A popular activity for ad people is de-constructing great ads. I spend hours on the Cannes winners site every year, analyzing the campaigns that won awards, getting inspired with ideas to up my game next year.

But you know what’s better than a really good ad? Stranger Things. This year’s Oscar winners. The Kermit “also me” meme that I see everywhere.

Great ads are awesome. But the name of the game in advertising today isn’t: “Lets create great ads.” It’s: let’s create great content.

We should raise our own bars (mine included) by deconstructing great content, not ads for inspiration. What videos are people watching today? Why? What makes them so good? What does a viral video’s popularity imply about what interests people? The answer to that will inspire ads that are more like content and less like ads.


Here’s an example: Volvo’s Epic Split. I don’t know how this idea came about. Maybe it was a great insight. Maybe it was from brainstorm. No matter, you could also get to it by analyzing what interests people.

What Volvo wanted to convey with this video was the precision, safety, and perfect technical capability of a Volvo truck. I googled ‘precision’ in YouTube. Up came a video with 20MM views of Japanese students walking in unison. Go ahead, check it out.

Why is this video so popular? Because they almost crash! It’s suspenseful. So that’s whats interesting about precision.

Back to Volvo – the brief goes from “convey the precision of Volvo trucks” to: how do we make precision interesting by amping up the stakes? Can we show how Volvo power steering is so precise, you can trust it even when it seems like someone will  get hurt but doesn’t. Can we show someone *almost* get hurt, but not, with our Volvo Trucks?

That brief is much more interesting.

Looking at Cannes is still a good use of time. But taking inspiration from non-ads might inspire great content that people actually want to watch.