Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category

In a deliciously nasty opinion column on AdAge, Richard Rapaport skewers the recent tendency for advertising to be… well, nasty. Using several examples of ads that use sophomoric witticisms or put-downs in an attempt to make their product seem cool, he postulates that this cutting humor is either a reflection of the downturn of the economy and dissatisfaction with American politics or somehow causing a domino effect of the snotty, ambivalent attitude typically associated with sixteen-year-olds (which, oddly, he compares with Ty Pennington, who seems to be one of the most passionately involved TV personalities, throwing his slightly manic ADHD-type self into every family-saving, tear-jerking project with the kind of zeal typically expected from a rabid badger, and ending each episode with a heart-rending interview in which he can usually be expected to tear or choke up at least once – somehow, despite his freshman-in-college-just-rolled-out-of-bed appearance, this doesn’t say “ambivalence” to me).

Nevertheless, it does seem to be true that comedy in advertising is more often choosing a sacrificial blunderer in their ads to skewer in the name of marketing. To me, this is not a new thing, but I think the choice of target is changing a bit. It used to be that every ad featuring a family showed either a) Mom unable to complete her womanly duties in the expected briskness due to some kind of faulty product, causing Dad to be grumpy that his collars aren’t clean enough or his dinner isn’t waiting for him when he gets home, and causing kids to whine in righteous indignation at the abuse they are enduring in the name of her store-brand cheapness; or b) Dad as the ultimate bumbling idiot who can’t read a map, tie his shoes or pick out a loaf of bread without constant, aw-you-poor-thing intervention from both mom and kids. Now, however, the sacrificial lamb is often the gray-skinned cube-mole of corporate America, or the clueless neighbor, or the slobbering, panting neanderthal male attempting any stupid stunt to attract the attention of some ridiculously beautiful woman entirely out of his league.

What do people find funny these days? Watch any of the myriad excessively stupid recent comedy movies (Epic Movie, for example, which we TiVo’d just out of curiosity, and quickly deleted less than 5 minutes into the first attempt at watching) and you’ll find gross-out violence, potty humor and excessive stupidity to be the hallmarks of what makes the average watcher chuckle. Family Guy, a TV show that I admit has made me laugh on more than one occasion, relies on the kind of snide, cutting wit that supposedly reflects an increasing dissatisfaction with society at large.

So why would this type of comedy be off-limits to advertisers? The author of the article postulates that the ads often communicate an attitude that the advertisers can’t be bothered to try and sell you anything, an ultra-hip detachment to all things earnest. My response to that – cool sells. It always has. If your target market is a group of people (teens & early twenties) who are living in the culture where the measure of one’s coolness is the only thing that matters, and often caring too much is way uncool, why would any savvy advertiser be bothered to create an earnest, dorky ad to appeal to that target market? Regardless of the product, a spastic, sweating Tony Little in skintight leotard screaming about his latest gizmo for only 12 payments of 29.95 just isn’t going to sell as much as a similar ad that parodies that kind of over-the-top salesmanship, no matter whether the product is a similar gizmo or a stick of gum.

So what is your response? Do you think the article reflects a kind of “turn down that racket” maturity, or do you see sarcastic advertising as a reflection of the snarky, Dubya-era American way?


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In a fresh re-imagining of the “please don’t talk during the movie” spot that plays just before the titles come up, Martin Scorsese barges in on a sweet phone call between a little boy and his daddy. It’s clever, hysterical, and WAY better than the annoying “sound effects” one that we usually get, complete with wailing baby that sounds just a tad too real.

Friday Juicy Site Bonus: A blog all about package design. Some of it I’ve seen, some is new, all is gorgeous. The author seems attracted to the crisp, clean graphic design that is cutting through the clutter lately. Bravo! I’ll be adding this blog to my rotation, so expect to see reviews on some of this stuff in the future.

Found on Veer 

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Miller offers an excellent recap of the Superbowl commercials, a conversation I can imagine went on in very similar fashion in Monday-morning back rooms all over the country. I only wonder why he didn’t poke fun at the deliberately offensive Panda and Ramesh ads, which left me staring blankly at the tv wondering why in the world anyone would spend 2.6 million apiece on such utter crap.

And because it’s Friday and because I’ve been saving it, here’s an excellent cartoon from Rhymes with Orange just for us typography geeks. Enjoy. 

Rhymes with Orange

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A recent study between Mac users and PC users found that Mac users are confident, happy with their computers and self-aware.

The study, which seems to have been conducted by people offended by the Mac vs. PC commercials, interprets these statistics as “arrogant, superior and more open” than the general population (meaning PC users). Apparently this is why the Mac character on the commercials isn’t annoying to Mac users. Personally I find the commercials hysterical, and I love that the Mac guy just lets himself be a foil for PC’s blundering. It’s understated advertising comedy at its best. But I am a Mac user, so I must fit the profile, right?

Found on AdAge.com

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A new ad for Commonwealth Bank begins with a confusing mix of punk koala bears driving Mad Max-style vehicles through the outback, a Crocodile Dundee guy making rebel yells and tossing a boomerang, and an over-the-top voice-over straight out of the movie trailers. Then comes the exploding logo – and camera pans out to reveal the “ad” playing on a flat screen tv in a conference room, several giddy agency guys patting each other on the back and dropping comments about the lengths they went to in order to make the comp – and the three clients sitting silently looking slightly shocked. In the end they say they like only the last two seconds, much to the dismay of the presenters.

Looking at the comments that have been made about this ad on YouTube, it appears that some people aren’t catching on to the sarcasm. It seems that the ad agency (Goodby, Silverstein &Partners) is making fun of ad agencies in order to show their clients as level headed, uninterested in overbudgeted exploding cliché-filled ads like this one presented by the ubiquitous “American Ad Agency.” Michael Bay, a director well-known for blowing things up and over-editing, is mentioned as having paid his own money to get the comp made for the clients.

Apparently there will be a continuation of this theme in a mockumentary style, following the clueless advertising team as they attempt to put together an ad the bank likes. My guess is this will culminate in a new ad campaign reflecting the message underneath the sarcasm, that this bank is interested in the “real” and not the glitz. For now, they’re stirring up emotion as Australians take offense at the blatant stereotyping. For my part, I find it refreshing to see a major agency making fun of itself – while at the same time making the point that bigger isn’t always better, and hopefully we’ll end up with a clean, crisp, succinct message at the conclusion worthy of the comparison.

Found on AdFreak.

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Cadbury has released a new campaign featuring everyone’s favorite creme egg getting suicidal. Apparently the point is to get to the best part – the “goo” – as quickly as possible. Spots include the little egg shucking its foil wrapper before placing its fragile little body purposely in the path of falling books and meat tenderizers, catapulting itself into a wall using a trash can lid, leaping through an egg slicer, getting drawn and “halved” by a pair of horses, and melting itself in front of a blow dryer.

On the Cadbury website, the poor deranged egg is put through further self-torture behind the door of the “Goo-ology” Research Centre. First the egg throws itself under the knocker as the viewer tries to enter, and then it can be found on a psychologist’s couch while mini versions of itself find ever more creative ways to smash themselves in the background, tidily cleaned up afterward by an egg in an apron with a vacuum. A range of games, quizzes, contests and other “Goo”dies can be found by pulling down the “egg chart” and examining its various mental problems.

I find it all a bit grotesque, though funny – but I’m not sure it does the job of making me want to eat the creme eggs, even though I absolutely love the sticky sugar-bomb. I actually feel a bit sorry for the little egg, I wonder why it wants to end it all (besides the possibility that its life’s only ambition is to be eaten by someone who is more interested in the creme filling than in the chocolate on the outside).

So I wonder about this campaign – is it really a good idea to sell a food product in a way that makes the viewer feel sorry for it? Or will the off-kilter silliness be enough to get people to buy creme eggs for their Easter baskets in droves?

Found on Creativity Online.

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LabelOne of the frustrating things about being a trained graphic designer is that the eye is forever opened to all the really bad design out there. All the rules that are beaten into college design students are broken on a regular basis by “hobby designers” or people who just don’t know any better, or worse, by people who were supposedly trained in the correct way of doing things but are too lazy to do it right. As a result, a drive down the street can be a painful experience, bombarded by billboards, signs and store windows in which some of the worst advertising and typography can be found. A flip through a magazine can be a harrowing experience as cliché typefaces leap off the pages and garish photo effects cause one’s hair to stand on end.

LabelDon’t get me wrong – I understand that everyone makes mistakes. All designers have had that teeth-grating moment when a finished product comes back from the printer and a painfully obvious mistake – a missed inch mark where a quote mark should be, a typo, a lonely widow at the end of a long paragraph, a mysteriously shifted graphic in a montage – comes back to haunt. But the really frustrating stuff is the kind that crops up from all those people who just know they can design it themselves, no need to hire a designer, how hard can it be… and we end up with newspaper ads designed in Microsoft Word, complete with clip art.

LabelSo today I offer a delicious solution from the Design Police. 5 pages of label templates, created just for you. Go out and educate, vindicate, whatever. While some of these labels sound like a lot of the comments I used to get from typography teachers (Craft your type! Use a grid! Watch your rivers!), many of them are totally hilarious because they’re true.

LabelOf course, as the teeny tiny disclaimer at the bottom reads, use these labels responsibly. Whatever that may mean to you. 

Found on Veer.

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