"You've got mail!"
If you're of a certain age, you're almost certainly familiar with that phrase, whether you were an AOL customer or not.
You probably just read it in Elwood Edward's voice too, even though I'm willing to bet that's the first time you've heard that name.*
Shopify is counting on that familiarity with its latest advertising effort, which attempts to update the phrase and repurpose "the voice" to promote the primary benefit of its platform.
Created by Maximum Effort (i.e. the agency co-founded by Ryan Reynolds), this amusing spot will make anybody who does remember the original line (and context) smile.
What this spot lacks is a strong insight, which is where great advertising usually starts.
(And to be clear, "When you've got the Internet's most loved commerce platform, you've got sales" is not an insight. It's not even true, because simply opening a Shopify account isn't all you need to do to generate revenue.)
So will this campaign be effective?
Only Shopify will be able to answer that, once they measure how many new customers sign-up over the next little while that they can attribute (at least in part) to this ad.
But this ad has two things going for it that make me believe it could still work, despite the fact it's "insight light".
First, the majority of Shopify's target audience is likely to get the joke: according to the company's own data, 37.5% of Shopify Merchants are between 25 and 34 years of age, and 30% of Shopify merchants are between 35 and 44 years old.
Sure, if you're a 25-year-old Shopify merchant today, you're likely too young to fully appreciate this spot; you weren't yet born when "You've Got Mail" (the phrase) was first used by AOL in 1989, and were just about to enter your "terrible twos" when "You’ve Got Mail" (the movie starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan) was released in 1998.
But aspiring entrepreneurs over 30-years-old have probably heard the phrase at some point in their lives. And even if they haven't, "You've Got Mail" (both the phrase and the movie) has become part of popular culture, so chances are good you're still able to get the joke.
And the second thing this spot has going for it?
Maximum Effort's track record of producing buzz-worthy spots for various clients that get noticed and shared.
The ad's humour will prompt people to share it, as I'm doing right now.
The resulting views will drive broad awareness of Shopify's name and platform amongst the general population.
In that general population, Shopify is likely to find those entrepreneurs in need of its services who aren't already customers.
And if they sign up for a Shopify account, the ad would have done its job.
A great insight is the best starting place for a marketing campaign, and having one probably would have made this ad better.
Still, it's a funny spot, and I'll bet a lot of people are going to see it.
Let's see if the strength of the creative idea alone will make this campaign a success.
* Shockingly, Elwood Edwards was only paid $200 for lending his voice to AOL, an amount that feels absurdly low even if the catchphrase hadn't become so iconic. Let's hope Shopify and Maximum Effort paid him significantly more for this involvement with this campaign.