They Made It Sticky: TNT Belgium
Here's the set-up: somewhere in Belgium, place a big red button in a quiet square. Label it PUSH TO ADD DRAMA. Have your cameras standing by to film reaction shots. Wait patiently.
The event, and its subsequent campaign, were commissioned by TNT (Turner Network Television) to publicise the launch of its channel in Belgium.
Advertising Agency Duval Guillame released the video in April 2012. According to the agency, in the first week it was shared on Facebook 3.8 million times and mentioned in 120,000 tweets. The ad also garnered multiple marketing awards. Five and a half years on, the youtube clip has now been viewed 55 million times and notched up 400,000 likes.
Not bad, then.
So what made the campaign so wildly successful? It's always difficult to say exactly why something really resonates with people, but here are two thoughts.
Half the pleasure of the ad — and it is a pleasure — comes from identifying with the bystanders' surprise. Who knows why we like to watch other people with their mouths gaping open: it's probably something buried in evolutionary past. Whatever the reason, we do find it compelling. And with its carefully-chosen reaction shots, this ad taps into that compulsion.
Another factor could be how well the ad-makers throw in their surreal touches. Overall, there's a logic and a narrative to the events: man on stretcher manhandled by careless ambulance crew, distracted cyclist hits ambulance door, cyclist blames driver, etc. But then the creators throw us two beautifully-judged curve balls. Firstly, a girl in flaming-red underwear rides past on a motorbike (and then comes back). Then, in a wonderful finale, a squad of American football players retrieve the injured man. Those touches lend it the attractive oddness of a dream.
Staged events are a long-standing tradition in the ad world, and this is an example of one done really well.