Selling a better world

by Granate Sosnoff on 21st March, 2013


No – Official Trailer (HD) Christopher Reeve, Gael García Bernal – YouTube.

A mind is a terrible thing to waste. This is your brain on drugs. Just say no. You’ve come a long way baby.

I have a love/hate relationship with slogans. Trapped behind a Volvo in Berkeley and faced with the bumper sticker “War is never the answer” my response is: what if the crossword is a three-letter word for extended battle?

In the right context, slogans and iconic imagery do some heavy lifting in getting messages across and motivating a crowd.

If you want to see that in action or if you have any interest in communications for advocacy, please go see “No,” the Oscar-nominated film about an ad man’s social marketing campaign that helped end Pinochet’s reign of terror in Chile.

Brief history: Pinochet’s brutal 17-year regime started after a U.S. supported military coup that overthrew and caused the death of Salvador Allende, the first elected Marxist president in Latin America. Pinochet’s military dictatorship was notorious for torture, murder and corruption.

But “No” isn’t a continuation of “Missing,” it’s a story about an ad man with a leftist background who gets talked into producing a series of 15 minute segments for late night television to combat the government’s dominant messaging and control of the media.

It’s a one-time opportunity leading up to a yes/no referendum for Pinochet. And even though it’s widely held that the election will be rigged, bystanders from the West are watching, and there is hope for change.

Prior to engaging the ad exec, the allied social democrats and leftists produce a moving docudrama that shows the violence, repression, and suffering they believe will motivate the masses to come out and say “no.”

The ad exec pooh poohs the effort and states: “esto no vende.” That doesn’t sell.

Much to the chagrin of the stalwart leftists involved, he then produces a spot that at first looks a little cheesy (it is set in the 80s) – think Coke meets New Freedom mini-pads, with a catchy jingle.

The rest is storybook, movie history. The ad man takes the aspirational slogan-jingle “Chile, Happiness is Coming” to a battle cry level, infuses the creative with more meaningful content and inspires a majority to give showing up a chance and saying no a try.*

For people involved in advocacy communications it’s a potent reminder to keep asking: What will motivate your audience? What are you offering them?

After almost two decades of murder, disappearances and repression, an ad man in Chile played a pivotal role in changing history with a catchy jingle, rainbow logo, people on horseback and scenes of a bucolic picnic. That’s a powerful tale for progressives here.

The movie showed a winning strategy that combined both the ugly truths (images of loss and repression) within a frame of smart motivation (hope for a happy future) to get to a new dawn moment.


*No, it’s not exactly how it happened, but it’s one aspect of the winning campaign. Apparently the filmmaker got some flak (NY Times article). But it’s a good movie and the message is worth heeding.

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