Deconstruction on Madison Avenue
Craig McNamara blogs and podcasts about advertising and working in advertising
Friday, February 27, 2009
Friday, February 20, 2009
Comparing Apples To Apples
I frowned upon Pepsi's "Saturday Night Live" parody spot in an earlier post, but in the process of looking for something else, I stumbled upon another spot that put it the whole thing in some additional context. First the mediocre Pepsi spot, from this year's Super Bowl (if you remember it, do yourself a favor and don't bother watching it):
I didn't see anyone else remarking on this in the days after it ran, but apparently that spot has some kind of meta-textual component; it's not a joke on the old MacGyver show and celebrity-cameo Super Bowl spots. It seems to be meant as a parody of the old MacGyver show AS celebrity-cameo Super Bowl spot. Take a look at this MasterCard spot from the 2006 Super Bowl:
The difference, of course, is the MasterCard spot is clever, well-produced and actually amusing in its understated way.
It's not often you can make such apples-to-apples comparisons between different commercials. Too bad for Pepsi.
Thursday, February 12, 2009
Those who decry the encroachment of advertising on public spaces (and public surfaces), may have been particularly disheartened when this commercial began appearing last March:
Not to worry, though. This time, it was all a gag -- unlike, sadly, the selling of naming rights of stadiums. However, as the New York Times later pointed out, "moonvertising" wasn't as far-fetched as it seemed:
According to Jim Garvin, the chief scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, moonvertising is possible, if impractical for a number of reasons. While scientists have bounced lasers off the moon, they illuminated an area only about the size of a tennis court. “In order for an advertisement to be seen by people on earth,” Garvin says, “the laser light would need to cover an area about half the land size of Africa,” a challenge because the moon’s surface is dark and fairly nonreflective.
So, all things considered, this 1989 ad may still be state-of-the-art in "geographic messaging":
Anyway, Superman did the moonvertising first, way back in 1962. And with a far more altruistic message:
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Trust your doctor
I wasn't going to bother talking about Super Bowl spots anymore, since I think we're all pretty much over those, but this one probably warrants a second look, if only for its high ratings in post-game recall.
As a cola spot, its pretty much a given these days that there's going to be absolutely no rational appeal to why you should choose their brand of brown sugar-water over another; and as a high-profile Super Bowl spot, it's also pretty much a given that its going to be built around some B- or C-level celebrity (or as in this case, one of each).
I'll say this. It certainly remains true to the "Saturday Night Live" brand the spot is leveraging, in that it's not as nearly as amusing as it thinks it is. Beyond that, the way Pepsi is worked into the spot is so flat-footed, it's not even funny as a parody. (And like most SNL skits, the harder they work the joke, the less funny it gets; go watch the second and third spots in this series, if you don't believe me.)
For an example of how well these kind of spots can actually be done, see the Dr. Pepper ad below. I don't believe it ran on the Super Bowl, but maybe it's too clever and crisply-written, and actually matches the high quality of the series that its leveraging. As a bonus, there's actually an attempt at a competitive position that is integral to the humor.
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
Picking on the NY Times again...
Does anyone -- even the columnist -- ever read this stuff before going to press? From yesterday's ad column:
Madison Avenue may be rethinking a common belief about advertising on the Super Bowl — avoid buying spots that will run in the fourth quarter, for fear of blowouts — after the second championship in a row was decided in the final moments of play.
Never mind the fact that the article contains not a single fact or quote to back up this assertion. Let's put it to the test of common sense: If advertisers fear "blowouts" that diminish audience levels by the fourth quarter -- and given the price of airtime, why shouldn't they be wary of not getting the biggest bang for their bucks -- in what way are two consecutive close games at all predictive of future outcomes?
Or let me put it this way. If the "common belief" is to avoid buying fourth-quarter spots, does the columnist really mean to imply that the common belief may change to that of buying fourth-quarter spots because the audiences will be reliably as large? Does that really make sense?
Of course, if you're wasting your ad dollars on a venue as persuasion-free as the Super Bowl has become, maybe you don't care that much about money.
Tuesday, February 3, 2009
Craig McNamara Says...
For spontaneous thoughts and opinions that are either non-advertising related or too inconsequential (or both) for this site, you can follow my Twitter feed here.
Every post is self-contained -- not random pieces of ongoing dialogues -- and no time-wasting "I'm getting out of my chair now"-type entries. A few examples of recent posts:
• For one day each year, Super Bowl Sunday, everyone looks forward to commercials -- until they actually see them and start griping again.
• Just watched "Mama Mia." Yes, it's infectious -- and like most infections, it makes you generally listless and occasionally queasy.
• The Segway really DID change the world: We now have a new symbol in movies and TV for self-important, annoying people.
And, my favorite observation thus far:
• Last night it hit me: Disjointed thoughts, bizarre digressions, snap judgements -- Twitter is like Larry King's old USA Today column.
Monday, February 2, 2009
About those Super Bowl spots...
Again, from last Friday's NY Times:
...advertisers, which are spending up to $3 million for each 30-second commercial during Super Bowl XLIII, have a tricky task before them. They must figure out the right way to speak to consumers worried about the wretched economy while at the same time not ignore the long-standing appeal of Super Bowl Sunday as a night of escapist fare.
WHY? What obligation do beer and taco chip makers have to reference the economic climate? Were the players of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Arizona Cardinals supposed to express empathy with the plight of the common man? Did Dave Madden and Al Michaels apologize for their network's conspicuous consumption?
True, carmakers run the risk of appearing irrelevant, but if you're not reflecting the reality of your target market's income level, you're not going to sell many cars, no matter what the economy is like.
However, there was one category in evidence on the telecast last night that actually had a reason to "figure out a way to speak to consumers worried about the wretched economy." Yet what did Careerbuilder and Monster.com do? They ran spots that seemed years out of date, reflecting an era when unemployment was at historic lows and your only problem was finding a workplace that treated you better:
Talk about a missed opportunity. With millions of people, at all levels, finding themselves out of work (and watching the Super Bowl) wouldn't it have been smart to use the opportunity to give them hope, to make them feel employable, to offer a solution?
Instead of irreverent humor, this is just irrelevant humor.
Sunday, February 1, 2009
Everything that's wrong with SuperBowl commercials is right in this passage...
As usual it's from the New York Times ad column:
“We definitely wanted to do a commercial with a creative concept worthy of the Super Bowl,” said Steve Netzley, chief executive at Euro RSCG Edge in Carlsbad, Calif., part of the Euro RSCG Worldwide division of Havas. His agency worked on the spot with another Havas agency, Arnold Worldwide, and a director, Bryan Buckley, who has directed Super Bowl spots for advertisers like E*Trade and Monster.com.
The Cash4Gold commercial features Ed McMahon and the rapper MC Hammer...