Doner drowns the music in latest JBL campaign

The agency follows up last year's "#cordfail" with a demo viewers should try at home.

Hans Christian Andersen once said, "Where words fail, music speaks." Now, in an age of ubiquitous and portable music, when speakers fail, people speak—usually in epithets.

Detroit-based agency Doner has tapped into the frustration over musica interruptus in its work for electronics company JBL, a popular manufacturer of speakers and headphones. The agency’s latest campaign for the brand, directed by O Positive’s Brian Billow, tackles that common frustration with over-the-top demonstrations of resilience in the face of tech’s greatest enemy, water.

The 30-second spot "Pool Party" seems at first ethereal, even a little absurd, but it adds an unexpected twist to the old "hide the party" storyline familiar to most American teenagers and anyone who’s seen a comedy from the ‘90s.

"It’s a true product demonstration," said Brad Emmett, EVP and ECD at Doner. "It drives home how waterproof these speakers really are, as opposed to water resistant."

While researching the speakers and brainstorming ideas, Emmett found out for himself the full capabilities of the product. "I stuck my head underwater, and it worked," he said. They worked so well, in fact, that the resulting ads don’t carry any kind of disclaimer. "We want people to try this at home," he added.

"Water Dance" is more direct, a comedic spot that offers a simple and effective demonstration of the product’s distinguishing feature, aimed at the campaign’s main audience. "There’s no upper age limit, but we’re targeting 18 to 34-year olds, that ‘live life to the fullest’ crowd," said Kevin Weinman, EVP for brand leadership at Doner.

The spot needed to clearly show how the speakers worked, which presented a problem. "It goes underwater, and it comes back up, how do you do that in an interesting way?" Emmett said. "Our demographic, they’ve seen everything. Nothing surprises them."

The ad makes its television debut today on MTV and FXX, networks with heavy viewership among millennial men.

Last week, Doner released the initial salvo of the campaign, 15-second social spots that introduce one of the visual highlights of the ads. "We discovered that it spits water back out at you," Emmett said, a "feature" of the speaker the creative team took note of. "When other speakers do that, they’re gasping for air."

Doner has had the JBL account since 2010. Previous work for the brand includes "#cordfail," a Clio-winning campaign devoted to the frustrations of corded headphone users and the potential pitfalls of having a tripwire attached to your ears.

JBL #cordfail from Angelo Patrona on Vimeo.

Those spots helped inform the direction of the latest work. "We want you to continue the quest for that epic moment," Emmett said. "Nothing will ever get in your way, whether it’s water or a cord or whatever problem JBL handles next."

Subscribe today for just $116 a year

Get the very latest news and insight from Campaign with unrestricted access to , plus get exclusive discounts to Campaign events

Become a subscriber


Don’t miss your daily fix of breaking news, latest work, advice and commentary.

register free