What educating Peter teaches us


By Matthew Hallock

While this is really hard, mute your cell phone, quit email, close browser windows and carve out 11 whole minutes to watch Educating Peter. This landmark video was made by Digital — Who the hell is that? — before there was the internet, 140-character ads and twenty concurrently running apps to lift everyone’s ADD to the stratosphere.

Educating Peter is an early explainer demo that many marketing professionals with wear on the tires will fondly remember. What better way to demonstrate computer systems — which are essentially silicon, wires and electrical currents — than by taking “Peter” on a Tron-like tour of its inner workings.

Is it dated? Yes, I guess. Does it have an effective close or call to action? No, it ends like they ran out of budget. Is it still relevant? Yes, it speaks to the market in a memorable, clear and approachable fashion.

Here’s a recent video we made for our client, Avalara. It’s as different as night and day to Educating Peter. But while styles have changed, the goals of advertising haven’t. We’re still trying to get our audiences’ attention and sell them stuff. This is the heart of advertising, dating back to barkers standing on Egyptian piers 3,000 years ago announcing the cargo of arriving ships.

The next time you get a brief looking for “disruptive digital thinking”, remember Educating Peter and its clear purpose: communicate the complex value proposition of a dry product in a way that people will actually want to watch. Then let the ideas flow like water from a pitcher. 

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