You want brains with that?

17 August, 2007

TV commercial:

A guy is driving his date to a romantic mystery dinner.

She, in a knicker-twisting agony of romantic curiosity and atrocious over-acting: “Oh come on … where are we going?”

Turns out she gets a cardboard box of mangy chicken and cholesterol sides at the local Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise.

Hey guy, if she is tasteless enough and dumb enough not to empty that crap into your pants and get a cab home then you deserve each other. Have nice fat, greasy chickens together.

Advertisements for themselves

17 August, 2007

Station promos: don’t we love ‘em? In the first outing of Channel 10’s “there’s no better place to be” series of promos, stars of the station’s leading imports (House, NCIS, Numbers) performed stylish, minimalist, tongue-in-cheek snippets to camera. I am guessing here but the clips were shot in the US and the lines, apart from the obligatory tags, were largely ad-lib.

Then 10’s promo department clambered on the bandwagon using home-grown star-equivalents. Sadly they missed the boat, the wagon and the point.

No doubt, every attempt was made to match the look and understated wit of the originals but either they just didn’t get it, or just couldn’t do it.

In any case the result only highlights the difference in production values in general between (most) Australian TV and that of the USA; the home of the best worst television in the world.


Gargoyles at the gates

17 August, 2007

Was it inspiration or desperation that drove advertising agency creative genii to resort to grotesqueries?

More to the point, how, and with what conscience, do they persuade their clients to spend millions on detached slithering tongues, obscenely exaggerated erect male nipples and drenching underarm sweat to rival a car wash from hell.

Perhaps they missed the point that grotesque does not necessarily mean gross. Certainly it is the gross that the perpetrators of these abominations found irresistible.

In the hands of Goya, Bruegel or daVinci, grotesque exaggeration could be turned to artistic expression or satire. In the hands of these sad specimens only the vulgar and gross remain.

IBM and the Hollywood connection

18 July, 2006

Determined to eclipse his huge success with the Busby Berkley musical, 42nd Street, Daryl Zanuck demanded the writers at Warner Bros to come up with another sure fire hit. After rejecting dozens of new screenplays, Zanuck is said to have berated the luckless writers “Gimme 43rd, street, 44th Street, 45th Street …”

IBM’s HollywoodNothing much has changed — except perhaps that now a successful movie clones both sequels and prequels. Hollywood production executives choose the projects they support not on the basis of instinct for a good story and personal judgement of good writing, but on the project’s “defensibility”. In other words, the elements of the project that determine how successfully they will be able to protect their executive arses in the event the film is a turkey. An “A-list” cast and director have high defensibility quotients — but probably the best defence of all is that the project is a sequel to a known money-maker.

“Hey, who could know? With that cast and Harry-whatsisname directing and the first one grossing $200 million in a week? I tell you, I did everything right and still I get let down. Hollywood’s a bitch. Sometimes I think I should’ve stayed in real estate.”

The fact is, of course, that sequels tend to cost a third more and make half the money of the original. There are several reasons for this: 1) often the cast and director on the original were paid less than asking rates and, now they find themselves part of a successful franchise, they want more money, so they get replaced. 2) the original project was likely to have been driven by the story. The sequel is almost always driven by the desire to exploit the original. (Godfather II is one notable exception.)

The result is usually a thin and flimsy facsimile that antagonises the audience. They feel that in buying a ticket to the sequel they entered into a pact in which they were promised, if not better than before, at least more of the same. And the result of that is the most potent box-office poison of all, bad word of mouth—and in these cyberdays of Internet chatter instant publishing and broadcasting, that can be a very big, fast mouth indeed.

So where does IBM fit into all this?

There was a long-running advertising campaign for IBM with the headline: “No one ever got fired for buying IBM”.

What that campaign was really saying was not that IBM is the best or most appropriate product but that the decision to buy it was defensible! It was saying that buying IBM night be the dumbest decision you ever made — but, don’t worry, you won’t get fired for making it.

As much as I loathe the thinking, the campaign works because that is the thinking of most corporations, all the way up. It is a dangerous call to fire an inferior today for making a decision on the same grounds you may well use to defend you own position to your superiors tomorrow.

Oh, and as for IBM, the Chinese bought a whole chunk of it.


The Buzz

17 July, 2006

In huge letters on the window of a Bourke street, Melbourne, lingerie retailer: “MASSIVE BRA AND PANTY SALE!”

Just the thing for women with massive tits and arses.

Massive is the buzzword of the month for the linguistically and educationally challenged. Actually, it has been the word of every month since the last massive New Year sales. If there is any good in it at all it is that it edged impact off the top spot in the deluge of clichés, malapropisms and grammatical howlers that dribble constantly from the mouths of politicians, bureaucrats and reporters and copywriters.

According to an admiring colleague at a 90th birthday celebration for the former Prime Minister-cum-elder statesman, Gough Whitlam “impregnated Australia …” Is that what is meant by “being the father of the nation” — or a wry comment on what he did to the budget when in power?

A report on the national broadcaster, ABC-TV, on the recent bombing atrocities in what I used to call Bombay rather lost the sombre mood of the moment when telling us that “Yesterday (this man) lost his son in the bombings and today he will be cremated.”

I thought they only did that to widows in India.

The more things change …

14 July, 2006

Socrates was perturbed by the concept of Google more than 2,300 years ago.

Mashall McLuhan

Marshall McLuhan knew this and related the philosopher’s concern in his 1967 book, The Medium is the Massage.

The discovery of the alphabet will create forgetfulness in the learners’ souls, because they will not use their memories; they will trust to the external, written characters and not remember of themselves … they appear to be omniscient and will generally know nothing.” — Phaedrus.

Marshall McLuhan died on the last day of 1980, long before Google was more than a noise that happy babies made.

I bought my paperback copy of The Medium is the Massage from the Central Department Store on Wang Burapma in Bangkok in 1969 where I was creative director of the Thai office of the advertising agency McCann-Erickson. It smells brownly the way old books do, but it has held up well.

The cover price was US$1.45, about 30 baht as best I recall. For an extra ten baht around the corner you could get a carton of marijuana filter-tips complete with government tax seals.