Monday, February 28, 2011

He is the very model of the modern advertising man (2011 version)

Hawkeye Pierce is so last millennium.

Back in 2008, I posited that Alan Alda's portrayal on the M*A*S*H series was the idealized image of how creative people in advertising view themselves: witty, irreverent, iconoclastic, hedonistic, slovenly and eccentric, but also capable and confident, dedicated and dependable, principled, tenacious, and when the chips were down, absolutely brilliant.

But really, that was an image taken from an earlier era, when even flawed characters were always primarily defined by their inherent decency. The richer, more complex characters of television today provides an ever better template for those anguished souls battling for creative integrity in ad agencies:

Meet Dr. House:

Yes, another doctor (because don't we all view the creative process as a matter of life and death?) -- but while Hugh Laurie's Dr. House is as undeniably brilliant, intuitive and typically unshaven as Dr. Pierce, the similarities end there.

Dr. Gregory House is impatient, caustic, judgmental, lacking in empathy, argumentative, self-obsessed, and tortured by by his inner demons as well as his outer weaknesses. Yes, he has a brusque charm and moments of humanity, but for the most part, he's unapologetic narcissism and relentless snark. And the best part is, that all of this is excused (usually with difficulty, but always ultimately excused) because of his superior talents. He's a misanthrope who's not just tolerated, but respected, despite his unchecked character flaws -- indeed, everyone around him willingly accepts (again, usually with difficulty) that the price of his greatness is having to put up with his eccentricities and anti-social behavior.

No, not the most flattering portrait of how we see ourselves -- but let's face it, we're all too self-obsessed to notice.

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, February 21, 2011

Going the distance and looking backwards

When the Drew Barrymore/Justin Long movie, "Going The Distance" came out last year, it seems the studio couldn't quite make up their mind on the right poster. Was it going to be Drew and Justin getting cozy against a brick wall, hugging under the Brooklyn Bridge, or a combination of the first two options?

Well, it's safe to say that none of the options above did much to sell the picture, since it only grossed an anemic $40 million worldwide (versus a $32 million production budget and probably at least half that in marketing costs) during its run -- which is probably why the DVD sports a whole new image that seems to sell it as a more wacky comedy using one of the modern tropes of movie poster imagery...

Yes, it's "the bickering people separated by a door" scenario, a setup that promises conflict, frustration, and lots and lots o' laughs (in theory, anyway). It's possible the studio remembered the graphics for 1996's Jamie Lee Curtis/Kevin Pollack (alleged) yuk-fest, "House Arrest"...

Or maybe the much funnier "Mrs. Doubtfire" from 1993...

But it's more likely that all those films were inspired by this memorable one-sheet from the 1989 John Hughes movie, "Uncle Buck"...

But before we wrap up today's subject, let's not forget the granddaddy of all "Bickering People Kept Apart In A Bisected Frame" cinema...

(Yes, that's Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert in one of the best remembered scenes 0f "It Happened One Night.")

Labels: , ,

Monday, February 14, 2011

Sundown and shadows

Yes, hard liquor is most respectably consumed in the evening hours, but is there something more behind this 1972 Smirnoff ad's imploring headline?

Is it a reference to the 1967 racially charged drama, "Hurry Sundown"? Or perhaps the spiritual made popular by folkies Peter, Paul and Mary in 1966?

Actually, I'm guessing it's neither, and instead was just a clever intro into the ad's recipe for the "Vampire Gimlet," so dubbed, I suppose, for its eerie green hue and black olive.

But that raises a new question, doesn't it? Why a vampire? This was, after all, decades before the romantic vampire imagery of '80s and '90s cinema and television. In fact,

Ah, but the clue is in the ad's photo, the modern-but-still-vaguely-gothic appearance of the woman in the window.

The drink, as well as the ad, seems calculated to appeal to the youth-adult audience that had helped catapult this unique ABC soap opera -- and its vampiric leading man, Barnabus Collins, to popularity in the years between 1966 and 1971:

Yes, by mid-1971, the Dark Shadows phenomenon had waned to the point where it succumbed to the stake of cancellation, but by then, it had so deeply sunk its teeth into the vein of pop culture that -- well, you see what I'm getting at....

Labels: , , ,

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Steel yourself for the answer...

If a hamburger ad said,

It's ground beef and it's delicious.

...would anyone pay attention? If an ad for patio furniture proclaimed,

It's plastic and it's wonderful."

...would anyone remember it afterwards? So what's the thinking behind this braggy headline for garage cabinetry:

Okay, it's a trick question -- a sort of test of pop-cultural literacy for members of the boomer generation (whom I assume are the audience for these upscale workbench accessories). Or perhaps -- or more likely -- it's just the kind of jokey headline writers and art directors giggle over that somehow found its way into print.

So if you didn't experience a spark of familiarity upon reading the ad's headline, then you're probably not a "Seinfeld" afficionado and didn't recognize it as a twisting of the exit line of Jerry's girlfriend, Sidra (yes, played by Teri Hatcher) -- finally answering that episode's overriding question about the nature of Sidra's, um, endowments...

"They're real and they're spectacular!"

There. Now doesn't that put you in a mind for buying garage equipment?

Labels: , , ,