Saturday, December 15, 2007

Ads getting too culturally specific?

It's interesting to me as someone who pays attention to things like this and also enjoys yelling at the television set, but at the same time it's a little off-putting. A) because it's so specifically targeting a group and B) assuming that the group is stupid enough when we all know the 90s style advertising of "Hey man, this is so rad/sick/cool/awesome" was really more annoying than making the demographic think, "Hey! That ad talks just like me."

But as everyone likes to quote P.T. Barnum, a sucker is born every second, and this must be working on some level? Maybe?

I think this one's been bandied about a bit by others, but the first one that had me yelling, "WHAT THE HELL??" at the TV was the ad for Belvedere vodka.

What the fuck. No, seriously. OK, first off. How many of you off the bat recognized anyone in this ad? It's not a trick question. There's just two famous people in this ad if I remember correctly, it all kind of goes by too fast. But first, you might recognize Vincent Gallo playing the "artistic bad boy." Then again, you might not. Unless you really really knew Vincent Gallo, the quick shots would have you more saying "that guy looks...familiar-ish."

This pisses me off because it's saying a) this ad is just way more better for people who know who Vincent Gallo is b) if you don't get it, we kind of don't give a fuck. It's elitist in the weirdest way possible. Because for the rest of the population who does not give a fuck about Gallo, you could've swapped him out with some rakish model and they would not know the difference. There's no real context that blatantly identifies him, you just get the vague idea he's some kind of big shot as part of the "narrative" of the ad. And you know they probably blew big bucks to get him to appear in it. Whether he meant it as a joke or no, we're talking about a man who thinks his semen has monetary value (is he just kidding, or not? I don't fucking care), so you know he negotiated some beaucoup bucks for this whole operation. Was that necessary? I think the whole unnecessary...uh...ness about it is what really gets me. They're banking on the idea that of the small percentage of people who will recognize his face, they will not be turned off by the crass commercialism of it all and will be convinced enough to buy the vodka.

Oh, who was the second famous person in this thing? For those of you who didn't pick it out, go back and watch the ad again. What else plays a sort of prominent role. Who's next to Vincent a lot? Yea, the camera flashes throughout the ad, the dude with the camera? That's Terry Richardson. Him being in this add just reinforces and amplifies the WTF of what I'm talking about with this ad being supremely culturally specific. They didn't just throw Richardson in there. They highlight him with earmarks that he's there even if he isn't on screen anytime. That's why there's so many camera flashes going off. It's not just about the mood and look of the ad, it's because Richardson is a photographer. He's getting camera time by virtue of the camera being there. And they even close the ad with him mugging into the camera with his (signature) compact camera.

Again, I'm not saying these people aren't famous, but it's kind of specific is what I'm finding all so weird. It's so fucking hyper aware it hurts my teeth. You hear about having to market to a niche to get a firm foothold, and how you have a demographic you appeal to. For example, in magazines, you learn that many times what is shown in magazines with content and ads, it's not exactly about portraying who your readers are, but the type of person your readers want to be. In that sense, this is sort of what this ad is doing, but what rubs me the wrong way is that it seems to be so damn blatant. If you get the cultural points of this ad, what these cultural recognition points sort of stand for makes the risk factor pretty high for turning off that potential market for making the targeting way too obvious. The ad sort of became a parody of itself. Then part of me wonders if I'm giving the demographic they're trying to target too much credit. Who knows, maybe do want the stragglers of the pack who recognize a face and want to purchase based on some vague star fuckery that some scenesters crave. Or maybe that's what the participants in this ad were going for? Maybe that's the whole reason Gallo and Richardson even agreed to do it with a knowing wink? Because they were trying to make some sort of statement? Fuck, they could've just done it for the money. I don't know. I really can't tell anymore. I feel like I'm choking on irony, both sincere and ham-fisted, nowadays. And if this is some kind of ironic hipster version of "I did it for the lulz" I'm really going to throw up.

The second one that recently made me do a double-take was the ad for Boost Mobile.

I'm watching it thinking, "Hey Jermaine that Young Jeezy?" then the third guy pops out and I'm kind of confused for a second then sputtered, ".......Mickey Avalon? Really? REALLY?"

I mean it makes no sense because the demographic who knows Dupri and Jeezy are gonna recognize Mickey Avalon? And he seems to be added on at the end almost as an afterthought or something to make the net as wide as possible. If they were really trying to go for a rap that represented a lot of different demographics, they could've done a way better job than this. It's like someone decided to throw a rap concert and someone looked at the lineup and was all, "Hmm...OK, we got Kanye, Common, Mos Def...we need to shake it up a bit and get more people to come...Oh, I got it! INSANE CLOWN POSSE." You know what I mean? Can you imagine what that crowd would look like? I just's just...just''s just thrown in there! I mean, ads can't be that long and in long format, it might make more sense as a collaboration? In fact, you can hear the whole Boost Mobile song here on Mickey's MySpace, and no, more of it still doesn't really redeem this song. And yea, you can listen to Mickey's other songs to get what his body of work is like. I wish I could've been privy to that marketing meeting. It's not like Boost is unfamiliar with using rappers for advertising (there was a previous one with like Ludacris and The Game I think...they even had those sort of "individual stars when they were young hypothetical hawking" with like Fat Joe and Travis Barker), but I'm really curious how they decided to work this most recent lineup for the collaborative effort.


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