Tuesday, June 17, 2014
The Scariest Commercial I've Ever Seen- and one of the most effective
I was going to call this "the most effective commercial I've ever seen," but I think that title still belongs to the ad I saw when I was about five years old which was aired to combat attempts by conservatives in Congress to gut Medicare- that one featured a solitary old woman opening a can of cat food as her pet purred and rubbed itself against her legs, and then putting the cat food on a dish next to a half-dozen crackers. Even at five, I understood that this old woman- who could be My Grandmother- was about to eat cat food because she couldn't afford food and medication. I bet I saw that commercial no more than two or three times, more than forty years ago- and I never forgot it.
It's pretty rare for a commercial to have an impact like that, I think. I mean, I've probably seen more than 100,000 television ads over the past-- umm, several decades--- and I can only remember a few from my early childhood. That Medicare ad. The one with the "Johnny Smoke" cartoon character who rides into town and kills people by getting them hooked on cigarettes. Mr. Yuck reminding us that the stuff mom keeps under the sink can make us dead dead dead ("Mr Yuck is green....Mr Yuck is MEAN!") And there was that traffic safety ad which showed a mother screaming when she saw that the corpse under the sheet was her child, struck by a car....yeah, those stayed with me. But very few others.
I think this is another of those very unique, powerfully effective ads that will stay with people for a long time- maybe a lifetime. Both the drivers in this ad made a mistake- one pulled out because he "thought he had enough time." The other was driving too fast (Jesus, 100 MPH? Is that normal in Australia?) The result is that everyone in this commercial is going to die- including the innocent, sweet-looking kid in the back seat, who just assumed that Dad would get him around safe because hey, he's Dad.
There's nothing to be done, because once you've made a mistake like this, you have to accept the consequences. There's no turning back the clock. Pretty damned powerful.
Now, why can't we make ads like this in the US? How about ones featuring people killing each other in their cars because they "just had to" look at their cell phones "for just a moment?" They could just copy what we see here- the texter gets out of his car and apologizes to the guy and his children for killing them because he thought that responding to message # 314 received today was more important than keeping his eye on the road. Why don't we see ads like this? It's certainly not because they aren't needed. Could it have something to do with the unholy alliance between cell phone companies and car companies to convince us that "connectivity" can be both constant and safe if we just buy cars with enough "safety" features like electronic warning systems and "hands-free" distractions?
Instead (at least here in the DC area) we get stupid posters featuring people with tire tracks on their faces, gently reminding drivers that hey, there are other human beings out there trying to get from Point A to Point B without being run over because you "needed" to send that email or check that score again. They are more silly than scary, and I haven't met anyone who thinks that they are effective reminders to pay the hell attention. And when that campaign is over, I don't believe that anyone is going to remember it as much more than a lame joke.
A few ads like the ones they dare put on TV in Australia? Hey, that might work. Might not, too- sometimes I wonder if anything can get the techno-addicted morons off their phones and their eyes back on the road. Worth a try though, don't you think?