The before / after comparison – Probably the oldest method of illustrating the effectiveness of a product. And the most boring one. Except when it happens in an unexpected place …

An “ambient media cinema commercial”:

Agency: Euro RSCG Duesseldorf

Creative Directors: Torsten Pollmann, Florian Meimberg, Harald Linsenmeier

Art Director: Jörg Sachtleben

Producer: Christian Käutner

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An average commercial break on TV isn´t the most mind-expanding experience in the world. It is the exact opposite: a dull blend of flavorless clichés and stale conformity. The happiest families, the whitest teeth, the biggest cars. Life is perfect in commercial land. Perfectly boring!

So why aren´t there any more good ads out there? Is it because we – the advertising creatives – can´t think of anything more intelligent than the usual mainstream crap that disrupts your soap opera? Believe me: it´s not! We have drawers full of commercial scripts that would make you laugh. Make you cry. Make you buy the product!

Let me explain to you why most of these ideas never end up on your screen. Let´s play a little game… A simulation of what usually happens to good ideas. And how easily very good can turn into very bad.

First, let´s look at one of the best ads ever. The SONY BRAVIA commercial “Balls”, directed by danish director Nicolei Fuglsig. A mind-bursting, touching, hypnotic masterpiece! We all know it. But let´s watch it again, shall we?

Done? I know. It´s perfect!

Now let´s imagine it didn´t exist yet. That it was only an idea. A vision in the creative´s head.

The creative writes it down. He presents it to the client. The client likes it. The creative is very, very happy! (He secretly pictures himself on stage at the Cannes Advertising Awards). The agency starts working on the commercial. Production companies are being screened. The creatives talk to directors. The client calls. They have SOME MINOR CHANGES to the script. The creative thinks about jumping out of a near window.

What follows is an ordeal full of horrible abuse and dreadful torture of the script. It´s what happens every day in ad agencies around the globe. It´s what kills most good ideas.

The FALLON guys are really lucky that the following list of MINOR CHANGES never came:

1. The “deserted streets” (line 2 in the script) have to be populated. Sony is a brand for the people. We have to show them!
2. We want to see Branding right from the start. The Logo has to be on screen starting at frame one!
3. We must see THE PRODUCT IN USE. It should be a scene with a young family watching TV. 2 kids, one dog (research shows that kids work!)
5. Include CLOSEUPS of the product.
4. Superimpose the price once you see the product for the first time (which should not be later than 5 seconds into the commercial.)
5. The frog is unacceptable. Animals rights activists will complain. No frog!
6. We don´t like the music. It sound too depressing. We prefer something more cheerful. Lyrics should include the words “color” or “colorful”.
7. The logo in the end must be at least double the size!

We need the revised script with all the changes by tomorrow night. That´s when the FOCUS GROUPS start.

Focus groups. The REAL misery. And the sudden death of EVERY good idea …

Advertising People belong to the least liked professional guilds. After car salesmen, we come in on close second! We are impudent liars and blushless persuaders. People hate us!

That´s why we invented advertising awards. They make us feel better! On glamorous gala ceremonies, the most outstanding ideas and executions in film and print advertising are awarded by top-class juries. Just like the Oscars. Except nobody cares. At least nobody outside the industry. Well, Cannes might be the only exception. The Cannes International Advertising Festival makes it to the feature pages of some papers and magazines every year. Mostly to realize the oddity of an industry celebrating itself for a week.

OK. Now you´ve won a couple of international awards. You went to some award shows, got lots of free drinks and your 12 seconds of fame on stage. You drag your prey home into your cage. Now what? What do you do with your little gold, silver or bronze statues? Here are some suggestions:

THE CANNES LION

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The king of all awards. It´s very heavy. And not really a prime example for breathtaking product design. I only own one. But if you have two (which will be the case next year!) they make really good bookends.

THE NEW YORK FESTIVALS WORLD MEDAL

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A chunk of metal inside a block of acryl on a plastic base. Makes a good paperweight for rejected commercial scripts. I have a lot of rejected scripts. I need more NYF trophys!

THE MEDIA GRAND PRIX

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If you took a picture of it and put it in a catalogue for gay sex toys, it would probably fit in pretty neatly. But it also comes in handy when you can´t find a cork srew.

THE ART DIRECTORS CLUB NAIL

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It´s actually a big nail. It comes in different colors. Gold, silver, bronze. Ennobles every toolbox.

THE ONE SHOW PENCIL

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The silver one is very shiny! When you keep it on your desk in front of you, its reflection shows you when someone enters the room behind your back. In HD-resolution.

THE LONDON INTERNATIONAL AWARD

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It´s a big golden sculpture of a man spreading his enormous wings. And it looks very cool just standing there …

So. I am happy you made it here. Make yourself at home. And read my stories from the strange world of advertising. Dont´t forget to bookmark me!

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