In the opening seminar of an advertising unit I did last year, we as a class were asked why we'd chosen the subject. Most answered "Well, I want to work in advertising...", which is funny considering the first thing we learnt was how toxic a degree is to getting an advertising job, where senior employees prefer to mould their mindmoulders from scratch.
My answer to the question was simple: "I hate advertising, and I want to learn more about it." That's my philosophy when it comes to most things I dislike in life. The best way to find the subjects people know (or claim to know) the most about is to speak over a pint, and drinking with me will reveal my vast range of knowledge on reality shows, creationism, The Daily Mail and polystyrene cups. But unlike all the formers, knowing a lot about advertising actually requires knowing something.
And yet no matter how much you've learnt bout the advertising business, brands and public awareness, once in a while a little enigma comes along that sends your worldview into spirals. I give you the new Cadbury's Crispello ad:
If you have taken a vow of blindness against anything trying to sell to you, the advert can be summed up thusly:
I won't even attempt a full synopsis of this advert, which brings the words 'chocolate' and 'saucey' together in a totally unprecedented manner, as Andrew Falkous of The Guardian already nailed that. But I will immediately acknowledge the most unifying problem people had with the advertisement, and why it's the reason I love it so.
What exactly does shagging swagboys Dad have to do with chocolate?
OK, I see what you were driving at; trying to sell a chocolate product as 'naughty', one that sadly can't be worn around your genitals. But whereas most logical writers might go with chocolate being a guilty treat or doing naughty things with chocolate, we somehow ended up with an attempt to undress a middle aged father.
It wouldn't surprise me if this was the answer: a gifted writer had been storing this golden idea away for when their shining moment, but when simultaneously thrusted with the threat of student loans swapping pieces of his/her tongue for fingers, and the opportunity of writing a cadburys advert, they sold out.
Of course we've all come to expect advertising to be as far removed from the product as possible. What is aimed for is a loose concept designed to humour/annoy/annoy/annoy/annoy, with the slightest chance that the fools might recognize some elements of the brand. It's the shot in the dark approach that led to those YouTube winning, inspirational Asian family of the year adverts...the ones so good that no one even remembers what was being sold.
The other big talking point about Cadbury's finest few minutes was whether or not it was offensive. Oh that's not a question by the way, it clearly isn't. Rather, what this glorious piece of marketing has accidentally revealed is the greatest way to offend the snobs of Britain is to take their foundations (roast dinners, over careful driving, not-yet-vintage clothing), and confront them with it somehow becoming sexually appealing to liberal son snatchers who travel the woods with their own travelling bands - the embodiment of all conservative nightmares.
In my previous blog post on advertising, I considered that the solution to the adblock problem for online video makers was to start making their own adverts, ones that would be fun to watch, at least to a certain level. One objection to this idea is Jon Lajoie, who in the past has made horribly horrible and funny adverts for companies that you'd think wouldn't give a shit...
...but ironically did give a shit, as when Wal-mart asked it to be removed from YouTube.
It's a shame we can't be a bit more risque with TV adverts. Everytime a new one shows up and gets a few laughs, it's branded a new Marmite monster and complained about constantly for just less than a week. Yet adverts like the Crispello one are actually a total win win. If I lived in the 80's I would never buy 'Life Call', but if it's slogan was "I've fallen and I can't get IT up" then I would remember it fondly..
If more adverts could strive for higher levels of uncomfortablness (particuarly on internet platforms with audiences who'll lap this shit up), then companies could exploit the hype, debate and external humour from their campaign to implant their product into our minds, and we will stop reaching for the remote, or maybe even the adblock.