“My daily commute is a thief. A burglar, who steals away my precious time. A mugger, who lies in wait for me.”

So begins “The Thief,” a dramatic new ad from global hair-care brand Syoss, created by integrated advertising agency Walker Zurich. Eschewing the photo studio, flattering lighting, and product praise that feature in most hair-care spots, this ad is a departure from the norm. As Pius Walker, creative director with Walker Zurich, told Adweek, “With this film, we wanted to create something that was different to the usual mold that hair ads stick to.”

What’s the Story?

Through narration and the thief analogy, the ad illustrates the negative effects that commuting can have on hairstyles. This thief doesn’t just steal time, but beauty. The cinematography has a dystopian quality, depicting a world where commuters are either asleep on their feet or suffering a bad hair day with an expression that seems to suggest they’ve accepted defeat.

Then we see her, the “mystery girl with the perfect hair” emerging from a train car into the light, and we understand: Salon-beautiful hair on a busy morning and throughout a taxing commute is possible after all.

What Makes It Great?

“The Thief” employs a classic problem/solution advertising technique by demonstrating a troublesome issue to showcase the benefits of a product, which is revealed through visuals alone. There’s no mention of the qualities that set Syoss apart, or even an image of the product itself; its attributes are clear in the contrast between the mystery girl and the rest of the commuters.

Beauty ads were once fairly homogeneous, with superficial narratives — but in recent years, that’s changed. Witness Dove’s “Real Beauty”: For more than a decade, the campaign has been reinventing beauty advertising by focusing on the consumer rather than the product, portraying women “as they are in real life.” Syoss’s take on this trend is to portray a real-life experience that women can relate to.

Also present in this commercial spot is a rhetorical device that’s a regular in the ad world: Pathos, otherwise known as appealing to audience’s emotions. This rhetorical device, along with ethos and logos, were defined in Rhetoric, ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle’s treatise on the art of persuasion. And pathos is still persuading audiences today. By playing on the the viewer’s emotions and emphasizing the frustration we all feel when rushing to get to work, Syoss is able to incite a more powerful response. Pathos factors in those Dove ads too, and Dove has proven it works. In 2013, Dove’s emotional “Real Beauty Sketches” became the most-viewed online video ad in history.

Finally, it’s worth noting the ad’s masterful storytelling and editing. The use of a narrator make the story feel personal, while fast cutting conveys the panicky feeling of a morning commute. Just as trailers excite would-be moviegoers and set the tone of the film, “The Thief” is a riveting minute and a half that leaves audiences longing to embark on their own quest to get — and keep — good hair.

What We Learned

“The Thief” offers several takeaways that marketers can apply to their own ads.

  • Trading a conventional ad message for an unexpected cinematic experience can help a brand stand out.
  • Presenting a problem creates an opportunity for your product to solve it, and the ability to promote a without the hard sell.
  • Capturing a “real-world” experience, and the resulting emotions, makes it easier for viewers to relate to the story being told.

All images via Syoss