Tuesday, July 8, 2008

More killer whale than killer spot

This United Airlines spot from 1992 is an interesting idea that falls apart in execution.

The ad agency came up with a pretty memorable demonstration -- show the size of the cabin by having two massive Orcas swim through it -- and then proceeded to undercut the idea in the most basic ways.  

First, they open with the plane on the runway and the whales viewed through a window, so right away, you know the demonstration is a fake -- and thus, made the believability suspect.  (Apparently, even the whales are computer-controlled models, but that's not really evident.)  

Then the copy goes on to make some punny allusions to the size of the cabin without ever just coming right out and saying it -- "Look how roomy our cabins are.  A killer whale can comfortably swim through it."

What you're left with is a couple of friendly Orcas who swim around to the music of Gershwin.  Maybe it's a tryout for the new Shamu show at SeaWorld.

Still, it's a visually arresting spot -- even if it does conjure up the uncomfortable thought of a jumbo jet fuselage at the bottom of the ocean.

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At July 8, 2008 at 8:38 AM , Blogger Emil said...

in its defense, the commercial seems to have been made in 1992 ("proud sponsor of the 1992 olympic team"), a time when this kind of computer generated graphics were just entering mainstream (I remember seeing "The Abyss" (1989) in like 1991 and wondering how the hell they got the water to float around like a snake; T:2 came in 1992 IIRC). I assume it was much easier to fool people with CGI back then.

At July 8, 2008 at 10:48 AM , Blogger Craig McNamara said...

My objection isn't that people were (or weren't) fooled; it's that they came up with a clever way to demonstrate the size/comfort of their cabins, and then proceeded to totally screw up the presentation. Imagine if the spot was pared back to begin something like this: We open on a nearly still image of the cabin, as the anncr asks, "How big are the cabins in United Airlines new transatlanic planes? Big enough for ocean travelers like these." And that point, we realize that the cabin in submerged in water, as the Orcas swim into frame. See how much more effective that is in getting across the message?


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