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Television Commercials: Does Anybody Watch These Before Release?
By: Brian Keller
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Take social media, all digital, UX/UI, print, newspaper, et cetera, then rationalize to yourself that this is the most fun you can have at an agency. Everyone knows that everyone you know, in the business we know, wants to do big TV commercials.
 
Clients and agencies treat commercials with reverence. Commercials can take a year to produce and feature months of approval. All the work, all the expense, and the shrinking number of commercials makes them more special. Why, then, are many so awful, so pandering, and without focus? 
 
Beyond Madison Avenue has created a quiz  just for you. Some of the below commercials are produced. Some are words on paper created by one of our most unbalanced writers. Let us know how you do.
 
Julia Roberts stars in an ad that begins (woman’s v/o British accent): “In a world full of dictates and conventions, could there be another way?” As this brilliant opener opens the commercial, Ms. Roberts, dressed in white, cascades in to a party populated by striking people dressed in black, probably representing dictates and conventions as silver strands tether them. Julia gives the dewy-eyed smile (Mystic Pizza and everything else but Erin Brockovich) then sees herself tied by silver strands as people, in black, stare at her. She responds with a Julia Roberts steely-eyed stare, (Erin Brokovich) towards a woman. She frees herself from the shackles of conformity, dictates, and conventions and cascades, smiling, from the room with nothing but her huge check and the promise of residuals.

The British v/o switches to French and announces (in French) “Life is Beautiful”. Lancôme La Vie Est Belle

Real ____________ Imagined___________
  
The Blues of Super Rugby League are playing the hated Chiefs. Lensed for New Zealand’s Speight’s Beer, and directed by Kiwi, Jeri Thompson, the ad depicts a battle bathed brilliantly blue against slate grey skies. It’s rumored that Thompson fought to shoot in a storm as opposed to using effects. The battle is intense. Players are injured, leaving the gallant Blues short-handed and losing. The crusade for Rugby supremacy sways stunningly in stutter cuts backed by Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap (AC/DC) and voiced by Russell Crowe. The crowd is silent. The Blues are moribund. A fan rises from the furthest row of the stadium, back to camera, and begins urinating into the night sky while crushing his Speight’s can. He’s followed by fan after fan until every male stands. The plucky Thompson engages a helicopter to reveal the stadium floor and the Blues’ logo created by crushed Speight’s cans. Thousands of streams of urine create a rainbow over the stadium. The Blues win. The logo arrives. Crowe intones, “When life gives you bad times, piss on it. Speight’s — Good on ya, mate.” (Translation: Well done, my friend. Catchphrase for New Zealand’s favorite beer Speight’s).
 
Real ____________ Imagined___________

In a stunning commercial for the iPhone 5s, one gets an amazing tour of America and average people finding their “Chi” (energy force) through the iPhone. Edited to the Pixies song Gigantic, the commercial marries Steinbeck’s passion for the resiliency of the American spirit to the technological advances by Apple (partnered with T-Mobile) that have allowed us to climb out of a figurative dustbowl into an era of beauty, reason, enlightenment, and creativity. The iPhone, in Apple fashion, is demonstrated in full.
 
The astonishing device is portrayed via applications like guitar filters, violin apps with an physical application that straps to the arm, a heartbeat monitor that uses the iPhone’s camera and an LED to take a pulse, an application that controls stage lighting, rocket launchers, and more humanity that you can imagine.
 
They are black, white, Asian, Latino, men, women, kids, boxers, musicians, poets, citizens, givers, doers and more. They are gentle Americans who, thanks to iPhone, realize: “You’re more powerful than you think.” This heartfelt coda must have been modeled on Steinbeck’s “If you could separate causes from results, if you could know that Paine, Marx, Jefferson, Lenin were results, not causes, you might survive. But that you cannot know. For the quality of owning freezes you forever into "I", and cuts you off forever from the "we".
 
Thanks, iPhone, from “We,” the people.  
 
Real ____________ Imagined___________

A man at a desk makes a phone call: “We’re  experiencing heavier-than-normal call volumes...your call is very important…” He hangs up and looks to camera in silence. Post silence v/o: “If your bank lets you down, call us up. Life’s better when we’re connected. Bank of America.” This simple message to America represents, as did Apple/T-Mobile, the changing attitude corporate America is taking toward the American public.
 
Real ____________ Imagined___________
 
Microsoft XP in Europe presents a couple “making out.” Shot in close up, a young woman straddles her partner and removes her shirt. He fumbles with her bra but can’t get the “handle” (so to speak) on a method to remove the breast blockade. As the action (no pun) continues, a series of passwords in different languages appear on screen that would enable him to accomplish armor removal. No matter how he tries, the frustrated suitor can’t succeed. He tries the German password on screen, “Gleich Offnen" (the same open) and receives this message: Enter the password. He tries again and receives frustration and bemused looks from his would-be lover. At commercial’s end, the v/o: “The unexpected experience by Microsoft.” The type on screen against a field of orange is Microsoft XP.

We didn't get why she just didn't take off her bra herself.  
 
Real ____________ Imagined___________
 
Key
Julia Roberts: Lancôme La Vie Est Belle: Real and yes it started with “In a world…”
Speight’s Beer: Imagined
iPhone: Real
Bank of America: Imagined
Microsoft XP: Real
 
Well, how did you do? What we’ve discovered is that in a world where we're selling half-baked philosophy, we'll eventually be in a world of the jobless. Sent from my iThought processor.  


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About the Author
Brian is the Creative Director at  teeny agency in Baltimore. He graduated from the University of Maryland (English),went to grad school at NYU (Cinema Studies), & attends  University of Baltimore School of Law.
 
Brian's been working, primarily, in the digital space for years but enjoys all communications avenues.
 
He has built the creative departments at two agencies.
 
He likes skateboarding  with his son. He also  falls off his skateboard and amuses his son.When not amusing his son or riding bikes or playing basketball or working he writes for Beyond Madison Avenue & that's why Beyond Madison Avenue appears twice in this sentence.  
 
Find him online here and at www.teenyagency.com
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