How do you advertise a listening experience on paper?

Bose does it with one image and five words. Ten, if you’re counting everything.

With headphones, we don’t have to experience music only in a plush symphony hall. We don’t have to be young, mobile, and crazily thrashing in a mosh pit. We don’t have to be creating music ourselves. Instead, a pair of headphones can envelope us into a world of our own choosing. What we hear isn’t what others hear; it’s a far more personal experience.

But this ad barely shows the headphones—the design of the plastic and metal seem hardly to matter.

Bosead

Instead, this ad is about what listening to music the Bose way can do to us—it can move ordinary, grizzled men to tears, which, as the ad shows, is a human thing and not shameful. It shows us the expression of someone revisiting memories, someone in a personal, private moment. The honesty is raw; this face is not the plastered grin of cheesy commercials. Music lifts masks.

Is this man nostalgic? Is he touched by beauty? Is he proud of someone? Is he grateful? Is he happy to see a dream come true? Is he tired, cold, and lonely? Does he miss someone? Did he just lose a bunch of money in the stock market?

The expression is vague enough to be perfectly resonant with the emotions we all have felt. And, because music covers it all: There is a sound for anything you feel (even the award-winning silence that Bose noise-cancelling headphones can curate for you). Music, and this ad, welcome you to explore what you are able to feel. They remind you that you are alive and human.

The thin, vertical bar connects the two phrases, visually acting like a dipstick—reaching from how one feels to the depth of that emotion. Connecting head to heart.

I like all of these things about the ad. But I’m not convinced the additional copy “Our most powerful headphones yet” is necessary with Bose’s current global reputation (though “powerful” is a great choice of word here). And I’m not a fan of the white box with “GET CLOSER” inside here, an icon seemingly part of a larger campaign. At the end of this video ad, it’s not distracting and actually tells the story of what the headphones do, but in this print ad, it snatches the spotlight.