In my second novel, The Happy Soul Industry God hires an ad agency to market “goodness in all its forms.” Alas, advertising is the devil’s playground and all hell breaks loose. I’m not writing this piece to sell my book, though I’d be honored if you read it. The paperback is on Amazon. However, I couldn’t help but think about my story when I discovered the above commercial on You Tube. It’s from Thailand. And it has well over 7 million views. Not bad for a film ostensibly about goodness. Not bad at all.

Make no mistake. This is an ad. For what exactly I had to use Google. Apparently, True Move is a mobile phone network. This is far from obvious. There is only one bit of copy. A super: Giving is the best communication. The story, which I urge you to watch, is about a man who gave selflessly and is rewarded for it at the end of his life. It’s a simple piece of melodrama, executed flawlessly.

In many respects the commercial reminds me of all those famous Hallmark commercials my old agency, Leo Burnett produced in the 80’s and 90’s. They were sappy, expensive to produce and some of the finest commercials ever made. In their longest form (120 seconds), they may have run only once, in tandem with another, usually during a Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation. Later in the campaign, I believe they also ran during marquee television events, like the Academy Awards. I don’t remember all the details but you get the idea. These were special commercials and they got special treatment. Deservedly so. Here’s a couple of them.

And so we see the genre again, emulated. Haters gotta hate (always have, always will) and I didn’t have to scroll far down You Tube to find this ditty:

“I’m so overcome with emotion, I have an urge to spend everything I have on whatever is being advertised here. Is it soup? I’m sure whatever company it is, they are brimming with the kindness and virtue they are so eager to promote.”

Yes, he has a point: if you can’t tell what is being advertised is it even a commercial, let alone a good one? With Hallmark you knew. Still, one cannot help but admire this film’s heart. It’s bursting. And yes, it is almost impossible to believe a story like this could ever happen. But we believe, I think –I hope, because we want to.

Back in the day, I recall making fun of my precious Burnett colleagues’ precious Hallmark films but deep down, below all the firewalls of youth, I adored them. And while I never got to write one of these lovely films (no surprise given my attitude), I’m grateful to see someone else has… and always will.

I’m not the only one beating this drum. Adfreak

“Dead Giveaway” Auto Tune of Charles Ramsey

As horrifying details continue to unfold regarding Amanda Berry’s abduction by lowlife, Ariel Castro many of us are also laughing our asses off at the Auto Tune version of rescuer, Charles Ramsey’s now famous interview with a local reporter. For those unawares, Ramsey is the charismatic black man who helped rescue Amanda from the house where she and two other girls (now women) had been held captive, raped and abused for ten years. (PS: I mention Ramsey’s race because, well, he brings it up in one of his interview’s more entertaining moments.)

While the content Ramsey told the reporter was understandably dramatic, his accounting of it was also sensational ripe with provocative statements, great delivery and killer sound bites. The man is a natural. No one should be surprised to see him on Letterman or touting McDonald’s (a brand he name-drops numerous times during the interview). Straight up, the video is highly compelling. When converted to Auto Tune by nefarious online maestros it’s freaking hilarious. No way around it, the aptly titled song, Dead Giveaway created from interview footage is super entertaining. Frankly, I found it better arranged and cleverer than a fair amount of legitimate popular music. But that’s another story…

My wonderment is about creating content like this at all (much less being entertained by it) given the terrifying and extremely current circumstances. What are we to make of that? And it’s not just snarky young men finding amusement here. In my office even women were guffawing to the video. I would have thought rape and torture off limits for them.

So much for “too soon” even being a question. The parody song came out within 24 hours of the interview. I remember after 9/11 our nation required a fair amount of time before any sort of entertainment related to those events could be appreciated let alone made. Hell, comedy in general was put on hold for a period.

That was then. Online pranksters have multiplied like algae in the last 15 years. From the high-end producers (Funny or Die) to the entities making videos such as this one, it has become impossible to allow a grace period or time of mourning for anything at all. Assassinations. Terrorism. Rape. Suicide. Subject doesn’t matter and likely never will again. Competition for eyeballs is too fierce. If you don’t do the bit someone else will. And it will get shared and liked and followed until even your grandmother in Topeka has seen it.

That’s the world we live in. Have a nice day.

A simple doctor’s office video of an 8-month old baby, born deaf, experiencing hearing for the first time has captured millions of people’s hearts, including mine. When I shared it on Facebook it quickly amassed “likes” and comments well beyond the usual. I’m not surprised. Content like this is tailor made for social media and vice versa. Small but genuine miracles such as these fit perfectly on tablets, laptops and cell phones. Right there with talking dogs, pepper-sprayed protesters and passed-out celebrities. Save for one big difference: a total lack of sensationalism.

Yes, there’s drama. Upon hearing his mother coo, little Jonathon turns to face her, losing his pacifier at the very moment he gains his hearing. Good stuff, but it’s highly mundane, in that nothing unexpected or undesired occurs in the video. There are no props. The remarkable technology responsible for baby Jonathon’s hearing remains unseen. And still it’s riveting.

There are lessons here for everyone, especially marketers obsessed with You Tube views and grabbing attention. First, those of us who criticize social media as vulgar conduit or dehumanizing would be hard-pressed to find fault here. The human condition has been validated, spiritually and scientifically. All that is right in our modern world is on display. Second, the subjects of the video are deserving of attention -and not because they are unlike us but rather because they are just like us. Good people receiving great gifts. Happiness. It’s nice to know there can be awe without shock. Are you listening, Adland?

This is not to say the video’s execution is without artistry. Albeit unintentional there is profundity in the shot’s composition. Not to sound like an art-history professor, but the three principals (mom, baby and the doctor) evoke the iconic imagery of countless religious paintings, frescoes and murals: that of Madonna and Child surrounded by angels. Whether one is Christian or not, we are moved by this trinity.

Mother & Child, captivating imagery since Day 1

While the Internet and its social offspring have changed our world immeasurably, and not always for the better, this small recording and countless others like it, restore my belief in the human condition online and off.