Brand: American Express
Link: Click Here
Target: Patient Card-Seekers
Film director Wes Anderson of Rushmore, The Life Aquatic and The Royal Tenenbaums fame stars in his own long-format American Express ad. The two-minute spot starts with a conversation between a Sikh and an a man dressed in white and features a mansion, a blinking ballpoint pen and an exploding car. This is quickly revealed to be the set of a movie with Wes Anderson directing. The camera follows him as he goes from diversion to diversion, reminding himself “American Express commercial” in the middle. After numerous interruptions and one use of his Amex card for $15,000 he concludes with “My life is about telling stories. My card is American Express.”
This spot begs to be described as ‘madcap’ or ‘zany’ and does mirror the pacing and seeming randomness of some of Mr. Anderson’s film work, which might endear it to fans. Amex gets good branding here because of Mr. Anderson’s announcement early on and his use of his black Amex card in the middle of the spot. The two-minute format is distinctive. Even if this long-format advertising is not entirely owned by American Express, Amex is quickly becoming synonymous with this tactic. The core brand attribute of individualism as expressed in the “My Life. My Card.” tagline is strongly reinforced by the unique nature of this spot.
We chose this spot to comment on primarily because it gives us some insight into the problem of consumer-controlled media. The bigger example recently occured with the Chevy Tahoe incident (story at Adjab) where General Motors allowed consumers to create their own commercial and the results were so awful that they made NightLine. That was an obvious risk of uncontrolled user-generated advertising. But we think that this American Express spot points to a less obvious risk. If you hire someone artistic and famous to create a commercial for you, give them complete creative control and the result is – well, bizarre – what do you do?
If the filmmaker is well-known and you really have given over creative control, the honorable course is to run the spot. American Express has taken the honorable course. But what about the advertising?
The best spot in this series may be the M. Night Shayamalan spot (see our review here). This, too is an odd creature, but it intrigues and enchants and in the end fulfills the brand promise and strengthens the campaign. Wes Anderson’s take on the genre is a conscious self-parody which falls flat under the weight of pretense and ego. Instead of seeing how absurd the whole Hollywood game is and lampooning the egomaniacal directors, the only believable point of focus in this crazy jumble is the egocentric director Wes Anderson who is entirely believable as the focal point in the eye of the tornado. His glib “right – American Express commercial” feels like a putdown on American Express.
This is a difficult spot to review because it is tricky to judge what the reaction of the prospective Amex cardholder will be to this spot. The branding is good and it certainly is “My Life. My Card.” But this advertising blog feels that the execution in this case hurts the strategy. We know that American Express enables card members to do a lot of things – some good and some bad. We’d rather see the good.
Branding Bottom Line:
More Rushmore and less Life Aquatic would have made for a better Amex spot. Two thumbs down.