Saturday, December 29, 2007

White Ceramic Sony PSP: Geek Magnet?

The hallucinogenic properties of most soft drinks and hard alcohol are a major theme in modern advertising and I've already started chronicling the ads touting these powerful drugs in sheep's clothing (see my post on Sprite's "Falling Away" ad). Another common theme today is the ability of a product to attract psychopaths. Witness the current ad for the Star Wars White Ceramic Play Station Portable (PSP) from Sony:

Ownership of this device apparently attracts geeks. But not just any geeks. Geeks who will follow you around, harass you with the surface technical details of your latest technology purchase, embarrassing both you and themselves. I don't know about you, but in my state, they have a word for this behavior: Stalking. From the wiki entry:
According to the United States National Center for Victims of Crime, one out of every 12 women and one out of every 45 men will be stalked during their lifetime.
Now, I dunno about women (well, I know a little and I can guess the rest), but I have about a 2-3% chance of being stalked as a man. Now, if my likely stalker is Gisele Bundchen, fine. But since that's unlikely to happen (and my wife wouldn't approve, either way), I don't think I want to increase my odds of being stalked, especially by geeky losers.

And let's look at the type of tech stalking this guy is doing. At the ten second mark, he declares, "It's a tight one in here," as he rubs up behind his victim, after sprinting to catch the same elevator. He makes a declarative statement about the game, and says, "I like that," possibly commenting on being rubbed up against the stalkee, or perhaps just making idle conversation about the game. Perhaps it's double entendre. At the 14 second mark, he dips down, takes a look at his victim's crotch and says, "Nice unit!" And then, in the button, after the tag line, we leave the victim with his stalker breathing deeply in his ear.

I think I'll take the emptiness of not having a PSP, if it keeps my odds of being stalked in the <3% range.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Burger King: We Like to Screw With You

Anyone who has read my blogs in the past knows I love Burger King's ads. They stand apart from other chains, are now sadly imitated by Wendy's (something they get at in their new campaign) and were really a good deal of fun. OF course, they all suggest that eating whoppers lead to varying levels of hallucinations, but that's a matter for another post at another time.

Today, I want to talk about the Whopper Freakout. At a random restaurant somewhere, Burger King took their signature item off the menu, and filmed customers as they wigged out. Now, I dunno about you, but when the royal me goes to a fast food joint, I want what I want, and if they are, for some reason, out of what I want, I'll move on. I'm not gonna riot. A whopper is maybe good, but it's not really worth going apeshit over, is it? It's not like you're at the Taillevent and they've just told you they've discontinued the consommé with quennelles.

Burger King runs out of Whoppers, and really, they have other stuff. It's all burgers, people. Settle down. You can still get a coke and some fries with whatever other burger they have. Hell, have two regular burgers and have em dress it like a whopper. It's not like they aren't the "Have it your way" burger joint.

But as to future BK customers, let's think about the real message here. Burger King, just to make a point, will fuck with you. Fuck with you to the point where you will get upset and make a bit of an ass of yourself. Do you want to patronize a company that is willing to screw with you, piss you off, for no other reason than to make some obscure marketing point. I have an idea. Let's try something here. Don't go to Burger King anymore. You can return when they stop making fun of their customers (us) to attract new customers. That'll learn them.

Last thing. In one of the spots, they offer a customer a square burger instead of a whopper. The customer says something to the effect of, 'That's a Wendy's burger and I don't eat at Wendy's." The recent Wendy's commercials, with the random people wearing Pipi Longstockings wigs and having fairly pedestrian ideas about what they want from a fast food joint (like a burger that sizzled at some point). Those commercials are pretty clear attempts to lift the quirky ad and the fresh made vibe from Burger King. You'd expect BK to maybe sit back and ignore, but, instead, here, BK, the quirky ad company uses some hidden camera footage to set the record straight. No one likes square burgers and we're quirkier than you. I dunno about you, but when it comes to food preparation, I dunno if I want the quirkiest company's product.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

It Can Only Be... Jared

"He went to Jared!"
"Oh, he went to Jared!"
"Heeee went to Jared."
and then my favorite, the maitre d'hotel from Transylvania.
"He Went to Jared, muahahaha."

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you would be considered by most of the blogosphere to be lucky. What I'm talking about is Jared, the Galleria of Jewelry's persistent, annoying, catchy and brilliant commercials that everyone seems to hate.

How much do people hate them? While looking for video to share with you, I found five parodies of the spots and reams of hatred spewed, without actually finding a single video of any of the spots, including my favorite, the restaurant proposal announcement.

In your typical Jared spot, some woman is showing off her new rock/rocks. As others fawn over her engagement ring or bracelet, she confides, that he went to Jared. Her friends, her elderly relations, her rivals, her pre-pre-teen relatives, her judges and even the maitre d'hotel at her favorite moderately priced restaurant are all wowed. From the wow factor of these people, with their excited exhalations, jealous sneers, and knowing nods, you would think he bought her the Hope Diamond.

Now on sale at Jared!

As much scorn as these ads get, I love them. Particularly the one at the restaurant. Think about this. Here is a jewelry store that is basically one step above Kay Jewelers, and that by being in big box looking stores near the mall rather than in the mall. They do not offer merchandise that is clearly superior to what you might find at Blue Nile, or Kay, or any of the mall places. I don't mean to lump Blue Nile in with Jared and the Mall Crawlers (I bought my engagement ring there), but in point of fact, you can drop a nice chunk of change at any jewelry store and get a nice engagement ring. Your dollar tends to go a bit further in terms of your four Cs and your setting when you don't have to pay brick and mortar costs, but you can get a very nice diamond engagement ring at most places, in my shopping experience. When you're doing this calculus, however, you do want to consider the impact that the box will have on your beloved, obviously. Of course, she might just be thrilled to be asked, so there's that. But Blue Nile, it's a very classy box and I don't think anyone has a negative connotation. TV ads and jewelry, I don't think it's a good way to build brand, I guess.

Back to Jared. The average Jared commercial repeats the phrase "He went to Jared" at least four times. The new one, the "Texting Date" commercial, is the low outlier, and my favorite, the "Restaurant," must have 8-10 utterances of the key phrase. If you know anything about building a brand, you know that repetition is key to mental penetration. So, are these effective ads? I need only ask you if you can hum "It can only be Jared," and you have my answer.

In my favorite, the restaurant scene, the couple has an announcement to make. The bride to be flashes her ring, and proudly proclaims the signature phrase, "He went to Jared." It passes down the line of an extremely long table, through relatives of all ages, then to an Asian woman at a booth, who seems more vexed than happy. A note here. There are four emotions that people have when told or when telling of his jeweler of choice.

  1. Joy
  2. Pride
  3. Knowing appreciation
  4. Jealousy

I find the last two to be the most interesting responses for Jared to put in their commercial. You have to wonder who is the target of these Jared ads. Is it the woman, who is going to buy her own engagement ring? Perhaps it is the unmarried woman who is going to nag her commitment phobic (I am married) significant other, not only into popping the question, but also into buying her rings from Jared, rather than Tiffany, Blue Nile, Kay or a local operation. If either of these are the case, the envy makes sense. Women, apparently, like to make other women hate them (perhaps someday I will take apart the Quizno's Sammies commercial). Who knew? But, if the target is the commitment phobic boyfriend, as I suspect it is, this is not a selling point. If there's one thing that will reinforce commitment phobia is when your beloved starts talking like she's on a soap opera. And that's where the jealous friend or rival in a Jared commercial is making me think, maybe I should low ball on this a little and go to Kay.

Knowing appreciation is my favorite. The judge in the ballroom dance competition commercial is the truest display of knowledge and respect. His "He went to Jared" says, "Her lover could have blown a lot of money on the Blue Box of Tiffany, but instead, he got all the quality of Harry Winston at a Kay price, indeed, he is the smartest."

The other knowing appreciator is actually my favorite. I've mentioned him at least twice. It is in the restaurant scene. Hearing the Asian woman's catty jealousy, he bursts forth, unsure of what to do for this monumental occasion. Not only has a proposal been made and accepted within a week of this dinner, but the groom to be went to Jared, ferchrissakes. This man, apparently the maitre d' of this restaurant that seems unlikely to have a maitre d', bursts with enthusiasm over not their nuptials but their choice of jeweler. He finds himself, officially, "in a tizzy." I forgot to mention, he seems to be from Transylvania. I guess there was no one with a snooty french accent around. Or perhaps the message is more subtle. People who are impressed with Jared purchases are liable to eat in a restaurant with recent Eastern European immigrants holding key positions on the service staff. I have nothing against recent immigrants, but you have to wonder if these people are celebrating with high class borscht.

After we show some jewelry and bring it back to the blushing bride to be, the vampire waiter pops up with some Transylvanian specialty, which he gesticulates smoothly and hugely over. Look at the windfall. You drop your 3 month's salary at Jared instead of anywhere else and you have immediately won over her entire family, earned the hatred of an anonymous stranger, and impressed the pants off a vampire. Oh, and you scored a free borscht flambe.

Indeed, it could only be Jared.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Welcome to Ad-Surdity: Sprite!

Hello Everybody. Welcome in.

I'm always talking, on my couch, about the real messages that ads on TV put forward. Things that are perhaps unintentional, but the kind of interpretation that someone without nuance in culture or metaphor might take away. This is a piss poor explanation. I'm a lot better at show writing than tell writing (all those creative writing professors telling me to show, not tell, I guess I absorbed it).

Today, we're gonna talk about Sprite's commercial with Benajmin Pacheco's "Falling Away" (falsely attributed to Evermore). If you're not familiar, let's have a look-see.

In this commercial, some guys step up to a basketball court in some very clean, multicultural city somewhere that could be anywhere, but clearly isn't anywhere in the US that you've actually been (That's cause it's Bangkok... been there, it's nuts). A skinny white kid drinks a Sprite. He pulls off his shirt, and takes a back flip into the hard pavement of the urban basketball court. But, rather than suffer either:
a: an injury requires spinal traction


b: a massive head wound (Sorry for the small picture, couldn't find a good one)

At least, those are the outcomes you'd expect. But no. As you saw, he fell through the pavement, which parted for him as if it were liquid. Now, I know it's hot in Bangkok (remember, I've been. It's nuts), but it's not so hot as to render pavement liquid. How are we to understand this. There are really two conclusions that someone who doesn't take a large amount of drugs (and therefore working as a creative person at an ad agency) can come to are:

a: Sprite induces hallucinations while deadening nerves to massive abrasions and blunt trauma (a guy does a back belly flop into hard pavement after hanging off a ten foot basketball rim).


b: Something about the combination Sprite consumption, youth and Bangkok sunlight and humidity is able to render oddly colored pavement basketball courts liquid.

Since one of those clearly violates the laws of physics, and the other is clearly the easier explanation of what we've seen. So, clearly, the FDA needs to take action, and look at what's going into Sprite.

If you want to contact the FDA about potentially tainted Sprite, contact the district office consumer complaint coordinator for your geographic area.