"Say it's Severn Trent"
There’s a subtle, though still significant, difference between the mechanisms of imitation and emulation. In fact, most contemporary advertising seems now to rely so heavily on the former that it’s almost impossible to turn on whichever platform we absorb our content from without a Transformer, spandex swaddled superhero, or battery bunny placing products front and centre. The real difference lies in a video’s ability to preserve the original sentiment: the idea and feeling.
They say never meet your heroes, so soundbite versions of them perpetually shown to us can, at times, degrade the messages they bring. But where imitation of story and character in this way often lands on audiences as a kind of visual junk food, leaving us feeling bloated, emulation aims for taste and texture. And it’s this focus on quality rather than nostalgic quantity that Severn Trust capture in this charming offering.
Released shortly before Christmas with the simple aim of educating the public on what not to put down their drains after a sharp rise in blockage callouts, the filmmakers mimic the now iconic ‘say it’s carol singers’ scene from festive favourite Love Actually. It’s silly, for sure. It’s also a scene that’s been copied, repackaged, and ripped off by a broad spectrum of businesses for different ends (think well intentioned charities and awkward politicians). But as we already know, standout brand film distinguishes itself by instilling a trust between audience and business through strong message. In other words, audiences have to ‘get it’. This is what Severn have captured, gaining nearly 2K reactions on LinkedIn, and 1.2K views on YouTube. Not bad for a drainage company in just over a minute.
Often, the decision to imitate film scenes in the comms industry is to quietly mitigate creative, financial, and social backlash risk through nostalgia. Which is why they can regularly fall flat. Fine, but forgettable. On the other hand, when a simple single-camera setup tells the story of a self-effacing waste-engineer-come-protagonist in high-vis, out in the cold, who only wants to remind us to take care of the pipes we all rely on, it’s ironically sweet and disarming. It works. Why? Because the original was those things too. And Severn have clearly had fun in opting for the added risk, and the silliness attached to it, actually.