Nissan exposes humanity’s strengths… and weaknesses

Like many writers, Jenny Glover has developed a habit of tucking away creative ideas she can pull out for the appropriate client and occasion.

Several years ago, she came up with the idea of humorously juxtaposing homo sapiens’ enormous brainpower and physical characteristics with our tendency to get easily distracted, make mistakes, or just generally do dumb things.

“It’s the idea that we’re fallible humans—we make silly decisions and get distracted. We all do it,” says the executive creative director of Toronto agency Juniper Park\TBWA. “When I originally conceived it… I thought it would be interesting to [show how] humanity is great, before landing on examples of our failings in order to give it that nice juxtaposition.”

That idea that humans are capable of doing really dumb things has now made its way into a highly listenable radio campaign for Nissan Intelligent Mobility, the automaker’s suite of safety technology intended to protect human from some of the dumb things they do. It’s a framing device for what Glover describes as “super-techie smart things.”

The “Wonderful Humans” campaign is built around three 60-second spots: “Tremendous Minds,” “Terrific Bodies” and “Marvelous Eyes,” all of which open on a Space Odyssey-esque soundtrack and a sonorous voice showcasing the various physical and mental characteristics that enable us to accomplish incredible things.

Our opposable thumbs allow us to prune trees into the shape of poodles, for example, while our highly advanced eyes not only enable us to spot an unjust penalty call while taking a bathroom break, but also see the face of a historical figure in a potato chip.

“And yet…” says Halifax-based voice announcer Doug Barron, before listing some of the just plain dumb things that humans do—like falling for emails from mysterious princes asking for our banking details, pulling when the sign clearly says “push,” and dropping our phone on our face while lying in bed.

The spots’ languid pace is at odds with the medium’s notoriously frenetic “offer-void-where prohibited see-dealer-for-details” patter, allowing plenty of opportunity for the jokes to land and elicit a chuckle before the next punchline arrives.

The scripts are the result of a painstaking editing and rewriting process. “I literally change the scripts right up until we go into the studio,” says Glover. “I’ve been sitting in my car before going into the studio, changing a word or something like that. You’re never done.”

A native South African and longtime radio enthusiast who is serving on Cannes’ Radio & Audio Lions jury this year, Glover says there’s still ample opportunity for well-crafted radio advertising to break through with listeners. “Whenever I listen to the radio and something comes up that changes the pace or the tone, like a well-written brand spot, it really stands out,” she says.

Radio has become something of a creative afterthought in the digital era, although Glover believes the meteoric rise of podcasts has made Canadians more receptive to high-quality audio advertising. “They’re responsive to different kinds of content in audio, and I think it can be an opportunity for different kinds of work on the radio,” she says.

It also provides creatives with a degree of latitude that’s simply not available in TV or online video, either because of the degree of difficulty or cost, says Glover. “If I wanted to have a  Labrador flying an airplane in a blue hat and smoking a pipe, a [film] producer’s going to tell me ‘Sorry, we cant have that.’

“Radio for me has the freedom of [creating] whatever you want,” she says. “There’s nothing you can’t do. Being a writer, I like having something where I can really stretch my writing muscle. Like any muscle it can get really flabby if you don’t use it, and not just on emails.”

Chris Powell