Fantastic video show over at Slate where Seth Stevenson reports on Donald Gunn's 12 'master formats' of (TV) advertising (and shows examples of each).
So, we're not a one trick pony industry after all, we're a 12 trick pony. Here's the dirty dozen:
1. The demo
2. Show the need or problem (perhaps best described by Adam Morgan as the 'that's why' school of advertising)
3. Symbol, analogy or exaggerated graphic to show the need or problem
5. The exemplary story (a narrative that demonstrates the product's benefit)
6. Benefit causes story
7. Tell it (aka the testimonial)
8. Ongoing characters or celebrities
9. Symbol, analogy or exaggerated graphic to demonstrate the benefit
10. Associated user imagery
11. Unique personality property (aka the usp)
12. Parody or borrowed format
Feels like a pretty accurate typology of the tricks we use in film (be it TV ads or viral films). And perhaps why the idea (promoted by Zeus Jones) of 'marketing as a service' is so appealing to us as an industry, and real people out there. Because it's new. And, as President Coolidge made famous, the new (aka creativity) is highly appealing to us as a species.