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Ballroom blitz: marketers are overusing dance in commercials


By Sir John Hegarty, Co-founder and creative director

April 22, 2024 | 5 min read

Sir John Hegarty laments the recent rise of ads bursting with choreography but lacking in creativity.

People dancing on a ballroom dancefloor

Dancing in ads is great for business – if you’re a choreographer / Ardian Lumi on Unsplash

Breaking out in a dance is either a very good impulse – or a very bad one. Whether your routine goes down favorably or not depends on a few variables. Like physical fitness, levels of sobriety, or how even the floor is. The biggest decider of success, however, is context. For instance, shaking a leg at an industry event afterparty is admissible. Twerking as you conduct staff reviews in an intimate boardroom setting is not. If the cues are easily recognized in the real world, the same can’t be said in the fictional world of ad campaigns.

There has been a pervading use of choreography in brand communications of late. A portly man celebrates the latest supermarket discounts by cavorting through the car park. A teen takes a sip of his favorite fizzy drink then gyrates around a convenience store. A South Korean girl group professes that a fast-food chain’s chicken is “so good, it’ll make you dance”. Dance as an art form is moving, powerful and full of nuance. But choreography doesn’t represent an idea. It provides the means to express one.

Rediscovering truth

The ‘just add dance’ strategy is risky. In focusing on the surface-level stuff – the right casting, a good track and dynamic choreography – brands are missing out on an opportunity to connect with audiences on a deeper level. Advertising is comparable to art in that when it lacks truth, it becomes decoration. Consider the effectiveness of campaigns that use dance, and are idea-driven too. A quick scour of the archives led me to Apple’s HomePod commercial starring FKA twigs and directed by Spike Jonze. The UK singer plays a corporate worker who looks rather beaten down. She arrives to her compact apartment and murmurs “Hey Siri, play me something I’d like.” What follows is a surreal journey where our protagonist finds some wellbeing in her own company.

Looking further back, in 2002 BBH created a campaign for Lynx that featured a spontaneous dance routine. Advertising for the deodorant brand had centered on a tongue-in-cheek notion that applying the product resulted in instant attention from women. An average-looking chap breaks into a routine in a bar – to the smash hit Make Luv, by Room 5 – and is joined by two female companions (there’s no rule saying that ideas have to be complicated).


Without truth, storytelling, and humor ads become harder to remember, easier to switch off from – and less effective. Studies in neuroscience show how communications that have a richness of meaning work in sync with how our minds process information and create associations. Research by scientists Greg J. Stephens, Lauren J. Silbert, and Uri Hasson, found that a process called ‘neuro coupling’ helps us imagine the world from someone else’s perspective when we hear or see a story. As the mind unpicks or anticipates a message’s direction, your brain provides a dopamine hit too. These things grouped with a brand message is becoming an overlooked formula of truly great advertising.

The field has never been more open for great works of creativity to cut through and help mint the fortunes of companies. This April 29, I’m launching the next cohort of The Business of Creativity, an in-depth masterclass in how to unlock creative potential. In the course of my career I’ve seen the commercial impact of ideas on some of the most storied brands in history. A great idea communicated correctly can unearth new customers, discover new categories, and enhance lives.

There is a cost that companies are footing for abandoning communications that rely on this principle. And they are setting course for a slower decline as audiences opt for something more meaningful. They say you should dance like nobody’s watching. If your campaigns offer nothing of value, no one will. Join me this spring, and we’ll make sure your brand stays on point.

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