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Alternate Ad Realities

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    Posted: 20 Jan 2014 at 12:57am
I like to think that each ad establishes it's own reality for the purpose of telling it's own story. Like a science fiction tale where everything is basically the same as it is in real life, but there are robot servants and hover cars and whatever else one must accept in order to move the sci fi narrative along. In commercials we are presented with these little alternate realities for 30 seconds at a time: Urine is always represented as something that looks a lot like Windex, only women use cleaning products and eat yogurt, men are incredibly stupid, people think about car insurance constantly, the Olive Garden serves Italian Food, and so on. We are expected to suspend our disbelief; to blur the lines between the fantasy world we are presented with and the harsh, practical reality that we endure and take for granted, and we do this all the time with very little effort.

Some ads feature characters that become the protagonists of the narrative, and these characters develop over the course of the ad campaign, whether the advertisers realize it or not. The more conscientious advertisers understand a small need for continuity, while some of the worst will dismiss their demographic as a bunch of dolts who won't notice if things take a sudden turn way off their seemingly logical course.

Early - very early - in the Geico gecko ads we had the ubiquitous lizard holding a press conference wherein he begs 'everyone' to stop calling his phone and asking about Geico Insurance. The joke being that, in the reality of the ad, people were mistaking Geico for the word 'gecko' and calling the only gecko with a phone (I'm assuming he's the only gecko with a phone because he has the number listed for his entire species). The lizard wants nothing to do with the insurance company and merely wants to be left alone. Also, he is voiced by Kelsey Grammer. So in the initial Geico ads reality is the same as it is in real life except for the following conditions: 1)Lizards can walk upright and talk in a soothing baritone. 2)One gecko answers the phone for all the other geckos. 3)People confuse G-E-I-C-O with G-E-C-K-O all the time. However unlikely these conditions are we accept them as rules for the reality we are confronted with in the ad. Talking lizards? Fine, what's he selling?

Apparently the lizard was a such super idea that they had to keep him around as a spokesman, but the first character was protesting Geico (and voiced by a real actor who probably didn't want to stick around for a whole drawn out thing while he's got Frasier money burning through his pocket), so what's to be done? Well, they just changed the ad's reality slightly: The sophisticated timbre of Kelsey Grammer was easily substituted with a random English accented voice actor under the mistaken assumption that, to Americans, all English accents sound sophisticated (even though this 'chap' sounds more like a soccer hooligan and less like the Court of St. James), but the big change was making the lizard an employee of the insurance company rather than a spokesman with a big gripe. So many ads have come and gone since the first incarnation of the gecko that the collective mind of the demographic has forgotten, and now I have to figure out if the lizard and the pig know each other.

Flo is now an icon and Stephanie Courtney has been pigeonholed as the bouffanted virtual insurance clerk of record. Virtual? Yes, you see that white space where many of the Progressive ads are set? That's their website. When the Flo ads began this area represented the Progressive website, and we were to believe that navigating said website would be as simple as strolling down to the local insurance-in-a-box store and getting liability for our Volvo 240dl. Over time the identity of this space has become a little obscure because they have taken Flo out of the website and allowed her to walk around in other settings (and other insurance companies turned out to have their own websites which dilutes the gimmick), thus confusing the narrative. Now she's hanging around alleyways behaving like a drug dealer, or annoying bears that have the power of speech. If we accept the concept that Flo is an avatar of Progressive Customer Service that exists in a 3D representation of the company website, then what the hell is she doing prancing around outside the confines of The Internet? In the reality built by the Progressive ads there is a disturbing bleed-over between the virtual world and the real world (and there are talking bears, for some reason). However, this does explain how they are able to basically murder an employee while he floats in the air – the incident takes place in the white area, the website, so it's only the poor fellow's avatar that gets annihilated. It's no more tragic than Super Mario accidentally jumping off a cliff into a river of lava.

The Progressive ads created a reality with it's own rules, and then they decided to start breaking those rules when they ran out of good ideas. Or did they? Maybe Flo's ability to escape from the internet and bug people in the real world is really just a part of this insuro-centric galaxy we are presented with. The ad where the family home gradually turns into the white space, complete with Flo-style hairdos on the females, suggests a wholesale transformation from internet to reality without Flo even showing up to referee!

After a campaign has been on the air for an extended period of time and has established it's own consistencies – it's own version of the world – then radically deviates from that establishment, it's only natural to ask “What is going on here?” In all likelihood the advertisers have simply become way too creative (or lazy) and this is screwing things up, but maybe what they are inadvertently doing is showing us conditions for the reality of the ad that we had not been aware of. This can't happen in the Geico ad because the attitude and voice of the lizard changed ultimately, and there is no smooth transition from Kelsey Grammer complaining about his phone blowing up to some bloke who participates in the creation of his own advertisements (thus setting up an infinite loop that I don't feel like getting into right now). What we have in the Flo ads is a gradual intrusion by the internet into our everyday lives as demonstrated by actual internet things appearing in our reality (which may or may not be really happening), so this actually works if you keep an open mind, regardless of how you feel about Flo. And if you ignore the talking bears.

There are a few campaigns in this style that have managed to maintain a sort of status quo in the ridiculous worlds they propose. Jack in the Box features the fellow with the giant white ball for a head who is the embodiment of the company logo as well as the CEO (I think). This went to disturbing lengths when they decided to have a Box family reunion and we were treated to a cast of half human/half logo monstrosities, but at least they stuck to the concept. The Sun appears as a character in the Jimmy Dean ads, and he wants everyone to eat like a farmhand each morning (“where are the potatoes?”). When he goes to work he is in charge of the planets, the moon, and certain weather elements, all toiling together in a nondescript office. This really raises more questions than answers, but as long as they keep it simple the idea, however stupid, should last for a while longer without causing any great consternation. Sonic ads feature a pair of simpletons who can't get enough of each other and spend every waking moment at their local Sonic drive-thru bugging the living sh*t out of the employees, but beyond that they don't stray into any out-of-parking-lot adventures, so everything seems fine in that world. AT&T had me charmed with the "It's Not Complicated" ads featuring Serious Guy treating a handful of 5 years olds like they were adults in a focus group. I have laughed out loud at a couple of these, though I had to Google the tag line to find out what they were even advertising, such is the lack of real effectiveness, but at least they were entertaining and the reality was readily acceptable. That is until this line fragment - "dinosaur robot who chops the water like a karate ninja" - and they lost me. Up until that moment I was believing their reality for the sake of the ad. I was believing that the things the little kids were saying were things that little kids might actually say, until one of them said "dinosaur robot who chops the water like a karate ninja" because NO CHILD WOULD EVER SAY THAT UNLESS SOME STUPID ADULT MADE IT UP THEN FORCED HIM TO. It sounds so completely like a line a very untalented adult might think a 5 year old would say that it pulls me right out of the movie, I mean the ad. Robot ninja? Fine. Dinosaur that knows karate? Maybe. Dinosaur robot who chops the water like a karate ninja? Are you high?

For a while I felt as though I had the back story for the Wendy's ads pretty much nailed down. Our heroine is an obnoxious young lady who can't shut up about her main obsession: Sub-standard fast food and how it contrasts with what other people are eating. She was initially shown in dining areas that we imagine are frequented by office types who have 12 minutes to eat lunch before racing back to their cubicles, but in reality are actually frequented by homeless people and loitering teenagers. With a well placed and very snotty remark she would devastate her potential lunch-mates (or 'taste-buds', get it?), then beam with a self satisfied grin that has moved a nation to despise her. One may perceive a deeper meaning when she chirps “now that's better” at the close of each ad. What's better? Not the crappy food you're peddling, so you must mean your condescending attitude and lack of manners, in which case I must disagree strongly. She was always shown with different sets of companions, which to me, following the narrative I've chosen to perceive, meant that people could not stand to be around her and her stupid cheeseburger preoccupation. Then things started to change. We started to see her in different places, such as a parking lot near some sort of heavily attended event, but still gripping an uneaten food product while making everyone nearby feel bad about their decision making abilities. We saw her branching out beyond the workplace in her quest to make friends, but we also saw her continue to fail miserably, since no matter where she goes she is still an awful person to be around. The major 'plot twist' came in the ad where we saw her coworkers behaving bizarrely – stapling a tie to a form, squirting hand sanitizer into coffee, and so on – while Miss Pretzel Bun stares in drop jawed horror. I've toyed with a number of theories as to what's going on before settling on one scenario: It's a holiday, admin is away, and everyone in the office decided to take hallucinogenic mushrooms at work as a lark (that is seriously the very best I could come up with while taking into account their behavior). Pretzel Bun, being the office pariah, was excluded from their reindeer games, and the ad we see is the result of these shenanigans. Oh, then a coworker blasts her with a fire extinguisher as a sort of pretend office shooting.

The most recent Wendy's ad might seem like a total divergence from the narrative, but we have to fill in a few blanks. When last we saw Pretzel Bun she was trapped in an office tower full of hopped up 'shroom heads, possibly a traumatizing experience in and of itself, then getting attacked by fellow cubist who left his Glock in his apartment, but lets say these experiences jarred her into realizing that her entire life up to this point has been a cruel joke and everyone hates her, which in turn has provoked a psychotic break. Then the 'asagio chicken' ad makes total sense! The entire thing happens in her own mind. PB and her sandwich are celebrated at some gala event, they are surrounded by admirers and friends at a fancy party, and finally PB and the sandwich ride off into the sunset on a motorcycle. It only appears that she is inexplicably popular and loved by many, when in fact she is locked up somewhere with a lot of Stelazine fogging up her poor, wrecked mind. I might not have discovered this but for one important detail – the chicken sandwich was driving.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote DKS Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 20 Jan 2014 at 7:59am
Originally posted by MrFlavor MrFlavor wrote:



Flo is now an icon and Stephanie Courtney has been pigeonholed as the bouffanted virtual insurance clerk of record. Virtual? Yes, you see that white space where many of the Progressive ads are set? That's their website. When the Flo ads began this area represented the Progressive website, and we were to believe that navigating said website would be as simple as strolling down to the local insurance-in-a-box store and getting liability for our Volvo 240dl. Over time the identity of this space has become a little obscure because they have taken Flo out of the website and allowed her to walk around in other settings (and other insurance companies turned out to have their own websites which dilutes the gimmick), thus confusing the narrative. Now she's hanging around alleyways behaving like a drug dealer, or annoying bears that have the power of speech. If we accept the concept that Flo is an avatar of Progressive Customer Service that exists in a 3D representation of the company website, then what the hell is she doing prancing around outside the confines of The Internet? In the reality built by the Progressive ads there is a disturbing bleed-over between the virtual world and the real world (and there are talking bears, for some reason). However, this does explain how they are able to basically murder an employee while he floats in the air – the incident takes place in the white area, the website, so it's only the poor fellow's avatar that gets annihilated. It's no more tragic than Super Mario accidentally jumping off a cliff into a river of lava.

The Progressive ads created a reality with it's own rules, and then they decided to start breaking those rules when they ran out of good ideas. Or did they? Maybe Flo's ability to escape from the internet and bug people in the real world is really just a part of this insuro-centric galaxy we are presented with. The ad where the family home gradually turns into the white space, complete with Flo-style hairdos on the females, suggests a wholesale transformation from internet to reality without Flo even showing up to referee!


It's the f**king Matrix, man...
"I see the sadness in their eyes
Melancholy in their cries
Devoid of all the passion
The human spirit cannot die"
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote tass Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Jan 2014 at 12:24am
Dang man. That's a lotta words.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MrFlavor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 21 Jan 2014 at 4:31pm
The Flo as a Little Girl ads have reminded me that there are two Flos: The virtual clerk in the white space, Flo's avatar, and the one we see outside the white space who lurks in alleys. The Flo we see descending from the ceiling Mission Impossible style and emerging from the sand with a box o' insurance is her avatar as it manifests on mobile devices.

Still can't explain the talking bears.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Christine Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Jan 2014 at 12:17am
Can't believe I read the whooooole thing! Clap Excellent insight, stuff I've never considered before. I feel smarter now after a decade or so of watching these mini-Greek-dramas play out.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BrianO Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Jan 2014 at 10:55pm

The AT&T 'kids focus group' ads are better when they aren't fixated on the idea that 'speech impediments are funny'. The first ad was the most irritating example, with the one kid with a weird haircut('weird haircuts are also funny, especially combined with a speech impediment'), who babbled about having a 'wire to the TV' in the treehouse ('Da WIUH an' da TEEvee, an' in the position you had to hold da WIuh, you couldn't see da TEEvee...') That part was thankfully edited out when they released the 15-second version. Another ad 'Why is more better than less?' featured some girl with a really nasal monotone: 'nnnMORE is nnnnbetter thannnnn nnnless cuz nnnwhen you have nnnnless nnnyou want nnnMORE! We want MORE, we wannnnt MORE!' The 'karate ninja' ad is a throwback to these weirdos.

 

There is also another 'reality' for Jack in the Box. In the ads touting their late night menu for 'stoners', we see several slackers, who have likely been partaking of a certain 'weed'(frequently used for medicinal purposes), who are afflicted with sudden acute hunger that often accompanies the use of this substance. 

While the 'CEO' Jack has appeared in some of these ads, others have a smaller, presumably younger,  version of Jack, with a moving mouth not seen on the adult version, who engages in witty 'pothead banter', as he 'flies away' off some guy's couch(although the guy is still sober enough to realize 'I can't fly!'), and, in another, has a deep conversation with a future Nobel Prize winner about having 'spooooon haaaaaaaaaands' and being able to hear with the elbow. 

So, while the 'sensible adult' Jack chides the two guys who ate his car keys and phone, and consoles the tattooed couple that they can make up for their 'bad choices last night' by having breakfast at Jack in the Box, the 'teen' Jack just wants to have a good time
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Thor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Jan 2014 at 11:31pm

I never really thought about the Progressive commercials being a representation of a website.  But that Progressive "store" certainly does have the glow of a computer screen.  Even the blue accents mimic my IE and Google trim colors and even the CIH forum home page.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Jimbo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Jan 2014 at 2:00am
It made me sad when he said all those hurtful things about my heartbreakingly beautiful red haired angel who I'm so deeply & hopelessly in love with & then derisively called her "Pretzel Bun".

That's my little pet name for her that I only use when we're alone, sharing intimate moments together.

I feel as though my special world has been violated.




Great news guys.... With the Air Hawk, flat balls are no longer a problem!!!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Thor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Jan 2014 at 2:05am

^  There is none so blind as he who will not see.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Jimbo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Jan 2014 at 3:03am
I think the quote is "There are none so blind as those who will not see."

But if I am blind, then I am blinded by love & my red headed darling's beauty.

Broken Heart


Great news guys.... With the Air Hawk, flat balls are no longer a problem!!!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Thor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Jan 2014 at 3:17am

She's evil, Jimbo, she's evil.

I think the red hair is blinding you.




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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Jimbo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Jan 2014 at 3:19am
You'll never come between us!!!!

NEVER!!!!! Angry Angry


Great news guys.... With the Air Hawk, flat balls are no longer a problem!!!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Thor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Jan 2014 at 3:25am

Don't worry...I don't need her.  I'm dating Paris Hilton these days.  




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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Jimbo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Jan 2014 at 3:27am
Paris WHO????

She's so 2005 anyway.

Tell her I said hello. Cry




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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Thor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Jan 2014 at 3:34am

OK.  I just told her you said hello.  She said "Who's that?"

But yeah, she's older and more seasoned these days.  But her body remains firm and her eyes remain as lopsided and hot as ever.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Jimbo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Jan 2014 at 3:45am
She just doesn't want you to be jealous.

Or feel intimidated because you have such an impossible level of awesomeness to live up to.



Great news guys.... With the Air Hawk, flat balls are no longer a problem!!!
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Thor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Jan 2014 at 4:08am

She's a ditz.  She doesn't remember one day to the next, let alone one boyfriend to the next.

And that's what makes her special.  That, and her lopsided eyes.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Jimbo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Jan 2014 at 4:12am
I have a picture of a nephew of mine who's a radio DJ in Germany kinda snuggling up with her.

This one:


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Thor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Jan 2014 at 4:28am

Too bad he's not a radio DJ in Paris.


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Jimbo Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Jan 2014 at 4:29am
Ya never know.

She gets around from what I've heard.

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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote BrianO Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Jan 2014 at 8:04am
Originally posted by Thor Thor wrote:


Too bad he's not a radio DJ in Paris.



If he gets about two inches closer, he will be.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote MrFlavor Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 30 Jan 2014 at 1:26pm
Originally posted by Jimbo Jimbo wrote:

It made me sad when he said all those hurtful things about my heartbreakingly beautiful red haired angel who I'm so deeply & hopelessly in love with & then derisively called her "Pretzel Bun".

That's my little pet name for her that I only use when we're alone, sharing intimate moments together.

I feel as though my special world has been violated.






I'm ..... sorry?
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