Ad Nut
Apr 30, 2019

What's Paola Antonini's inspiring story doing in this air-con ad?

In a campaign by JWT Bangkok, Midea tries to connect its air conditioners to the true story of a Brazilian model who lost a leg in a car accident.

This is a film by J Walter Thompson Bangkok and Thai director Nattawut “Baz” Poonpiriya (best known for the feature film Bad Genius). It's a lovely, well-crafted video that tells the story of Paola Antonini, a Brazilian model who lost her leg in a 2014 car accident but fought her way back to the runway. Today she inspires millions by partaking in activities such as surfing and skiing.

Antonini's experience, like that of anyone who doesn't let a disability stop them, is remarkable. Unfortunately, this film is a tiresome attempt by the brand to glom onto that inspirational story when it has no apparent business doing so.

The brand attempts to forge a bond with a clumsy tagline: 'No heat can beat your dreams'. So apparently, keeping cool under Midea air conditioners helps people to have and pursue their dreams. Is that what we're supposed to conclude? Yes, it is, according to Pete Thasorn Boonyanate, creative director at JWT Bangkok, who said literally that in a release:

Midea not only gives you cooling comfort for a restful night but also the inspiration to pursue and reach your dreams.

Added Tony Liu, general manager of Midea Air Conditioner Business Unit (Thailand): 

The #NoHeatCanBeatYourDreams campaign aims to encourage our audiences to overcome obstacles for their cherished dreams. Midea residential AC is always there to protect your dreams through any source of heat in life.

This is laughable and actually kind of offensive. Without Midea to "give" her inspiration, would Antonini have spent her life wallowing in self pity? Without a Midea air-con to "protect" her dream, would she have wilted in the heat of rehab and spent the rest of her life in a wheelchair? 

Ad Nut will stipulate that air conditioning is one of the wonders of modern life. It can certainly help a creature sleep more comfortably. In fact, you can have Ad Nut's air-con remote when you pry it from Ad Nut's cold, dead paws. A spiffy new AC might even help a creature to experience sweeter dreams while sleeping.

But Antonini's determination to live a badass life despite her injury? That's all her. And for the brand to associate itself with her apparently iron will not only fails to ring true but actually rings unseemly. The brand has no convincing claim on any part of what she's accomplished, so this comes off as hollow opportunism. And it's gross.

As Ad Nut's legions of fans know, Ad Nut is in no way against inspiring stories told in the service of branding goals. See, for example, Ad Nut's raves about Vicks' 'Touch of Care' series, which dramatises the lives of real but remarkable people. That work works because the selection of stories is elegantly connected to the spirit encapsulated in the tagline, which in turn reflects the actual use of the product. Ad Nut has also lately approved of Pantene's efforts on behalf of girls and especially transgender people. Again, it's logical for a beauty brand to make a point about the appreciation of inner beauty. JWT Bangkok itself has used an inspiring story to great effect in 'Tiny doll', for Kleenex.

But here, the connection is tenuous and non-sensical. It doesn't bear scrutiny. The film has garnered around a million views, which counts as success in many minds. But Ad Nut submits that the film could have done so with any brand's overreaching tagline tacked on at the end. Perhaps Antonini's choice of pajamas, mattress, bed linens or skincare regimen powered her recovery?

No, Ad Nut feels sure that people are responding to Antonini's story, and the power of the filmmaking. Not to Midea. But all is not lost. The film is the kickoff to a global campaign, so the brand intends to go all-in on the 'No heat can beat your dreams' idea. Ad Nut fervently hopes that there's a solid long-term plan in place, and that future work will help Midea make a legitimate claim to the concept.

Here's a free suggestion from the top of Ad Nut's head: How about providing some rehab facilities with free air-cons, and then telling the heroic stories of the people fighting through pain there?

Ad Nut is a surprisingly literate woodland creature that for unknown reasons has an unhealthy obsession with advertising. Ad Nut gathers ads from all over Asia and the world for your viewing pleasure, because Ad Nut loves you. You can also check out Ad Nut's Advertising Hall of Fame, or read about Ad Nut's strange obsession with 'murderous beasts'.


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