Jul 11, 2007

Cutting Edge Thieves

One of my readers, Raafi Rivero, discovered the inspiration for Goodby’s new Sprint work on a Japanese site and then made a comment that’s worthy of it’s own response:

I guess, in this youtube era, all one has to do is sit back and wait for an art director to find some cool graphical treatment somewhere on the interwebs, then see if it can work as a spot with some soupy copy and a logo at the end.

Well, Raafi, this has been going on longer than the interweb. And I don’t think it’s a bad thing at all.

Advertising rarely creates anything new.

The best of us steal the trend/style/tonality/graphic treatment/video with guys sticking out their tongues and saying "Whasssuppp!!" long before it hits the popular zeitgeist.

In fact, I’ve found that the one things that sets the Goodbys and Chiats apart from their more prosaic counterparts is that they are filled with art directors who constantly scour sites like the one you’ve linked us to. Writers who cut out at lunch time to check out a screening of the new Turkmenistani short that’s getting buzz at festivals in Europe. And because they’re adept at identifying which elements will easily become part of the pop culture vernacular, they create advertising that gets noticed.

Creatives at shops where the work isn’t such a priority tend to spend their weekends seeing the latest Hollywood blockbuster. Regardless of whether they’re accompanying a group of “totally stoked” 12 year olds.(This has always blown me away, people without kids going to see “Transformers” and the like.) And since this is all that informs their aesthetic, the work never seems particularly fresh. Their touchpoints are already part of the mainstream; the work may be well-executed, but we’ve seen it all before.

As the media landscape changes, and the consumer gets more control over what he/she wants to see, the ability to create something different will become very important. Because absolutely no one is going to download and pass along a video of one of the hundreds of “hold up the product and smile” commercials packaged goods companies and their agencies pump out. They’re not going to slow down their DVR to watch it either, and faced with the choice of sitting through 2 minutes of lame-ass spots or spending $1.99 to watch their favorite show commercial-free, you can bet that $1.99 is going to seem like a wise investment.

And that, my friends, gives me hope.


Anonymous said...

couldn't agree more. advertising is a means to an end. it's not art. it can be artful but it's not art.
goodby appropriated a graphic style. really? no shit. call cnn.

the rolling stones ripped off/were-influenced- by the delta blues guys. ditto led zeppelin. the sex pistols ripped off the new york dolls. english techno ripped off the detroit house guys. etc.

as someone famous once famously said: originality is determined by the obscurity of one's influences. amen.

i have appropriated others' ideas for advertising several times. and so long as the originators get credit and payment, no one has ever objected.

personally i think the biggest mistake an ad creative can make these days is to limit their output solely to products of their own imaginations.

Anonymous said...

Frankly, I'd be surprised (and impressed) if Goodby could have ripped it that quickly.

That video popped up on teh internets in mid/late April. Pitching the concept, getting it approved, then shooting and producing the spot for mid/late June rollout seems like a tall order.

Even if my time estimate is off and they did have time to jack it, Picasso did it back in the '50s... get over it.

Anonymous said...

I get it. There's nothing new under the sun. And *my gosh* certainly not in advertising. Still, what disappoints me about the ad isn't that the graphical treatment was reused pre se -- I'm a fan of those "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" spots and I've seen a million things shot on a white psych (sp?). What disappoints me is that the graphical treatment itself was not at all reconfigured to fit the needs of the story, the needs of the spot. Consider that the first line reads, "think back to when you were a child." It seems to me that invoking the power of a child's imagination and coupling it with our adult need to revisit childhood wonder through purchasing gadgets is ripe visual terrain. Ripe enough to warrant some excellent stop-motion animation with glow-sticks. Still, outside of how awesome it looks, doesn't this execution seem a little flat?

There seems to be some sort of disconnect here between the place where the narration is coming from and the place where the "art" is coming from. In the spot it appears that the Pika Pika crew is making the animation -- a crew of benevolent light angels. Still, because they appear on camera, their position relative to the voice of authority becomes problematic. Are these light angels supposed to be the agents of this voice, and by extension the viewer's imagination? Or are they simply a crew of Japanese kids who lucked out and got a Sprint spot? To me, the spot fails to adequately make the connection between the onscreen agents of the graphics and their position in the story -- wasting a stunning visual treatment in the process.

Anonymous said...

Raafi. The overarching positioning is digital life at the speed of light (i know, groan), so the creatives probably saw no need to tweak much.

Anonymous said...

raffi and All:

Also, is it just me, or would it be fair to say that most regular people (non ad-types) won't even know there's a specific, non-CG effect at work here?

For all they care, the people standing behind the light were added in later to make it only LOOK as if people were creating the light drawings.

One might even go so far as to say, then, that if the "visual style" you've appropriated is the coolest thing about your idea, and said "style" is one that only ad people and film guys recognize, then you probably don't have much of an idea. You've just got "commercials where people draw squiggly lines in the air" or however else the woman on the street will ultimately describe them.

In that case, one wonders if these ads would have looked cooler if the effect were created via CG. But then the creatives involved wouldn't have a PR backstory or YouTube angle to milk when the spots break. So, we get this technique, for better or worse.