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?
Subscribe to: Post Comments (Atom)
Well, the Australians go good work and have slogans to envy (such as "Slow down, stupid." or "Drink and drive? YOU BLOODY IDIOT!!!") but the masters of the form are the British with their "THINK!" range of public information films. (The exclamation point is meant to be the yellow line on a freeway, you see...)ReplyDelete
Meanwhile here in the states, we seem far more interested in trying to compensate for rank douchenozzelry by creating cars that can pay attention for us. Of course, only one-tenth of one percent will actually be driving these cars, leaving the rest of us at the mercy of the douchenozzles.Delete
And it's not as if the douchecanoes are going to be moved by "Pub Loo Shocker" (wherein idiots in a bar's gents' room are confronted with a female mannequin's head crashing through the mirror to remind them WHY not to get behind the wheel) or "Richard" which shows a CSI cut of a guy's internal organs getting shredded because he forgot his seatbelt in the first place.Delete
I don't know whether these are just in Ohio, but I've seen a series of ads in which a real person who lost a loved one in a car accident caused by texting speaks about the loss, and then the screen goes white and a brief message appears on it. And the person says "This is the message she was texting at the time of the crash." And it's always something trivial, of course.ReplyDelete
I think those ads are pretty effective.
I don't know about you, but I've seen more than my share of "scary but effective" public service ads over the years. Maybe it's my age. I remember the years just before the FCC finally banned cigarette ads, when it decided on a compromise, which was that stations had to run an equal number of antismoking ads as they did cigarette ads. The result of this, because there were so very many cigarette ads on the air, was that practically every ad that wasn't a cigarette ad was an antismoking PSA. As a kid, those years sure helped keep me a never-tried-it nonsmoker.
I also recall that a few years ago, there was a series of anti-drunk-driving PSAs that consisted of nothing but some home video footage of a person--often a young child--celebrating a birthday or Christmas or just goofing around and laughing--followed by a screen saying: "On (date), (name of person) was killed by a drunk driver. Do whatever it takes to keep someone from driving drunk." Those were especially effective to me because the effect of seeing the person on a home video was so immediate--there's something about video that gives us the mental sense the video was just made. It's hard to believe a person in a video (as opposed to a film) is dead. And, well, they also had the advantage of being incredibly cheap to make. Sounds horrible to say, but true--the footage already existed, after all.
Of course, the long-term effect of these ads is that today I can't watch early videos made of my family with 1980s- or 1990s-style camcorders (with the date in the corner and so on) without feeling creeped out. I always feel as if I'm going to find out everybody in this Christmas video starring my relatives is now dead.
The British used the same tactic. Back in the Nineties, the tag line for their 'don't drink and drive, you bloody imbeciles' campaign started out as "DON'T DRINK AND DRIVE"...then the "R" and "V" faded away to turn "drive" to "die."Delete
Then again, an advert doesn't have to put on the ooga-booga mask to creep people out.
The silly tire-tracks-on-faces ads don't even say "hang up and drive" or "stop texting and start looking" or even "watch for pedestrians"- just innoculous stuff like "people can't be repaired in body shops." They almost sound like an apology for pedestrians- "sorry to bother you, but remember there are these car-less losers out there who are so pathetically fragile, they might inconvenience you if you happen to hit them with your awesome ride, so be careful...."ReplyDelete
Also, they might require people to pay attention to their immediate surroundings instead of gawking at a screen. An AWFUL lot of people out there seem to behave as if they have to pay attention to their immediate surroundings, the terrorists win. If people have to get knocked down in the process, that's just part of life's rich pageant.....Delete