Sunday, June 26, 2011

Double Vision

Every once in a while I will come across an advertisement or campaign that will really catch the eye of the former communications student/aspiring copywriter in me and make me say "wow, that was pretty good". With that being said I find the two recent television spots for Kellogg's Nutrigrain Bars to be subtly brilliant.

The two spots have been running for at least a couple of years, but there's really nothing flashy or buzzworthy, or even outwardly memorable about them. They don't have any gimmicks or jokes and their biggest visual firework is a simple split screen (cutting edge!). Ostensibly the story is about as straightforward as they come, in both commercials you have the unhappy woman on the left who didn't start their day with a Nutrigrain Bar and the happy woman on the right who made the great decision to start their day with a Nutrigrain Bar. Message to viewer: eat Nutrigrain Bars to be happy.

Reading a little deeper into the commercials though, it's impressive how subtly the advertisers put forth what is really quite a powerful message.

First and foremost, the commercial never explicitly states that Nutrigrain Bars are really any good for you; and as someone who ate his fair share of Nutrigrain bars in high school, it's sort of true. On the whole they're just slightly better for you than eating a candy bar. In both ads the first and only time you see the bars is when they are compared with blatantly unhealthy food. A Nutrigrain bar is not the best thing you can have for breakfast but it is certainly better than a chocolate frosted doughnut with sprinkles or a monstrous pastry the size of your head. That's the only thing the commercials can say about the actual nutritional merits of their product, all the other scenes simply show the general benefits of healthy life choices (taking the stairs, opting for fruit, drinking more water) completely unrelated to Nutrigrain bars.

The commercials manage the clever trick of associating the simple act of eating a Nutrigrain bar in the morning to living a better, happier life and simultaneously shows the quiet sadness and misery that comes with not starting your day with one. They deftly manufacture this fairly impossible correlation between eating these marginally not unhealthy bars and achieving almost every general healthy lifestyle goal. In reality, if starting your day off with a Nutrigrain bar would cause you to make so many healthy choices in your life, you would end up replacing the Nutrigrain bar the next day with oatmeal and fruit. The ads may appear to be geared primarily towards woman, but it has a general appeal that taps into everyone's inherent desire for self improvement, to better oneself whether it be to lose weight, to get a better job, spend more time with loved ones, read more, to live a better life.

It's the subtlety of the two simultaneous scenes that really drives home the message. While they are in sharp contrast to each other neither of them are extreme scenarios. This is far more effective than the hard sell of an infomercial where they give you a totally unrelatable scene of a monochromatic hell of laughably exaggerated horrors where even the simplest of tasks is a surreal ordeal and then show you how unbelievably happy your entire life would be after this one peeve is eliminated. In these commercials there is no exaggeration of the happy or sad lives. One side isn't losing a foot to diabetes while the other side is winning a triathlon. One just has a little bit more pep, a few more smiles, and bit more energy than the other which makes both scenes utterly relatable which makes it far more affecting on a personal level. We can see ourselves in both windows. We've all had days or moments where we felt like we were trapped in the unhappy left side of the screen and that a ticket to the happier more productive right side was just an adjustment or a routine change (or in this case a purchase) away.

This is the all powerful message of improvement that every ad for a consumer product is trying to get through to the viewer; your life will be better for buying this good. With just a simple concept and some effective editing, Nutrigrain bars has managed to associate their product with a universally desired picture of health and happiness while never explicitly saying their product is even all that healthy. Pretty good.

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