Wednesday, September 14, 2005

If I dissect your commercial, will it be full of crap?

The Hurricane Katrina aftermath prompted a great column by Danny G over at Talent Zoo about the problem of advertising and PR that doesn't match reality. (I found it via Ad Pulp .) All politicians, and especially the Bush Administration, have learned that you can't spin absolutely everything. Social Security, maybe. Dead bodies, not so much.

Fact is, the bullshit meter of most people has become incredibly sensitive. When communications stretch the boundaries of believability, they're a waste of the consumer's time and the advertiser's money.

I was thinking about this while I caught a bit of the NFL's opening day. Coors Light, with its usual missionary zeal, was once again assaulting the public with another batch of awful, predictable commercials.

Coors Light has always struck me as the brand that just can't stand the truth. For years, it's been advertised as the choice for crazy, hard-partying, hell bent on, er, something, guys. But whenever I see a Coors Light in a bar, it's in the hand of a young woman who doesn't seem to really like beer and would prefer to not get, like, totally hammered.

Advertising won't change the fact that Coors Light is a low-alcohol, low taste brew. Just like nobody believed Brownie was "doing a heck of a job" when their televisions kept showing people stepping over other dead people in the streets of New Orleans.

Finally, all this thought about truth brings me, in a strange and wonderfully random way, to Menard's, a home improvement chain in the Midwest. For years, they've run these ridiculous commercials that often feature some old guy shouting out things like unbelievable sale prices on screen doors. Every bone in my former creative director's body should hate these spots — they are heinous and, yes, there must be a better solution. I would never create or produce them. But, at the same time, I've been surprised to discover that I find them less grating than well-crafted spots with absolutely no real, truthful connection to the products or services they promote. There's something brutally honest about that Menard's guy. There's no gauzy film quality — he's selling me his screen doors and his buckets of paint and maybe his damn lawn tractors. And he's selling them hard. He's not trying to convince me that Menard's is a great place to spend an afternoon wandering the aisles and dreaming of home renovation projects. They're certainly not great, brand-building commercials. But at least they're not disingenuous.

B.S. really does stink. Best to avoid it.


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