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Psych! 'Fake-out' ads a one-two combo for companies

| Friday, March 1, 2013, 8:40 p.m.
Sears commercial called “Connecting Flights”    Submitted by Sears
Sears commercial called “Connecting Flights” Submitted by Sears
Sears commercial called “Connecting Flights”    Submitted by Sears
Sears commercial called “Connecting Flights” Submitted by Sears

With soaring music behind the visuals, the viewer is reminded this is the “season's must see!”

A pair of quirky bloggers meet in an airport. They frolic around the terminal, draw hearts on windows and complete each other's corny sentiments.

The on-screen blurb: “Love goes viral!”

But it appears the perfect couple might leave on separate flights, never to see each other.

“Fall in love all over again,” commands the familiar deep voice.

The two leave their separate gates at the last minute to race toward each other — and crash into a refrigerator.

Fooled you.

“Connecting Flights,” a television commercial for Sears appliances, is part of a new trend involving ads masquerading as movie trailers. In addition to Sears, Target and even the Pittsburgh Penguins have launched campaigns that mimic movie trailers.

“We were really trying to surprise people,” says Eddie Combs, Sears chief marketing officer of appliances. “It's very much against the grain. Most people say you have to say your company name in the first five seconds and repeat it as much as possible.”

The Sears campaign is pegged to the slogan, “You Won't Run Into the Top 10 Appliance Brands Just Anywhere.” The concept debuted in the summer during the London Olympics with an ad featuring a lovesick pair playing on the beach until both meet the same painful fate as the “Connecting Flights” couple.

Because most people only buy large appliances once a decade, Sears wanted to produce an ad consumers would long remember, Combs says. It seems to have done the job, as “Connecting Flights” has solicited more than 5.5 million YouTube views.

“I don't say we're making commercials,” Combs says “I say we're making social content.”

Ads such as movie trailer spoofs that generate heavy online traffic give advertisers “more bang for their buck,” says Audrey Guskey, Duquesne University marketing professor.

“These are interesting because they're different,” says Guskey. “They catch people off guard. A lot of people think they're something else, like a movie, then watch it more carefully.”

These ads do, however, typically cost more to make.

“Advertising costs are much higher for these,” Guskey says. “They're like little productions. But you could guess if they're on the air and advertisers are using them, especially companies like Target and Sears, overall, they have been successful and are pulling people in.”

While Combs could not divulge financial information, he says Sears considers its most recent campaign a success, based on online views and consumers telling sales associates the ads encouraged them to visit the store.

“Getting that type of engagement, I would say, is very successful,” he says.

Shareen Pathak, who covers creativity for Advertising Age magazine, says the movie trailer-like ads are “another way companies are trying to stand out.”

“People are tuning out commercials more and more, but they're still interested in movie trailers,” she says. “There's a better shot the consumer will actually pay attention.”

Pathak pointed to a new commercial from Kraft Foodservice's Grey Poupon mustard line, which ran during the Oscars. In the beginning, it seems the ad is the same as the iconic one that ran with great success in the 1980s, in which two Rolls Royces pull up alongside one another and the posh passenger in one car asks an equally upper-crust man in the other for Grey Poupon.

The new spot slips into the tale of what happened next in full movie trailer fashion.

Pathak likens these kinds of ads to those developed to run during the Super Bowl.

“Companies are spending a lot of money to make them and put them on the air,” she says.”They want to get more use out of them.”

Target currently is running a spot featuring its new line from designer Prabal Gurung . A fashionable young couple gallivants about town, fights and makes up, as blurbs like “Breathtaking” and “Truly Magical” cut in.

Here in Pittsburgh, the Penguins are tapping into the trailer trend as well. To get fans amped up for the return of hockey after their lockout, the team started running ads that open with the standard movie preview green screen: “The following preview has been approved for hockey fans everywhere.” It goes on to show shots of star players like Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin in action on the ice as dramatic music plays.

Taking the team's advertising in that direction seemed like a natural idea, says Ross Miller, senior director of marketing.

“We're very fortunate to have a lot of star players who are very similar to what people might think of as movie stars,” he says. “Our games are action-packed and fun, which is how many people think of the movies.”

Rachel Weaver is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-320-7948 or

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