March 24, 2020

The Commercial Look – Part 1

When we talk of producing, directing, casting and cutting, our minds immediately think of movies, TV programmes or even music videos. In terms of creativity, the last place we would seem to look is at the thousands of television commercials that swamp our screens on a daily basis. Is this an oversight? Can there really be art in advertising?

Find out in this two part series.

Being Traditional:

Man walks up to attractive female. She sniffs and, as the camera pans round to show her face, a disgusted look spreads across it. Fast zoom in on the man’s horrified face. (Deep) Voice-over: “Smell like you live in a pigsty? Try all new Mega-Deluxe Pure Deodorant for Men with 500 in 1 protection.”. Long shot of sparkling deodorant can flying through the sky towards the man at the speed of light who catches it, pauses, looks at it for a second, then smiles. Cut to shot of attractive female, who then smiles and walks seductively towards the male. (Deep) Voice-over: “

The above demonstrates a synopsis of the traditional television advertisement. In story-like fashion, it contains a beginning, dilemma and resolution. Around 90% of viewers will be unaware of the fact that they have just, in fact, seen a short film. Yes, we are also being sold a product that we don’t want, but underneath the fact that it gets you 30 seconds closer to the next installment of Downton Abbey, it is just a very short film production.

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A general example of advertising... no really!

There will have been a storyboard, a director, a producer, actors, cameramen, special effects supervisors, sound directors and so on.

So why don’t we appreciate them as short films?

The simple fact is that to the viewer, it is still an advert, and viewers DO NOT like adverts. Adverts waste precious seconds of our life, selling us products that we can’t afford, but will buy next week anyway. The very second that anything appears on our screens that could be defined as an advert, we instantly hate it, just for being an advert. If you are watching a recording, 99% of the time you will fast-forward through the adverts to get to the next part of your program. If this is not the case, you will take the 3 minutes of adverts that you are about to be subjected to and do something useful, like make a cup of tea, check the TV guide or have a good look at the neighbour’s shrubbery. Most people will say that they are not affected by television advertising in any way. They are lying. Even if you do not buy the product that is being sold to you, the advert has made you aware of it, surprised by it, interested in it and even in such a way that you may tell your friend about it.

Despite that fact that the public hate them, TV adverts DO work. That’s why there is so much money in peak-time television advertising slots.

Being Different:

We see so many adverts, that we no longer notice any difference between each and every one of them, other than the product being sold. They key to success in modern day advertising is to break the mould, be different, be unique, be indirect and offer the viewer something that they may actually enjoy watching. This is the only way to potentially get a television audience to sit through 3 minutes of adverts. Unfortunately and somewhat understandably, companies are too protective of their own investment and would rather spend £1 million producing a boring advert with obvious product emphasis rather than risk it on a more exciting but less direct commercial.

There have been a few companies over the years that have been successful in being different, though these adverts appear to tend on the lengthier side. There are a couple that I would like to share with you in the first part of this series.

Honda Accord Advert

Car adverts usually involve shiny bodywork under neon lights, with close-ups of all the gizmos inside. Not this one though:

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This amazing advert was something to write home about. Something that you would say ‘Have you seen…’ to your friends, and something that you would want to watch more closely again. Everything a ‘different’ advert should be. However, this was not produced without taking any risks. Firstly, 2 minutes is an age in terms of television advertising. Honda could afford the production and the slot costs, but certainly I know that they showed a cut-down version of under a minute on many occasions. Secondly, only after 1 minute and 50 seconds do you actually see the car that is being advertised. Thirdly, unlike other adverts, it doesn’t list gadgets, features and prices. Despite all this, the production itself is an art-form; intriguing to watch.

Virgin Atlantic Advert

Much more recent than the Honda ad, this truly is stunning:

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A very different approach to the Honda advert, but exceptionally well put together. Virgin can afford to put together and show this 90 second video, perhaps showing that it’s the richer companies that are willing to try something different. Very much in the style of a James Bond title sequence, this advert showcases glamour, style and excitement. Once again, it is not ‘in your face’ with brands and slogans from the beginning. In my opinion, this has to be one of the best directed adverts ever made; incredibly smooth and silky with transitions, movements and synchronisation with the music (Feeling Good by Muse). Fairly heavy on special effects, but these are really what makes it so thrilling to watch.

This really can be seen as a short film. It doesn’t have a traditional plotline or sequence of events, but is very enjoyable to watch.

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