Ad Nut
Sep 8, 2021

You'll need a theory to explain what Charles Darwin is getting at in this air-con ad

AD NUT's RANT OF THE WEEK: The famous scientist unveils a series of steampunk animals. Then we find ourselves in space for some reason. And then there's a sci-fi air-conditioner that may be alive. Please, make it make sense.

Here's an ambitious campaign film by F5 Shanghai for Midea's Colmo brand of air-conditioners, and specifically the Colmo AirNext.

It features Charles Darwin explaining the theory of evolution to an audience containing a wide-eyed kid and some sceptical adults.

Darwin unveils a series of animals. But rather than biological specimens collected during Darwin's travels, the animals are metallic steampunky automatons—for no reason that Ad Nut could immediately fathom.

Then Darwin unveils a mysterious black monolith that expands and grows golden circuits in a somewhat ominous manner—for no reason that Ad Nut could immediately fathom.

Suddenly—for no reason that Ad Nut could immediately fathom—the sceptical adults start making comments about the air in the room. One woman's apparent case of rosacea (or possibly gin blossoms) is instantaneously and miraculously cured. A gentleman is pleased (or perhaps upset?) to find that a previously unmentioned smell has gone away. This, he comments, is "bonkers".

(Ad Nut is inclined to agree.)

Gesturing to the monolith, Darwin tells us that "This amazing creature can keep evolving to make the air adapt to human demands". So apparently the monolith is a living thing?

The boy touches the monolith/creature, and then we are suddenly flying through space, where we see asteroids crashing into each other—for no reason that Ad Nut could fathom (neither immediately nor upon considerable reflection).

Finally, we're told that the monolith is the AirNext—a "next generation" of air-conditioner that's inspired by the theory of evolution.

It's quite a journey, and Ad Nut has to respect the ambition. The film was shot in Bulgaria to give it an authentic European look, according to the agency, and the VFX shots are undeniably cool.

But upon first viewing, Ad Nut had questions. Well, one question, really:

Um, what?

Some might disagree, but Ad Nut is not a particularly dense creature. Yet Ad Nut simply could not immediately fathom what this film was trying to say.

Darwin? Yep, Darwin is cool! The theory of evolution? Ad Nut knows it and loves it. It's one of the greatest scientific achievements in history. And also, it's what gave Ad Nut a lustrous tail, spectacular climbing abilities and an infallible memory for nut locations. New air-con? All right. But how do these things go together?

If you were really, really paying attention, you might remember what Darwin said about the "creature" being able to adapt the air to meet human demands, and you might very well connect this with the AirNext. 

So, you'd be left with a vague impression that the AC can adapt. Is that vague impression all Midea wanted to achieve? Is it enough? Ad Nut submits that it's not. It sounds like a bullet point from a sales brochure—a statement that any AC maker could make about any AC that has different settings one can adjust (in other words, any air-conditioner). 

However, Ad Nut has learned—from a press release—that the AirNext is actually a modular system with a series of mix-and-match filters that one can select (or not) depending on one's needs. Hey, that sounds like a differentiating feature! Weird that the ad never actually made that clear.

Despite the stilted performances and the confusing steampunk nature of the creatures and the pointless trip to space, the film still had a chance to succeed. A single line of voiceover near the end—"with mix-and-match filters to suit your needs"—would have tied it all together (and we wouldn't be here right now). But again, Ad Nut only got that from the press release.

Unlike weirdos like Ad Nut, your standard audience isn't going to obsessively ponder what a film like this is trying to say. They're not going to seek out press releases or any other source of information.

In short, people don't watch ads like Darwin: They don't painstakingly gather clues and formulate a hypothesis and then test that hypothesis against the evidence and then think about it for a long time.

You only get one chance to make your point fathomable. Please don't blow it.

In a way, this film reminds Ad Nut of another recent one (see "Tide washes away goodwill with an insulting and strategically braindead ad"). That one was horrible in many ways, and the AirNext ad is not in the same league. But they're alike in that neither one ever got around to hammering home what was apparently a key point that was well-known to everyone who was involved.

Why does that happen? Perhaps it's just psychology. When you spend a lot of time thinking about something, you forget how hard it was to understand it at first. New information becomes unspoken assumption. And then you make an ad that you think is perfectly clear. But really it's only clear to you. Maybe one day we'll all evolve the ability to avoid this trap. Until then it's something to keep in mind. 


Client: Colmo
Agency: F5 Shanghai
Chief Creative Officer: Adams Fan
Project Lead: Elio Liu
Business Lead: Pan Gu
Creative Group Head: Kelvin Co
English Senior Copywriter: Sarah De Joya
Art Director: Elio Liu
Chinese Copywriter: Adams Fan

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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