Every year, the American public witnesses a battle royale on two fronts: One is between two football teams contending for a championship ring and the other is to determine which commercials will most capture the American public’s attention. Finding a place in social media as among the best, funniest, and most shared ads is something of a Super Bowl type pursuit in itself.
That brings us to another title—not necessarily the most coveted—but an important one nonetheless. It’s the most controversial ad of the year. In years’ past, racy hamburger commercials (forgive me for not hyperlinking one that would make my mama blush) or an insurance ad featuring a dead kid have made the list. This year, the title seems to go to that Dodge Ram commercial that relied heavily on a sermon by Martin Luther King Jr..
So what does this ad—and its reception among the public—mean to video content creators?
3 lessons for video content creators from one of the Super Bowl’s most controversial ads
1. Controversy is memorable
One user overlayed the original Dodge Ram ad with different audio—that of King disapprovingly speaking of buying into capitalism. The brand defended its choice, saying it worked closely with King’s estate and was honored to “celebrate those words.” Whether this is an example of effective, sticky marketing or a tone deaf faux pas demonstrating American marketing at its worst is up for debate. What isn’t up for debate is that people (like yours truly) are still talking about the controversial ad. And if you believe the adage that even bad press is good press, then that might not be such a bad thing.
2. Tackling the iconic is risky
Memorable or not, it doesn’t hurt to take a lesson from The Voice. If you’re going to cover a song by one of the legends, you need to bring it. From the first notes of a Whitney Houston classic or one of Adele’s heart thumping ballads, you can see the judges wince. They know how easy it is for even the most talented singers to fail spectacularly when tackling one of the legends. A historic figure like Dr. King carries weight in every way imaginable. People recognize his voice instantly and have deeply ingrained feelings about who he was and what he represents. That means the stakes for using his voice and words are high—a lot higher than performing in a singing contest. This is not to say that you can’t step on stage and belt a Whitney Houston classic or use audio from a historic speech to promote a brand, it’s just to say proceed with extreme caution.
3. Content creators need to have thick skin
When you step into the realm of the controversial and iconic, one thing is sure: People will react. Add that to the fact that the internet has given place to the strangest of phenomena—an intense level of arguing over anything—and you have a unique beast to contend with. Even if you say something as simple as “pretzels are the best snack,” you will be bombarded with counterpoints, often accompanied with a disproportionate level of vitriol. So if you’re going to say something a little more bold, you need to be ready to take the inevitable heat. Or maybe the real lesson is to stay away from the comment section of your videos. Because who really cares what pretzelfanboy17 has to say anyway? Consider the source and go about your business.
Video content creators have a big job. Please the client, reach the audience, and do it without ticking too many people off. That’s why they pay you the big bucks, right?
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