Cool blue Beetle speaks to the mavens

Back in my Endless Summer of Muskoka Cottage Re-Construction, I raised the idea that, unless I am very much mistaken, no new human motor action (like fixing something, or buying something), can be initiated without first having thought that action through from start to very damn near finish.

Back in my Endless Summer of Muskoka Cottage Re-Construction, I raised the idea that, unless I am very much mistaken, no new human motor action (like fixing something, or buying something), can be initiated without first having thought that action through from start to very damn near finish.

Before erecting your first boat port, or making your first Bloody Caesar with Clamato Juice, or phoning Lands’ End the first time to order a squall jacket, you’ve got to start with Walking Your Lazy Brain Down That Long and Futzy Road First.

It strikes you how little advertising, which after all is merely information packaged in a way which invites people to make decisions, sparks, jump-starts or simply encourages the thought process that leads to buying the freaking stuff, which is the whole point.

Never mind that the stuff is cool. The world is full of cool stuff you and I will never get our asses in gear to experience. How do you actually get your mitts on this stuff? That’s what’s so mah-velous about the new Lands’ End TV spots. Have you seen one? So simple. So fresh. So real. So inviting.

The spots are all animation. Big, smooth, simple, lines that move and morph inexorably from one idea to the next. And these ever-moving graphic forms serve to illuminate the sound tracks, which are actual (or masterfully staged) recordings of telephone conversations between Lands’ End telemarketers, and potential customers calling in to close the buying decision they’ve mostly already made by clicking on to the Lands’ End web site.

The chatter is light and cheerful. Witty, if not downright funny. And absolutely unforced. A guy is talking to a lady telemarketer about a jacket for a trip in the Woods with the Guys. The jacket magically morphs out of her image onto the screen, and as she notes the waterproof aspect of the thing, we see it perform its rain-repelling shtick.

She notes it comes in the Princess model for ladies, and our woodsman guy’s image suddenly sports a silly tiara. Oops, we don’t want that one, no sirree.

Finally, the animated image of just the right jacket for our guy forms on the screen, and morphs one last time into an identical photograph of the real thing. They remind us it all starts at www.landsend.com, and we’re done.

Your mind has Walked The Walk from curiosity to purchase, and you hardly noticed. It was a piece of cake! So smart.

Another of my favourite and relentlessly-spouted-to-the-point-of-annoyance Axioms of Advertising is wonderfully realized in a VW spot. This is more complicated, so please r-e-a-d s-l-o-w-l-y and work with me on this, kids.

The Axiom is that ads should always speak to the core target audience. The initiated. The expert. The maven. That’s where the rubber meets the road, where the buzz starts. The tire kickers, the dickheads, will get the message from the maven-generated buzz when their time comes, if ever.

VW decides to sponsor the Martin Scorsese-hosted blues documentary series on PBS. Nothing remarkable about that, folks. Happens every day.

But the spot they conceived to make that point is like totally remarkable, dude. Even as a blues nut, I had to see the damn thing about five times before I got it, but that’s the idea. A blues nut will see it 50 times by watching and re-watching every show in the series, stupid. And once you get it, you will never forget it. Trust me.

The spot is built upon, and cut to, one hypnotic, driving sound track. It’s Willie Dickson’s Chicago Blues classic Spoonful. That SPOON that SPOON that SPOOOONful! That SPOON that SPOON that SPOOOONful!

A kid climbing the stair to his flat with his racing bike is humming it. A guy waiting for an elevator picks it up. Everybody on the block is hooked on the beat! A cool old black guy reading his paper on his couch hears the big electric sound for real, and looks out his window.

Down in the street, a VW is cruising slowly by, windows down and roof panel open, looking for a parking spot. Willie’s Spoonful is blasting out of this killer VW speaker system at 400 decibels! We somehow hear the driver complain this is the third time we’ve been around this block.

The end shot is the black guy’s stocking feet, clad in black-and-blue circle motif socks, bopping up and down to the Spoonful beat on the couch. Is VW a bluesman’s vehicle? Does a bear shit in the woods?

Barry Base creates advertising campaigns for a living. He writes this column to promote the cause of what he calls intelligent advertising, and to attract clients who share the notion that many a truth is said in jest. Barry can be reached at (416) 924-5533, or faxed at (416) 960-5255, at the Toronto office of Barry Base & Partners.