Jan 31, 2008

Our Best Audience

So there's this new website (and sometime cable TV station) called Firebrand that a few of my friends have something to do with. And because the site does nothing but show commercials, they've been thinking I'd have an interest in it.

This is not AdCritic (Creativity-Online these days) mind you. Or even AdFreak or AdRants. The site is aimed at the general public and its founders believe that people really want to watch good ads. (Good being the operative word here.)

And while it surprises me at some level that people outside the business actually want to watch commercials, it probably shouldn't. I mean who would have predicted Civil War re-enactors, right? Plus there's that moment we've all been through, when some guy at a party finds out you work in advertising and starts asking you all about his favorite commercial, some local car dealer ad where the salesman gets a pie in the face and you have to (a) pretend you've seen it and (b) pretend you know the guys who did it. And for a brief moment there, despite the seeming awfulness of the premise, you're shocked, completely shocked at how deeply this guy connects with this car dealer spot and you wonder if anyone's ever connected that deeply with something you've done.

And it got me to thinking how jaded we all are to advertising and the role it plays in people's lives. (Okay not all people's lives, but certainly many. I'd even settle for some.) How ads really are little movies or posters that people enjoy over and over every time they see them because they know nothing of all the sweat and grief and 3 hour meetings with account people saying "calendared" that went into making them. They don't notice that the logo is on the bottom left either, even when we all know it really should have been on the top right because they're charmed by the previous 27 seconds and their brains know to tune out for the last 3.

Which is the catch, of course. These commercial addicts have probably never bought anything from any of the brands advertised in the ads they watch on Firebrand. Because the reason they love these commercials has nothing to do with the brands they're advertising, but with the writing and casting and lighting and propping and wardrobe and camera speed and pacing and editing. You know, all that stuff we call "craft."

And so while Firebrand's audience may never turn out to be "brand evangelists" they may well turn out to be "advertising evangelists."

These days, we sure could use some.


Anonymous said...

Well said, Toad. Personally, I've always enjoyed the innate stupidity of what I do for a living. Only in America, right? Precious poseurs taking it all way too seriously just make it a bore. Besides, if you've got to try so humorlessly hard to prove to everyone you're a creative genius (or a planning genius), you're most definitely not one. Skill and taste matter, but when it's all said and done, we just make ads. As far as pop culture goes, The Jolly Green Giant and Subservient Chicken don't just live in the same world, they're friggin' next door neighbors. Have standards, sure. But don't forget to have perspective, too. Do that and you might actually have some fun while you're at it. (Then again, I didn't pay some ad school 30K to get into this dumb business, so maybe it's easier for me to be less serious about it all. And while I'm on the subject, 30K? To get into Advertising? Couldn't you get started in law school for that?)

Anonymous said...

i never ran into that guy at parties , but if i do i'll do the same thing we did to geeks in school: ignore him, he needs a life...

but really, fatc is right, we could be digging ditches for con ed, bitching about retirement benefits from the union instead of watching the super bowl for the commercials...

Anonymous said...

It's always fun to spot ads that don't really feel like ads because of the creativity and the whole story that it allows to manifest. Never mind that the product is not pasted directly in your face. Perhaps the best ads are those that not only look like works of art but represent the product well at the same time. Firebrand sounds interesting. Will check it out soon!