Canon Made an Elaborate Rube Goldberg Machine Just to Set Up Some Crazy Photos

Grey spot cleverly manufactures 'perfect moments'

You may be a carefree and playful millennial out living your life to the fullest. But if you’re looking to capture that perfect magical snapshot on the street, your smartphone camera won’t do—you need a Canon.

That, at least, is the upshot of a new ad from the consumer tech marketer and Grey New York. Featuring a chaotic Rube Goldberg sequence set to the song “City’s Alive” by Chief White Lightning, it’s a dazzling, upbeat and ultimately charming ode to perspective.

As water tips into buckets that knock over umbrellas and bicycles, and so on, in the usual elaborate domino effect that defines such contraptions, a subtler story unfolds underneath. The protagonist, a heroine photographer who set everything in motion with a rolling lens cap, is chasing the action, capturing key moments in clever, hidden and unexpected ways, all revealed at the end of the two-minute spot in a series of stills.

There’s the fire-breathing car mechanic (who happened to be yelling while a co-worker was blasting a torch). There’s the blue water balloon bursting on a bald man’s pate like some kind of shower cap come to life. There’s a little girl touching the tip of a yawning dog’s tongue (she’s not just waving in the background, as you might have first thought).

There’s one woman catching flowers tumbling across the sky, while also in mid-jump herself. There’s another woman doing her own gravity defying stunt, a hand-stand on top of a bicycle (when, in fact, both were really just on the floor).

These are Canon’s “Perfect Moments.” And to be fair, they are pretty perfect.

The ad also includes its share of more overtly cute moments. In one of the best-ever components of a Rube Goldberg marketing machine, a dog participates actively here, putting a bone in bucket to lift a toll gate. But while that sort of squee-pandering makes it all the more tempting to groan at the overused Rube Goldberg trope, Canon gets away with it by leading to an actual relevant point for the product.

“The right place at the right time means nothing without the right camera,” concludes the commercial’s copy. In other words, the analog if-this-then-that device is almost reduced to a deft bit of misdirection—a metaphor of sorts for a vibrant metropolitan scene, or simply a device that condenses a huge amount of activity and eye candy into a linear (if not quite single-shot) presentation.

The subtext, meanwhile, is that the camera you’re already carrying around in your pocket every day (on your iPhone or Samsung) is insufficient. You need Canon’s $750 (aka, entry-level) EOS Rebel T7i DSLR. With it, like the story’s lead character, you’ll be able to capture fun little optical illusions and tricks of timing that wouldn’t necessarily be obvious to the naked eye, or the average casual photographer—i.e., everyone and their mother. (You’re not like them, whispers the ad. You’re special, and you deserve a better tool. You’re worth it.)

Then again, Apple’s wildly successful “Shot on iPhone” campaign might beg, rather powerfully, to differ.

Advertiser: Canon
Spot Title: Canon: Perfect Moments
First Air Date: August 8th
Agency: Grey NY

Deputy Chief Creative Officer: Jeff Stamp
Deputy Chief Creative Officer: Rob Lenois
Executive Creative Director: Brad Mancuso
Group Creative Director: Susan LaScala Wood
ACD/ Copywriter: Chris Hanrahan
ACD/ Art Director: Mike Lubrano
Art Director: Mackenzie Keck
Copywriter: Paul Curry
Designer: Cassie Meyers
Designer: Angela Kim

Partner: Rick Reilly
EVP, Account Director: Nikki Maizel
VP, Account Director: Sam White
Senior Account Executive: Abel Flint
Assistant Account Executive: Hanna Cannell
Strategy Director: Steve House

Executive Production: Townhouse
Townhouse President: Bennett McCarroll
Townhouse Director of Integrated Production: James McPherson
Townhouse Producer: Jennifer Truss
Townhouse Music Producer: David Steinberg
Production Company: Big Block
Director: Jonathan Zames
Director of Photography: André Szankowski
Editor: Jai Shukla at Nomad
Music/Sound Design: Peter Holcomb at Sound Lounge
Principal Talent: Lauren DeCiccia

Production Designer: Jay Pooley

Color Grade: MPC
Colorist: Adrian Seery
Executive Producer, Color: Dani Zeitlin
Executive Producer, Color: Jenna Gabriel

@GabrielBeltrone Gabriel Beltrone is a frequent contributor to Adweek.