Sunday, February 24, 2013

Do You Like Short Films? I Don't.

For as long as I can remember, commercials directors have also made short films, and their producers have asked me to watch them.

Now I don't know if I'm a lone voice in the wilderness here, but I find these films dreadful.

Yes, partly my attention span is shot to pieces, to the extent that I rarely even watch all the way to the end of a 60-second ad on an ad blog any more. (Why do a 60? The 40-second cutdown is always heaps better).

But it's also because the films are normally slow, meandering, pointless, uneventful, dull, unoriginal, corny, over-emotionalised, over-acted, and under-edited.

It's also partly just economics. If someone is asking me to watch a 3-minute short film, then it should be six times as rewarding as a 30-second ad, right?

Here's this year's winner of Tropfest, probably the world's most prestigious short film festival, which was held last week.

It's well-shot, well-cast, well-acted, a good story... yada yada yada.... great achievement on what was probably very little money. So the last thing I want to do is slag off the individuals involved. But come on. The film's not bad, but it's not fantastic.

And at 6 minutes and 47 seconds long, is it really more than 13 times better than this?

No. It isn't. The goat is better, especially the part where he screams, that part is just priceless.

So in summary, I'm not suggesting that directors don't make short films. Heck, maybe other creatives like them. And maybe they can lead to the director getting feature work, or being taken on by a production company.

But just don't ask me to watch them.

P.S. I will admit there is one short film I've ever seen, that I enjoyed. Here it is.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

How Much Time Do You Spend Fucking Around?

I ask because my own fucking-around time has reached virtually zero.

That's right. Most days, I don't even have time to look at Facebook. I don't open the links that get sent around, I don't read humorous blogs, and I don't get sucked into a vortex of 90s rave videos on YouTube.

Partly this is because I'm now an ECD, but in fact it was on the decline for a while. And I'm not meaning this post to be a personal whinge, because I suspect it's true for everyone.

Agencies are having to do more with less, which means we all have to work harder. And the irony is that the rise of this glorious fucking-around medium that is the internet (in the old days, if you wanted to find a pleasant way to kill some time, you actually had to go and talk to someone!) has been accompanied by a decline in the fucking-around time we have available.

At least, that's what I suspect. But I'm wary of generalising from my own experience. Which is why I'm running a poll.

Please indicate how much time per day, on average, you spend fucking-around rather than working.

Definition of fucking-around: Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, blogs, talking to your friends, online shopping, playing games, looking at porn. Not included: personal admin such as paying bills.

To maintain some semblance of rigour, I want only creatives to vote, though people from other disciplines are welcome to comment.

What I really wonder, is whether less fucking-around time for creatives might be translating into worse work. Because we all know that today's random YouTube video becomes tomorrow's idea for a cool TV ad.

The only niggle in my mind is that when I spoke to ad guru Siimon Reynolds once, he told me that he reckoned most creatives weren't productive enough, that they spent too much time fucking around, and not enough time working. He said our work should be fun, so why would you need to fuck around? I kind of agree with this, though I do also believe that if you never replenish the well, there will one day be no water there when you need it...

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Who Needs Knowledge?

One time I was working on the Budweiser account, and we spent a day getting a tour of the brewery. I learned that Budweiser is made with 30% rice. I learned that the brewmasters crushed up the glass that the pipes in the brewery were made from, turned that into a tea, and drank it, to check it was taste-neutral.

So it was quite an interesting day. But, useless from an advertising point of view. Because I've never seen a beer ad that was based on specialist knowledge as to how a beer is made.

(Has there even been one, N.B. that relied on real specialist knowledge? I have heard about a campaign for Schlitz beer that claimed the bottles were "washed with live steam" - but that was in the early 1900's.)

We would have been better off spending that day thinking of ideas, rather than traipsing round a brewery in west London.

The agency where I've recently become the creative director has a car account, and they were pleased to have me on board because I've done a lot of car advertising over the years. But you know what? I actually have no idea how an internal combustion engine works.

And although I kind of hope my car client doesn't read this, I contend that it doesn't matter.

What matters is understanding what matters to people, and how to communicate that.

Here's my favourite ad from this year's Super Bowl. It's for a Hyundai that has a turbo engine. And I don't know if the creative team that made the ad have any understanding at all that a turbo engine works by a type of forced induction system, which compresses the air flowing into the engine. (Nor did I! I just googled it!)

But what they've understood brilliantly is the benefit to the ordinary driver of having a turbo engine - you won't get stuck behind the car in front - and how to communicate that in an engaging way (see ad below).

That's what matters.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Live from the Superdome: Racism vs Sexism

This year's Super Bowl is shaping up to be just a tad controversial for advertisers. But which will prove stronger, their Offense, or their Defense?

Volkswagen 'Get In. Get Happy.'

The Offense given by VW is that it's not cool for a group with greater power (white American) to imitate the accent of a group with lesser power (Jamaican). Or to stereotype them as happy-go-lucky buffoons.

The Defense? That it's not racist if you're portraying someone in a happy light. Pretty shaky, really, given the history of 'blackface'.

Result: Searching "volkswagen racist commercial" yields 2.9 million hits on google.

Coke 'Chase'

Offense: Shows an Arab walking through the desert with a camel.

Defense: The Arab character is a nod to old movies, like Lawrence of Arabia.

Result: For me, the Defense comes out on top. After all, many of the other characters in the ad are nods to old movies also, e.g. Mad Max.

Mercedes 'Kate Upton'

Offense: Category 1 objectification.

Defense: But it's the football players washing the car for Kate Upton, not the other way around!

Result: A real 'ad of two halves'. The first half undoubtedly sexist. The second half, just lame.

GoDaddy 'Bar Rafaeli's Big Kiss'

Offense: Objectification, humiliation… let's face it, this advertiser has previous.

Defense: Umm...

Result: I truly hate this ad.