Storytelling Lands Commodity Semiconductor ...


You periodically hear that someone is “good TV.”

Bill Hader is good TV (looking forward to binging “Barry” on my next overseas flight).

Tina Fey is good TV.

Sometimes an event or a product like an Apple iPhone launch is mentioned as good TV.

Semiconductors are NOT good TV.

The technical nature of a semiconductor — a solid substance that has a conductivity between that of an insulator and that of most metals, either due to the addition of an impurity or because of temperature effects — presents a challenge in explaining such a product, much less conjuring up a story with a touch of drama. Steven Spielberg is not pressing Intel for rights to its story.

Furthermore, the semiconductor is an “ingredient” in a product, not the main show. You don’t hear a famous chef who just created the perfect pancake on the Food Channel touting the virtues of butter.

All of which brings me to one of my favorite “The story is always there” examples.

Some time ago when we supported National Semiconductor, they asked us to develop a campaign for a new version of semiconductor called an EEPROM (electrically erasable programmable read-only memory). Right, this is an extremely technical product and not a natural for the mainstream media.

As part of our discovery process, we asked the product manager about potential uses for the new chip. It turns out that one of the target applications was keyless locks for cars.

Apparently, criminals were intercepting the signal from keyless locks. When the car owner left, the criminal would replay the recorded signal to break into the car. This EEPROM had what was called a rolling code generator, preventing the bad guys from intercepting the signal and opening the car.

We zeroed in on the auto application, brainstorming ways that we could construct a story that would play in the mainstream media. The beauty of the discovery process is you might start on point A which takes you to point B and lands on you unexpectedly on point C where the gold is buried. That’s exactly what happened with the brainstorm pointing us to the insurance industry, sending us on a drill down into auto theft.

From this outreach, an insurance company handed us surveillance video of an auto theft. You can see the opening frame of this video below.



A second insurance company mentioned an auto museum that included a history of auto security devices. During this investigation, we discovered that one of the earliest theft-prevention devices for cars was a blow-up man that one would place in the driver’s seat so potential thieves perceived that the car was occupied. Talk about a killer anecdote.

Building out this “color,” we were able to package a story for the humble EEPROM that played on local newscasts across the country.

The key was offering a hook that mass consumers could relate to, car break-ins and how they impact the cost of car insurance. As you’ll see in the cross section of local news reporting below, the EEPROM is explained as a solution to stop car thefts, no technical explanation required.



Not a bad proof point that the story is always there.

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