On being … heartstring plucking

By Ingrid Sapona

Throughout the day we’re bombarded with ads and messages. For the most part, I simply ignore them. In many cases, the ads are not relevant to me because I’m clearly not in the advertisers desired age, gender, or income demographic. And, since most of the time I have the tv or radio on simply for background noise while I’m doing something else, I really don’t pay attention to ads.

But, as you probably guessed, today’s column is about a commercial that’s currently running here. It’s by Telus, a mobile phone company. Telus ads have always featured animals. Indeed, I don’t think they’ve ever had any people in their ads. But, the animals in the Telus ads aren’t characters, like the Gieco gecko or Tony the Tiger, nor are they mascots, like the Porter Airlines racoon

Telus ads feature up-close shots (or videos) of real animals superimposed against a white background. Sometimes the animals are just sitting, but often they’re strutting, running, hopping, or doing whatever that particular animal typically does. And, because of the white background, every tuft of hair, every eyelash, every fold or crinkle of skin seems accentuated, as do their deep, soulful eyes. 

With this particular commercial, what first caught my attention wasn’t the animals – it was the music. I recognized it immediately as “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars. It’s a catchy, up-beat ditty that goes back a bit. (I was surprised when I looked it up and found it’s from 2010 – over a decade old, but very memorable.) When I heard the song and realized it was part of a commercial, I couldn’t imagine what the ad was for. Before I could look up, the commercial was over. I vowed to pay attention the next time it came on. 

So, the next time I heard Bruno, I looked up in time to see a hedgehog sauntering off. Then, when I read the on-screen text that came up as the tune played on in the background, everything became clear – including how perfect Bruno Mars’ song is for Telus’ message. The commercial’s about the Telus GivesBack program, which aims to help Canadians in need. 

After the adorable hedgehog and opening text there’s a delicate fawn who seems to have found some friends. Then a baby goat wiggles its little tail in excitement when it finds other goats while Bruno croons that he’d sail the world to find you. As the song continues: “you can count on me like 1, 2, 3” a sweetly stoic-looking trio of rabbits appears. And, as the refrain continues: “I’ll be there”, a fourth rabbit magically peeks out from behind the others. And then, for good measure, two fuzzy alpacas appear, moving toward each other for a bit of a nuzzle, while Bruno sings the song’s concluding phrase: “You can count on me, cause I can count on you.” OMG the whole thing is adorable! 

Now, as soon as I hear the first few notes of the song, I can’t help but stop whatever I’m doing to watch the commercial. The other day when the commercial began I even I’ve noticed a sense of anticipation building in me as I watched. I anxiously awaited the 1, 2, 3 rabbits and then the fourth that the song assures me “will be there”. Frankly, it was a bit unsettling to realize the commercial had such an effect on me. For someone who thinks she’s immune to the power of advertising, realizing that a commercial can easily manipulate my feelings is disarming. 

That said, I take my hat off to Telus for the ad. Of course they’re blowing their own horn. But they’re also drawing our attention to overlooked needs (particularly of youth leaving foster care and families and seniors who can’t afford to stay connected) and they’re doing so in a creative way – so good on them. 

As we head into the holidays, anything that reminds us of the need to count on – and be there for – others is worth our undivided attention. Don’t you think?

© 2021 Ingrid Sapona 


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