Friday, 2 August 2013

It All Ads Up

Urgh . . . I am bone dry. I have been working so hard on, let's say other projects, so much that I don't really have a word today. It's difficult coming up with blog posts when I'm spending so much time doing other things.
Which is why I am thankful for my backlog. I'm not going to lie, I am only writing this post because it is easy to write, which is handy on days like today when I don't have as much time to myself as I would like.
So today, I'm thinking about advertising. Because it's a huge business; a sizeable chunk of the economy and is probably the most pervasive industry of the modern era. But despite these claims to fame, a lot of advertising really sucks.
The Word of the Day is: 'ADVERTISEMENT'

Advertisement /'advertəsmənt/ n. Any public notice, as in a newspaper, or on television or radio, intended to increase sales, fill jobs, etc.

Advertising is a huge freaking industry, so I can't cover everything from animated spam to door-knock appeals. Instead, I am concerned more with 'ads'. Those short films, often about a minute long - that you usually see on television amidst and between the actual content - that try to convince you to buy things. I should first warn you that I live in Australia, so I probably haven't seen most of the ads that you've seen and vice versa. To make up for that, I'll link to any ads that I mention (where possible) and it also means that I most likely won't know what you're talking about if you leave me a comment referencing an ad that you've seen, so keep that in mind.

Now, I see an awful lot of advertising, but as a cynical man I can't help rolling my eyes and groaning when I see most advertisements. Not because I don't like them, but because every time, I have two very important questions in my mind:

"When will the show finally come back on?" & "Why would anyone be convinced by this?"

Sure, there are a lot of idiots in the world, but that doesn't explain why over 50% of advertising is so bad. They make so many mistakes that in little over an hour I got a notepad and collected many of them into a list. Then, because order makes me feel safe and comfortable, I organized them in a scale of annoyance from 10 to 1, where 10 is equivalent to "a minor bother" and 1 is equivalent to "fuck you". So, for your entertainment (and, perhaps, the advertisers' benefit) allow me to present to you:

The A.W.N.'s Top 10 List of Things that Advertisers Don't Seem to Understand

10. You Are Giving Me Free Entertainment
One of the ways advertisers try to sell product is to tell fun little stories or jokes with their ads. Almost like they're making a short film, but with the credits replaced with slogans and a brand name. One of my favourite of these short films is a promo for the 'Origin Edition' of XXXX brand beer, as a tie in to the State of Origin footy game. I admit, it's not everyone's cup of tea, but I find this ad hilarious. However, I don't drink beer, and will never buy it because it all tastes like fizzy dishwater to me. Rather, I just watch the ad and enjoy all the positives, without the negative of having to spend money on something I would have otherwise ignored.
But it's not just products I don't like, a lot of ads don't seem to relate directly to the product at all. My favourite one is dogs. A lot of advertising uses cute little puppies to sell their products (especially toilet paper for some reason); but when I see a puppy on my television, I'm not thinking 'Hmm, we're running low on poo-tickets,' so much as 'Oh my god DEY SO KYOOT!'. Even though I enjoy the ad, I don't feel a need to buy the product because I don't feel like my positive reaction has anything to do with the product. So, if you think about it, the only person that this kind of advertising works for is the person that already wants to buy said product. For everyone else, it's just a joke or a cute little puppy dog to "squee" over, then their eyes glaze over while the jingle ends and you meekly try to shill your wares.

09. Good Comedy
A lot of ads have bad jokes, granted. But more than that, do you know the key to good comedy? Timing. You need to know the pace and flow of your narrative to know when best to deliver the punch line. Further intrinsic to comedic timing is also knowing when is the best time to tell a joke at all. Even a comic legend will find times when it's better to leave a joke unsaid. To this concept, many advertisers are blind and in my experience the latest offender is Reflex, a brand of paper. I would consider this ad 'free entertainment' like the XXXX 'Origin Edition' ad, except that it's too baffling to me. It's a comedy routine about an awkward, faux-zen paper delivery man . . . but why?
The paper they're promoting is 50% recycled. Surely the ad should be about that. Instead they've scrapped informing people and instead chosen to tell a joke. What is the point? The better example would be an ad I saw for life insurance where there was a joke at the expense of the characters in the ad. Unfortunately, I can't remember which insurance company the ad represented, so I can't find it again (and I know that it's real, because I saw it more than four times), but surely you can understand why this is a bad idea. I think you can make a joke about anything, but your forthcoming and inevitable death and how it will devastate your family emotionally and financially isn't something you joke about if you want people to buy your product. Otherwise, you're an idiot.

08. I Know What Words Mean
Sometimes, advertising lies to you. That is wrong, morally and legally. So, one of the ways that advertising gets around that is by telling the truth in a misleading way. Let me show you.
Coco Pops is amazing for this kind of thing. There's an advert that I will never forget wherein an old kid's TV show presenter came on with the claim:
"One bowl of Kellogs Coco Pops contains half of a quarter of a Child's Daily calcium needs"
Okay, what? Half of a quarter is an eighth, 20%. I did research, a growing child needs about 1000 milligrams of calcium a day, one eighth of which is  200 milligrams. There's approximately 300 grams of calcium in one cup of milk, and according to the box, one serve of Coco Pops includes the milk. That my friends, is how you lie to people without lying.
Unfortunately, I couldn't find the advertisement in question. But in my search, instead I found this fun advertisement for Kellog's Choc'n'Roll Coco Pops, which I 'd never seen before but proves my point excellently. In the ad, it says the cereal is "now made with fibre and wholegrains". First of all, wholegrains have dietary fibre in them, saying something has "fibre and wholegrains" is like saying that french fries are made with "potato and vegetables". Secondly, most cereal (if not all, I'm no scientist) has dietary fibre in it, that's kind of the reason why cereal is good for breakfast. It's equivalent to selling a car by saying "It has wheels" - It's supposed to have wheels! And cereal is supposed to have fibre in it! Otherwise it's not cereal, it's cardboard.

07. CGI Product Demonstrations Show Nothing
I want you to watch this: It's a Product Demonstration for Ross Nanotechnology's NeverWet Spray. That is amazing to me, not just because it is truly a spectacle, but because it is a product demonstration that actually demonstrates the product.
These days, it seems like all product demonstrations are made with CGI. This started happening a few years ago, but back then at least it made some kind of sense, like with this advertisement for Panadol with "Optizorb". It's designed to demonstrate how the product works, and it's better than using a proper demonstration, since otherwise it would require shoving a camera down someone's throat. But it doesn't stop the fact that, it's a computer-generated image and NOT the actual product you're selling.
But that hasn't stopped hygeine and bathroom products from going insane with this CGI bullshit. Here's an ad for Macleans Advanced "Enamelock" toothpaste. Here's one for Panteine Pro-V Shampoo. Here's one for Finish Dishwashing Tablets. One for Oust 3 in 1 Air Cleanser. Here's Vanish NapiSan Oxi Action Washing Powder.
Hell, there's even one for deodorant! Oh, I'm sorry, I mean Nivea Calm & Case Anti-Perspirant, which uses witch herbs to magically heal your skin.
My absolute favourite has to be this one for the Sabco Wonder Mop. Watch closely, you only see the real mop twice. Once when the woman walks out, and the second time when they're wringing it out into a bucket. But every time you see it "clean", that's a CG mop. Why can't you show the real mop?! It's almost like some of these products don't actually work, but you're covering up that fact using smoke, mirrors and a special effects budget.

06. I Can Tell When Ads get Shorter
At time of writing, there's an ad on television that confuses me, an ad for Mars Bars, and it looks like this. If you're wondering why the video started at the 9 second mark - well that's how the ad plays on television. Until I found that video, I had no idea what the beginning of the ad looked like.
The reason why this kind of thing is done is simple, advertisers pay a lot of money to get their ads on television, so television executives prefer shorter ads so they can fit more ads in the one advertising block and get more advertisers to pay them for it.
But since advertising is expensive rather than shoot another ad that's shorter, or pay an editor, it seems that they force some TV intern to edit down existing ads, leaving half of the footage on the cutting room floor. Like this here advertisement for Skittles. It's funny and a bit weird, but apparently that's what Skittles is going for with its latest campaign.
However, here is another version of the same ad, shortened [it took me ages to find, so I hope you appreciate it]. This shortened version bugs me, because it changes the joke. I understand they want shorter ads, but do they have to do so by butchering the creator's original message?
Sure, all advertising is about making money, I get that, but I think of it like a magic trick. I like magic tricks, because I can be surprised, and pretend for a moment that magic is real, even though I know it's not; but if I can see the card up the magician's sleeve, then I come crashing back to reality. So while I know it's all about Capitalism, but I like to pretend I live in a world where people just like to show off how awesome their products are, out of the goodness of their own heart, even though I know I don't. But when you hack these ads up like thanksgiving turkey, the illusion wears thin and I start to see the cogs of the Capitalist Soul-Sucking Money Machine, that keeps advertising going, and I feel a little bit sadder.

05. You Can't Make Me Watch Your Ads
When I watch television, during the ad breaks I often go off to make a sandwich, pee or get a drink of water while the ads play. Not always, but the option is always there, however on a computer it's a different story.
If you've clicked on some of the links I've provided, you've seen what I mean. Even though all of these videos are ads, they put another ad in front of it! Thankfully, Youtube includes a Skip button and I use it every time because I'm here to watch my video, not your damn ads.
However, other sites with embedded videos don't always include a Skip feature. But I don't know why, because I don't watch those ads either. I mute it and do something else until the video starts like organize my story folder. One time, I was watching a "Let's Play" video, the player wouldn't let me mute the video while the ad was playing. I was so insulted, I turned my speakers off. I am an intelligent man with free will - you can't force me to watch your ads. In fact, ramming them down my throat like this produces an antagonistic relationship between me and advertising.
The worst example of this is DVDs. Every DVD I've bought in the last 6 months has started with a reel of movie trailers that I can't skip. Why?!
I put the disk in the player now because I want to watch it now, advertising just delays that. And these ads will all be outdated in a year or so, since they're usually Coming Soon promos, so I couldn't "See it in Theaters this June" even if I wanted to!
The worst part is, they're ads for movies, and I like movies! If you just put the trailers on the disk somewhere, I'll hunt it down myself and watch it willingly. If you stopped shoving advertising down my throat all the time, I might actually want to watch it.

04. The Importance of Credits
I like movies, I like television shows and I like short films on the internet. It's just a symptom of my overall love of stories, writing and fiction. I've even dabbled in some film-making myself (mostly amateur scripting and behind-the-scenes stuff) so I appreciate not only the stories in films, but also the amount of effort undertaken to bring as little as one minute of footage to the screen.
So, I get nothing short of appalled at advertising's lack of respect for film. I like to watch the credits, for a few reasons. Firstly, it gives me a moment to reminisce on the film I just watched, I can mull it over in my mind, consider in greater detail the moments I appreciated. I can even contrive ways in which to recreate my favourite moments within my own stories (in a different way, of course). Sometimes, I just like watching the credits to find "superheroes" - you know, people with alliterative first and last names (like Peter Parker, Christopher Columbus, Danny Devito, Clark Kent - that kind of thing).
The point is, I like credits. So it pisses me off when television channels keep doing this. I dare you to read some of the names of the people in TV credits these days, because even when I'm watching it on our HD TV, I can't make any of it out. They take the credits and crush them into a tiny box, and I shake my head in shame. Every person who worked on that movie deserves to be known.
When I like a song or the action or the other stuff, I'll look for their Composer or Musician within the credits, and look it up the name on, to see if they've worked on other movies that I might like to see. Credits deserve to be shown, it is insulting to do anything except let them play uninterrupted. I don't care if I am in the minority on this - every person in that list put effort into the film, and they have the right to be recognized.

03. Perfection must Precede Repetition
This is the one that inspired the title for this list, things advertising executives don't understand. I don't even know how they came to miss something this important, so in case you missed it pay close attention: Advertisements on television get shown multiple times.
Even if your ad is one among 50 other ads on television, I'm going to see it a lot; so, it bothers me when ads aren't perfect. Because the fact is, I'm going to find everything wrong with it. Repetition breeds familiarity, if your ad has poor grammar, bad spelling, poor premises, bad acting, unintended implications or anything that is less than perfect, it's going to come to light eventually.
For instance, this ad for Nando's, a Portuguese Restaurant. At first glance, it seems like a good ad, but after watching it twice, I realized it makes no sense, because if the kid already knows they came from England, he doesn't need to ask the question. Or how about an example of bad grammar from this infuriating advertisement for the Alpha Romeo. Oh my God, JUST! The Word is 'just'! "It's not just a car!" it is a car. A fridge is not a car; a bike is not a car; a hemorrhoid is not a car - when you say "it's not a car" you are comparing it to things like these!
As for the 'unintended implications' I need go no further than advertising for Kinder Surprise. Perhaps that is an innocent picture of father and son, but when I see the ad I see one thing. No, Not paedophilia, you sick bastard! Rather, Divorce. Why else would the kid be so excited and 'surprised' to see his Dad? Why else would Dad feel the need to give him a gift if not to apologize for his absences? Why else would Mum refuse to tell her son that Dad was picking him up from school? Assuming she even knew . . .
A lot of Kinder Surprise ads are like this. I mean, why else would Chloe's Dad in this ad ask her to come outside just to eat chocolate, unless his ex-wife kicked him out of the house or filed a restraining order? Like I said, this is probably an 'innocent' piece of advertising, but it's made in such an ambiguous way. I'm going to find all of these mistakes, so it is insulting that there's so much bad grammar, bad acting & unfortunate implications. After all, did they really think I wouldn't notice?

02. Bad Advertising is Bad Publicity
Oh my goddamn God! How do people not get this?! Advertisers make ads that are deliberately annoying so that you'll always remember them, and I don't get why! There's only one good example of this I can think of, and it's the advertising for the Adult Reading Writing Hotline [You're lucky I couldn't find the version where they sing the number three times. I forever have scarred in my brain: 1-3-00-6-555-06].
This service is for adults that already have trouble with words, so they use a song as a little mnemonic to keep it in their brain. It's really clever, but not every advertisement is so humanitarian in their use of mind-scarring tactics.
Like this ad for Godfrey's, a store that specializes in vacuum cleaners. Alright! I get it, your stock is half-price, stop ramming it down my throat! I find that almost any store that describes itself as a warehouse loves this kind of ad. Such as this ad for Nox Warehouse Clothing [sic]. Because we all know that shouting louder means more sales, right? What about this ancient ad for Saba Furniture Warehouse? They play the song just to get the ad stuck in your brain, and after playing this on a circuit about a dozen times, you'll never forget that Saba's open till nine o'clock, Monday to Friday - no matter how hard you try.
They do this because they think: "Yeah, we know it's annoying. But at least you'll remember the name! After all, there's no such thing as bad publicity!"
But yes, yes there is. If you make an ad that is annoying, you're right in one respect, I will remember it. Like this stupid, annoying ad on TV at the moment for Pizza Capers. This ad is annoying, obnoxious and a little gross. It is for those reasons that I will avoid the Pizza Capers brand. If you think I'm alone in my hatred of this ad, Pizza Capers recently edited the ad so that it was shorter, and removed the 'drooling' noise, replacing it with 'singing'. I'm inclined to believe it was due to customer backlash.
Remembering your brand isn't enough, I also have to want it. Because otherwise, you are ensuring that I will remember to avoid your brand. Essentially, I boycott products associated with shitty advertising. If you're making an ad that commits one of the sins that I mentioned above, I will avoid your product and brand. Do not test me.

01. I Don't Hate Advertising
I don't know how advertising executives reached this conclusion, but I don't hate advertising. Hell, I like a lot of advertising, especially when it's well done.
I enjoy this ad by Beyond Blue that's about raising awareness of Anxiety, it's for a cause I appreciate and it's well done, in my opinion. I enjoy most ads for coffee, like this one for Ice Break, it's a little old and not all that great, but it brought the product to my attention. I especially like this one for Oak's Flavoured Milk (which has a coffee flavoured option) for not only informing me, but also entertaining me. I'm not overly fond of porridge for breakfast, I find it gluggy, but I love this ad for Uncle Toby's Oats, because I think the mother in this ad is awesome, so I shared it on Facebook!
Hell, even though it's not for me, I still enjoy this ad for Libra Invisible Pads, because I like the chemistry between the two friends, it's a good ad. And I already mentioned the the advertisement for XXXX 'Origin Edition' beer, but I'm mentioning it here again because I like it so much!
It seems like advertisers start off, guns blazing, thinking:
  "How will we break through the audience's defences and grab their attention?"
But the thing is, you don't have to! If you make a good, honest ad and I like the product, I'll probably buy it. I use advertising to find newer, better and/or cheaper products; I keep an eye out to see if my old products are providing something new. And if an ad is funny or entertaining - even if it's not for me - I'll tell my friends about it and share it with a larger audience through social media!
Stop fighting with me, Advertising! I don't hate you, I'm on your side, I just don't like bad advertising, and since there are so many ads that I like it's obviously not that hard to make a good advertisement - especially if you read this list! Don't let me down advertising, and I won't let you down.

So yes, that's my list. I must admit, now that I've written it, I was wrong - this wasn't easy to write at all! It's hard finding the videos for all these ads, but I have to thank Youtube User AustraliaAds for providing the majority of the ads I linked in this list. Their efforts made my own work much easier.
I really have to wrap this up now. If you've got your own ads that you love or hate, feel free to leave a comment mentioning it and/or a link to it. I'd love to read your words.

Until next time, I'm the Absurd Word Nerd, and this post wouldn't be complete without some shameless promotion of my own - Chapter 2 of Duke Forever coming in two posts time, don't miss it!

1 comment:

  1. I thought the kid in that commercial was just being a troll; he wanted to make a smartass comment.

    Also, the ads aren't written for the higher masses; their purposes is to create a positive association with a brand, regardless of content. We see this most commonly with fast food commercials aimed at kids, and kids are easily swayed with these sort of ads. There's a reason the FCC became concerned in the United States, and why we need better ads.


Feel free to make suggestions, ask questions & comment . . .
I would love to read your words.