Radio spots register on laugh meter

I know, I know, I know. I haven't written anything nice about a radio spot for a dog's age. But I have an excuse. It's that, for what seems like forever, all I heard advertised on radio was car insurance for...

I know, I know, I know. I haven’t written anything nice about a radio spot for a dog’s age. But I have an excuse. It’s that, for what seems like forever, all I heard advertised on radio was car insurance for people who don’t need car insurance, because they don’t crash, because they’re too old to crash.

The thought of dumping on poor Wally Crouter, just because he sounds about a hundred and fifty and peppers his spiels with references to pre-World War Two artifacts like marching bands and merry-go-round brass rings, or Don Cherry, just because he will not stop doing Don Cherry, just makes you feel cheap somehow.

There was a flicker of light amid the unending appeals to the elderly and hey-I-drive-too-slow-to-crash segment. A company called Fair Insurance runs a spot where a kind of barbershop trio sings You dinged some driver’s derrière? At Fair Insurance WE DON’T CARE! For the lowest rates in Ontar-eye-air, call one-triple-eight-two-three-four FAIR! At last, rates for the reckless and unrepentant.

Recently though, there seems to be a veritable cascade of funny stuff on the air. In fact, just trying to catalogue a bunch of it for a column frequently left me puzzling over just which gag went with which spot, which is worrying.

There’s a lovely one that charts the pathetic progress of a struggling math student through one blown exam after another, as in…an inspired summer school performance of 54%! tagged with the line Stop sweating the math. Call H&R Block. Not a laugh out loud candidate, but a nice smile-generator that says Why do your own taxes, dummy?

A bizarre spot for Grand & Toy has a guy (obviously a very sick guy) in hospital, when his business supplies rep shows up and cheerfully offers to donate one of his kidneys for a transplant. Courageous, rather black, and totally unbelievable, but funny.

The home office-targeted campaign that IBM is running is interesting from a number of aspects. First, its hero, a bungling entrepreneur with delusions of grandeur is undeniably funny, especially if you’re having a good day in your home office and feel confident enough to chuckle at the foibles and misfortunes of others.

It’s also interesting that the whole call-to-action pitch for a computer company is to pick up the phone and dial 1-800-IBM-CALL. Nice to hear a computer company not pushing an Internet address.

And it’s downright cheeky to spoof that little bing-bing-bing-bam musical sting that happens every time there’s a mention of Intel Pentium Processors in the broadcast media. Whenever it happens in the IBM spots, the hero thinks it’s the pizza guy ringing the doorbell. Or the phone ringing. Hello! We want your business! he yells into the receiver. Gotta fix that phone!

At best, these spots capture the mood swings, the weird combinations of bombast, fear, greed and farce that is the lot of the home office entrepreneur. In one, our hero fears he’s lost his presentation when the cat jumps onto his keyboard, and is saved by calling someone at IBM who helps him retrieve it. He introduces his mother as his VP, Operations. I fired the cat she says.

Purolator is running a campaign under the banner Everything else seems harder after using Purolator. This simple premise is permitted to propel the spots down a slippery slope whereby they feel compelled to show us how hard other stuff totally unrelated to courier services really is.

A radio piece is built around someone trying to record a phone-answering message, and repeatedly screwing it up by coughing part way through or saying orifice instead of office and massage instead of message, which just isn’t all that funny. There’s a slapstick Purolator TV spot in which a guy listening to a boardroom conference call catapults himself out of a swivel chair. The call coming over the speaker from the West Coast office, lamenting the weakness in silver paper clip sales brought about by the soaring popularity of multicoloured paper clips is brilliant, but it took me three viewings to sort out the audio from the video, and several more to connect the whole thing back to Purolator.

Actually, the funniest radio spot you’ve not heard on air was written on spec by my favourite music house, in hopes of selling it to a law firm. Here’s how it goes: They give advice, they seemed so nice/I can’t believe they’re lawyers/! I didn’t have to ask them twice/I can’t believe they’re lawyers/ The things I didn’t understand/They smiled at me, they held my hand/ Gee this legal thing is grand/I can’t believe they’re lawyers! And so on.

It’s still available, too. So go tell your lawyers. We could split the finder’s fee.

Radio dubs reviewed in this column were supplied courtesy of Ad-Watch, a Toronto-based ad monitoring service.

Barry Base creates advertising campaigns for a living. He creates this column for fun, and to test the unproven theory that clients who find the latter amusing may also find the former to their liking. Barry can be reached at (416) 924-5533, or faxed at (416) 960-5255, at the Toronto office of Barry Base & Partners.

In Brief: The Garden picks CDs to take on daily creative leadership

Plus, Naked names two new leaders of its own and Digital Ethos comes to Canada.

The Garden promotes two creative directors

ACDs Lindsay Eady and Francheska Galloway-Davis have taken over responsibility for day-to-day creative leadership at The Garden after being promoted to creative director roles.

The pair will also help develop the agency’s creative talent, formalizing mentorship and leadership activities they have been doing since joining the agency four and three years ago, respectively. In addition to creating the agency’s internship program, the pair have worked on campaigns for Coinsquare, FitTrack and “The Coke Challenge” campaign for DanceSafe.

Eady and Galloway-Davis will continue to report to The Garden’s co-founder and chief creative officer Shane Ogilvie, who is stepping back from daily creative duties to a more high-level strategic role, allowing him to focus on client relationships and business growth.

Naked Creative Consultancy names new creative and strategy leadership

Toronto’s Naked Creative Consultancy has hired Yasmin Sahni as its new creative director. She is taking over creative leadership from David Kenyon, who has been in the role for 10 years and is moving into a new role as director of strategy, leading the discipline at the agency.

Sahni is coming off of three years as VP and ECD at GTB’s Toronto office, where she managed all the retail, social and service creative for Ford Canada. She previously managed both Vice Media and Vice’s in-house ad agency Virtue.

Peter Shier, president of Naked, says Sahni’s hiring adds to its creative bench and capabilities, as well as a track record of mentorship, a priority for the company. Meanwhile, Kenyon’s move to the strategy side, he says, makes sense because of his deep knowledge of its clients, which have included Ancestry and The Globe and Mail.

Digital Ethos opens a Toronto office

U.K. digital agency Digital Ethos is pursuing new growth opportunities in North America by opening a new office in Toronto.

Though it didn’t disclose them, the agency has begun serving a number of North American clients, and CEO/founder Luke Tobin says the “time was right to invest in a more formal and actual presence in the area.” whose services include design, SEO, pay-per-click, social media, influencer and PR,

This year, the agency’s growth has also allowed it to open an office in Hamburg, Germany, though it also has remote staff working in countries around the world.

Moray Hickes was the company’s first North American hire as VP of sales, tasked with business development in the region.