The Advocate – October

Photo courtesy of
Balls is clearly much less of a campaign than Honda’s ‘Power of Dreams’ but as one off TV commericals go really rather good. And it has a sequel in post at the moment involving semtex and paint that is quite possibly the most eagerly anticipated piece of work in advertising history – you can even take an rss feed from to keep you updated on its progress.
At one level of course I despair. As a planner I much prefer the previous Fallon campaign for Sony because of the tip top strategy -‘the final component in every Sony is you’ – we even gave it an APG award. This is real ‘role for the brand in people’s lives stuff’.
And in terms of rational communication ‘balls’ is extremely lightweight – completely hiding Bravia’s HD light under a generic ‘the picture is really good’ bushell.
And yet, and yet!
While the market is flooded with HD communications this is the one ad that stands out, that people love, that people talk about and that maybe just maybe is starting to work.
And as we know rational communication is becoming a bit of a liability in advertising. Robert Heath has done some research on the way in which Bravia works that he incorporated into an Admap article in August on emotional persuasion.
His CEP test looks at both the cognitive and emotional power of advertisng and suggests that, while Bravia is a poor performer rationally, its emotive power is very strong and that this maps onto high favourability ratings for the Sony brand. And boy oh boy if there is one thing Sony needs right now its favourability as the advent of flat screens has shaken up the TV brand landscape.
Lets face it. If Bravia balls worked it would be a good thing for all of us. Proof of the enduring power of the brand film and the potency of creativity and craft.
Ladies and Gentlemen lets go to work.
Oh here is the ad:

And here is a film about the making of the ad:

And here is the sequel:

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40 Replies to “The Advocate – October”

  1. An ad that people love and talk about, yes. One thing bothers me though; Robert Heath says in that article that the less attention people pay to affective elements in advertising, the better they will work. Does this mean that if people are talking about the Bravia ad, it is less likely to work???

  2. It’s an interesting question – Heath’s core thesis is about implicit memory driving purchase choice – because we don’t actively push it through higher cognitive functions we don’t attempt to challenge the message and since only affective elements regsiter implicitly they are more likely to drive behaviour, because our decision making is primarily emotional, not rational.
    So in some ways, yes. But then if the talkability is caused as a response to the imagery of the ad and not any rational product benefits, maybe not.
    Anyway, I reckon it works because of the bouncing:
    Worth checking out the final comment on that post – has a link to a Youtube clip that could well be the ‘inspiration’ behind the spot.
    All the data I’ve seen suggests that Bravia has been selling really well:
    Sony was the world’s top seller of LCD TVs in the last quarter following strong sales of its Bravia range and, last week, it announced plans to open a factory in Slovakia to produce 3m LCD TVs to meet growing demand in Europe.,,1880108,00.html
    But I’ve not got any data as to the specific efficacy of the communication as a driver of this.

  3. Fabulous! I wondered why my rational side was always swayed by the sight of a pair of bouncing breasts – now I know.

  4. Dom,
    the two sides can work in parrallel not when the image is being processed but when it is being recalled, the fact that we are all talking about the ad suggests that it is vividly recalled (roughly speaking we have better memories of emotions and images than we do narratives) … and it is not less likely to work but rather it has already worked

  5. Faris… it even looks like the same street!!!!
    blimey it is worth reappraising

  6. Maybe it’s just me, but despite having seen the ad tens of times on TV, it wasn’t until this post that I realised it was for televisions let alone Sony. I can only rationalise that by suggesting that by the time you get to the “tagline” your mind has been saturated with essentially repetitive images of balls. If you’d asked me if I’d seen the ad with the bouncing balls I’d have said yes, if you’d asked me if I’d seen a Sony or Bravia ad I’d have said no. That seems to tie in with Dom’s view of Heath.

  7. Interesting, because I believe one of its successes is that it recalled as the sony bravia ad or just the bravia ad. For some reason the brand is stitched into recall despite the product not featuring at all in the ad.

  8. As Word of Mouth I’d agree with that, however I would also agree that as a piece of branded content it’s branding is a relative weakness… for me the ‘stitching’ happens because we’re talking about it rather than being obvious from the outset
    I’m not sure if this is necessarily a bad thing

  9. Hey Jemster
    Yeah – I think it is the same street….makes you wonder…
    Of course, there’s no frog in the orignal version ;)

  10. I have a few years experience in the Flat TV sector and God its dull. Apart from a couple of features they are pretty much all the same. Claiming proprietary features or trying to fit them into a desirable lifestyle pretty much adds up to nothing. But if sales reports are true this literally picked Sony off its arse and remember you still have to pay a good bit more for them. The comment that it was no great victory for strategy surprises me as from an outsider it seems to shine (however by chance it came about) i.e. if we really want to break through the parity instead of talking about our chosen benefit – colour, actually do something that creates an experience of colour like no-body has ever experienced before – make like the product in other words. Every new mental model or set of connections involves the imagination, that’s what it’s for and it’s how we learn things/ culture forms etc. And I think those balls forced loads of new connections. Almost like when Brazil score exactly the same goal as Brentford the Brazilian one is better because of their place in the public imagination. If you think about it Sony saying ‘buy this TV but hey you are the crucial ingredient’ is more of a fantasy than any thing else.

  11. has this ad done more for Bravia or Jose Gonzales and folk music in general?
    I think the ad worked purely because everyone does talk about it in a positive manner and people do recall Bravia or Sony with little branding.
    Without the music – it wouldn’t have worked. in my opinion.

  12. Having found myself ‘synthesizing’ rather than ‘analysising’ (my current ‘schtick’) all the available information on ad strategy/emotional pursuasion/likeability etc that is floating around in recent (and not so recent) times, I find myself coming to 2 simple conclusions:
    1) The ads that we like most are those that have a high ‘interest’ factor. In fact ‘interesting’ – as in – ‘I found the ad interesting’ could be a better metric for measuring success rather than most in use today in my book. It gives greater scope for the ‘Analogue’ (the way the information is conveyed) rather than the raw ‘Digital’ (the information itself). This means that the strategy could be rubbish (which we inherently wish it wasn’t because we have incorrectly overinvested in our status as owners of the strategy) but the ad is actually rather well, you know… interesting!
    Simply put, what you are measuring when using ‘Interesting’ is the effect of an exposure to stimulus that creates more neural processing to take place than normal where the stimulus is perceived to be of a positive emotional value to the individual (usually a highly potent meme that can be shared).
    The ads we like to support intellectually as planners are those that have a ‘recognisable’ strategy – even if it is retro fitted to meet a good creative treatment (thinking about Russell’s Schtick’ here). A ‘recognisable strategy’ could be a dead end here and needs rethinking along with the role of planning in idea-centric organisation.
    2) The evidence seems to point to the fact that most brand films merely reinforce people’s attitudes and current brand relevant behaviour – which is fine if that is the brief – by creating sufficient cognitive dissonance when attempting to change existing behaviour. Hopefully the newly created brand associations will carry the current user through another set period of time before wearout occurs.
    Now, when the role of advertising is to recruit a new audience – the role of the USP (I’m thinking about the success of the Pepsi Challenge here or the new Wega flat screen ads) is paramount – something we rarely come across – usually because of product parity. However it can be devasting if the product is functionally better.
    I am sure I am not alone in saying that there is no place for poorly performing products in our culture and we all have a responsibility to say no – however big the budget to a company that wishes to foist a crap product onto the market by the sheer weight of advertising.
    Rarely has advertisng in isolation changed behaviour – except when it is linked to product improvements. Therefore it rarely works when tracking increased cashflows in the short term.
    So, the implication for planning in my opinion is that doesn’t have to be ONLY about the strategy – it should be about the ‘Analogue’ bit – the volume, the intensity, the genre, the casting, the treatment, the wit – the thing that makes it ‘interesting’ in fact – and I don’t believe that has to come from the creative department.

  13. Oh dear – cringe time – I have just re-read Russell’s piece (which I wish I had done before posting the above) and have now realised I have completely nicked most of it – unwittingly I promise – I read it recently and it must have stuck because it is far too similar to be pure coincidence. How accutely embarrassing…

  14. From the reports i’ve read (as David says) this ad single handedly lifted Sony tv sales from the doldrums.
    We must remember that Sony were slow and late to the LCD party. They had to team up with their arch rival to be able to enter the market after clinging on to the crt trinitron market for so long.
    Sony were not in a strong position in LCD tv’s, neither in branding nor sales.
    After one ad, I think you could safely say they are doing well on both those areas.

  15. If Rob is correct in saying that Sony were late into the market, there is surely an argument that their existing reputation for making good products was what drove the sales. People were looking to buy LCDs (perhaps because of advertising by other brands) and when they investigated the options it was the old reputation that drove the purchase decision.
    Indeed, if the Sony LCD’s didn’t exist in the past, it is difficult to ascribe the uplift in sales to a single ad. There must be an argument to be made that a lot of latent Sony LCD customers were unconsciously (or maybe actively) waiting for them to come to market.

  16. They were there, but they werent pushing the market until a couple of years after the other major tv manufacturers. They were certainly the last big brand to take the market seriously. But for that sudden change in sales that I’ve seen reported, I find it hard to believe that it wasn’t largely driven by something.
    But as you suggest John, maybe what the ad did was let people who were waiting know that Sony has arrived majorly into the LCD market.
    Could there be an argument that much of the sales it caused were not “new” sales, but existing Sony customers who were waiting for something to upgrade to? If that is the case though, then it shows that the branding element certainly worked.

  17. Thanks Richard I was hoping to sit this one out :)
    I hadnt seen the Letterman clip but it also seems a bit of a straightforward copy of this art exhibit which might be another source and in many ways looks better than the ad
    Anyway I think the ad itself is brilliant. Firstly because it breaks advertising conventions, it actually is like a piece of conceptual art on your TV. Secondly because it creates a space in your mind for a new brand; a bit like the iPod posters, very design led. The brand/product/category was new (to most people) so this is a first impressions strategy.
    I am sure it worked great. I doubt the people who put it high in the YouTube charts buy flat screen TVs but it hardly matters. You probably dont need a more sophisticated model for the strategy than salience leading people to assume it is the exemplar (the definitive, original and best)?

  18. Not at all, come and read the exchange on my blog today on car advertising, it’s getting quite tasty
    Thank you for the concern though, I’m touched – unless you were taking the piss, in which case I’m suitably amused ;J
    I just dont want to slag off this campaign just because it’s a TV ad. TV’s not bad per se. I used to exaggerate (I once wrote that TV ads were the new junk mail) because everyone thought TV was so much better than anything else, with no regard to whether it was used well or whether all the competitors were doing similar stuff in the same ad breaks.
    But now new media is the blind religion. I actually quite fancy zagging and working on some Tv stuff again, not least because it is so affordable these days (sub 1996 prices)

  19. I’m offended that you’d think I would ever take the piss John ;)
    will go and join battle on car advertising though

  20. hhhmmmm?
    Being a cheerleader can be dull.
    Seems the argument is a tad stale without some idiot having a go at ‘fluffy advertising’ that has no direct, or obvious strategy, any relevance to the product (other than colour…) and relies solely on executional elements to make its point.
    However unenlightened that might be.

  21. “I’d like to volunteer to be some idiot Mr Mannering!”

  22. So a less feisty discussion than on Honda but some good stuff on emotional persuasion and I really like Holycow’s stuff on analogue versus digital.
    One gets a real sense (no hard facts evidently) that Sony’s dander is up in the TV market and that this commercial had a central role to play in that and in building the confidence to invest so handsomely in the sequel. I wonder whether the paint ad will be one of the first to spend more on production than media – safe in the knowledge that most people will see it on free media rather than paid for spots.
    I think Fallons deserve a Strategy Cow for this one so I will despatch one to Lawrence Green OBE pronto.

  23. And do you know what – i am rather disappointed.
    Maybe this was inevitable after the hype.
    It remains an outstanding peice of film.
    But where balls was glossy this is grubby.
    And where balls used music as an intrinsic part of the film and its fame – here a spot of rentaclassical is tagged on to the piece.
    That said the film extends the brands burgeoning communications legacy and almost certainly will turbocharge the succes of the brand. I don’t know why but I want a bravia.

  24. It feels completely orchestrated (especially given the promtune used to score it).
    Balls was so organic that it made you think about all the stuff that could have gone wrong (I saw San Fransisco being overrun by bouncy balls in my dreams).
    It really was something ‘like no other’, the sequel already is ‘colour, like the first one’ ‘just not as brilliant and playful’.
    What I found interesting for the first one is the fact that ‘the making off’ was downloaded and showed almost as much as the spot itself. Seeing people chuck thousands of bouncy balls down those hills is more exhilarating than people planning to explode some paint barrells over a building, eliminating all sense of spontaneity.

  25. It looks a bit fake whereas the colour in the first seemed natural. Me-thinks a lot of post-production was used.

  26. This is my first posting and I know I have gone on way too long, so sorry. However, I was provoked after seeing the new Bravia ad to add to your thread both about it and the original.
    Sequels are always problematic. More often than not replicating the plot not the point, to the detriment of the enterprise. For every Aliens to Alien there are 100s of Matrix Reloaded to the Matrix.
    Nailing my colours to the mast, as it were, “balls” to me was a landmark piece of work. The sort of advertising leaving me with a longing to work at the agency capable of producing such quality. The same thing happened when I saw “Orange man” for the first time
    For me it had a genuinely persuasive power that compelled me buy a 40”Bravia. And a Sky HD package, and a Vogel’s wall mount and a new Naim DVD and surround sound amp. When asked at the time what I was up to I had to confess, nothing really just spunking five grand on a new TV set up. Sweeeet. During my research I was mesmerised into ignoring any negative comments on the Bravia and any positives were consumed like Manna. And all this was elicited by a 30 second TV ad, a supposedly morally corrupted and ineffective medium.
    This being a planning blog it is probably fair to expect my take on why it had such an impact.
    My answer is balls, pure and simple. Here’s how it works for me (forgive the attempt at semiotics). San Francisco is beautiful and arresting in its own right. I could watch it all day. It is my old standard definition TV (SD CRT to the geeks among you) which I do watch all day. Then it changes. Coloured balls appear and take over. These are the pixels, the Bravia’s USP. These are the things that make a LCD different and for a lot of people, better*. There are more pixels you will find on SD signalled by the abundance cascading down those roads. The colours the pixels are capable of generating are more vivid than you will find on a plasma HD dramatised by the almost hyperrealist figure/ground contrast.
    To be clear, my contention all TVs do colour to a greater or lesser extent. However, the capacity that LCDs pixels have to deliver superior colour is the advantage they have over CRT and Plasma. So on a brand level I would argue that colour on its own is a bit generic for Sony to try to own, but vivid balls might just be the meme that helps Sony own LCDs and hence Colour. Like. No. Other.
    I can’t see many TV manufactures being put off talking about colour, post “balls”, but I can’t see them approaching spherical objects in their advertising with a barge pole. I may be getting on a bit but I was under the impression that’s what Paul Feldwick taught me the art of branding is all around. Further, the music is so laidback it has its own impact. I am as likely to listen to it outside this ad as I am to James Blunt, but here it is genius.
    And so to last night’s centre break in the champion’s league. I wish I could tell you that I tuned in to watch Man U but I would be lying. I could try to convince you that my finger slipped on to the record button on my HD but no, I tuned in especially to see the sequel, on my Bravia.
    God I wish I hadn’t. A crappy estate is not my old SD. Exploding paint pots are not the pixels that make my Bravia the viewing experience it is. They didn’t take me with them to believe that the paint (colour) was an improvement. From branding meme to generic in a few seconds. And what were they thinking about the music? Why not just use the 1812 overture or Handel’s firework music and be done with it.
    Explosions and the size of the crew is one thing, but for me they have fallen into the plot vs. point trap. The plot was adding colour. The point should have been pixels.
    I’m sure there will be a U-Tubies frenzy with all that destruction but do they have 2 grand to spend on a TV?
    * I know Plasma has the edge on black, if you fancy always watching the TV with your curtains closed.
    PS you are all welcome round for a demo as long as you don’t ask me to put on that Sony Bravia ad, you know the one

  27. Actually, LCD is generally worse than CRT for colour clarity. But after balls you automatically think of Bravia being the definition (sic) of LCD colour.
    I havent watched the new ad yet because of a dodgy net connection at home. I shall add ,y thoughts soon!

  28. David C: your post is a classic. What Sony ‘own’, following this ad, is ‘spherical objects’. Hmm. Do you think, maybe, this is a teeny bit reductive as an interpretation? More ads with spherical objects, please guys.
    No! I hear you cry. You see, in consumers’ minds, these spherical objects are representative of pixels. And there are more pixies when you’re on LSD…er, what was it you said?
    Minor point: do we think most people know or care what pixels are, let alone all that other stuff? I certainly don’t know much about them. I just bought a Bravia TV because I had a vague feeling, after seeing that ad, that it would be quality. But then I’m behind the technological curve that you surf with such aplomb.
    Yes but you see, San Francisco represents standard TV and…oh Jesus.
    I may be missing the joke here. Is your post an elaborate satire on planning bollocks? If so I apologise for my slow-wittedness.

  29. Sir Winston, you talk wise words. If it was a satire, it needs to be a wee bit funnier.
    Totally agree with you about Aaranovitch by the way. Just as an aside.

  30. My take on the new one is that it is superior to its predecessor. I don’t think I’m influenced by our collective discussion but this one screams colour at me in a way that the other one didn’t – and as a viewer I’m interested in colour not pixels. The colour may be better “because” of the pixels but I see colour not pixels.
    And while I agree that the music is more cliched, it does at least drive one to the climax and the onscreeen tagline where the superior balls music dragged my attention away from the message as I declared above some weeks ago.

  31. Shame. Im quite disappointed really.
    Its a good ad, theres no denying that; but after that amount of hype it could only really be a disappointment.
    The first ad had one of the best choices of music in any ad of this decade. It absolutely made the ad seem like a beautiful, natural thing; where as the music in this one just enhances the sense of man-made extravagence.
    Were it a new ad just appearing from nowhere it would be great, but following that ad, and with this long drawn out hype… not.good.enough.

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