Have you seen it? The moving video courtesy of United States Marine Core veteran and actor Adam Driver done in collaboration with Budweiser and the Folds of Honor Foundation, a non-profit that gives scholarships to family members of fallen and injured veterans who have served the country? Take less than four minutes out of your life to watch it below, and then report back. Don’t read below until you have. Then: we need to discuss.
Brilliant. Simply brilliant. The piece, entitled A Dream Delivered, which is a collaboration between the domestic beer brand, New York-based VaynerMedia, and the Foundation, strikes just the right balance. This is essentially a piece of content marketing rendered beautifully, but it is so much more. As the nation heads into the July 4th holiday, arguably more divided than any time in recent memory, here is something we can all rally around. Lord knows, we can all use a bit more of that these days. Here’s why it works:
It’s Timely: The Federal Reserve Bank of New York recently announced that total student loan debt has now surpassed total credit card debt in the United States. The plight of the video’s protagonist, Hayley Grace Williams, a 21-year old, fourth-year nursing student, who wants to heal others as a way of paying tribute to her father John, a veteran who suffered a debilitating spinal injury while training in the Army for Desert Storm, is selfless and wholly relatable. It’s as if Hayley’s story were ripped from today’s headlines, but rendered more real and vivid by its specificity and personal nature. To echo a quote attributed to Joseph Stalin, “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of millions is a statistic.”
It Has a Good Initial Hook: One of the challenges of online videos is that marketers know that they have a few scant seconds to arrest attention. The appearance of Driver, the popular Star Wars: The Force Awakens and Girls star, acts to peak the audience’s curiosity from the onset. Then, within seven seconds a graphic asks the question: HOW DO YOUR HONOR MILITARY FAMILIES? and provides the answer, YOU CHANGE THEIR LIVES. How, we wonder? Driver’s presence works on more than a superficial level for one simple reason: we discover that Driver himself is a veteran who was injured under similar circumstances and it is clear that his intention and purpose transcends any product endorsement or paycheck. He is there for the right reasons in a way that is completely genuine. However, as he reads Hayley’s appeal for a scholarship via voice over at the beginning of the piece, it blends into her first-person narrative. In short, he quickly gets out of the way, and his celebrity status, having served its initial purpose, recedes into the shadows, allowing the real drama to take over.
It Has a Strong Dramatic Arc: With a forty-hour work week weighing her down, in addition to her studies – which will cost $44,000, just for the final year – Hayley is unsure whether she will be able to shoulder all of the burden and complete her degree. She is clearly a great and deserving young woman, dedicated to her family, with honorable intentions. Who among us could not possibly be rooting for her? How will this turn out? We are compelled to find out and our patience is rewarded.
It Is Nuanced and Authentic: There are some incredibly moving moments in this piece that rely on nothing more than facial expressions and body language that are cogent and powerful. John’s gratitude extended toward Adam who he feels can relate to his pain, his humility as he explains to his doctor why he can’t work longer, Hayley’s glance at the wall as she sits in the waiting room awaiting her father’s prognosis, even the group hug, comes across as real and unrehearsed. A lot of Hollywood film directors could learn from this short film. It shows rather than tells, allowing the viewer to feel, rather than feel as though they are being condescended to with action and words that broadcast how you are supposed to feel, as if you are too stupid to get the point.
The Branding Is Subtle and Inclusive: Yes, one could argue this is a piece of corporate “propaganda.” But the fact is, corporations like Budweiser give money, time, and talent to causes such as The Folds of Honor Foundation. It is a way to create goodwill among shareholders, employees, brand loyalists, and the general public; in short, it is an extension of the brand. Towards the end of the video the corporate sponsor declares that it is through “your support” that they are able to execute good works such as funding Hayley’s scholarship. Mind you, everyone is a brand that consists of their physical attributes, personality characteristics and quirks, and the products and services they surround themselves with – including their favorite libations. If you’re a Bud drinker, who wouldn’t want to hoist one to this masterpiece? (You know, the one you helped make happen?)
As of the time of this writing, the video has reached over 400,000 views on YouTube. But on Facebook, which has just agreed to commit $2.5 billion to original video content, where viewing the video occurs within the Facebook walled garden, views are closing in on 15 million and counting (a phenomenon that we are sure is not lost on YouTube parent Alphabet aka Google). Interestingly, when we reposted the video on our Facebook walls, both conservative and liberal friends applauded it, and a majority of viewers and commenters were women, willingly admitting that the narrative left them in tears (just like the verklempt men no doubt, who largely remained silent on that matter). It’s not too hard to imagine that there’s probably going to be a few more six packs of Bud appearing in shopping carts over the next few days of patriotic reverie, and a lot of St. Louis-bred bottles getting clinked among couples, families, and friends as they salute the country. All of which leads us to toast the genius behind it with, what else, “This Bud’s for you!”
Colleen Ferrier is a seasoned direct marketing expert who specializes in guiding integrated direct-to-consumer campaigns with an acute focus on ROI. Her broad experience has included management oversight of marketing, operations, media, and international distribution. The campaigns she has been instrumental in helping lead to success across her 15+ year career include Pillow Pets, Little Giant Ladder, Dream Lites, and Stompeez. Ferrier has a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Augusta University, Georgia.
Rick Petry is a direct marketing veteran of over 25 years who has been involved with campaigns that have generated over $1 billion in sales. He provides creative services to both B2C and B2B marketing campaigns and recent projects have included Actegy/Revitive, Education Connection, GOLO, Joybird, and OYO/DoubleFlex. The author of over 200 articles on direct marketing best practices, Petry has a Bachelor of Arts in Cinema/Television from the University of Southern California and an MBA with a Concentration in Marketing and Sales from Marylhurst University.