Shangri La Hotels Commercial – Brand Storytelling


I’m not a fan of clickbait – those bogus titles on social media whose only purpose is to entice you to click through to the article.

But that doesn’t mean I’m immune to their charms.

As much as we hate them, clickbait titles work.

This morning the following ad showed up in my Facebook feed, courtesy of a former teacher (Thanks, Ms. Penn!)

The commercial was flagged by an outlet I’d never heard of (“Luxury Life News”) and its title could hardly be more spammy:

I Normally Don’t Care for TV Commercials, But This Is Easily the Best One I’ve Ever Seen

My instant reactions?

  1. {Gag}
  2. {“Click”}

Turns out, the ad itself is 7 years old, and was conceived by advertising giant Ogilvy and Maher.

Still, here are my thoughts on seeing it:

1. YouTube has changed how we consume ads.

Traditional ads in the U.S. are either 15 seconds long or 30 seconds long. It’s unheard of to see a 3-minute ad on television, be it network or cable.

And yet, the advent of YouTube (and the trend toward “unplugging” by Millennials) has reshaped what we consider “ads” – as people are now far more likely to sit through 2- or even 3-minute long videos than they were a decade ago.

2. Brand storytelling.

It’s also worth noting that this ad first appeared in 2010, when “brand storytelling” was just becoming a fad in the PR world, and the obsession with “content” had yet to hit the mainstream.

This ad works precisely because it focuses on a compelling story, and leaves you in the dark as to the ad’s sponsor until the very end.

3. Focus on emotion.

The ad works because it appeals to both our sense of curiosity (Who is this man? Why is he trudging through the snow? What is he seeking that causes him to risk death?) and emotion (we are led to expect him to die – his purpose still unknown).

That – rather than Shaolin monks or other spiritual figures, he is ultimately saved by wolves is both unexpected and heartwarming.

Nature – which Hobbes said could cause human life to be “nasty, brutish, and short” – here proves to be communal and warm.

The wolves recognize in the man a brother in a struggle for survival, and they act accordingly.

4. Iron Fist dropped the ball.

As a comic book fan, I was tremendously disappointed in Netflix’s latest Marvel Comics offering, Iron Fist.

The story concerns an orphaned blonde American who is raised by Shaolin monks in the ways of Buddism and martial arts.

As such, it shows a scene very much like this one, of our hero (as a boy) trudging through a snow-filled wilderness on a search for enlightenment.

That this 3-minute ad for a hotel shot 7 years ago could pack more story and emotion than Netflix could in 13 episodes of Iron Fist says something.


At the end of the day, this is simply a really well done commercial that exhibits how social media channels such as YouTube can be used to support long-form videos to reinvent traditional advertising.

The key?

Focus on the story first.

Oh – and a clickbait heading distributed years later via Facebook doesn’t hurt either!

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