,One of my favorite movies is Captain Ron. In one of the opening scenes the son knocks over a carton of milk and immediately picks it up and places it upright on the counter. Just a few seconds later another scene shows the milk carton lying down on its side as if it had never been righted.
That’s the continuity person sleeping on the job. You’ve seen this happen in sitcoms where the shot switches back and forth between two people in a conversation. The collar or tie on one of the characters is in a different position each time you see them or in really bad cases they are wearing a different tie or shirt. You might also say the person doing the editing made a faux pas by missing it.
There are a couple of editing doozies out there in TV commercialdom that deserve to have a raspberry blown at them. The lady in the insurance ad is standing still when the commercial comes on and then starts to walk down the scenic path as she “shares” how a wonderful insurance program has been good to her. No, no, no! The whole idea of this type of ad is to show that an everyday person in an everyday situation is just like you as they go about the normal routine of life such as walking down a trail and not worrying about her insurance coverage. In final editing, the clip should have been trimmed so the commercial starts with her already walking so we could get the feel that we just happened to catch her in her daily routine. Instead, the ad tells us, “This lady is now going to walk so the ad can have some action in it.” This cut caused the ad to fail in its objective to bring us into that woman’s personal viewpoint.
Similarly, the ad that shows the football star getting out of the barber chair at the end of a hair cut undermines the message it should be conveying. We see the athlete getting his hair cut and telling us about a product that has made his life even better than it was. The ad was supposed to let us see that a famous person does everyday things just like you and me and therefore the product that helps him will help us. Unfortunately the guy that edited this one let the clip go too long. We see the football star finish his line and stop halfway out of the chair and look at the camera with a facial expression that says, “You mean like this?” The effect is that after we watch this one, instead of thinking, “Oh, I want to try some of that product,” any image of the product itself is pushed out of our head by thoughts of how obviously staged the action was.
Of course, the director shares some of the blame here since he should have told the talent to get up from the chair and walk away instead of just telling him to “act like” he was getting up out of the chair. These ads, like others we have discussed, didn’t do their jobs. The money and time spent on them was wasted. Who’s to blame? In this case all of the above but I can tell you that if an ad I ordered for my company turned out like one of these, I would have it done over. You may not have noticed these things before but you will now. Did I ruin ad viewing for you? OK, go ahead and yell at me or share an ad fail you may have noticed in commercials and as always…..like, share and subscribe. TTFN
I was speaking to a group of sales reps recently and asked them if they had ever seen the ads that included the guy sitting at the table with the kids asking them questions. They all allowed that they had seen the ads and enthusiastically recalled their favorite versions. They were wonderful ads that included humor and showcased how cute and engaging kids can be.
After the sales people finished discussing how they enjoyed the commercials, I asked if any of them knew what was being advertised. The ten or twelve people in the group took turns guessing what the ads were about and after several attempts one of the members of the group finally said, “Hey, wasn’t it about a cell phone or something?”
Yes. It was. AT&T was advertising their wireless service. By contrast, those of you who are old enough to remember the phrase, “Do you know me?” will easily recall that it was the American Express card that helped the famous people in those commercials get the services they wanted even though they may have been known by name only and not recognized by sight.
That brilliant campaign ran from the mid 1970’s to the mid 1980’s and tripled the number of card holders for American Express. It was so popular and well received that in addition to the seventy some that were featured, Am Ex had dozens of other big-name celebrities asking to be on the ads.
So, what have we learned? My point to the group then and to you now is that if we have seen or heard a commercial several times and don’t know what it is about, then it didn’t do its job. Cue the toilet flushing sound and watch the money spent on production and air time swirling down the drain.
By the way, (and I bring this up only as a shameless self promotion and to sell more books) one of the people on those American Express ads was Red Adair. He was famous for fighting oil well fires and was the subject of the 1968 movie Hellfighters starring John Wayne. I had the privilege of having Rad Adair as a passenger. My recollection of meeting him and our conversation is included in my books, “Learjets And Layovers” and “Freight Dog” both of which are required reading.
As an additional item of interest, C. F. Frost, the name that is seen on the card above and in many of the classic American Express commercials, was one of the ad execs at Ogilvy & Mather, the agency that came up with the campaign.
Comment early and often then hang around for our next post when we’ll examine editing and directing to determine what went wrong with a couple of commercials that could have been better. Till then….like, share and subscribe. TTFN
It’s seldom that a voice talent becomes famous or even known by name. A couple that come to mind are Mel Blanc, probably the greatest cartoon voice guy ever (Bugs Bunny et all) and Don LaFontaine. You’ve heard his work. He invented and popularized the movie trailer genre that generated so much excitement about new movies by saying, “In a world….” Yeah, that guy.
Long after LaFontaine’s death, we still hear the impact of his work each time a new show is announced on TV. Of course, the guys doing television imaging aren’t as good as LaFontaine and most of them seem to be trying too hard. They’re all using that low, whispery, baritone gravel voice that drags the trailing end of a phrase out too long and sounds like they are trying to sneak up on you. It’s gotten out of hand and it’s really annoying. Just tell me what the show is and I may watch it. Your sneaky, scary, over-excited and over-acted voice will have zero effect on whether I watch a show or not.
Believe me, I understand and appreciate the value of good voiceover work as much as the next guy. I don’t want to be one of those guys that quotes studies but studies have shown that an ad with a British voice can be forty percent more effective in an American market. Not surprisingly, an American accent does the same in a British market. I get it, the right voice can make a big difference. A British accent is good for perfume, fashion or jewelry. Toilet paper, not so much. I don’t care if you do use some cute euphemism in reference to a person’s posterior. Calling an ass a “bum” doesn’t make it any more pleasant to hear about your product wiping it.
We’re all so used to having Sam Elliot sell us trucks that we have become conditioned to believe that anything manly has to be presented with a deep bass voice. It worked well for Ram Trucks but Firestone failed miserably with their ads. They intended to convey a sense of masculine identity associated with their auto parts. Instead, the male voice talent adopted a vocal affectation that sounded forced, creating a cartoonish, caricature of what was supposed to be a manly voice. He added too much spice and ruined the chile. It’s not like cowbell. You can never have too much cowbell.
I don’t do a lot of voiceover work any more. Most of what I did was during the time that my radio show was still on the air and sponsors would ask me to do their commercials. Even though I have closed my production company and scaled my studio back by quite a bit, I am still very active in making fun of advertising that deserves it. Won’t you join me? Toss in a comment about the ads that bug you and while you have your fingers on the keyboard don’t forget to like, share and subscribe. More later, TTFN.
On the consumer side of things, we would all rather just fork over the ninety-nine cents for the ad-free version of our favorite app and not be interrupted or annoyed by the unsightly commercials that would otherwise cover the cost of the app. Those of us on the production side of things however, like the revenue those ads generate.
Advertising makes the world go around. No business happens unless somebody buys something. Nobody can buy anything if they don’t know it exists. It is advertising that fixes that problem.
Naturally, those who have products to sell want their advertising to be as effective as possible. Enter “Retsyn.” Let’s discuss. You remember those old ads for Certs. “It’s a breath mint.” “No, it’s a candy mint.” Not surprisingly, the government deemed it to be a candy for tariff purposes since candy was taxed differently than oral hygiene products. Cadbury, the makers of Certs, eventually got the decision overturned in an appeals court legally making Certs a breath mint.
Take that, you arguing couple on the commercials who told us Certs has Retsyn. What the hell is Retsyn, you say? Well, I’ll tell ya. Retsyn is a trademarked name for a combination of copper gluconate, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil, and flavoring. Wait, what? That’s just candy! Are you telling me that Certs has candy in it? Yep, that’s about the size of it.
But here’s the cool part that gets us back to our point. They called it Retsyn and once you knew that Certs had Retsyn in it, you were less likely to settle for just any breath mint that contained some lesser ingredient. It occurs to me that the Retsyn two step was incorporated in a couple other ads we’ve seen lately. Consider The National Sleep Foundation for instance. Who would want a pillow that wasn’t endorsed by those folks? And don’t overlook The National Vitamin Council that put their seal of approval on those vitamins that we now know are the best ever.
Yeah, I think we can all agree that the aforementioned foundation and council are just the new Retsyns. They are all just a figment of some Madison Avenue genius’s imagination. Do they have any effect on you? Have you seen any others that we need to make fun of? Don’t keep it to yourself. Jump in and tell us about it while you’re liking, sharing and clicking the RSS button and as always, go forth and do clickwise. TTFN