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Up in Arms about Ads 3 – Machiavellian emotional manipulation
TV commercials never cease to amaze me, mostly by the sheer lack of plausibility in their argumentation. They are meant to persuade, but some agencies couldn’t argue their way out of a paper bag while armed with a bread knife. If you are going to base your ad entirely on emotional appeal, then go for it, make it heartrendingly good, ditch any attempt at being factual and scientific.
An ad to love
A case in point: I’ve fallen hook, line and sinker for this ad for Cesar Dog Food, “Love them back”, with the little Westie keeping the old man company while he visits a grave. No voice-over, just music. Snnnnfff…Aw! Gimme a hanky! I like this one more than its silly predecessor where the woman with the too-short skirt tried to bend down to put the dog’s bowl on the floor without embarrassing herself. While Cesar’s ad puts it in competition with other dog food ads telling sweet stories about man’s relationship with dogs, this ad’s production values puts it ahead of the others. The “Love them back” campaign is by agency AMV BBDO, directed by Andy McLeod, with cinematography by Stéphane Fontaine, set in North-West Croatia (not Italy, that it looks like) and it stars an 85-year old Macedonian man who is half deaf and blind and speaks no English. Yes, it’s Machiavellian emotional manipulation. But we are officially charmed.
More Good, So-So, and Sheer-Awful Ads
OxiClean is a classic example of two bad habits in advertising: 1) it has a front-man with the most annoying grating, loud voice in the world, 2) it is expanding into other product categories, thereby making the basis of the product’s claim into a lie. OxiClean’s pitchman is Anthony “Sully” Sullivan, (born 11 February 1969), a British infomercial pitchman of media shopping in the United States, best known for his roles in television commercials. He is loud, repetitive and well, just darn loud. Oxiclean was pitched as a stain remover and an in-wash stain remover booster. Now we are supposed to believe that new OxiClean™ White Revive™ stain remover also cleans stains off whites when used WITH your detergent, says the manufacturers. So, is the original OxiClean no longer any good to get stains out your white stuff? Or do they want the public to buy both? Look, if a product claims it’s the be-all and end-all in stain removal, then that’s it, there’s only 1 product. Introducing another product to the line simply means it’s not. Like Wen hair products. If it was supposed to do everything normal hair products did, why did the manufacturers bring in their own range of treatments and conditioners, etc.?
Cosmetics and personal care products usually mean made-up, technological-sounding names and ingredients. This is the latest invention by Gillette, the Fusion Proglide, presented as if it is the next best thing since the invention of the car. Meh. Boring. It’s shaving, not science. Rather get your cheap-but-good shaver from the Dollar Shave Club.
The United Way is a non-profit so it probably doesn’t have a budget to make fancy ads. They do have budget for airtime though, and this ad is the only once I’ve ever seen of theirs. I would rather have made another version and bought less airtime. The ad has been repeated so often I sleep through it, even through the sight of those giant, blowsy underpants (?!) if that’s what they are.
Iams’s Keep Love Strong dog food campaign is charming, with its scenes of dogs and their owners, including the latest one, of this little girl being pulled around on a blanket by her dog. From a hygiene and dog-training perspective though, somebody should probably tell her that she shouldn’t kiss her pooch on the mouth – his tongue has probably been licking his butt.
Currently, this is the ad that will cause me to put the sound on mute. Manulife Financial’s ads are beige nonentities, so politically correct and obviously pitched to be inoffensive that it’s painful. This guy is neither fish nor fowl – he wears a formal jacket with an informal shirt and uses these practiced hand-gestures like an old-fashioned demagogue. In the other version of the ad, two women, one white, one black (so correct) talk about how lovely the insurance is, in a way that no human would ever, ever talk about insurance. But subtly, they keep repeating: Get the insurance, WHILE you still can, BEFORE you get sick, BEFORE you die! Over and over and over…Yuck.