my favorite piece i made while at North Boulevard was this spot for our television program — “Peace”:
it may surprise you that i don’t like watching “television”. i put that in quotes, because i love to watch episodic stories, i.e. television shows. but i don’t have cable, and i pay extra each month to avoid commercials on hulu. i don’t mind paying for media, and i do mind being bludgeoned by commercials.
and i don’t mind commercials, in principle. if it’s for something i want or need, i want to see an ad in an appropriate context. and online ads are typically more targeted to my personal tastes. but local TV ads… they can be the worst. it’s not really the fault of the local ad itself. poor Mr. Local Ad doesn’t have a ton of money, probably doesn’t have an expert team of marketers behind him. he often relies on tired or generic tropes, like Crazy Eddie’s used cars, “we’re here to serve you”, etc. but mostly, he’s just loud, cramming in a lot of forgettable info into a small space. and he is non-stop. he never stops coming at you. a cacophony of cheap music and bad narration that rarely endears you to the product or service he’s trying to sell you. even national level commercials — expertly produced ones — are non-stop action, movement, and sound. how is anyone — especially Mr. Local Ad — supposed to stand out in this typhoon of spiel.
so, when i went to make this ad, i didn’t want to do any of those things. we had gone to great lengths in developing our website to be a place deeply-rooted in calm amidst a chaotic storm of an Internet — a house built on the rock. i wanted this ad to have that same voice — something that fought against the noisy onslaught of sales pitches.
i remembered an ad campaign from some NPR story about a PSA targeted to drug dealers, who frequently cut and pack their product with a TV blaring in the background. the PSA has no sound track other than silence. the idea was the TV would go silent, and everyone in the room would look at the TV, which had white text on a black screen: “7 years minimum sentence for drug crimes with a gun”. it proved to be an effective campaign.
since our ad spots were late at night, amidst other mostly local ads on CW and Fox, “Peace” really cut through the noise by being quiet. while i didn’t watch “TV”, i was able to DVR “King of the Hill” for a short while when i did have TV as part of a promotional deal. i’d fall asleep watching the show, only to suddenly wake up. why was i awake? the room was silent. then after a few seconds, i’d hear David Young in my bedroom! our spot aired during these late night showings of “King of the Hill”. and if it worked on me, then i know it worked on others. another friend told me she was working out with the TV on, not really paying attention to it. suddenly the TV went quiet, and she looked to see what the problem was. no problem, only “Peace”.
we used it as a television ad and on social media for a while. if you’ve seen the ad, i’d love to know if it was effective in getting your attention, in compelling you with its simple beauty, in comforting you with its message of peace.