The moment I heard that we had to do an ad evaluation, there was one ad that I knew I had to do. It is one of the two products that have produced ads that have actively made me think “I would definitely buy that product”. Of course I am talking about the viral video “Our Blades Are F***ing Great” by Dollar Shave Club.
Dollar Shave Club is a company that sends you new razor blades every month. There are three kinds, each costing a certain dollar amount with the lowest being $1, hence the company name. The now famous ad was launched in March of 2012 as a YouTube video. The video went viral and has since garnered over 8 million views. The ad attempts to sell the service by telling the audience about the service while making them laugh. To some, this ad may seem a little crude and just plain ridiculous, but the genius of this ad is the agency. If you had to define a ratio based on Burke’s Pentad I think you could obviously see that it is Act: Agency. The Act is simply a guy walking around a warehouse talking about why you should buy from Dollar Shave Club. If you strip all the funny and ridiculous moments, you can simplify his argument for buying his service in the following statements.
No one likes buying a new $20 razor each month.
No razor needs all these extra frills that come with razors today. Men were shaving with single blades for years.
Instead of forgetting to buy your razors each month, we’ll ship them right to your door for as little as $1 a month.
Those are fine points, but few ads are successful just by stating facts. The brilliance is the agency, or how it was done. The audience for this ad is obviously young adult males, and this ad caters to the comedy that this audience loves. The ad immediately grabs the attention of the audience right from the beginning with the guy saying “Are the blades any good? No. Our blades are f***ing great.” If you weren’t paying attention before, you sure are then. The shock value grabs the audience’s attention. Then throughout the ad, the man is not only stating very valid reasons for buying from them, but he’s also cracking jokes while absolutely ridiculous things are going on around him, from a toddler shaving a man’s head to a dance party with a leaf blower and a dancing bear. They even had time to throw in what was, in my opinion, a hilarious play on words with the last shot of the video saying “Shave time. Shave money.” In my opinion, any very successful modern ad does two things: informs you about the product, and makes you laugh. This ad does both of these things very well.
Some would say this ad was risky because of the language used in it. The creator was even so brazen as to put it in the title of the video. Now granted the offensive word was bleeped out, but there was no mistaking what word was being used. However I would argue that it was not risky due to the language because of the audience it was catering too. Different people will find different things offensive. A nun and a college male, for instance, would probably have a very different opinion on whether such comedians as Daniel Tosh or Louis C.K are funny. Dollar Shave Club knew this and decided to stick with random and risqué humor that have been so popular with young adult males. This has been proven with the popularity of shows like Family Guy and South Park among this target audience. The real reason this ad was risky was because of how this ad was put out. This ad wasn’t put on television or shown before movies. It was put on YouTube with probably limited funding put into promoting it. Viral ads succeed because of the word of mouth. Think about it, when someone says “I have a video to show you”, it’s usually because the video has a cute animal, has something cool or unique in it, or it’s funny. Another prime example of this type of ad was the Old Spice Man campaign. The video became big because it was unique and funny, just like this ad.
The viral ad is an up and coming form of agency. With more and more people using the internet not just for professional, but recreational use, I think that it will start to be used more and more. Not only can word of mouth garner you more attention, but it can also drastically cuts the cost to the company as most of the money can be put into production instead of paying for a time slot on television. Is this new form of agency any good? No. I think it’s f***ing great.