The random witterings of Jonathan Morris, writer.

Friday, 24 February 2012

It Always Comes As A Surprise


There is a particular type of advert I hate.

Not the Go Compare ones. Everyone hates those. That is their power.

Nor do I refer to those adverts that are clearly intended to be funny, but where any humorous intent has been systematically filtered out by a process of management committee worry – I’m thinking of Paul Whitehouse’s bizarre commercials for Aviva, which seem to be the result of similar approach taken to the makers of the 60’s James Bond spoof Casino Royale, where they didn’t bother writing a funny script, but instead thought that simply hiring Peter Sellers would be enough to make it funny.

Nor do I refer to those car-crash adverts where the committee has not been able to agree on which approach to take, and have decided instead to combine several approaches into one advert, so you end up with an advert featuring a pop star, a puppet, a jingle, a song, a cartoon monkey, a CGI talking telephone, set both at home and in an exotic location, with voice-overs by three or four different actors. These adverts are, in fact, my favourite type of advert.

Nor do I refer to those adverts set in surreal CGI utopias, the British Gas people pottering about on their Super Mario Galaxy asteroids like smug Clangers accompanied by Blur’s The Universal, or the spindly folk who inhabit Lloydsland and their ‘pah-pah-pah-pah’ jingle.

Nor do I refer to adverts featuring ukuleles. Whether they are plucked by stalkers at tube stations or on the soundtrack of car adverts, strummed by breathy young ladies who are barely able to squeak out cutesy sub-nursery rhyme ditties like sub-Eliza Doolittles.

Nor do I refer to those perversely zen adverts where you watch them and have no idea what they are actually advertising. One suspects they are working on some subliminal level but the likelihood is merely that they are the product of incompetent advertising agencies trying too hard to be cool.

No, the adverts that particularly annoy are ones where you have three young ladies sitting around a table, in a cafe or at work, chatting away and laughing like young ladies do, when one of the young ladies takes a mouthful of yoghurt, or a sip of her drink, or sprays a scent...

...and then suddenly, as though by magic, a man appears, usually good looking, often topless. Whereupon he proceeds to do something wacky, maybe he sings a song, maybe he dances a dance, maybe he levitates with a stream of roses emanating from his backside.

And we cut to the women. Reacting shocked and delighted, as though this is the most amazing and surprising thing they have ever seen.

But, I want to scream, you are in an advert! Nothing is real in advert land! In advert land you have CGI people living on asteroids and talking gophers! What basis of reality is this working on? And why do the women look surprised when, let’s face it, something unexpected happening is the single most predictable bloody thing that can happen in an advert. It’s like expecting the Spanish Inquisition. Which, come to think of it, is exactly the sketch they are ripping off.

The advertiser’s train of thought is simple. What this product actually does, in real life, is unremarkable. So instead we will portray a comedic exaggeration of those qualities, by having a good looking man rush in with his top off singing a song or dancing a dance. Ladies react with shock and delight.

I can’t remember what the advert is for, there seem to be half a dozen or more which take exactly the same approach, and for some reason, they particularly annoy me. Just thought I’d share.

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