An Open Mind is the Best Look: More than an Ad
Winter early 2019. It’s the calm before the storm of 2020 and company’s are being shouted at from all different directions to embrace diversity and inclusion. In response, Nordstrom enlists the help of Droga5, an advertising agency now better known for its Meta ads that just miss the mark, to achieve their mission of ‘celebrating individuality and human connections’.
We expect corporate wokeness schlop.
We get “An Open Mind is the Best Look”, an ad shortlisted at the 2019 Clio Awards, an oscar nomination for its field.
We get one of the best commercials ever made.
At the start, ‘Best Look’ feels like it’s sitting you down at your family’s smallest dining table, only really big enough for two, and by the light of early morning, taking your hand in theirs. And then it begins. And it’s like a slideshow of memories except some are mine but most are others. From a better, happier, more fulfilling life or maybe just a different one. A different perspective. It’s bittersweet but only bitter because it feels so real and real life is never the soft yellows and bright pinks of a typical commercial. Seeing someone smile in grey tones; that’s the epitome of real life. A smile of genuine delight even though the world seems to be saying no. How dare they put this in an ad break?
I want to give this ad an artwork’s interpretive bounds because it deserves it. The effect of its imagery is visceral, with the child watching the old woman watching herself in the mirror creating that intimate crawl space this ad quickly became a resident of. Those odd moments where you find yourself and just one other person in a relationship ineffable to both of you and it really does feel like a human experience. You feel extremely aware of that tie which binds every soul and you wonder whether to pick at it or just let it rest between you. And one way or another either you or the other person feels naked.
“You look nervous. What’s wrong?” He decides to pick at it probably unbeknownst to him. “I kinda am.” And he feels the nakedness and decides to concede to it. What do they gain from this? They’ve had a real human experience. A bond different from any of the Latin loves is formed. It isn’t that deep but in a way it’s deeper. It latches beneath the skin, digging in its feet between the dermis and subcutaneous tissue. Our hearts and our souls.
The swim instructor letting the old man float in his arms. It’s trust, I suppose. Or maybe we’re taken through the different bonds we form with passersby and acquaintances and friends and loved ones.
Trust. Vulnerability. Comfort in one another’s space. “Think of who you are in the sculpture.”
Think of how you impact others. Think of how they impact you. Are you the foundations or the finishing touches? Either way, it would be incomplete without you.
There are multiple ‘narratives’ if you will running throughout the commercial but the most frequent one is that of the theater company’s exercises. They open and close the ad and it can be assumed the narration is the voice of the theater director leading the actors through it. This is done phenomenally and I can’t underestimate this. The fact that the theater director’s face is never seen and for the majority of the time she is no more than a disembodied voice gives her a sort of divine presence and makes her words even more powerful. From the start, the power in her voice is reminiscent of a mother and instantly makes you want to sit up and listen. The confidence of her voice resolves all the anxieties and uncertainties of the scenes she speaks over into one shared experience. Maybe she is the one who takes your hand at the dining table.
The closeups. The glances. The execution of them. It’s all done to beautifully emphasize that greater point. The connections between us. The experiences we share.
“Stop.” And the world slows together. We all exist softly in the same space. It’s intimate. I fear I don’t have the words to capture it. To bring it justice.
“That was a great battle.” In the end, when the applause comes and so do the smiles, you embrace them. They are yours now, a reward for coming with them on this experience and something for the road when you will inevitably confront them again. It’s satisfying. There are events and emotions addressed in this commercial that you will genuinely only find in the greatest films and the hidden gems of television. It feels like a part of yourself is finally being recognized, like you’ve been working hard for years and finally, finally, someone has acknowledged it. What’s more, they praised you.
“That was a great battle.” Thanks. You too.