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Archive for the ‘Television’ Category

In honor of Earth Day, here’s a very very happy ad for the Discovery Channel.

Called “I Love the World,” it begins with a conversation between two astronauts hovering over Ol’ Blue. “It never gets old, huh?” says one. “Nope.” comes the reply. And then they break into song, which is carried by a wide variety of happy people, from Bear Grylls (from Man vs. Wild) to Stephen Hawking. A few of my favorite moments include Mike Rowe from Dirty Jobs crawling through some kind of disgusting pipe, singing “I love real dirty things,” and Adam from Mythbusters casually setting Jamie’s sleeve on fire while merrily singing the “boom-di-a-da” refrain. Like a preview for Mamma Mia, it just makes me feel happy.

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I’m a huge fan of the Sony Bravia commercials that feature brightly colored randomness in public places (San Francisco bouncy balls, exploding paint barrels on old apartment buildings, claymation bunnies in downtown New York City). I’ve even reported on an apparently local effort for the same effect, colored string on a pyramid. But a good advertiser should know when it’s been “done” and move on to newer things.

Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to be the case. A new TV spot goes back to the big “balls” success, now attempting to wow its audience with streets filled with soap foam. People play in the foam. They photograph the foam. They get hit in the face with foam. And overall, the spot comes across as a dry attempt to cash in on past success. 

It’s quite sad, really, but it’s a reminder to advertisers out there who are tempted to return to the same old ideas that worked before – a new idea only works when it’s new. Creativity doesn’t run out, people just get lazy. The last thing a client wants is an audience rolling its eyes and saying, “Next!”

Found on AdFreak.

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A few months back I discussed how men are being used in advertising as the ultimate fall guys. When comedy is needed and someone needs to look stupid, ultimately it’s the guy in the spot who has to act the part. Fathers and husbands especially are the clueless “Homer Simpson” types who can’t do the simplest task without being correctly by a patient and amused wife, or even the exasperated kids.

It seems that this view is beginning to gain steam in the advertising community, as demonstrated by an article found today on Advertising Age called Men Are Not Idiots. I say it’s about time. I’m all for comedy in advertising, and taking these messages with a grain of salt – but equal-opportunity bashing is called for here. When was the last time an ad was shown where the bumbling, clueless character was the cute-as-a-button little girl in pigtails?

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The BBC loves an April Fools Day prank, and this year they wanted penguins to fly. Take a look: 

And of course, the “making of,” which doesn’t go into a lot of detail but does show how much effort went into this fun spot, which did dual duty as a prank and as a promotion for their iPlayer. Fun stuff.  

Found on AdFreak.

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As a regular listener to a variety of NPR shows, I have heard a few from the series This American Life, though since they’re on the weekend it’s typically on a long car ride which is convenient considering the show lasts a full hour with a single theme but several linked stories that can ramble on a bit. Recently, the show made the leap to TV, producing artsy shorts with the same “real guy” rambling voice over linking it all together. Most of the shows are produced live-action but some even use animation, and I found this fantastic episode on Veer today. The quirky, simple animation style perfectly matches the style of the show, and takes the story to the next level of humor, poignancy and beauty without changing the audio a bit. It’s truly an amazing leap that some said couldn’t be done.

Vodpod videos no longer available. from www.veer.com posted with vodpod

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Here are a couple of tv spots that caught my attention today. The first is a Guinness commercial from 1999 that I’ve never seen, but seems iconic enough to hold a spot near Apple’s 1984 commercial.

The second is a very cleverly done Volkswagen commercial – it’s always nice to see a car commercial that does something different. Enjoy.

Found on AdFreak.

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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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