Cisco just released a new ad for the rebranded Webex (as opposed to the previous WebEx) collaboration suite of products. Well, it SAYS it's for Webex… To my ears, it sounds like an ad for the concept of collaboration.
You can watch the advertisement and read some of its background on the Ad Age website at https://creativity-online.com/work/cisco-millie-bobby-brown/54613.
Advertising is a tricky business. You never know what will work until you try it, and a new ad may seem ineffective at first until viewed in the context of a larger ongoing campaign. But my take on this is that it sells the wrong value proposition to the wrong audience using the wrong arguments.
We can start with the obligatory carefully crafted sound bite issued by corporate marketing when a company introduces a new ad campaign. The Ad Age article quotes Cisco's chief marketing officer talking about their choice of spokesperson, 14-year-old Millie Bobby Brown from the TV show Stranger Things: "Millie's youth was a determinant in casting her. As we continue to keep the Cisco brand fresh and unexpected, Millie represents us in a new light to a new generation."
If Cisco is trying to appeal to a new generation, why are they attempting to sell the concept of collaboration as if it is a newly-minted idea that nobody has ever thought of before? The current generation has been collaborating online for their entire lives. They have never known a time when they didn't have immediate access to instantaneous two-way communication with every friend and colleague they have. It's a given, not an awe-inspiring paradigm shift.
Then we have the narration and visuals used in the advertisement itself. The first words are: "What makes us human? Collaboration. It's in our DNA." So does that mean that termites, ants, bees, and killer whales are human as well? Collaboration is sure as heck in their DNA.
Millie walks by a bicyclist in a wind tunnel and gives him a knowing glance while saying: "When we work together and build on each others' ideas, we can create amazing things." Sure, if I think about it long enough in abstract terms, I can appreciate the idea of unseen scientists off-screen somewhere, studying the wind tunnel results. But choosing a competitive cyclist as your focal image seems a strange choice… It's an iconic example of individual effort and achievement in sports.
A bit later in the ad, the narration doubles down on collaboration being used to "create amazing things and move… the world… forward." This just seems WAY too highfalutin' fer your average businessperson wanting to hold a meeting or give a presentation. Nobody buys collaboration software to move… the world… forward. They use it to take care of the day to day minutiae of business, one damned meeting at a time. Who is this concept supposed to appeal to?
It's finally time to hit the core value proposition… that sharing ideas and working with other people is beneficial. But the way it's sold in the ad is that if ONLY there were a theoretical way to accomplish such a crazy idea, "We would no longer feel isolated. We would no longer feel alone." Millie touches the chin of a little girl in a school uniform who seems positively catatonic in her lack of reaction to human touch. Again, I just feel like the ad has completely missed the pain point of its business audience. This isn't a therapy tool for shut-ins. The point of online web collaboration has to be about achieving goals or reducing lost time or being efficient or SOMETHING besides feeling better about your poor lonely existence!
Then comes a visual that makes me scratch my head in complete confusion… Millie stands in front of a group of faceless mannequins, all dressed in similar drab hoodies. She says "The more we work together, the more human we'll be." As she does this, she pulls her own hoodie over her head to look as much as possible like the motionless statues around her. Isn't that the exact OPPOSITE of what the script is trying to convey? Maybe this is a reference to Stranger Things… I never watched the show. But it is weird with a capital Q.
At the very end of the minute and a half ad, we finally learn what is being promoted. A simple text overlay shows us "Cisco Webex" while Millie says "This is Cisco Webex." But for some reason, the director had her pronounce it as if it were still being spelled the old way, with the accent on the final syllable and an implied capital E: "This is web-EX" -- If I were introducing new branding that changed the product label to a normally-capitalized word, I would want people to say it the way it is naturally written, emphasizing the single capital letter at the front: "WEBex."
Well, I'm not a B-to-B advertiser. Good luck to Cisco and I hope the new campaign stimulates more interest in web collaboration. It's good for all of us. Let's get out there and move… the world… forward!