Figure 9.8 Flaming Piano

And Mr. Bernbach said, “Execution becomes content in a work of genius.”

It is never more true than out here, where concepts can sometimes be all execution without the traditional sales message. To have such an execution succeed, you’re going to need to know your customers better than the competition. You’re going to need to know what they like, how they think, and how they move through their world. If your idea reflects these inner realities, you’ll succeed, because your viewer’s going to get a feeling “this company knows me.”

Here’s a fantastic example of how keen awareness of the customer, an intuition, and incredible execution came together to make a commercial that is riveting, memorable, and unlike anything I’ve ever seen before.

I won’t say yet who it’s for. I will say it’s in black and white and follows a beautiful woman walking through a city’s streets. But shots of her confident walk are strangely intercut with bleak images of dead roses, of a little girl and her ice cream cone plopped on the sidewalk and – most disturbingly – several cuts of a flaming piano falling from a high building. All while a grizzled male voiceover, who sounds like Brian Cranston, tells a grim tale.

They say your life is in your hands.

They lie.

Life isn’t some trained pet that will jump and roll at your fancies.

Au contraire, my friend.

What it is, is a flu, on the first day of your vacation.

Nature’s call, when you’re getting a manicure.

Or three more red lights when you’re already late.

And you?

You are but a mere puppet dancing to the tunes of life’s orchestra.

But there is one thing that’s going for you.

The CentrePoint Sale.

Because when life throws you a piano, well,

the only thing you can do

is look good.

At the very last moment, right when the voiceover says “is look good,” the flaming piano is coming into the frame directly over the smiling, beautifully dressed woman and … cut to black.

Watch this commercial created by Impact BBDO in Dubai. You’ll see why Bill Bernbach said, “Execution can become content in a work of genius.” Bernbach believed how you say something can sometimes be more important than what you say.

1 Comment

  1. I’m doing AWARD School and this week’s brief is to do a TV Commercial. I’ve been splitting my head in half trying to come up with stuff, and the truth is I’ve felt absolutely NOTHING about the stuff I’ve come up with.

    I hate that. I didn’t believe I was such a normie.

    I’m so glad I read and watched this before going to bed so I can hopefully dream up some wacky ideas for an IKEA brief.

    Thanks, Luke. Loving your book so far, and I couldn’t have come across this as a better time.


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Luke Sullivan

Author, speaker, and ad veteran available to recharge, reinvigorate, and refocus marketing, advertising, and branding firms.

I give a hugely energetic series of presentations on innovation, creativity, branding, and marketing. I spent 32 years in the trenches of advertising (at agencies like Martin, GSD&M, and Fallon) and I’ve put everything I learned into my book, Hey Whipple, Squeeze This. But for me nothing beats taking the message out and speaking to living breathing audiences at clients, agencies, and conferences. You can book me on the button below.