Badvertising – Why You So Ridiculous?

I’m going to let you in on a secret about myself – I really, REALLY like good advertising. Not in the sense that I immediately go out and buy products that are being sold at me, but I appreciate the amount of time that goes into a clever campaign. I don’t know if it’s something people really think about in terms of pop culture blog, but it’s everywhere, it frequently features your favourite celebrities and songs and you should really be paying attention, OK? (I have a lot of feelings about this.) While I like a huge budget productions as much as the next person, my favourites are always the ones that are very simple and very human. Coca Cola’s security camera ad from the beginning of this year was excellent. And sneaky, because I had no idea that it was an ad until the end. I was too consumed by mushy feelings about faith in humanity. If you haven’t seen it:

See? Simple. Brilliant. A bit sneaky. All things I like. If you want another piece of excellent advertising you should also check out this one from Puma, featuring football hooligans singing Savage Garden. If it doesn’t make you want to squeal and/or weep, you may not have a soul (you should get that checked out).

Having said that, the amount of advertising around that has a gigantic budget and is dreadfully pretentious makes my eyeballs want to bleed. I find that luxury brands are the worst offenders, often because they have the cash-based pulling power to get in celebrities to say meaningful things at the camera, but apparently that cash runs out when it comes to getting someone to script those meaningful things. They also often become so absorbed with the notion that they’re “selling an idea, a lifestyle” that they seem to forget that they are, in fact, just selling a product. I’ve deconstructed some of the more terrible ones for you below.

  • Nicole Kidman for Chanel No. 5 – Chanel are repeat offenders in this category, but I feel like this Baz Luhrmann directed, 3 minute montrosity kicked off a whole new wave of high-concept ads which are actually kind of terrible.

    Big money, big sound track, big name director, big name actors and possibly some of the worst opening lines in the history of advertising. “When did I wake [DRAMATIC PAUSE] into this dream [DRAMATIC PAUSE]. I must have been the only person in the world [DRAMATIC PAUSE plus some DRAMATIC BREATHING from Nicole] who didn’t know [DRAMATIC PAUSE] who she was.” The rest of the dialogue is similarly bad – “I’m a dancer! I love to dance!” or “I don’t care about tomorrow!” – and I spent a lot of time with my fingers over my eyes. The other thing that annoys me no end about this ad is the fact that Chanel is a luxury brand, selling things that most of us can’t afford, but they really like the idea of the eccentric bohemia that spawned their founder. So they’ve got a “penniless writer” (who you may recognise as ‘Stupidly Handsome Brazilian Guy‘ from Love Actually) living on bare floorboards and a dodgy, rickety little bed, and the actress, who wafts through, breaks his heart and then leaves him but nothing but the enduring smell of Chanel No. 5 to remember her by. Assuming we’re supposed to identify with the struggling artiste over the ‘most famous woman in the world’ it does neatly sum up my relationship with Chanel – someone with more money than me walks past and I go “ah yes… Chanel” and that’s where the story ends. I guess that looks a whole lot less glamorous though.
  • Brad Pitt for Chanel No. 5 – May as well get Chanel out of the way now. This is the ad that inspired this post, because I saw it and was like, “Oh Brad…no…”

    So, Chanel has introduced a male spokesperson for its women’s perfume, which I don’t really understand since they’re not wearing it, they’re smelling it. And again with the rubbish dialogue! And this time, there isn’t even an enticing visual to detract from it. It’s just Brad Pitt, in a room. Admittedly, that should be enough of a visual, but when the scripting is this bad, it just isn’t. “It’s not a journey, every journey ends, but we go on.” It’s all downhill from there, because the rest of it is just a bunch of nonsequitors about luck and fate and inevitability, all sounding a little bit like it was written by a hormonal teenager. My favourite part, however, is the fact that Brad Pitt starts off looking straight into the camera and then doesn’t make eye contact for the the rest of piece. I think we’re supposed to assume that it’s because what he’s saying is so profound if he made eye contact we’d all explode, but I like to think it’s because he’s ashamed. As he should be. Silly, Brad. Silly.
  • Scarlett Johansson for Dolce & Gabanna ‘The One’ – Oooooh, boy. ScarJo often borders on absurdly pretentious herself in interviews (although I am a big fan), so when put into a perfume commercial, everything becomes amplified.

    The concept is kind off cool – a fly on the wall  looking at an actress as she’s interviewed. However, whoever scripted it needs a good talking to. I don’t know if I really need to elaborate on it that much, but I’ve pulled out some choice quotes for your consideration: “Music inspires me, art inspires me. But so does the wind.” Inspires you to what, exactly? I’m not sure where you’re going with that. Maybe you can elaborate? “I like my lips. For kissing… and words that start with the letter ‘M’.” So that’s a ‘no’ on elaborating, then? What are some ‘M’ words you like, Scarlett? (If I had to guess, it would be “all the Money I’m Making for My Musings in this bullshit commerical.”) “I’m not an actress, I just play one in the movies.” No, honey. I think if you looked up exactly what it is you’re doing as a career you’d find ‘actress’ fits the bill pretty well. “Um.. the smell of sunshine’s the best. You know what I mean?” No. No, I don’t. And since I know you’re not going to elaborate, I’m giving up on this cringe-worthy debacle right now.
  • Dolce and Gabanna ‘Time’ – 16 seconds of pure nonsense. And I mean nonsense. I have no idea what’s going on here or why it’s a thing that happened, but I thought we’d briefly step outside perfumes (the main offenders) and celebrity endorsements to talk about Dolce and Gabanna’s ads for watches.

    It’s like some sort of bizarre-o cross between food porn and the beginnings of actual porn. It starts off with a bunch of people casually picnic-ing, which is fair enough. It looks like a nice spot. They start eating a little more viciously, which is a bit weird but not unreasonable. Maybe they’re hungry. Then some guys starts rubbing food on some girl’s face and it starts raining and everybody starts getting naked and making out and the last shot is some girl in a male model sandwich. It escalates quickly. Like, really quickly. It takes them 16 seconds to get from picnics to threesomes. That’s less time than most porn movies. So…what are they selling? Food? Sex? Clothing, even? No. Watches. They are selling watches. All of the models are wearing watches. Which I didn’t notice until I went back and checked, becayse my brain went “is anyone even wearing a watch!?”
  • Charlize Theron for Dior ‘J’Adore’ – Oh look. Another one with a plot. Sort of. At least, I think it’s a plot. I can’t tell any more.

    It’s Versailles and Charlize Theron is running late. Luckily, she hasn’t bothered to sassy her face up with Dior products so no one notices her. She goes back stage to get changed and then suddenly, Grace Kelly. Out of nowhere all of these fabulous women of Hollywood appear. Charlize gets into a gold dress and then walks the catwalk to the Gossip’s Heavy Cross, which is weird in itself, because I don’t think Dior makes a single thing that Beth Ditto could wear. I assume that Charlize is supposed to be taking inspiration from Hollywood’s finest leading ladies before her big turn on the catwalk, so it’s not the weirdest one out there. At least it didn’t have a voiceover aside from that breathy “j’adore” at the end, because I could only imagine the layers of pretentious-ness that could be piled onto something that takes itself this seriously.

Anyway, that’s me out for the day. I’m gonna have a nap and re-evaluate my life choices. And buy some luxury perfume. I mean, wait… what?

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