Baseline Advertising in Review

Metaphor a powerful advertising tool - sometimesthe use of metaphor in advertising can pack a mighty memorable whallop.'The Strength of Gibraltar.''A Tiger in your Tank.'And a magical metaphor, specially the visual variety, just has to be the one surefire mind-melter when...

Metaphor a powerful advertising tool – sometimes

the use of metaphor in advertising can pack a mighty memorable whallop.

‘The Strength of Gibraltar.’

‘A Tiger in your Tank.’

And a magical metaphor, specially the visual variety, just has to be the one surefire mind-melter when sprung on international awards juries.

(See the u.k.’s Halifax Building Society spots out of London that build houses and wedding cakes out of hundreds of acrobats standing on each other, or the celebrated Macintosh 1984 commercial that equated Big Brother with Big Blue, and humanity’s salvation to Apple’s sledgehammer-flinging cutie.)

Metaphor can also be banal and muddled. It’s tricky, tangles easily, and invites you to mangle your message in mnemonic gridlock before you’re 10 seconds into a 30.

Witness two current executions from our local telecommunications kings, who, along with Hollywood movie studios and New Brunswick potato farmers, seem to be the only people left with any real money to spend on television.

Bell’s Advantage campaign leads off with two tv spots of identical form, one male, one female, like peas in a pod, or washroom doors.

An anxiety-wracked businessperson in an office or plant at which the lights seem to have gone out just as the cameras begin to roll, pleads with the Big Voiceover to ‘Be there when I need you. Understand my concerns. Just keep me in the race.’

And, by gosh, suddenly, we have switched channels to a real goddam race with noise and confusion and jump-cuts and all hell breaking loose.

Back and forth we go, faster and faster, as cars, bikes and swarming flunkies whiz through the blurry swish pans, being there, understanding, keeping us in the….aw, phooey.

I get it, but I don’t buy it.

Does the business grind make you feel like Mario Andretti? Is Ma Bell in your pits? Can you really hear me? Sorry, but I spun out.

At least Unitel knows what it wants to sell us. It wants to sell us phone services savings, savings, savings.

Cash raining down. Cash piling up. Cheques writ large. Safes plummeting through floors. Worlds exploding.

Er, did you say ‘worlds exploding?’ Yup.

In a 60-second spot called ‘Overseas,’ two large globes appear side by side, one bigger than the other. There are phones atop both globes. The smaller globe loses air. A fat guy tries klutzy ways to get to the phone atop his globe. The smaller globe gets smaller. A guy uses the phone on that globe. Then, so help me, the guy pulls out a pin and, blam! explodes his own globe.

And because a little Unitel logo has been hanging over this globe, I think he exploded the sponsor’s globe. But he doesn’t seem to care, he goes on talking on the phone. Did I mention he was talking on the phone?

While all this visual tomfoolery is unravelling, a voiceover is rambling along full bore about heaven-knows-what, you’re just so mystified by all this…this symbolism.

There are some supers to help, and big phone numbers.

But turn off the sound on this one, and I defy you to make any sense of the pictures, and, hey, gang, this is television.

And when the eye battles the ear for the brain’s attention, the ear always loses. Trust me.

Now, think of the agency as a big swarm of carpenter ants, and the advertising budget as a big, plump slug. No, make that a caterpillar, and watch the ants craft this incredibly, ah, graphic butterfly, and win awards, and promotions to run ant farms overseas, and…

Bell’s Advantage campaign is from McKim Baker Lovick/BBDO. Unitel’s is by Ogilvy & Mather.

The dark side: how come the lighting levels in Bell tv spots generally make the grimy interiors in Schindler’s List looks like a Kmart?