‘Copper’ + Iron & Wine = how you nail a promo.

With so many boring, forgettable and lookalike TV ads, it’s rare that one just grabs me and makes me not only want to pay attention, but delve into its world. So I was exceedingly pleased when this promo for the BBC America show “Copper” (with excellent placement during extremely popular “Doctor Who”) captured my fancy:

As arresting (pardon the pun) as its visuals are, the song selection jumps out as perfect and haunting. That’s Iron & Wine doing a gorgeous cover of Stephen Foster’s “Hard Times Come Again No More,” a parlor song from the mid-19th century — the time where “Copper” is set in New York City’s teeming, tussling and corrupt Five Points neighborhood. Sam Beam’s voice and the lyrics craft a simultaneously mournful and hopeful tapestry, depicting a time when the country was divided and bloodied in the Civil War and yearning for a light at the end of the tunnel. (The song is also building buzz in the music press.)

The visuals themselves are unforgettable: The cinematography, gritty and compelling, paints the series perfectly. From the scenes, you get just a hint of what’s going on, not too much but enough that you want to learn more. It helps that it’s teasing a series rich in character, plot and action.In class I talk about the importance of calls to action, and whether content we see moves us to do something. Well, this is what this spot has done:

  • I started watching “Copper.” The first season is available on Netflix, and it’s stirring entertainment. It’s not cheerful, for sure, but it is cinematic in scope and extremely compelling. This promo teases the second season, coming this summer, but gives the world that missed the first season time to get up to speed.
  • I wanted a copy of the song. Alas, in searching for a copy of this beautiful recording, I learned Iron & Wine has not yet made it commercially available. I’d buy a copy in a heartbeat. But in the meantime, I searched through Amazon and listened to many, many versions. I ended up downloading The Chieftains cover of the song, which closes with a minute of bagpipes (which is awesome). Here’s hoping Beam makes a version of this available soon to capitalize on the attention.

Normally I say that a TV spot should include multiple mentions of its product (audio and video) to be more effective, but for outstanding examples you throw the rules out the window. This promo grabs you for its full minute, pulls you into its enthralling world, and leaves you wanting more. I love it. And it’s already moved me to action in two directions. That, then, makes it very successful.

Screen shot 2013-04-29 at 11.35.57 AM


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