Director Peter Dietrich of A Common Thread uses humor to get people to think seriously about a scary subject matter in a new campaign for the American Academy of Dermatology and Chicago agency HyConnect.
In Lawn¸ a man's obsession with a brown patch on his lawn serves as a metaphor for the importance of skin cancer detection. The man tries everything to restore his front yard to pristine condition, carefully reseeding the dead spot, using a scarecrow to fend off birds and taking nocturnal PH readings. "You'd do anything to take care of that spot in your lawn," cautions the voiceover. "So, why not take care of that spot on your skin?" As the narration provides advice on how to avoid becoming a cancer victim, the man continues his lawn care crusade. Ultimately, he is consigned to sitting and gazing at the spot, waiting for the grass to grow.
Humor is the good way to coax people into focusing on a subject most people would rather avoid, says Dietrich. "Cancer is a serious issue, but here it's brought to you with a twinkle in the eye," he explains. "It keeps viewers from feeling uncomfortable or offended."
The spot's hero is a Walter Mitty-esque everyman, and representative of the target demographic: men over 50 (the group most likely to develop skin cancer). "He's an average guy, slightly comical, put upon but not a clown," Dietrich says. Under Dietrich's light directorial touch, the actor underplays the role so that as his grass growing efforts become ever more ornate, they remain believable. You want him to succeed. "It's all about his nuanced looks, body language and pained facial expressions," Dietrich observes. "We know how much this means to him but it just isn't working out."
Dietrich directed a second spot that centers on a young girl sunbathing on a beach. After she lays out her towel, strips down to a bikini and stretches out, the camera pulls back to reveal that she is contained inside an hourglass. The voiceover reminds young women that "time may not be on your side."
"Both commercials are atmospheric, visually striking and very human," Dietrich concludes. "They combine nicely-toned performances, elegant cinematography, meticulous art direction, comedy and drama to deliver a very serious message."
Client: American Academy of Dermatology
Title: Lawn, Time
Agency: HyConnect, Chicago. Kevin Houlihan, executive creative director; Michael Matykiewicz, associate creative director/copywriter; Colin Quinn, senior art director; Kiki Hayes, producer.
Production: A Common Thread. Peter Dietrich, director; J.P. McMahon and Tristan Drew, executive producers.
Edit: The Colonie, Chicago. Tom Pastorelle, editor.
VFX: Arsenal FX