Creative in Common

When you consume as much advertising as I do, you start to notice patterns, like when two (or more) advertisements have a very similar theme.  Sometimes it’s an executional element, like the type treatment in a print ad.  Sometimes it’s the music bed in a radio spot.  Jeez, you work in this business long enough, and you start to recognize the more popular commercial actors in one television spot after another!

But once in a while, you catch a glimpse of creative synchronicity – two marketers plying their latest models using extremely similar conventions.  I’ve recently noticed this with the latest spots for Microsoft Surface and a revised spot for Kit-Kat bars.

Two gigantic corporations.  Two very different products.  Two disparate categories.  Two different audiences.  Two different agencies producing the work.  So how did they arrive at virtually the same executional strategy for their recent ads?

First, let’s take a look.



As you can see, these ads both employ a very specific creative strategy:  the “way in” to each spot is to focus on the “click-click” sound produced by using/consuming the product and create a commercial around it.

They’re both very entertaining.  The Surface ad starts with a little curious “click.” And then it’s followed by another, then another, and soon, the entire world is dancing in a Bieber-video-bonanza of clicking craziness.

In the KitKat spot, (which is not new, but has recently resurfaced in a media schedule that includes NFL programs,) the “click-click” of breaking off the chocolate wafers is soon followed by the “crunch-crunch” of eating the yummy snacks, harmonized with a few “mmm’s” for good measure.

Similar executions:  lots of different people, enjoying the product.  And interestingly, these multiple enjoyment scenes are focused around a singular commonality:  the click-click, or crunch-crunch.

Now there’s good reason to focus on this as a creative strategy.  For Surface, the click-click is an indication of the product features:  a self-stand for the tablet and the main focus of the spot, the quick-quick and easy-peezy snap-on of the Surface Touch Cover, a quick-click add-on that allows you to type into your tablet using a standard keyboard layout.  (You should also know that the Surface Touch Cover is sold separately, for about $120, and does not come with your Surface.)

For Kit-Kat, the click-click, crunch-crunch is the sound of the consumption experience of the product.  Break the wafer off with a click, enjoy the textured wafer with a crunch.  All for less than a buck.

Technically, both spots work very well.  They’re entertaining.  They’re light.  And they create a meme (click or crunch) around which to recall the product into top-of-mind awareness.  So far, so good.

But if we’re really evaluating these commercials on their merits, then by far, Kit-Kat wins without a contest.  Sure, the Microsoft spot is cool.  It’s sexy.  It’s energetic.  It’s youthful.  There are back stories on the filming and development of each scene (seriously, even extended scenes of just the schoolgirls dance routine,)  and “making of” videos with director Jon Chu.

But from a brand perspective, Kit-Kat gets more mileage out of this creative convention in a simple 15-second spot than Microsoft does in a one-minute choreographic extravaganza.  Why?  Because the “click-click” used in the Surface spot is highlighting a product feature (that a separately-sold keyboard can click on the tablet for a different type of use,) that has to be dramatically overplayed with all the dancing, twirling, and whirling about.  Conversely, the Kit-Kat “click-click/crunch-crunch” is a feature that is simple and direct, but most importantly, tied directly to the enjoyment benefit:  if you like a crunchy treat, you’re there in a matter of seconds – no big production number necessary.

Creative can be clever.  It can be cool.  It can be quirky.  It can even have things in common with other commercials.  As long as it makes you remember, (really important, especially for brand advertising,) it can pretty much be whatever it wants for whatever product or service or category. But in this case, you can see that it’s far better (and by better, I mean effective,) if the creative convention used in the advertising is tied directly to the enjoyment of the product – the benefit – derived from engaging with the features, rather than just on the features themselves.

Don’t you just love advertising?

3 thoughts on “Creative in Common

  1. Phil Johnson January 9, 2013 / 9:50 pm

    Your best post yet. Really insightful, and entertaining, observation.


  2. Carl Yacoub January 9, 2013 / 10:06 pm

    Love it!! great blog. Watching the Surface ad I got it into my head they were trying to emulate that rather pleasant feel and sound that comes whenever I attach the magnetic power supply to my Apple laptop. At that point I was suddenly put off by this being a Microsoft product coming late to the game. I see what they’re getting at by emphasizing the clicking but it either went on to long or just got in the way of what they were selling. The Kit Kat ad on the other hand had a (positive) visceral effect on me and now I’m craving a Kit Kat. Not a treat I usually go out of my way for but now I can’t get it out of my mind. I wonder though if the important element in the Kit Kat ad wasn’t the “mmm” after the click and crunch sound since that reinforces the visceral (pleasurable) feeling which would obviously have no place or make sense in the Surface ad, unless they turned it into “hmmm”, implying a pleasurable cognitive response.


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