You're sitting at home, trying to unwind in front of the tube after a long day at your challenging white-collar job, and you hear a voiceover. "This is water." But it's not exactly David Foster Wallace's metaphor for adult life.
It's a new commercial for Rust-Oleum's NeverWet, in which all liquid behaves, according to the copy, like "you've never seen." That is, unless you've already watched the brand's gone-viral infomercial, which features viscous substances like mustard and chocolate sauce rolling off a white T-shirt without leaving a spot behind.
The TV spot, from mcgarrybowen in Chicago, brings more traditional advertising melodrama, and much higher production values, to the same jaw-dropping visual effects seen in the low-budget product demo—but somehow with less impact. Directed by Backyard's Nick Piper, the ad goes to great lengths to show juice sliding in slow motion off a wooden table, and mud slipping in slow motion off a leather boot—all thanks to the spray-on product's "hydrophobic" qualities. And, no doubt to the client's delight, it uses the product name like a hammer, pounding away at the viewer's consciousness, in the hopes of being the one thing that does stick. "NeverWet … NeverWet … NeverWet …"
Despite the agency polish, the spot, with fewer than 1,000 YouTube views, feels less convincing than the more awkward yet more authentic online commercial, which has racked up some 4 million. Given the highly dubious nature of the product's proposition—science defying nature in a way that seems like snake oil, even if it's not—the nonchalance of the chemists in the viral ad is more powerful than the refined, heavier-handed sales pitch of the :30. Perhaps they should have cut a 20-second version of the infomercial, added a URL at the end, and used the extra money to buy more airtime.
As it is, the TV spot's message might just slide right off the audience.
Spot: "Never Seen This"
Agency: mcgarrybowen, Chicago
Creative Directors: Ned Crowley, William Cannon, David Claus
Head of Production: Lisa Snyder
Agency Producer: Tracy Tran
Production Company: Backyard Productions, Venice, Calif., New York
Director: Nick Piper
Director of Photography: Neil Shapiro
Producer: Anton Maillie
Executive Producer: Kris Mathur
Editorial Company: Optimus, Chicago,
Editor: Aaron Porzel
Editorial Producer: Tracy Spera
Postproduction: Chemical Effects, Santa Monica, Calif.
Postproducer: Jennifer Mersis