Hey, check out this video ad. Go ahead, I'll wait.
In case you didn't watch the whole 'Yule Log' video, watch the first minute or two, and you'll get the gist of the whole thing, because that's what the whole ad is. Nick Offerman (best known as Ron Swanson from Parks and Rec) sits in front of a crackling fire, and slowly, silently drinks Lagavulin Scotch. And that's it. At around 20:40 he pours himself a refill, but that's the highlight.
At the time of this writing the ad has more than 600,000 views, which is great for a one-day-old ad for the at times recondite world of specialty Scotch. The ad comes as part of a series of videos featuring Offerman, known for his love of Lagavulin, humorously exploring the world of Scotch. The campaign is run by Diageo, which imports high-end Scotches such as Lagavulin and Oban.
The ad is so well received that even the YouTube comment (normally one of the hell-holes of the internet) for the video is filled with cheer and good will. One comment from Rick McCallister quips, "Reminds me of every conversation I've ever had with my grandfather." and D. H. asks the pertinent question, "Who else feels this is too short?"
Overt weirdness can be a great way to get an audience's attention, but only if you do it right. And this ad certainly does it right. It is a depiction of how Scotch should be enjoyed, or more accurately, how people imagine Scotch should be enjoyed; by a man, alone in a well-appointed room, as he thinks important, ponderous thoughts.
And, because it is an online ad and not anything broadcast, people can get the joke (that it's just forty-five minutes of someone quietly drinking) just by looking at the timer on the YouTube video. You don't have to actually subject them to the full length of the ad for it to work.
There are other forms of overt weirdness in advertising, such as the long-running ads series for Old Spice, or, well, absolutely anything from Japan. The important thing is that the weirdness doesn't obscure or get entirely in the way of the product you're trying to advertise. In this case, the weirdness (nearly an hour of basically nothing) actually emphasizes the product, because for as long as the audience is paying attention, all they've got to look at is a man enjoying Scotch.
Weirdness for the sake of weirdness isn't always the best idea (unless you're Old Spice I guess, and even that is getting old) but, if you're a marketer with the rare combination of weird idea, willing brand, and the means to pull it off, you might want to give it a try. It could gain some real traction. I know the Lagavulin ad has with me: I've been letting it run the background the whole time I've been writing this article. Turns out the sounds of a crackling fire and Nick Offerman drinking are quite comforting.