Homer J. Saves The Day With YouTube

That name again is Mr. Plow

I really like an ad that I saw on YouTube recently.

The 60 second pre-roll spot, “Homer Simpson Saves The Day With YouTube”, uses modified clips from the Mr Plow episode of The Simpsons to sell YouTube as an advertising platform. The target audience is small/medium business owners.

You can watch the ad below.  I’ve included a transcript below the video.


(If you do not care to read the transcript, you can scroll down to the picture for the rest of the article)

[Scene: Homer sees a ‘Kumatsu’ plow truck on display at a car show]

Homer: (gasps at sight of plow truck) Wow! Just think what I could do with that plow.

[Transition to Homer placing a Mr. Plow flyer on the windshield of a car. The flyer and all others that he’s placed on cars blow away in the wind]

Homer: (As flyers are flying away (doing what they were born to do?)) *Screams*

[Scene: “Missed payment – 3rd notice” letter from Kumatsu rests in front of a phone next to which a dejected Homer is  seated waiting with the rest of the Simpson family, in vain, for a customer to call]

Homer: (head in hands) I’m gonna lose my plow

(Happy/upbeat orchestral music begins as Lisa looks at her father with both compassion and determination)
Begin Montage:

  • Lisa Googles advertising solutions on Google and finds YouTube
  • Lisa clicks a “Start Advertising on YouTube” button and uploads the original Mr. Plow television commercial to the site
  • Lisa chooses the geography she wants to target (Springfield, Our State), the mile radius (5 miles) and then “launches” the video ad.

[Supercut of various Springfieldians watching the Mr. Plow ad on their desktop, mobile and smart devices]

[Montage music continues]

(phone rings on three separate occasions)
Homer: (answers phone in living room) Mr. Plow
Homer: (answers phone while in bed) Yeellow
Homer: (answers phone again in living room) That name again is Mr. Plow

[Plowing Supercut: Kwik-E-Mart, Senior Citizens Center, Springfield Elementary]

Mayor Quimby: Mr. Plow, I give you the key to the city

[white screen: Text: Watch It Work [bracketed text] “for Homer” “for Mr. Plow”  “for your business”]
[white screen continues: Text: “YouTube Video Ads”]

Homer: Now we play the waiting game

Mr Plow

Here’s why I like this ad:

1. Excellent Nostalgia

I’m a huge Simpsons fan and seeing this ad brought back all kinds of happy memories for me. Memories of watching The Simpsons as a kid and memories of bonding with friends while watching/talking about/referencing/quoting the show in high school and college.

Studies show that nostalgia is a tried and true way to get consumers to exhibit more favorable attitudes towards a brand. Consumers tend to associate the positive feelings the ad evokes  with the brand itself.

With this ad, I feel like YouTube did an excellent job drawing a line between the happiness that the Simpsons can evoke and the happiness that can come as a result of effectively reaching customers by using YouTube as an advertising platform.  I believe that YouTube accomplished this by masterfully balancing the telling of 3 stories:

Story #1: Homer Simpson, Mr. Plow (season 4, episode 9, aired 11/19/1992)

Story #2: Homer Simpson, A small business owner with marketing challenges

Story #3: YouTube, the powerful yet simple, success-enabling advertising platform

The second story is the most critical to enabling YouTube to draw that ‘happiness line’ seamlessly.

The Mr. Plow episode  is considered to be one of the best episodes of the The Simpsons ever. YouTube’s masterful insertion of their value proposition into an instantly recognizable and smile-inducing episode of the Simpsons drives consideration of YouTube as an advertising platform (the primary purpose of this ad) and, as a bonus, it adds a welcome and memorable alternate plot line to the Mr Plow story.

In YouTube’s version of the story, Lisa’s originally suggested linear TV media buy is updated to a more targeted digital video media buy. What I love about this plot line is that if the Mr Plow episode were written today, 23 years after its original airing, Lisa’s suggestion of a digital advertising channel would probably be the first idea mentioned in the writer’s room. it is a very believable update for the episode.

To sum it up, I think YouTube did an excellent job with this ad because I can easily see myself saying the following to a friend when reminiscing on the awesomeness of The Simpsons:

“Remember that time when Homer used YouTube to save his snow plow business?”

 2. Excellent Consumer Insight

This ad gets all the stages of the small business owner’s consumer decision journey spot on. Let’s follow along:

1. Individual has an idea for a new business

2. Individual starts new business; becomes business owner

3. Business owner realizes that business could do a better job reaching prospective customers

4. Business owner tries hand at marketing and does not do as well as they hoped to or could.

5. Savvy employee looks into alternative marketing solutions and discovers [YouTube]

6. Business owner is able to get the right message to the right people at the right time using [YouTube]

7. Business owner sees increase in customer interest and a commensurate increase in revenue

8. Business owner is given the key to their city of residence/incorporation

YouTube is primarily looking to present their value proposition to business owners who are at step 4. Lots of people feel like their returns on marketing investment should be better – YouTube presents this insight into the consumer’s journey really well and they do an excellent job showing how YouTube can change the story from one of underachievement/potential calamity to one of success.

I also love how YouTube used Homer’s thwarted flyering efforts to capture an experience that is common to every business owner. Every business owner can look back over their tenure, think about some marketing execution they rolled out, laugh to themselves and say “well that was a disaster”. It isn’t a knock on print advertising, but it is a humorous demonstration of how things can and do go wrong at Step of 4 of the journey and it is also a subtle nod to how much easier it is to roll out a digital campaign.

(nerd alert) (#nerdalert)(the following point borders on being excessively nerdy. proceed at your own risk)

3. Nostalgia (again)

I know I already discussed nostalgia above, but I felt like a more in-depth discussion was necessary on this point to really get to the essence of why this particular nostalgia makes this ad such a shining example of marketing art. Here goes:

We are in the midst of a horrible drought – a Simpsons drought.

“But how can we be in a drought if The Simpsons is still on the air?” You may ask. Please allow me to explain.

The show that is currently airing on Fox (and on Hulu, for you fancy people) is not The Simpsons. It *is* but it totally *isn’t*.

Currently in its 27th season, The Simpsons is the longest running scripted  prime-time series on television.  I can distinctly remember a time when there was nothing more important to do on a Sunday evening at 8pm than to watch The Simpsons. Those times hit an abrupt end in 1998, when there was an evident shift in the writing room and overall direction for the series. This was the beginning of the Simpsons drought.

From 1998-2004 syndication was a refuge for Simpsons fans – an overflowing reservoir if you will. Though there may have been barely watchable new episodes airing on Sundays, the good classic stuff was airing 6 nights a week. Sadly, there ultimately came a time when the reservoir was depleted. It was during this time that episodes from 1998 and subsequent years found their way into the syndication rotation at the expense of all the good pre-1998 episodes. This marked the start of the currently active “Dark Era”.

Adding increasingly devastating levels of darkness to the Dark Era was 20th Century Fox’s very diligent efforts to ensure that all their content be removed from YouTube and other digital channels like it. Apart from dropping a significant sum of money on a DVD set, Simpsons fans were left in the darkest of darks without their favorite show – this has been the case for more than a decade.

I don’t want to belabor the point any further, so it goes without saying that watching this ad took me to my happy place – and unexpectedly so (because the last place I expected to see The Simpsons is on YouTube). YouTube took me back a time when life was simpler and the Simpsons was one of the best shows on television – new and in syndication.

The highly lauded Mr Plow episodes is also one of my favorite episodes, so I was especially excited to see what YouTube was going to do with this episode in this spot. They had my full attention and they delivered an excellent story that brought back all of the good feelings I felt when watching and re-watching the Mr Plow episode and that also made me think positive thoughts about YouTube as an advertising platform.

Until Next Time

Additionally, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from MAG and Mr. Plow!!

Mr Plow
Photo Credit: Jason Atkins

For your reference, here’s a link to the ad on YouTube