Clarica’s falling piano hits right note

Ever wonder what consumers really think of your commercials? And more importantly, whether they get the message? Reality Check tests advertising creative against a random sample of 300 consumers to determine, among other things, whether they liked the spot, whether they...

Ever wonder what consumers really think of your commercials? And more importantly, whether they get the message? Reality Check tests advertising creative against a random sample of 300 consumers to determine, among other things, whether they liked the spot, whether they could identify the sponsor, whether they understood the message, and whether, after seeing the commercial, they’d be more likely to buy the brand advertised. The survey is carried out by Impact Research on a spot of Strategy’s choice. Kathleen Deslauriers, Impact’s general manager in Toronto, provides the analysis.

Advertiser: Clarica

Commercial: ‘Falling piano’

Tagline: ‘There’s a lot to be said for clarity’

Description: At the start of the commercial, we see a woman with an open umbrella sitting on a bench located on a very busy street. At a bus stop on the other side of the street, a man is calling out to her over the noise of the traffic while waving his arms wildly and pointing upwards. He is trying to tell the woman with the umbrella to move away.

A young woman at the same bus stop is observing the man’s crazy gestures and, looking upwards, now understands why he is in such a panic. From her portfolio, she takes a big pad, draws an upward arrow and then holds it up for the woman with the umbrella to see. The woman sees the arrow, looks up and, as she hurriedly runs away, a piano falls on the bench where she was seated only moments before. The commercial ends with a word, which then transforms into the name of the company sponsoring the commercial.

How the test commercial fared:

The Clarica commercial was very successful in terms of reach, with 55% of the sample recalling the execution as described. Had the creative been supported by 1,000 GRPs at the time of testing, reach should be have been only 40%, according to our norms. Even at 1,500 GRPs, the spot still surpassed the norm by 10 points. The unusual scenario in general and the surprise created by the falling piano obviously attracted the public’s attention.

Our unaided advertising awareness question showed just how intrusive the commercial was, likely as a result of the synergy created by the other creative elements of this multimedia campaign. Clarica obtained 8% of responses, which is second only to CIBC at 14% and ahead of Investors Group (6%), Royal Bank (5%) and Standard Life (4%).

The unusual storyline and the commercial’s entertainment value also contributed to the success of the creative. Indeed, 89% of those reached by the spot either liked it very much or somewhat, which is much stronger than our 74% standard.

As far as top-of-mind brand awareness is concerned, Clarica achieved 2%, which compares favourably to such long-standing names in investment and insurance, as TD Bank and Royal Bank (both at 6%), CIBC and London Life (both at 5%), as well as Manulife and State Farm (both at 3%). As the results indicate, the investment and insurance category is perceived to be highly fragmented.

Although aided brand awareness for Clarica came in at 51%, brand linkage was low at 18% if compared to the 35% score expected at 1,000 GRPs. However, given the newness of the Clarica name and the short time the campaign has had to hit its creative stride, we feel that the brand linkage score obtained is satisfactory.

With a score of 20% on the ‘astute’ message comprehension measure, the execution falls well below the 45-50% rule of thumb. However, as was the case with the media plan, the reader must keep in mind that we have not been made aware of the execution’s specific communications objectives. While we could have been strict in judging what messages are ‘astute’, the findings indicate that ‘clarity’ did not come through as strongly as desired. Nevertheless, the brand is still new and it will take time for this core value to imprint on the public’s consciousness.

Most likely the consequence of the weak brand linkage and message comprehension, the 9% top-box score for brand consideration appears low at first glance. Even though the question measured brand consideration (and not purchase intent), the campaign has probably not yet had enough time to strongly infiltrate the consumer’s decision-making process.


From Nov. 2-9, 1999, 300 Toronto CMA residents were interviewed over the telephone about ‘Falling piano.’ Within the sample, we had an even split according to sex and, within each gender group, equal representation of the two age brackets: 18-34 years and 35-64 years. The maximum margin of error is +5.6% at a 95% level of confidence.

After measuring unaided brand and advertising awareness, we prompted recall by describing the visuals.

If the consumer recalled seeing ‘Falling piano’ as described, we consider him or her ‘reached’ and we then continue the interview to assess other variables such as sponsor identification, message comprehension, appreciation, and so on.

To accurately gauge brand linkage, we did not include the name of the sponsor or the product in the commercial’s description. As well, we did not reveal any message cues or the tagline. This allowed us to assess message comprehension after exposure to the execution in a manner that approximates ‘real life’.

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group