Monday, June 10, 2013

Likeable Ways To Die

So D&AD is this week, and Cannes next week, and it looks like 'Dumb Ways To Die' is going to clean up at both.

In all the discussion of why it's so good - great animation, great song, clever strategy - there's one aspect that's been overlooked: it's just so damn likeable.

We don't talk about likeability much; perhaps we should.

It's a better-understood concept in Hollywood. Producers there are acutely aware that most popular movies are built around a likeable character - e.g. Han Solo, anybody played by Bruce Willis, Tony Stark, anybody played by Tom Hanks.
I met John Mescall (creator of Dumb Ways To Die) at an awards do recently and was struck by what a likeable chap he is. In fact, one of the industry magazines voted him 'most likeable person in advertising' last year.

So it's perhaps no surprise that he created such a likeable ad.

But what if you're not the most likeable person in advertising? Is there a formula for making our work likeable? What are the ingredients?

I'm going to suggest two (happy to hear more ideas also).

The first one is vulnerability or failure. Superman (as Clark Kent) is shy, and he is also vulnerable to Kryptonite - these help make him likeable. Indiana Jones is afraid of snakes. The characters in Dumb Ways To Die are all idiotic failures. 

My old mate William Fowler has written about how we are drawn to failure. "Let’s try a quiz," he writes. "What was the name of the boy who flew too close to the sun? What about his father, whose flight was successful? Name the two sister ships of the Titanic. Name one perfectly upright tower in northern Italy."

The difficulty of course is that clients always want to portray their brands as perfect. Worth bearing in mind that as humans we recoil from perfection, and find the wonky appealing.

The second factor is attractiveness. We like Jerry Maguire (even though he's a bit of a cock) because he's played by Tom Cruise. We like James Bond (even though he's a bastard) because he's handsome. And we like the characters in Dumb Ways To Die because they're cute.

Northern Planner was getting at something similar when he wrote a post about how the best archetype for a brand was "Victoria's Secret model."

So there you have it. Of course we still need to worry about things like media strategy and messaging. But let's not forget to be likeable.


Stringer Bell said...

Yes good one. The talk is always 'is it on brief' should be asking stuff like is it cool? or is it lame

william said...

Hey Scamp, delighted to be quoted in a post on how to be likeable, who would have ever thought it eh?

Hope all is good down under.