Thursday, 2 February 2012

The Death In Advertising

Toy reaper
Image via Wikipedia
For some reason, the people at Dubai-based document imaging company Xeratek think using the sound of an ECG flatlining followed by someone wailing 'Nooo' in their advertising is a smart idea. I'm probably over-reacting here, but I really, really take exception to having the sound of someone's death forced on me during my morning drive to work.

I have moaned before about the use of unpleasant sounds in radio ads, the National Bonds campaign used a woman suiciding, a couple arguing and so on. I've posted about the awfulness of radio ads in the past, too. Nobody's ever popped up to defend any specific ad or, indeed, the industry in general. Oh, now I tell a lie. Some blithering idiot from Kellog's ad agency tried astroturfing this post, resulting in this act of SEO-driven revenge.

Much of the awfulness is mired in agencies trying to use 'picture power' to make the ad stand out and help it get its point across. I can see them in my mind's eye, clustered around the client (a small, fat balding man in a suit, somewhat hapless looking and a little off-colour) urging him to take their advice and illustrate the product, make it come to life for the listener. This is what they call 'the creative'. Let's take a concept and put it into living sound in the most imaginative and attention-grabbing way, really disrupt the listener and then get our message across, they babble excitedly as Mr Klienman looks uncertainly at them (he's actually wondering if he remembered to feed the dog and if Pauline would notice again. Damn dog's her pride and joy, loves it more than me, he's thinking as he watches the people from the ad agency work themselves into an evangelistic frenzy. One of them has fallen on the floor and appears to be having some sort of seizure.)

I don't doubt that a calm, factual announcement wouldn't work as well as a colourful, illustrative and entertaining treatment. The trouble, I suspect, is that the advertisers so constantly fail to provide the latter. And then there's the issue of what concepts you actually pick to illustrate your company's products and services. Those concepts are associated, after all, with the brand you're promoting. So the sound of death, the ultimate worst fear of the human race, the cessation of our time on this planet, is perhaps not the smartest idea. Someone just died. Yay. Buy our product.

Hey, it's just a joke though, isn't it? I'm taking it all too seriously, it was just meant to get the ad running and bring a smile to people's faces, surely? I don't remember what the punchline is, though. I was too busy being unsettled by the sound of a death.

Klienman is looking doubtful as the exec on the floor starts to shout in a strange voice, semi-words that sound English but somehow don't make sense, like a Sigur Ros vocal. The account director whips out a pen and a sheet of paper and Klienman, remembering now that he hadn't put water out for the stupid mutt either, signs distractedly. His mobile rings and, sure enough, it's Pauline who's come back to the house and is shouting at him about mistreating the dog. Miserably, he watches the account director licking his lips and folding the paper into his pocket as the creative team help their spittle-flecked colleague up. They've won and the client agreed to the death concept. Kleinman watches them bundle excitedly through the door as he realises Pauline has just told him she's leaving him.
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1 comment:

Luke said...

I actually find it hard to listen to Dubai Eye at the moment because of the adverts. I know they fund the station but surely they need a minimum standard.

The adverts never stimulate. And the more they try, the harder they fail. It just makes you want to change channels.

On another, yet pedantic note, I think you mean "the sound of someone dying" and not "someone's death".

Here's why it makes a difference. I don't think everyone is scared of death. I'm not. It's more the process of dying that is a concern. After all, we were "dead" before we were born and the world got along just fine without us.

So I am off out to enjoy the limited time I have left....

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