20 December 2005

I hate you, too

Lately, I've heard a lot about how much people hate commercials. They are certainly widely vilified for many reasons, most of which I comprehend, but don't quite understand. Yeah, I know those are synonyms, but I can't find a better way to explain.

You see, my entire life is built on commercials. I can't say that my life would be bad without them, but there's no way to prove it would have been better either. My father works in advertising. He's been doing it for 29.5 years. That's longer than I've been alive, and only slightly shorter than my brother's life-span.

Without advertising, I wouldn't have most of the material things I have ever owned. I wouldn't have family vacations as I remember them. I wouldn't have my car or my condo -- my father is a guarantor on my loans, you see. I would owe a lot more in student loans. I might still live in Newfoundland (not necessarily bad, I'm just demonstrating the reach of this particular issue).

But see, it's more than that. Advertising is art. Some of it is good, some of it has a social conscience, some of it is brain candy, and some of it is trash.

When I see a commercial, I don't just see its crass attempt to sell, sell, SELL. I see the nuances, the technique, the imagery. What's the message? What is the central point of interest? Does it make sense? Is it subliminal? Is it overt? There are so many ways to look at commercials (and I guess I'm really focusing on TV adverts) that I often miss the point.

I don't look at a Burger King ad and start drooling because the meat looks juicy; I wonder how many layers of shellac were used to create that effect. Food ads don't make me want food; clothing ads don't make me want clothes.

There are two types of commercials that work quite effectively on me: ads for international travel and ads for theme parks. I could hedge that by saying, well I always want to travel and go to theme parks, so it really only reminds me of what's already there....

Homework: What's your favourite commercial? What's your least favourite commercial? Why?

One of my favourites is for the Canadian Mental Health Association. It's a guy in a public washroom and another guy comes up behind him and startles him. "I'm depression." Talk, talk, talk. "Why don't you wear a cape?" "So people can see me coming?" Pause. It's great.

New Brunswick Tourism commercials top my list of least favourites. They're annoying, they show me nothing of what a real New Brunswick "vacation" would be like and I can't tell who they're supposed to be aimed at. They're too "busy" to be aimed at older folks, and too lame to be aimed at the young. Poor planning, poor imagery, poor job. I'd fire their communications firm with a SNAP!


haitch pee said...

You should read "The Audience Commodity and its Work" by Dallas Smythe. It's about how audiences work for advertisers to get our "free lunch" (ie: to watch our favorite program). It might infuriate you, but it's an interesting essay.
Homework? Who assigns homework in their blog? It must be holiday withdrawl, because I am rising to the occasion ("yay, homework, finally, I've had 2 days off now!")

I hate picking favorites because i know I'll forget one and wish i could change it. A current favorite is the series for this frozen vegetable and fruit company. People dressed up as vegetables or fruit walk down the street when an unmarked white van pulls up, and a bunch of guys in black throw the vegetable/fruit in the back of the van. Because they always get the freshest fruit/vegetables for their customers. It's not even *that* well done, but it makes me laugh everytime. "Look, he's an asparagus!! B-hahahahhahahahaaa! Look, they're throwing him in the van! aaahhhahahahahahahhahahahaa!"
But yeah, i can never remember the name of the company so it's maybe not that good.

Hate the most:
How to pick? I hate a lot of the Walmart ones for how they try to make the store seem like the best thing ever for small towns, nevermind that they often put smaller stores out of business when they roll in, much less the "questionable" working conditions where a lot of their killer-deal merchandise is manufactured.
But for production values, it's gotta be the frickin' Canadian Will Kit. It depresses me to watch, it's so stiff, poorly edited, weird creepy lighting, etc.

Branflakes said...

Did you check to make sure that you're already not New Brunswick's ad firm before you courageous declared you'd fire them? ;-)

minako said...

I know we're ot because we're going to bid on the business next year when it comes up for renewal. :P

Even if it was us, don't you agree that we should be fired?