bring it to life in a visually engaging way.  Did you know that the brain works much more efficiently when it can visualize information?

Febreze:  How do you get people to believe a room deodorizer actually works to cover up the toughest odors?  Shock them into thinking, “Could that really be true?”   

Ally Bank:  How do you get anyone to believe anything a bank promises?  You surprise them by doing (and saying) the completely unexpected.  “If your bank takes more money than a stranger, you need an Ally.”  Hard to oppose that proposition!

Toyota Tundra:  Domestic pick-up trucks are born from American blue-collar toughness.  So how does Toyota demonstrate it belongs in the same league?  By a brute, physical display of strength:  it tows a national symbol of American exploration and adventure.  (Be sure to listen 45 seconds in for the crowd shouting, “USA” subtly in background.)

Such examples suggest product demos can serve a role greater than communicating efficacy or some other rational benefit.  They have permission to show the human condition, be visually dynamic, trigger curiosity, and stir emotion.  By doing so, they increase the odds of delivering a “Wow!”  I don’t know about you, but I don’t mind watching some of the above spots multiple times (can you say that about a paper towel ad?)

The growth of design thinkers, infographic illustrators, and storytellers provide new lenses to look through when attempting to create a novel concept.  As such, there remains much more opportunity to innovate this time-tested tool and capture the imagination of your consumers.  It’s an opportune moment to not only show-off what your product can do, but to demonstrate that you understand your consumers.