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  • Nalani Jay

Let’s Dance: Creating Ads That Enthrall

It might seem unexpected for an agency to mark International Dance Day, a day that celebrates the value and importance of dance. But our agency’s mission is to create magical moments that infuse the global market with artistic experiences, creative storytelling, and quality craftsmanship—and dance can do exactly that.

Dance crosses barriers. In advertising and marketing, it can be used across many markets, resonating with many different audiences without the need for translation. This is why it has been embraced by brands looking to connect with their audiences through a visual medium. It’s also a natural fit for video or multichannel campaigns, which is crucial when video is a dominant force in digital marketing. And with 90% of marketers feeling that the level of competition and noise has increased in video marketing in the past year, the pressure is on to create great content that stands out. That enthralls. That connects across cultures.

Here are seven incredible examples of advertisements that celebrate the power of dance.* I hope they bring you inspiration.

1. Google Pixel, “Childish Gambino Playmoji”

During the Grammys earlier this year, Google promoted its Pixel smartphone and interactive AR Playmoji with a TV commercial featuring Donald Glover (aka Childish Gambino) and his animated avatar in a fun dance-off set to the rapper’s unreleased song “Human Sacrifice.” The YouTube video currently has more than 33 million views and 60,000 likes. According to the Google blog post about the product, the brand worked closely with the artist and his choreographer Sherrie Silver to “make sure the Playmoji’s dance moves rival those of Childish Gambino himself.” But the Playmoji can do something that Childish Gambino’s dance moves can’t top…

2. Apple HomePod, “Welcome Home”

This 2018 ad directed by Spike Jonze features the English musician and dancer FKA twigs, the choreographic genius of Ryan Heffington, and the song “’Til It’s Over” by Anderson .Paak. It was called “a stunning piece that’s charming, surreal, emotional, playful, theatrical, and utterly compelling—one of the most remarkable ads of the year so far” by Adweek.

The music that the Apple HomePod plays slowly lifts the character’s spirits, and then suddenly she’s dancing, transforming her apartment and herself with her movements. In The Verge article entitled “I Can’t Stop Playing Apple’s Clever New HomePod Ad,” the writer noted that the YouTube video garnered almost 5 million views in its first two days. In early 2019, the video had more than 17 million views and 189,000 likes.

3. Levi’s, “Circles”

The Levi’s 2017 “Circles” spot, which rolled out globally as part of its “Live in Levi’s” campaign, heavily features the brand’s clothing and well-known little red tag. However, by leveraging the ability to express joy and connection across different cultures and groups through the dancing set to “Makeba” by Jain, the spot feels like much more than an ad. We see how dance lets us move as one while celebrating individuality. The spot ends with a call for unity despite sexual orientation, gender, and age with the phrase: “Let’s live how we dance.” The call was both timeless and timely. And paired with Levi Strauss Foundation's pledging of $1 million in grants to support organizations working to protect marginalized communities, it also rang true. The spot went viral. Presently, it has close to 26 million views and 36,000 likes.

4. Kenzo, “Kenzo World—The New Fragrance”

With its powerful choreography, surprising moments, and fantastic storyline, this 2016 Kenzo World ad featuring Margaret Qualley along with an original track by Sam Spiegel and Ape Drums feels like both an outstanding music video and a compelling short film. That’s no surprise, though, with Spike Jonze as the director and Ryan Heffington as the choreographer. (Heffington won the VMA Award for Sia’s “Chandelier” video.) Jonze and Heffington again? Well, if they know how to work it, they know how to work it.

The brand continued the campaign experience on its Kenzo World website, where you could learn more about the brand, purchase the perfume as well as the soundtrack, and watch “making of” videos. The strategy was brilliant, and it achieved brilliant results. According to a Skyword article, within a day of the campaign launching, the spot had been viewed over 1 million times on Kenzo’s YouTube channel, more than 50,000 people had mentioned it on Facebook, and #KenzoWorld got 277,000 Twitter followers. It also won eight Lions at Cannes Lions—including the Titanium Lion, an award for ground-breaking branded work that marks a new direction for the industry. The YouTube video currently has more than 25 million views and 235,000 likes, and its numbers keep climbing.

5. Under Armour, “I Will What I Want” Featuring Misty Copeland

This 2014 ad features ballet soloist Misty Copeland as part of Under Armour’s “I Will What I Want” campaign, which celebrates women who pushed past barriers to chart their own courses to success. In itself, the Copeland ad challenged preconceived notions about ballerinas by showcasing her power and athleticism. (Although it certainly wasn’t the first to do so—see No. 6 in this list.) According to Heidi Sandreuter, Under Armour’s vice president of marketing for its women's division at the time, this disruption fit well with the brand. “We are a disruptive brand: We look at things in a different way. We see women athletes as coming in all shapes and sizes, and Misty, to us, is part of that," Sandreuter told Dance Magazine. (Note: This campaign was years before Copeland had her own Barbie doll and was featured in the film The Nutcracker and the Four Realms.) The ad is all the more powerful for focusing on Copeland’s story of perseverance and immense talent rather than the brand. How did it pay off? According to a Time article, the ad racked up 4 million views in just one week. Sandreuter also noted that the company saw an uptick in sales.

6. Lexus IS, “Poise”

Usually luxury car ads show the car traversing jaw-dropping landscapes. Ho hum. Not so in this 2013 television ad for the Lexus IS. In the “Poise” spot, the ballet dancer Tamara Rojo performs parts of a solo choreographed by Russell Maliphant, rapidly bourréeing, spinning, and leaping...and not to classical music, but to something you’d hear in the clubs.

As a Guardian post pointed out, Rojo’s movements and body connect with the selling points of the car: Her slow-motion leaps and suspended ports de bras link to the car’s luxury and elegance; her bourrées and pirouettes, the car’s amazing movement; and her muscled back and legs, the car’s finely crafted bodywork. The ad ends on the tagline “A stronger body for greater control.” As Christopher Taylor, senior manager for brand and marketing communications for Lexus Europe, told Dance Magazine, “you can't get a better physical representative [for the message Lexus wants to communicate] than the ballerina.” (However, if you’re promoting the Volkswagen Polo, you may want to star Argentinian champion tango dancers who embody the “tough yet beautiful” message that Volkswagen wanted to convey.)

What did the industry think? It applauded, giving the “Poise” campaign a silver medal at the 2014 Euro Effie Awards.

7. T-Mobile Liverpool Street Station Flash Mob, “Dance”

I can’t leave out flash mobs! While the flash mob’s popularity was at its height about a decade ago, a well-done dancing mob would still resonate with audiences today...and even more people now have smartphones to share the experience. One of my favorites occurred on the morning of January 15, 2009, when 350 dancers surprised commuters at London’s Liverpool Street Station with their hip-hop, disco, and ballroom skills. The synchronized dance was captured on hidden TV cameras and premiered as an ad during Celebrity Big Brother the very next night as part of T-Mobile’s “Life’s for Sharing” campaign.

Lysa Hardy, head of brand and communications at T-Mobile, told Brand Republic, “[This guerilla-style advertisement] brings to life the fact that there are often unexpected, wonderful, exciting things that happen that you want to be able to share with your friends and family.” And the dancing flash mob conveys that message perfectly.

There’s a reason thoughtfully choreographed dance takes the spotlight in these promotions. Because dance can both tell a story and illuminate people’s imagination, the creators knew that they could convey their brand’s message in a way that would truly touch their audiences.

Want to celebrate International Dance Day by dreaming up a campaign featuring the art form? We’d love to help—just get in touch. Let’s dance.

*Editor's note: After publication of this post, some of the original video links became unavailable. We have replaced those video links so you can still watch the content.

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