I tend to give marketers and companies pulling stunts for marketing purposes a hard time. But I truly enjoyed watching First Kiss – that 3 minute video of strangers kissing for the first time, done for a clothing company called WREN. When you go to the Youtube page, you see it says film presented by WREN. It says that in the beginning, and it says “styling by WREN” in the credits. If everyone wasn’t screaming about how they’ve been cheated by a clothing company, I’d think it’s the name of an independent film studio. But it doesn’t matter.
The film made me feel as awkward, embarrassing, and tender and moving, and then awkward and sweet and earnest again, as it must have been for the strangers kissing. It was like I went through a first kiss all over again. It doesn’t matter that the people kissing were very good-looking singers/models/actors. What, good-looking people can’t have be nervous or have feelings or first kisses? What, companies can’t get people to make videos?
Viewers charged that they were deceived when they found out it was a clip sponsored by a clothing company (if you can call it sponsored – the budget for the video was about $1,300, with the money used for studio space, a video editor’s babysitting bill, lunch and “chocolate and some mints”; the strangers were friends of the filmmaker and the owner of WREN, and kissed for free) How? How were people deceived? By being made to feel good by a company? I’m pretty sure that’s what every brand tries to do these days. Were people deceived because they thought this clip was made for non-profit purposes/a celebration of humanity but is in fact a corporate play (as though the two cannot coexist – just watch any Super Bowl ad)? I don’t think we can equate ignorance of the brand with deception on the brand’s part. Were people deceived because they got suckered into buying clothes? Well, there wasn’t even some fancy high-tech pause-and-click-to-purchase button on the video. There wasn’t even a website.
I’m not even sure we can call this an ad. I certainly wasn’t really paying attention to the clothes or thinking, oh my, these are some well-dressed strangers. But, for all the attention it’s generated, it is one very successful piece of marketing. It was interesting. It was well-made. It was moving. It was entertaining. It didn’t interrupt me. It was shared and reported, and I, along with millions others, now know that WREN exists. So yes, I guess by that standard, you can call it an ad. A good ad.
* Update: Vice paid 20 strangers who aren’t models to kiss, without any music accompaniment this time, so you can hear the saliva and all. Am I crazy to still find the video endearing?