Every so often an ad campaign comes along that reminds us that marketing still has the power to touch us. When we tech people get lost in micro-targeting, attribution models, and programmatic trading desks, we can lose site that great advertising is ultimately about human connection.
I’m talking about Patek Philippe’s brand campaign around its luxury watches. I’m quite familiar with this product. I own 4 Pateks myself and I give one to my portfolio company CEO’s when they reach a liquidity event. But through this campaign, the brand touched me in a whole new way.
First, the tagline: “You never actually own a Patek Philippe. You merely look after it for the next generation.”
In 16 brilliant words, this $40,000 watch is transformed from an obscene gesture of your own insecurity into a poignant familial bridge across the ages. (In the liturgy of my Jewish people, we have a Hebrew phrase for this idea: “L’dor va’dor” or literally, “from generation to generation”)
And then, by connecting us to individuals via images, these ads make the concept feel accessible to everyone. Just look at these beautiful human stories.
First, we have the father and son at the offices of the real estate private equity fund the man inherited from his own father. He is teaching the boy about the value of hard work during one of the 10 hours a week he comes into the office.
Here we have a father sharing common, practical life skills with his son, like how to tie a clove hitch with a dockline to the pier on his sailboat by their twenty million dollar lakeside mansion.
And finally, here is a moving portrait taken right after an important father-son conversation. Likely, the father has just told his son from his first marriage that the boy is being switched to a new boarding school farther across the country at the behest of his 30 year-old-second wife who seeks to focus attention on the new baby she and the father just had.
These ads are powerful because they are so relatable. In a world increasingly divided by micro-niches of cultural references and income inequality, these ads connect to what makes us all the same.
When I look at these ads, I see the rich tapestry of America, the diversity of faces that is our strength. Everyone can see themselves in these images, and that’s what makes them magic.
So kudos to Patek Phillippe, and next time we are thinking about marketing narrowly to 24-year-old hipsters in Dogpatch SF or whitebread exurban CTOs, let’s remember that we can dream bigger.