Two things: I heard an old song on the radio the other day and saw a new TV commercial. Both brought back a flood of memories.
Some time ago I wrote a post about two companies that used the old Donovan song, “Catch The Wind” in their television commercials. Volvo used it quite effectively; GE, not so much.
Now along comes the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company. Founded in 1851, it has long been known familiarly as “Mass Mutual.” Coincidentally, that is the marketing name they’ve taken on now: Odd how that works, eh? Of course they are more than just a life insurance company. These days, it’s the “MassMutual Financial Group.”
Okay, they needed a TV commercial. They wanted to stress family values in these troubled times, because that is what every insurance company/bank/investment company/big corporation wants you to feel when you think of them.
So the new MassMutual commercial begins at night with a shot of guy in a huge office. It must be late at night because it’s very dark outside and none of the surrounding buildings have many lights on (so it’s not just 5:30 on a winter’s day). We wonder: What kind of miserable, slave-driving company would pressure an employee to work those kinds of hours? Oh yeah – heh- an investment company! The phone rings, and the poor, overworked bastard looks down at a picture of his daughter on his desk - a daughter he probably hasn't seen much of lately.
The next shot is during the day, ostensibly the weekend. The guy is still in his office, still hard at work. But it is a home office now, and the only view he has is of his small backyard with its tiny pool in which his young daughter and a friend(?) are playing. We wonder: Was he terminated from his investment company job? A sign drawn in a child’s scrawl says, “Daddy’s Office.” Is he into Network Marketing now? Amway, perhaps? There is no dialogue. In the background, some smooth-talking voice-over announcer is saying something about decisions and policy-holders and...some other forgettable crap.
Throughout the commercial, Donovan’s “Catch The Wind” is playing. It must mean something. Is it a metaphor for the guy’s failing career? We don’t know.
If I were doing that spot, they would still show the home office and the sign his daughter made for it. But he would be in in the pool with her, not watching her play while he’s too busy “working.” And in the background, an unanswered phone would be heard faintly ringing…
I love when TV commercials use the right music, images and words. When it happens, it’s magical. Below, you can watch the new MassMutual commercial and decide for yourself whether it works for you or not. I think it is merely average, not very inspiring, and hardly magical. And alright already, I also think we’ve overused “Catch The Wind,” thank you very friggin much.
Okay, so much for that. Next, I heard an old Nick Drake song on Sirius/XM radio that I now cannot get out of my head. It was, naturally, in an advertisement where I first heard it.
So please watch what is probably the best commercial in the history of television commercials. Notice there is no narration. Notice how the people in the ad don't speak either. Notice how you cannot even see the product clearly. Notice the wonderfully appropriate soundtrack song. Notice how unlike a commercial it is and rather more like a little minature drama. But when the company's logo lights up at the very end of the spot, I want one!
I can watch that commercial over and over. One YouTube commenter called it ":59 seconds of art." And I agree! How do you say so much in quick, little shots? I love the part when you just see the backup lights come on, then the next shot is the car driving off down the road. They made their decision! I love the questions the spot raises about the relationship of the couple in the backseat: The way the boy looks at the girl early on - first date, perhaps? And I love how she looks at him at the very end. Car? It's about a car? Who car? What car?
Volkswagen has always put out creative, fun commercials, even today. But this old one for the Cabrio was just the best.
DISCLAIMER: My family has always owned Volkswagens. Many years ago I bought a white Cabriolet for my mom in California, and drove it out to her from Florida. I loved that car - I think my sister in Albany, NY still has it. And I currently own an '85 VW Camper which is (patiently) awaiting a new engine - coming soon!