THE BLOG

What I Learned This Week: Crude, Rude, Inappropriate...and Totally Effective

04/14/2013 08:52 EDT | Updated 06/14/2013 05:12 EDT

As videos go, it's a relatively basic one.

One fixed camera, shooting a handful of non-professional actors, the majority of them uttering only a simple word or two.

Most of the time, these words are profane. (For those outside Quebec, "Tabernac," the most used word in the video, is a popular curse.)

No animation, fancy computer graphics or special effects.

Total budget probably couldn't buy a family of four dinner at a good restaurant.

Lasts all of one minute and eight seconds.

Yet it's one of the most surprisingly effective bits of marketing I've seen in a while.

First off, full disclosure: it comes from École nationale du meuble et de l'ébénisterie (roughly translated: The National School of Furniture Design and Woodworking), the college my younger son Hayes has attended for the past three years. It's purpose is to promote the annual exhibition of the school's graduating class. While my son appears in the video alongside his classmates (he coos "Holy fuck!"), he had nothing else to do with it. The creative force behind this piece is a guy named Patrick Bilodeau of Bill Kesr Films.

You can see the video in its entirety here, but in a nutshell, it is shot-locked from the vantage point of the furniture, and simply captures the diverse reactions the furniture inspires. At no point in the video do you actually see any of the creations the students have made, just the awestruck, expletitive-inducing responses to them. Just when these reactions reach the point of the total absurd, the video comes to a close with a billboard that basically says "Come and see. You'll be surprised, too."

Now I've been to a few of these closing shows in the past, and the reactions captured in the video are truly indicative of reality. The creations are great, and all very unique. But given that this promo comes from a woodworking school, what you would tend to expect (and what has undoubtedly been done) is a video that mixes various beauty shots of the final projects with a deep-throated voiceover saying something to the cliched effect of: "Come see the wonderful creations of a hard-working group of talented students. Tables, chairs, cabinets and more from the next generation of artists and designers."

Instead, you get a profane, twisted, and--most importantly--effective little gem.

Now you've got to commend the guts of the powers that be behind this year's show to put the emphasis on the emotions generated by the projects, and completely ignore the tangibility of them. Remember, at no point do you EVER see the furniture.

Even more so, you've got to admire the guts of the administration of a government-operated institute of higher learning willing to sanction such a guttural, status-quo-inappropriate manner in which to express said emotions, and promote its graduating class.

On both counts, it is counter-intuitive, highly unexpected, and ultimately powerful.

I showed this video to a handful of marketing and PR people I had meetings with in Toronto last week. Not only did they all fall in love with it, they unanimously expressed a disappointment that few--if any--of their "big name" clients would ever have the gumption to do something so outrageous, so bold and so...yup, effective.

Yet that is what's needed. Desperately. There's so much clutter, static and boredom in the world of marketing--be it at the product, service, governmental or personal levels--that the only way to have any impact, any meaningful effect, is to kick your intended audience in the teeth.

Or in the case of École nationale du meuble et de l'ébénisterie, go against the grain.

So this week's lesson?

If a tiny woodworking school can do it...what's your excuse?

Or put another way, "What's your fucking excuse, tabernac!"