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!