Mashable put out their list of top watched YouTube ads of the year, so I couldn’t resist. Going through the commercials, I was unsurprised to see famous athletes, screwball comedy and long-form artistic work. What really caught my eye was an extraordinarily successful and clever ad campaign from Tipp-Ex, a white-out brand from Germany.
I encourage you to check it out yourself, but be sure to go through the whole sequence (including giving the bear some instructions). Here’s the Tweet that kicks it off:
Basically, it’s a Choose Your Own Adventure (or the 2D video-based equivalent) that doesn’t require suspension of disbelief in the “world” to be viable.
Although not dissimilar from Burger King’s hugely successful subservient chicken campaign of a few years ago, what really sets this ad apart is the tightening of the reward loop. They anticipated a range of possible verbs users might choose and created an ad unit that responds well in the 90th percentile to user requests. In some respects it appears to pass the Turing Test of intelligence (though it doesn’t try to fool us in any way beyond remaking a youtube page) – and if nothing else it certainly makes the experience more fun.
Our central point of engagement is with testing the system to see how it will respond to new verbs we’re thinking. In essence, they’ve smartly shifted the focus from being about the product or even the ad’s content to the system that delivers the content. They’re encouraging us to try and master their system, which becomes very addictive. Obviously, the experience would be better if they provided some kind of socialized feedback (e.g. a leaderboard of verbs that hadn’t been thought of with a voting mechanism to have the bear do more stuff, or giving you the opportunity to kinect/green screen some users into the bear videos, best tribute video contests, etc) – and would work longer term. But for a start, this is a great example of lateral, game-based thinking in the ad world, and couldn’t come at a better time.