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E-Trade - Don't Get Mad at the Filthy Rich, Get Even

What made this spot so good? E-Trade “Uber Rich” - MullenLowe This is the third in a series of articles where I deconstruct examples of good contemporary advertising. As creatives, we strive to make things memorable. We can lean on any one or combination of the following wonderful things: entertainment, humor, drama, irony, absurdity, poignancy, emotional, relevant, educational, horror, or political. This week, ‘absurdity’ takes pole position in this 60-second spot for E-Trade, the online discount stock brokerage firm headquartered in NYC. The objective: Brand awareness. The solution: Humorously appeal to the common man’s envy of the ultra-rich. E-Trade recently appointed the MullenLowe agency for a series of spots directed by Smuggler’s Ivan Zacharias (Stella Artois, Land Rover, Adidas). All of the spots portray ordinary people imagining the filthy rich. Then urging not to get mad but to ‘get even, get E-Trade.’

Goal, action, complication, resolution Behind every good spot, is a good complication. Most of the time, there are at least three of these four things, in no particular order. It seems like a typical combination of no-brainer ingredients, but when one is missing, it’s painfully obvious. Often directors will try different cinematic angles, new dialogue, a wardrobe change or alter the timing and pacing in editing. But to no avail. I step back from the micro and take a macro view of my storytelling. Gut check this list and see how it helps. Let’s look at this E-Trade spot and see if it holds up to our list, shall we? The protagonist’s complication is set up straight away. It’s implied through his expression that he’s unhappy with his current lifestyle when he is waved away like a fly by the guy at the desk.

The following scenes are action based caricatures of the uber-rich, which are hilarious. These SNL-esque type beats are what makes the whole concept so memorable.

Our dude’s goal, apparently, is to live this imagined lifestyle. We don’t know this until we see the subtle reaction to his daydreaming, then beelines to his computer and jumps on the E-Trade website.

This expression!

There is no clear resolution other than we see him taking action that could potentially help his predicament. But it does give us closure.

If you've hit a wall with your own spot, run through this checklist. I have these four words written in the corner of my office chalkboard. They stare down at me all day long as if they’re saying, ‘I’m right here when you need me. And you're gonna need me.'

Press Play Test

An economical and easy way to ensure if your idea has merit is to test it. It’s easy to pitch an idea to your creative team when you can stand up and act your way through it with funny voices and props. But is the idea good enough without you there to talk it through? I draw out every story beat using stick figures, throw them in a timeline, record scratch voices and edit it down in Final Cut Pro. This animatic has to pass the ‘press play test!’

Frame from an animatic we did for Photo Booth Options 2017.

I email the video to someone who has no notion of what the concept is. Usually my wife or a friend. Even better if this test audience isn’t in the creative business. I ask just one question: “Do you get it?” If it passes this test, I know I’m on to something good. Your turn! What’s your creative process? How do you test ideas before you get into production? Let us know in the comments.

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