Why are Adverts like Jokes?

This idea for GoPro (or any photography company, really) came about when I was pondering the best jokes and what my idea of a ‘good joke’ actually was.

You may have differing opinions, but when a joke really kills (not just an instantaneous gut-punch-belly-laugh), it’s because you’ve had to think about it for a second.

You put 1 and 1 together and come up with 3. You work your way to the conclusion, realise what’s absurd, and it hits you.

These jokes get stuck in your head because you worked for it. Those brain cells of yours were a part of the joke.

The best ads are like this, too.

Something is missing from the picture, you figure it out (sometimes subconsciously, sometimes through a bit of mental power), it clicks – you understand the ad.

It’s funny, or it’s smart, or it makes sense. Whatever the endpoint, you paved the way to get there. The work was done in your head.

As Beryl McAlhone and David Stuart posit in ‘A Smile in the Mind‘ (a book all about witty thinking in graphic design):

Ideas which happen in the mind, stay in the mind.”

If you’re an active participant in the process, the ad sticks with you.

That’s why this spec ad came about. I wanted to work backwards and quickly come up with a concept that revolved around the reader having to figure out the meaning and the purpose.

Now, normally, this is the antithesis to good advertising work. You shouldn’t start with a concept (visual or otherwise) and jam a product into it.

You start with the brand, the audience, the goal.

Not an idea.

But I’m just playing around with concepts here and experimenting. This is my daily procrastination, so just let me procrastinate in peace.

As I had been experimenting with a few cameras throughout the week, I landed on tackling a photography ad fairly fast.

I wanted to try something that didn’t involve actual photography and imagery which revolved around ‘perfect shots’ or ‘sports cameras’ etc.

Something simple and memorable was the goal. Something you had to work towards to understand (even if it only took a second before it clicked).

The phrase ‘capture the moment’ came to mind. It’s a huge cliche and massively overused.

When trying to create something that people have to work out for themselves, however, the ubiquitous nature of the phrase had a distinct advantage.

Leaving out the word ‘capture’ – and having an audience figure out what was missing – seemed like the ideal choice. It wasn’t too complicated (so it wouldn’t alienate anyone), but it still had enough mystery to engage the cogs and gears.

Eventually, I settled on the idea of using the visual imagery of a bear trap clamping down on the words ‘THE MOMENT.’

It’s striking, fairly simple, and conveys the right meaning for people to realise what the missing word is (in my opinion, at least – I could be 100% wrong).

I toned down the fairly barbaric bear trap by smoothing the edges and making it as minimalistic as possible. It’s not likely to frighten or offend (I hope).

In the end, I decided to keep the faintest traces of the word ‘CAPTURE’ above the image. If the brightness of your screen isn’t high enough, you might not even be able to see it.

I liked the visual quirk and it still engages. You still have to figure it all out.

As I mentioned earlier, I wanted to stay away from traditional photography advert tropes. I did include a frame that somewhat resembles a Polaroid picture, though. I thought it was subtle enough to remind viewers of cameras without shoving it in their face.

It’s not the best spec ad, but I definitely enjoyed this one for what it was – retrofitting a brand into a concept.

It’s certainly not how I’d approach an actual job like this, just a fun little experiment.

Definitely not ‘on-brand’ for GoPro, who prefer headcam shots from snowboarders and totally tubular vistas. I still like it.

Guess I better get back to real work now…