It is rare that television commercials serve us This Is Us or Queen Sugar feelings. Often we use the time to take a phone, fridge or potty break. We extol the virtues of the actors and writers or we slander them during the minutes of marketing that we often dismiss. Meant to burrow into our subconscious and influence our buying habits, these fifteen to sixty-second bids for brand loyalty are a distraction from our intended focus. But every so often, they tap into something a little deeper. They connect, help us recognize our true selves and the world we wish to live.
Recently, I saw this* car commercial for the first time and oh my! The representation of black brotherhood and fatherhood had me watching, like Denzel Washington and Don Cheadle were delivering Oscar performances. It opens with two men in army fatigues, presumably doing PT as one is carrying the other. The one being carried isn’t talking about war or death. No he is detailing the features of the car he has chosen, noting that it has a hand vacuum. When his friend is baffled by his choice he asks, “have you seen my son eat crackers?” We then cut to the men in the vehicle with the son in the backseat eating crackers from both hands and the dad is vacuuming the crumbs. Just then we get the knowing look between the pals. The friendship and nurturing parenting depicted here is endearing. This is rarely shown, much less with black men. The ad addresses the identity shifting nature of fatherhood in a context that can be shown during Superbowl, news shows, comedies, dramas… What a novelty!
Today I saw the newest Nike Serena and Richard Williams commercial, “Its Only Crazy Until You Do It“. Though many if not all of the images are not new to tennis fans, the editing and message are so spot on that it delivers an unexpected gut punch. It even surprisingly supersedes Gatorade’s Like A Mother commercial which has Serena’s mother, Oracene, narrating. The spot puts the sport on notice, reminding us that it is Richard Williams who disrupted and revolutionized women’s tennis. It opens with Richard helping a young Serena visualize herself at the US Open. As he talks her through her perfect service motion, backhand, follow through, taking the net, controlling the ball we see iconic clips of her US Open matches. Throughout we hear his words of encouragement and we see a determined and often smiling Serena. It ends with the tagline It’s Only Crazy Until You Do It. Just Do It and Richard saying, “Very good Serena Williams.”
Serena Williams and her team, like Lebron James, have forced brands to carefully use her image. Nike has done this particularly well over the years, so has Berelli, Beats By Dre and Gatorade. But Chase’s, “Mama Said Knock You Out,” is nearly perfect. The imagery, music and language compliment Serena’s well-defined public image. From humming lullaby to spoken word, Serena delivers her most authentic performance. The opening moments with Olympia are as moving as those of her on court. Reciting LL Cool J’s 1991 rap, she’s committing to her sport after pregnancy.
All commercials don’t and won’t resonate like these. That is all right. We only need a few. And we got them all in one week. Good Work. Great Marketing. Better Humanity.
Note- will add link when available.