Rise of the….mini-movie ads?

Ogilvy, an international advertising firm based in Manhattan and founded nearly 60 years ago, has created a new type of advertisement: a short, 15-second clip that encompasses the entirety of a novel, specifically by Ernest Hemingway. The company created a mini-movie each for his most famous novels: “The Old Man and the Sea,” “For Whom the Bell Tolls,” and “A Farewell to Arms.”

These ads, which are clay-animated, are very short in length and attempt to shorten Hemingway’s epic tales into tiny clips in a humorous way. By bringing to life Hemingway’s characters in a modern way, these ads introduce the ground-breaking stories of past to contemporary people who may have overlooked and/or never heard of them.

Here is an example of one of them:


This new type of advertisement may find success if people attempt to recreate them with other awesome fictional tales that can be compacted. For example, movies and books such as Star Wars and Harry Potter could see the same treatment, or other old school stories such as the works of Edgar Allen Poe.

So my questions are: do you think these quirky kinds of ads devalue the true meaning of the stories, or are they a good way of modernizing stories that people may or may not have the time to read? And do you think they have any sort of beneficial use for major advertisers in the future?



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12 Responses to Rise of the….mini-movie ads?

  1. Wayne says:

    Hi Catherine,

    Gauging by the response to your post, others also feel you present a provocative question. While advertisements tend to gratuitously solicit our attention (and patronage), this campaign has a novel (pardon the pun) intent and execution. While cynics and purists may complain about such simplification, the introduction of classic literature to the digital age, with its accompanying blur and burden of information overload delivered through sound bites and blips, is a good thing. As the experts tell us, keep it simple and sticky. This approach works as an idea and execution — and people will likely connect with the message. Whether the ad prompts action and reaction, namely inducing people to invest in further reading is another story. While a quick glance at Hemingway’s art does not do it justice, a teaser is not all bad. Introducing classic literature to the new millennium, even in abbreviated form, does not necessarily do it an injustice. Bottom line, a brief glimpse is better than total ignorance; I think that the approach and execution hold promise for advertisers (and, hopefully, classic literature and past pop culture).

    • Catherine says:

      Thanks Wayne,
      I thought it was an interesting way to engage people and renew interest in books that might not be at the top of today’s best seller list, but still a valuable addition to anyone’s library.

  2. Maung says:

    Hello Catherine,

    A nice find on Ogilvy’s mini-movies on classic literature. The Old Man and The Sea was one of my favorite books by Hemingway, growing up. Now, after having seen the video, I am having a case of reader’s remorse. This video could have saved me some time, not to mention, some angst and anxiety as well. On a more serious note, as you said, this could be a really clever way to pique the newer generations’ interests in classic literature. The short videos are just short and humorous enough to capture attention and make an impression. I also think this mini-movie concept could prove to be truly effective when used in other contexts and for different purposes as well.

    Thanks for sharing such a cool topic to discuss Catherine.


    • Catherine says:

      You’re right Maung,
      I can see these being used for a variety of purposes. Unfortunately though, reading is all about the imagination and the visuals we create in our own head. These mini movies sort of taint that process on some level, but they are still fun.

  3. Darling says:

    Hi Catherine,

    Thanks for sharing this cool find with us! Being an English Literature major and a huge fan of classics I’m actually not the least bit offended by this modern technique. I found the video pretty funny and not a devaluation of the original at all. In fact, I’m still more offended by Harry Potter being added to a school curriculum, but that’s for another topic. 🙂

    I’m very well aware of how times have changed and how culture and technology has changed so I appreciate someone who is trying to keep the classics relevant, as long as they don’t steer to far from their meaning. For book publishers I think that this is a cool/hip new way to give people that sneak peek they need to hopefully jump off Facebook for a moment and read a book. Overall this is a great strategy and it will probably be useful for other advertisements in the future.


  4. Christopher says:

    Hi Catherine,

    This is so interesting! I hadn’t seen this yet. It sort of reminds me of Chipotle publishing short stories from famous writers on their soda cups (http://gawker.com/chipotle-cups-to-publish-new-writing-from-saunders-mor-1576783080). I love that society is discovering cool ways to repurpose classic works. For the authors, it’s such an easy win! They’re being compensated by Chipotle, and the number of potential new fans is exponential. Twelve ounces of Orange Fanta later and Malcom Gladwell has a completely new and unexpected reader! How cool.

    As for your question, my answer is probably pretty progressive: I tend to agree with Wayne. I sort of love it! I’m a creature who is fascinated by history. Old culture impacts new culture on a daily basis – it tends to be cyclical. I think it is important to find ways to share art with new audiences. I wholeheartedly endorse this ad. Thanks for sharing!

  5. Talyssa says:

    Hi Catherine,

    I definitely laughed out loud when I watched the video you provided because I had not seen one of these before. I think it’s hilarious! One of my favorite books is The Naked Sun by Isaac Asimov, and I could totally see it being depicted like this short video with LEGO-like characters. It’s one thing to do this to well-known novels, and certainly, some stories, like Les Miserables for example, probably couldn’t be presented in the same way with the same feel and comedy appeal. But when we switch gears to talk about organizations using this method in their advertising, I think there are some difficulties. First, I think a lot of companies are in the midst of trying to tell their stories or the stories of their particular brand, and I think this type of approach might simplify those stories a little too much. In addition, I think people might have a hard time identifying with stories presented this way if they are not already familiar with the back story, as most people are with these famous novels.

    I think there are some brands that can get away with this if they’re building off of popular or already well-known campaigns. For example, I think of the All State Mayhem campaigns with the guy who represents mayhem and runs around pummeling cars and house windows. All State could probably use that same Mayhem concept and attempt to tell a story like the ad for this novel. But I think starting a standalone ad campaign framed this way might be difficult. Then again, it could turn out to be beautifully simple and successful.

  6. Tyler says:

    Hi Catherine,

    Love the post and the provocative questions! You must tip your hat to Ogilvy. 360 Degree Brand Stewardship (a reference back to the 1990’s when I worked in their LA office) and now this cool “adaptive” advertising concept. We consume “bits” of information and this merely executes on that cultural media consumption trend. I also don’t think the short ad devalues the stories of the great authors because of context. It may in fact, work in reverse and keep those authors a live for adults to want to pick up a digital book. Children will still read Hemingway in high school/college anyway.

    Thanks for sharing!!!


  7. Dinah Chen says:

    Hi Catherine,

    Nice question, it’s an interesting video clip too. Well, I think your question might be a universal one in terms of marketing any type of classic cultural products by means of modern technologies. There is no doubt that modern technologies enable marketers with various possibilities to rephrase “obsolete” content to approach more easily to the new generation. However, it’s also struggling to find out a balance between the core value of the content and the new rephrasing version. Sometimes I feel it’s like dancing with chains on feet. (Maybe exaggerated a lit bit here…) Getting back to your question, I don’t think this kind of ads will devalue the classic literature if it intends to capture attentions only. At the end of the video clip, it writes that for the whole story, you’ll have to read Hemingway’s book anyways. So I think this creative ads are all good serving as a hook. In fact, I do hope there will be more attempts in this kind out there to promote and introduce classic cultural products, book, dramas, music, etc.

  8. Laura says:

    I think it’s really easy to see two sides of this issue – which is unique becuase usually opposite perspectives require a lot of mind-bending to understand. But on the one hand, there’s the idea that these are great! They condense classic literature into pallatable chunks that hold the younger generation’s interest, and are convenient for those who are too busy to sit down and read a novel (people like us, busy going to school and working full time!) It’s a fast, insteresting, and engaging way to convey a complex idea.
    The other perspective would be that these mini movies – clips, really – detract from the experience of reading classic literature and the intracacies that the full stories contain. Furthermore, the authors themselves might find these offensive, if they’re still alive, that their novels could be so simplified that they can be conveyed in less than a minute.
    But while there are positive and negative arguements, I think practically speaking these are interesting and hold potential for marketing, advertising, and maybe even for education! New ways of conveying ideas, such as this, shoudn’t be percieved as ‘bad,’ but rather new and different. With an open mind, I think these could be used for great causes! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  9. Nicholette says:

    Great find, Catherine-
    I think Ogilvy nailed it, personally. It seems like most marketers take the low road and go for shock and awe when they only have 15 seconds to capture the viewer’s attention. I love that they went “old school” and executed this claymation style. It feels appropriate and authentic to the story. I also appreciate that they are even marketing the classics! At a time when the next biggest thing is the release of “Dumb and Dumber To,” it’s refreshing to see someone promoting American literature in a modern way, while making it appealing to a younger demographic. I hope to see more of these!

  10. Graham says:

    Great post Catherine! Lord of the Rings and Chronicles of Narnia would probably be other examples. In my view, any exposure to these classics is probably for the best. I think the loss of interest in these stories is an unfortunate sadness that has befallen our culture. In fact, any commercial or video ad that can inspire kids to pick up a book new or old will have my vote. The fact that these stories have an existing following makes the particular strategy a salient one across generations – talk about ideas that stick!