True Story!

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Viewers distrust commercials nowadays because they are usually exaggerated and fictitious. Content ?based on true stories? seems to be getting more engagement. While writing on ?Where most go wrong? in our Content Marketing 101 resource, I came across this article?where the writer made some amazing discovery on one of my favourite TV commercial of all time, starring Chow Yun Fat and Wu Chien Lien for Solvil et Titus in 1992/3.

Here?s a summary in English:

The writer, like me, was mesmerised by how the Creative Director for the commercial, Mike Chu (a.k.a. the late husband of actress Cherrie Chung) managed to bring out the struggles between patriotism and personal love within a couple of minutes so well. Upon searching for more related works, he found the following poster:

In it there is a small newspaper cutting with the words ?Air battle at Lan Shi? which happened in February 1939 when volunteer troops from China and USSR were countering Japanese attacks. The writer then zoomed in on the group wedding photo in the commercial and found Caucasian officers standing behind the newly weds, which coincided with the presence of USSR allied troops. As he dug deeper, he found that Chow Yun Fat?s character had some distinctive Chinese decorative medals which also coincided with the alleged period. He then conjuncted that Mike Chu might have based the commercial on the story of an actual fighter pilot since he had paid so much attention to the details. So the writer proceeded to go through the archives and uncovered an actual event:

On February 5, 1939, upon receiving intel of Japanese forces movements, Chinese forces sent four Vultee V11 fighter bombers from Chengdu led by Second Lieutenant Liu Fu Hong. The team released 40 light bombs on the enemy but unfortunately, the planes overheated on their return and exploded, killing Liu and other officers. The newly wedded wife of Liu attempted suicide upon learning the news. Although she was saved, she eventually succeeded on February 16 with a pistol. She was 20 years old when she died.

In creating the commercial for Solvil et Titus, Mike Chu could have just loosely borrowed this tragic love story. Yet, he paid so much attention to the details without making them known to the public. All the public knew was that they were touched by the commercial. The watches were sold out. In fact, many ?complaints? were made to the company as the watches sold did not have the same engraving of the words ?For eternity? at the back. The watch was known as the ?Eternity? watch. Mike Chu?s classic copy for the series of ads: ?Concern not whether your love is for eternity but that you once loved? was etched into the hearts of Gen-X lovebirds then.

Fast forward to the digital era today, I can just imagine the amount of content that can be spun off from this commercial alone. Solvil et Titus could have owned all the conversations around romantic love stories, and anchored the brand as one that witnesses all these stories. Mike Chu may not have imagined the use of digital and social media then, but the richness of the story he created carried the immense potential for a complete content marketing gameplay. It is no wonder that he is featured in the Hall of Fame of people who helped build Asian media and marketing.

Update: My good director friend informed me that the TVC director David Tsui played a big part in the success as well. Indeed, the quality of a great video is a result of team effort. In the time and age of “instant”, craft is sadly often either sacrificed or replaced by technology.