Be the Whisper Heard Round the World: Three Steps to Empathetic Advertising.

By Justin Witt, Digital Creative Director, Affinity Creative Group

Like hawking neon glow bands in an Elmo suit at Times Square, advertising has turned into an exhausting game of one-upmanship. Flashy headlines, adrenaline-fueled background music, and hyper-realistic imagery are all screaming for your attention (the few seconds that you actually pay attention, that is)—and it’s nonstop. In fact, we’ve become so used to being assaulted by advertising, that our brains have started normalizing it. Because those who yell the loudest, win. Right?

But what if the opposite is true? What if all we need to do to get people’s attention is stop talking?

Sound far-fetched? Watch this:

This ad is so peaceful and visceral, it’s really almost the opposite of an ad—and yet it’s So. Dang. Compelling. Why? Because it invites the viewer into the experience, rather than forcing it on them. In 60 seconds, it leverages beautiful cinematography and a purposely open-ended storyline to capitalize on the audience’s own experiences at the emotional level. Unlike your typical steroid-injected advertisement, this example draws the audience into a crystallized moment in time and allows them to become immersed in the narrative as if they were actually there. It’s the advertising equivalent of hitting a freshly-paved road after a long and queasy stretch of under-construction highway. 

So, here are three takeaways from this, shall we call it, anti-ad:

1. Promote values, not products.

It’s not just the technique that speaks to your emotions, it’s the unseen intention driving the story. Even if the acting is convincing, the visuals are captivating, and the sound is crisp—standing alone, those elements are just cosmetic. This ad embodies the belief that shared human experiences have, and always will, be lightyears ahead of technology. What makes Osprey’s approach work is its acknowledgement of a universal truth: We don’t get out into nature to show off our high-tech equipment, we get out into nature to find ourselves. Who is the guy in the polaroid? It doesn’t matter. What matters is that Osprey knows why you venture out and they’re right there with you, every step of the way.

2. No one likes to be told how to feel.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a one-minute ad at 24 frames per second is well, more than enough words to get your message across, no voice-over necessary. Just like a living, breathing individual, your ad has to trust its instincts. It doesn’t go chasing after anyone, begging them, doing backflips to get their attention—it exists with 100% authenticity, then leaves the rest up to the viewer as co-creator of the experience. Most importantly, it’s just open-ended enough to allow your audience to come to their own conclusion. This leaves them empowered, rather than exasperated.

3. Expand time, rather than compressing it.

Typical ad formats compress time. They squeeze as much into 30 seconds as possible under the popular belief that more stimulation equals more impact. In reality, the opposite is true: Modern society doesn’t have any trouble speeding up, we have trouble slowing down. So if you want to make a mark on your audience, expand time. Pull them into a singular moment, and make it feel as if they were there. A single-shot format without cuts and a camera movement that tracks with a kind of organic curiosity allows the watcher to take in the moment bit by bit.

The long and short of it: Treat your audience the way you want to be treated, work with, not against time, and let your product take a backseat to the flesh and bone component—that part really needs to shine. Because, in the end even when hovercrafts are the norm and Beyonce has become a historical figure, the storyline that sticks, the one people will find resonating, not just with their eyes, but with their insides, is the most human one. That’s what they’ll remember, long after the yelling has subsided.

About Affinity Creative Group: From our unique creative campus, (two mansions and a bungalow), along historic officer’s row on Mare Island, California, Affinity Creative Group provides brand design, digital media and retail activation marketing services, particularly for wine, spirits and other luxury categories. The most experienced team in the business, staffed with knowledgeable industry professionals, provide strategic, creative and effective solutions that attract attention, spark interest and win customer loyalty in tasting rooms, on premise and at retail venues across the country and around the globe. Affinity helps clients of all sizes connect with consumers at the early, essential moments of contact, or points of ‘brand touch’ through the intelligent use of creativity, captivating storytelling, and flawless implementation.

For more information about Affinity Creative Group, please visit: or call 707.562.2787.

Piece of cake
Thanks, we'll be in touch!