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Ad Nauseum

Posted on 2008.09.22 at 02:01
Current Mood: draineddrained
Current Music: Upholstery - from Phantom of the Paradise
I’m not in the advertising business. If I were, perhaps I would have some sympathy for the creative demands of the ad-creating process. But like I said, I’m not in the business; therefore, I am free to hold such folks in some degree of blissfully ignorant contempt.

For some time now, I have been amassing a loose mental list of the most overworked advertising/cinematic devices, the ones that need to stop now. At the head of the list, we have the “Needle Scratching a Record When Something Unexpected Appears Onscreen” device. A typical scenario might show us a man walking down the street, starting with his feet. As he walks, some sensuous, pulsing music beats in time with his footsteps, as in the opening of Saturday Night Fever. The camera works its way slowly up his lean body, until it reaches his face where see that he is in fact a goofy-looking, toothless old man [sound of needle scratching a record]. First of all, few people even own turntables anymore, but more to the point, it’s a tired device that needs to be put away. Can I get an ‘Amen!’ out there?

Next, we have the “Same Two Words Spoken By Many Different People” device. It’s a series of quick cuts. It will be people of different races, ages, genders, etc., to show us the universality of the message. Perhaps the phrase will be, “I switched.” After hearing about half a dozen different people say it, the last person finally finishes the sentence, telling us what they’ve all switched to. By that time, though, I’ve usually switched – to a different channel.

The final example I’ll offer is the “Split Screen That Isn’t a Split Screen” device. Suppose it’s an ad for a breakfast cereal. On one side is our happy hero, eating their Special K at their sunny kitchen table. On the other side is the poor doofus eating Cereal X in their dingy kitchen. Near the end of the ad, the Special K eater suddenly reaches across to the other table and hands the other person a box of Special K! Surprise! They’re both in the same studio! Oh, I thought they were in two different rooms! Oh, how clever! … Oh, how tired and overdone.

There are many other examples of this sort of thing. You might even have a few pet peeves of your own in this area. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable when I say that I want to see more creative commercials. After all, considering the sizable portion of most broadcasts devoted to advertising, as well as the billions of dollars spent on it, I think we’re entitled to something with a bit more flair and originality. And besides, a better ad just might help sell the product, so I’m not just being selfish here; I’m trying to help!


(Anonymous) at 2008-09-25 06:52 (UTC) (Link)

Can't Buy Me Love

I suspect that some of the most creative people in advertising are inhibited by conservative clients.
-- ggreen
charlesofcamden at 2008-09-26 03:54 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Can't Buy Me Love

No doubt true!
(Anonymous) at 2008-10-07 12:44 (UTC) (Link)


What you described reminded me of a book by Roger Ebert that summarizes common movie cliches.

Ebert's Little Movie Glossary: A Compendium of Movie Cliches, Stereotypes, Obligatory Scenes, Hackneyed Formulas, Shopworn Conventions, and Outdated Archetypes



Anyhow: Found your site in my search for other people's experiences with the Golden Throats CDs by Rhino, but stuck around for the jokes (both physics- and Paul Newman-related).

charlesofcamden at 2008-10-07 19:56 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Cliches

Thanks for coming by! I am a fan of Ebert's writing from way back. Since moving to Chicago 16 years ago, I've been able to read a lot more of it -- he also contributes occasional essays and editorials of a non-cinematic nature. His prose and clarity of thought are just as enjoyable there as in his movie reviews.
(Anonymous) at 2008-10-08 15:53 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Cliches

Yeah... after I read a few more entries and picked up on the fact that you are *in* Chicago, I thought, Doh! He probably doesn't need me to tell him how great Roger Ebert is.

I'm only a fairly recent fan of Ebert's, though -- mostly because when I was in high school/college, the rule of thumb was that if he hated a movie, my friends and I would love it. Is it a sign of (gulp!) maturity and adulthood that I'm coming around (slowly) to his side?

charlesofcamden at 2008-10-09 00:37 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Cliches

By no means do I always agree with Ebert’s reviews – or anyone else’s reviews, for that matter – but I appreciate A) His abilities as a writer, and B) His enormous knowledge of cinema and his ability to apply that knowledge to whatever he is writing about. I have also found out about some really wonderful films through Ebert’s work that I might not otherwise have seen but for his evocative reviews of them. For a recent example, here’s a write-up I did a few months ago of a truly exceptional film that I was moved to see based on Ebert’s rave review. I offer this not to call attention to my own haphazard prose, but rather to spread the word about an obscure film that is well worth finding.

Edited at 2008-10-09 12:39 am (UTC)
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