Why “Maddie” May Have Missed the Mark

Who isn’t a sucker for an emotionally moving film or video about a dog and its owner? For many people, pets are like children. It’s no wonder then that commercial director Lloyd Choi’s entry into the Chevy Mofilm Oscar competition this year was such a popular hit. It tells in reverse, the story of a woman and her dog. From the time she has to apparently put the poor thing down, all the way back to getting the dog as a gift as a little girl.


But as much as an emotional punch this video packs, IMHO, I think the video misses a crucial mark a brand video needs to hit.

As I’ve written before, there are four key elements that make a commercial extremely effective:

  1. The spot is memorable
  2. The brand is memorable
  3. Affinity for the brand is created
  4. The “punchline” or “hook” is tied to the benefit of the product or service

I think “Maddie” scores big on #1. The production value, story, emotion, etc. all lead to a video that sticks with you. But the emotional punch is not at all connected to the benefit of the brand (in this case, the car). And I wonder if you polled people who’ve watched the video, but haven’t seen it since it  was originally uploaded, if they’d remember what car it was for. (Quick, without cheating, can you tell me the name of the truck featured in that popular “God Made a Farmer” commercial from 2013’s Super Bowl?) I could see this being a fantastic commercial for an animal shelter or something similar. Even if you look at the YouTube comments, there are a lot of references to people loving their dog, missing their dog, etc. Not a lot of chatter about the car.

Who knows if this was the reason the video didn’t win. Clearly it struck a stronger emotional chord with viewers. As of this writing it has over 2.7M views vs. only 50K views for the winning entry, “Speed Chaser.” My guess is there was concern that the video would be seen as too manipulative. Who knows? In this interview with AdWeek, even the director Lloyd admits the video is too bittersweet for commercial purposes. I think he and his team weren’t trying to make a film that could actually be used as a commercial. I think they just wanted to tell a powerful story. That they did.

Let me be clear, I LOVE THIS FILM. For all the reasons the other 2.7M people love it. And I’m sure that Lloyd and his agency “The Herd” have gotten plenty of calls from companies for work (although, based on their portfolio, it didn’t really look like they were hurting for work anyway. 😉 ). So no doubt their $7,000 investment paid off in a huge way. Nonetheless, I think it’s a great case study on the topic of commercial video production.

What’s your take? Did you like “Maddie”? Should Lloyd and team have won?