Rube Goldberg Tells a Story

Posted by Robert Weitz on August 30, 2011 11:54 AM

Do you want to impress people with your view of the world? Do you want to tell them that you are bold or inventive? Then do something creative and smart!

Here are 4 lovely examples of storytelling that is a “set-up.” In other words, a mechanism is set up to—once set in motion—tell a moving story of cause and effect that has all the elements of a drama or animated sequence. After you watch each one, ask yourself: What feeling do I have about the filmmakers, and what story are they telling? The mother of all of these, The Way Things Go by Swiss artists Peter Fischli and David Weiss, inspired many followers. Its story is more meaningful than ever.

Similar in narrative and physical setup (so much so that Fischli and Weiss threatened Honda with legal action), “The Power of Dreams” by the agency Wieden+Kennedy is an expensive, brilliantly-executed ad that has a singular message: “Isn’t it nice when things just work,” which is intoned by radio celebrity Garrison Keillor. This is done in 2 takes and took months to figure out and execute. It was very expensive and is still driving traffic and brand exposure…it worked!

Next is something different but still echoes the joyful, technologically crazy, wildly expressive creation of Fischli and Weiss, and picks up on the brilliant production values of the Honda ad. The Sony Bravia ad “Balls” by Fallon UK is a meticulously executed set-up meant to thrill and fill our hearts with an irrepressible childlike joy. It compels us to dwell on the fact that the Bravia is brighter, more exciting, and a step above everyone else.

The final spot is so perfect. It is not for a major brand, it was probably made with the understanding that the Honda and the Sony commercial continues to be passed around without an end in sight. It will probably outlive the Bravia brand, and will amuse and spread Sony and Honda’s message for who knows how long? I would imagine that a lot of sweat equity went into this since the brand makes wood products.

Appropriately, the tune is “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” by J.S. Bach because with such a convincing story told, everyone of us should be desiring a Touch Wood smartphone! Clients, fans and lovers are rarely seduced by a list of benefits, but light some candles, pour some wine, put on some music, and then wait and see what happens.

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