missroserose: (Default)
Yep. I'm sick again.

Brian started feeling under the weather just before we left Sweden, and had to navigate public transit, international flights, and customs all while coughing and feverish, poor guy. (The one upside: August being a slow month for vacationers, on the long-haul flight both ways we got a whole row of seats to ourselves. So at least he wasn't coughing on anyone directly.) At first we just thought he'd picked up whatever cold I'd gotten on the way there, but when he started in on a wracking chest cough, and especially once I started feeling under the weather a couple of days after our return, I figured it was time for us to see the doctor.

The diagnosis? Flu! (And flu shots literally just became available here in town. Augh, timing.) And because Brian's an overachiever, he also had a secondary strep infection. (Or as he put it, "I thought I just had Plane Ebola, but apparently I have Double Bonus Plane Ebola.") And because I live with the overachieving bacterial-colony-host, guess who's also showing strep symptoms two days later? Yup, that's me. Overachiever by proxy.

In fairness, things could be much much worse. The doctor wrote me a prescription for antibiotics as well ("I hate just giving out antibiotics but you seem smart enough not to take them unless you start getting symptoms, and there's a high likelihood you will"), so the extra-bonus-miserableness will likely be short-lived. Brian didn't have anything pressing on his schedule for the next week or two, and his boss has been great about letting him work from home (and occasionally doped up on codeine cough syrup). I'm not scheduled to start my new job until the 20th, which hopefully, with the help of Tamiflu and amoxicillin and lots of tea and rest, will be plenty of time to get better.

So my life has once again been reduced to bed, couch, books, tea, carrot-dill soup (homemade and brought over by local friends - thank you so much, Tara and Nate!), and YouTube videos. I put up a request on Facebook for silly videos or series recommendations, and my friends came through in spades. Here are some favorites, in case anyone else is under the weather or wants to have a stash of entertainment handy for the next time they're sick:

--The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a retelling of Pride & Prejudice through Lizzie Bennet's vlog. I'm a little burned out on P&P retillings, to be honest, but this one is pretty well done all around: exceptionally well-cast, well-acted and expertly produced, and adapted with relative ease to the present-day setting (instead of entailment, the Bennets are concerned about losing their house to the financial crisis; Mr. Collins is an aspiring indie vlogger who's received a huge venture capital investment from a "very wealthy and exceedingly intelligent woman"). Plus it's surprised me by adding more than a few modern twists to the story - I particularly liked one video where Lizzie debates with herself over the ethics of putting recordings of people (or even her impressions of people) online without their knowing. A dilemma for the Internet age, certainly, but I find myself wondering if Jane Austen had similar thoughts when writing characters who (I'm sure) were based on people she knew in everyday life.

--IKEA Heights, a soap opera filmed entirely (and unbeknownst to the staff) in the Burbank, California IKEA store. Unlike the Lizzie Bennet Diaries, I'm not certain this one really offers much past its basic premise, but man, that premise is a downright gold mine of visual gags, and certainly holds up for the four-episode initial arc.

--This variety show act, whose provenance I am uncertain of but which made me laugh to no end. It's a good trick, elevated by the impeccable delivery.

--The Tale of How, a hypnotic and fantastical animation that (even having watched it several times) I'm not quite sure how to describe - surrealist, certainly, but with a fairly traditional story beneath the natural-industrial-mashup art design. The music is similarly strange, eschewing traditional intervals and harmonies and at times almost dissonant, but with a mostly-consistent rocking beat that evokes the ever-moving ocean. I'm honestly sad I can't find a version in high-def - the intricate visual work frankly deserves it.

--And, equally well-done but on the complete opposite end of the artistic spectrum, We Like Them Girls, a highly NSFW music video with amazing production values that's a pretty pitch-perfect satire of mainstream dance music (and, in many ways, mainstream masculine culture)...done entirely in LEGO. It pre-dates the LEGO Movie by a few years (and is obviously aimed at a much less, erm, mixed-age audience), but it feels like it has a lot of the same anarchic satirical spirit, enough that I'm curious if the same person ended up working on the movie. Even if not, I'm pretty sure this video helped inspire the "Where are my pants?" gag. Reductio ad absurdum: works for social satire even better than for online debates!

Okay, that's enough from me now - it's time for some NyQuil and a nap. ("NyQuil and the Naps" would be a horrible band name. Don't use it.) If you want to add to the video suggestion list, please do - I'm likely going to be on the couch at least another day or two, and can always use more recommendations!
missroserose: (Inspire)
Listen to this man. He speaks the truth.

And merely by our listening, it will be another small victory for truthfulness, authenticity, and integrity.

Or at least, I hope so. Because God knows how desperately we need it.
missroserose: (Inspire)
Listen to this man. He speaks the truth.

And merely by our listening, it will be another small victory for truthfulness, authenticity, and integrity.

Or at least, I hope so. Because God knows how desperately we need it.
missroserose: (Default)
And really, the title tells you everything you need to know.

But I will add that, if you can watch this video and not laugh once, you're not fully human.

(Technically SFW, but...yeah. Just look at the name.)
missroserose: (Default)
And really, the title tells you everything you need to know.

But I will add that, if you can watch this video and not laugh once, you're not fully human.

(Technically SFW, but...yeah. Just look at the name.)
missroserose: (Default)
Seriously, this totally made my morning.

missroserose: (Default)
Seriously, this totally made my morning.

missroserose: (Book Love)
I guess there must be a shortage of "April Fools' Pranks Gone Wrong" stories this year, as CNN has decided to hop into their time machine and drum up a controversy that the gamer-subsection of the Internet was done with a year ago - specifically, the RapeLay game that was released in Japan back in 2009.

The game itself (and its thorny issues of obscenity and censorship) aside, the accompanying video clip serves as a pitch-perfect example of why I don't watch cable news - the entire thing is so pitch-perfectly tuned to manipulate viewers' emotions and draw attention away from the actually-quite-good arguments the commentator is making.

Seriously, give it a watch. Go ahead, I'll wait.



Let's break that down a bit, shall we? We've got:

• the generically-handsome news anchor speaking in his Concerned Father voice,
• the "We must warn our viewers, the following footage is extremely graphic" line of BS that is guaranteed to draw the aforementioned viewers' attention,
• the leading questions he's asking the interviewee - "How easy would it be for our children to get their hands on this game?" And when that doesn't get him the answer he wants, he goes for the old standby "What about violent video games in general? How do they affect our children?",
• the continual replay of the footage from the game, placed in a larger window higher up than the one with the commentator's face, thus subliminally minimizing her and drowning out her words in the emotional reaction they want the footage to inspire (five gets you ten that if she'd given them the reactive BS they were hoping for, her face would have filled the screen),
• the way the anchor keeps interrupting the commentator when she doesn't give him the response he wants, also helping to minimize her importance in viewers' minds
• the interface cluttered with "Parent Outrage!" and other such graphics, none of which are supported in the segment itself, as well as
• the overlay of various Facebook comments, all drawn from (or edited to appear to be drawn from) the hyper-emotional reaction they want, thus reinforcing said reaction among viewers

What kills me about this is that the commentator is making a perfectly rational and cogent set of points - that, for instance, [a] kids don't have easy access to this game (it requires some knowledge of BitTorrent or other shady venues to acquire), [b] it's not that hard to keep your kid's computer access restricted to common areas so you can (gasp!) walk by and see what they're playing now and then, [c] it's normal for kids to be attracted to violent games, and what matters is that you talk to them about it and about the differences in acceptable behavior in games vs. real life, and [d] CNN is actually doing more harm than good by publicizing this crap, since kids are far more likely to get curious about it after seeing it on the news. None of which, of course, will likely penetrate through the skull of most CNN viewers, given the blatant degree of emotional manipulation going on here.

I guarantee that if you interviewed any twenty random people who saw this clip, nineteen of them would be able to describe the footage and their reaction to it in great detail, but if you asked them about the commentator and what she said, they'd probably look at you blankly and go "Who?" And that's not even really their fault - like I said, this clip is tailor-made to exploit every single human fallacy surrounding hyper-emotional subjects. It's how the news industry gets ratings, which is how they make their money. Sadly, it's also a prime example of the quality of reporting you can expect from televised news, and why I urge people who do watch it to think about the information you're consuming. Don't just listen to it passively - watch the dynamics at play, look at how they present it, and ask yourself if they have an agenda to push. You may or may not be as horrified as I consistently am, but I think you'll find that it's far less unbiased than the networks would like you to think.
missroserose: (Book Love)
I guess there must be a shortage of "April Fools' Pranks Gone Wrong" stories this year, as CNN has decided to hop into their time machine and drum up a controversy that the gamer-subsection of the Internet was done with a year ago - specifically, the RapeLay game that was released in Japan back in 2009.

The game itself (and its thorny issues of obscenity and censorship) aside, the accompanying video clip serves as a pitch-perfect example of why I don't watch cable news - the entire thing is so pitch-perfectly tuned to manipulate viewers' emotions and draw attention away from the actually-quite-good arguments the commentator is making.

Seriously, give it a watch. Go ahead, I'll wait.



Let's break that down a bit, shall we? We've got:

• the generically-handsome news anchor speaking in his Concerned Father voice,
• the "We must warn our viewers, the following footage is extremely graphic" line of BS that is guaranteed to draw the aforementioned viewers' attention,
• the leading questions he's asking the interviewee - "How easy would it be for our children to get their hands on this game?" And when that doesn't get him the answer he wants, he goes for the old standby "What about violent video games in general? How do they affect our children?",
• the continual replay of the footage from the game, placed in a larger window higher up than the one with the commentator's face, thus subliminally minimizing her and drowning out her words in the emotional reaction they want the footage to inspire (five gets you ten that if she'd given them the reactive BS they were hoping for, her face would have filled the screen),
• the way the anchor keeps interrupting the commentator when she doesn't give him the response he wants, also helping to minimize her importance in viewers' minds
• the interface cluttered with "Parent Outrage!" and other such graphics, none of which are supported in the segment itself, as well as
• the overlay of various Facebook comments, all drawn from (or edited to appear to be drawn from) the hyper-emotional reaction they want, thus reinforcing said reaction among viewers

What kills me about this is that the commentator is making a perfectly rational and cogent set of points - that, for instance, [a] kids don't have easy access to this game (it requires some knowledge of BitTorrent or other shady venues to acquire), [b] it's not that hard to keep your kid's computer access restricted to common areas so you can (gasp!) walk by and see what they're playing now and then, [c] it's normal for kids to be attracted to violent games, and what matters is that you talk to them about it and about the differences in acceptable behavior in games vs. real life, and [d] CNN is actually doing more harm than good by publicizing this crap, since kids are far more likely to get curious about it after seeing it on the news. None of which, of course, will likely penetrate through the skull of most CNN viewers, given the blatant degree of emotional manipulation going on here.

I guarantee that if you interviewed any twenty random people who saw this clip, nineteen of them would be able to describe the footage and their reaction to it in great detail, but if you asked them about the commentator and what she said, they'd probably look at you blankly and go "Who?" And that's not even really their fault - like I said, this clip is tailor-made to exploit every single human fallacy surrounding hyper-emotional subjects. It's how the news industry gets ratings, which is how they make their money. Sadly, it's also a prime example of the quality of reporting you can expect from televised news, and why I urge people who do watch it to think about the information you're consuming. Don't just listen to it passively - watch the dynamics at play, look at how they present it, and ask yourself if they have an agenda to push. You may or may not be as horrified as I consistently am, but I think you'll find that it's far less unbiased than the networks would like you to think.
missroserose: (Default)
So it seems my longtime friend [livejournal.com profile] cyranocyrano is moving to Michigan, and rather than bring Nauti, his white 1993 Honda del Sol with him to brave the winters there, or sell it to the (no doubt) large local tuner community, it struck him that he knew this chick in Arizona who was obsessed with finding an inexpensive topless car. So for whatever reason, he decided that the best option was to load it up into a trailer and drive miles out of his way to bring it to her, even though she couldn't afford to pay him for it and get it the maintenance it needed. This is because he is either an amazing friend or a little soft in the head...and considering that he owned a car with a removable top in California for nigh on a decade and didn't remove the top once? I'm going to go with a bit of both. (But we love him for it just the same.)

She's not exactly pretty, what with being a combination of primer-black, Bondo beige and several different shades of faded white, not to mention fairly dented and scarred from her long life. But! Her interior's in good shape, her top comes off just fine (insert obligatory stripper joke here), and the drive train's still running well at 189,000 miles (as well it should, being essentially a Civic). She needs a new timing belt, thermostat, and some brake work, but that's all pretty standard maintenance. The biggest issue stems from a previous accident - the interior of the hood is warped and the both the radiator and A/C condenser are twisted. Amazingly, the radiator still works, but if it goes for whatever reason, a new one won't fit without some serious body work. So I'm probably not going to invest a lot in cosmetic stuff like repainting. But considering the radiator's been like that for years now and it still runs fine, I think I can justify spending the money on the maintenance - chances are she's got another year or three left in her, and for a free car (plus an eventual grand in repairs, give or take) that's not bad at all.

One of the nice side benefits of the new car delivery was getting to host Cyrano and his traveling partner Amanda for a few days. They were excellent guests, and good company; Saturday night we had a couple of Cyrano's old friends who live in Bisbee over for a game night. I can't even express how starved I've been for socializing, and it was all great fun - I even got to mix a few drinks! I hope we'll get to see them again. Sunday night our houseguests earned extra brownie points by taking us to a lovely dinner at Feast, and I learned that no matter how lovely and full and sleepy you feel at the end of a meal, taking a shot of espresso with dessert with the intention of going to bed not long afterwards does not make for restful sleep. Coffee, yes; espresso, no.

And now, because I'm starting to ramble from sleep deprivation, I leave you with a song.

missroserose: (Default)
So it seems my longtime friend [livejournal.com profile] cyranocyrano is moving to Michigan, and rather than bring Nauti, his white 1993 Honda del Sol with him to brave the winters there, or sell it to the (no doubt) large local tuner community, it struck him that he knew this chick in Arizona who was obsessed with finding an inexpensive topless car. So for whatever reason, he decided that the best option was to load it up into a trailer and drive miles out of his way to bring it to her, even though she couldn't afford to pay him for it and get it the maintenance it needed. This is because he is either an amazing friend or a little soft in the head...and considering that he owned a car with a removable top in California for nigh on a decade and didn't remove the top once? I'm going to go with a bit of both. (But we love him for it just the same.)

She's not exactly pretty, what with being a combination of primer-black, Bondo beige and several different shades of faded white, not to mention fairly dented and scarred from her long life. But! Her interior's in good shape, her top comes off just fine (insert obligatory stripper joke here), and the drive train's still running well at 189,000 miles (as well it should, being essentially a Civic). She needs a new timing belt, thermostat, and some brake work, but that's all pretty standard maintenance. The biggest issue stems from a previous accident - the interior of the hood is warped and the both the radiator and A/C condenser are twisted. Amazingly, the radiator still works, but if it goes for whatever reason, a new one won't fit without some serious body work. So I'm probably not going to invest a lot in cosmetic stuff like repainting. But considering the radiator's been like that for years now and it still runs fine, I think I can justify spending the money on the maintenance - chances are she's got another year or three left in her, and for a free car (plus an eventual grand in repairs, give or take) that's not bad at all.

One of the nice side benefits of the new car delivery was getting to host Cyrano and his traveling partner Amanda for a few days. They were excellent guests, and good company; Saturday night we had a couple of Cyrano's old friends who live in Bisbee over for a game night. I can't even express how starved I've been for socializing, and it was all great fun - I even got to mix a few drinks! I hope we'll get to see them again. Sunday night our houseguests earned extra brownie points by taking us to a lovely dinner at Feast, and I learned that no matter how lovely and full and sleepy you feel at the end of a meal, taking a shot of espresso with dessert with the intention of going to bed not long afterwards does not make for restful sleep. Coffee, yes; espresso, no.

And now, because I'm starting to ramble from sleep deprivation, I leave you with a song.

missroserose: (Default)
Yes, this looks terrifying as all hell, but it's also every flying dream ever come to life.

missroserose: (Default)
Yes, this looks terrifying as all hell, but it's also every flying dream ever come to life.

missroserose: (Psychosomatic)
Sadly, it looks like the aforementioned singing gig isn't going to go anywhere - the band broke up semi-permanently after that practice. It's disappointing, but not exactly surprising; if I'd had to start over multiple times over the past couple years due to flaky members and whatnot and was on the verge of doing so again, on top of all the problems inherent in trying to fit practices into four people-with-families schedules, I'd probably feel pretty discouraged too. And I'm sure there'll be other opportunities.

Besides, compared with the vastness of the universe, it's a bit rich to feel like your problems are that big of a deal. :)

missroserose: (Psychosomatic)
Sadly, it looks like the aforementioned singing gig isn't going to go anywhere - the band broke up semi-permanently after that practice. It's disappointing, but not exactly surprising; if I'd had to start over multiple times over the past couple years due to flaky members and whatnot and was on the verge of doing so again, on top of all the problems inherent in trying to fit practices into four people-with-families schedules, I'd probably feel pretty discouraged too. And I'm sure there'll be other opportunities.

Besides, compared with the vastness of the universe, it's a bit rich to feel like your problems are that big of a deal. :)

missroserose: (Book Love)
I don't watch much traditional television. First off, the scheduled-time-slot system never appealed to me, as I hate the feeling of realizing you're missing your show and are going to be behind on the story. Even with the advent of TiVo and such, I was never really interested in paying $60 a month for a constant supply of a service that I would use maybe 5% of the time. You can imagine how pleased I was when studios started releasing shows on DVD - if I wasn't up on the latest episode of a given show, well, that was a small price to pay for being able to watch the shows I wanted at my own convenience without any ads.

Recently, however, I've started watching shows on Hulu, which, while it does have certain scheduling restrictions, is lax enough about them to be convenient. Additionally, they have the genius setup of only one commercial per break. Back in the days when I did watch network or cable television, I would just mute the commercials and go take a bathroom break or something; when there's only one ad, it hardly seems worth it, so I usually pay attention. (Another genius idea is the countdown timer at the top reassuring you how long until your show starts; no more wondering "How many more goddamn ads are they going to play?)

That said, I couldn't say I actually recall very many of their ads. Maybe I have high standards, but I find the happy-people-bopping-around-to-cheerful-pop-music style far too generic to be memorable, and usually the only ones I remember are the ones that completely fail the critical-thinking test, which isn't exactly likely to make me interested in the product. (A particularly egregious example, which (amazingly) I can't find on YouTube, involved a bunch of teenagers driving recklessly in a Volkswagen car while the Donnas' cover of "Safety Dance" played in the background. I suppose Volkswagen was trying to tell parents that their cars would protect their recklessly driving teens, but I found the ad "WTF?"-inducing on two levels - first off, that anyone would buy a teenager a brand-new car, and secondly, that showing parents what was previously a comfortably unillustrated and distant concept ("teenagers do stupid shit") would make them want to enable that behavior. If I'd had a teenager and was thinking of buying them a car, that ad would have turned me off of the market pretty instantly.)

Given the limitations of the format, I can understand why most ad agencies go for the MTV quick-edit-to-happy-music format. Telling a coherent story in thirty seconds is tough; far easier to simply try to associate your product with a generalized sense of fun/sexiness/happiness than to explain why people should be interested in it. (Additionally, research shows that simply seeing a product name repeatedly, even without any additional associations, makes people more likely to choose that product in the future, so that probably explains why some of these commercials play five different times over the course of a half-hour show.) That said, the ads that have stuck with me have universally been the story-telling types, especially particularly clever or ambitious ones. I realize that "snarky and cynical with actual critical-thinking skills" probably isn't the demographic most advertisers are aiming for, but I want to emphasize to any company executives who might be reading this that I appreciated these ads especially because they didn't insult my intelligence. That alone makes me far more interested in their product than all the bouncy-happy-pop-music in the world, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Without further ado, here are three stellar examples of intelligent, story-based advertisements that have impressed me and (miracle of miracles) made me interested in trying their product:


Example 1: Walt Whitman Wants You To Buy Blue Jeans



Given the aforementioned difficulties in telling a coherent story under the strict time limits of a commercial break, this ad takes the ambitious tack of tapping into our overarching cultural narrative. While the images that make up the montage seem rather random, the collection (along with the narrative) coheres rather well into a strong sense of cultural identity. The association of old-style black-and-white images and scratchy recordings with the Great Depression can't be ignored, but this ad wisely avoids the feeling of desperation and want that such media often portray; instead, the dynamic shots of people actively living life give a feeling of hope and inspiration. "America's been here before," it says. "We'll conquer it again. (And in the meantime, buy jeans.)"

I particularly like the way this piece stokes a sense of nationalistic pride without being heavy-handed or xenophobic. Instead, it tells us a story about our strengths as a culture - our multiculturalism, our ambition, and our desire to live. Like most grand messages of hope, the ad opens itself up to accusations of pretension (Slate's Ad Report Card columnist reports seeing the ad at the movie theater and hearing the silent thoughtfulness of an audience impressed, only to be broken by the one joker yelling from the back, "They're pants!"), but I think the nature of the product helps belay that reaction - blue jeans are one of the constants of American life, across all racial and social lines. (Admittedly, I may be more inclined to positive feelings about Levi's simply because they seem to be the only brand that makes a style of jeans that actually fit me properly.)


Example 2: Our Ad Agency Cost Us $1.3 Million


I can't find this one on YouTube, so a link will have to do. I'm a little surprised I found it online at all, given its age.

I first saw this ad during its original (and probably only) airing at the 1998 Super Bowl. I'm not sure if that was the first year that the price of an ad slot during the Super Bowl was making headlines, but it was the first year I was aware of it and made a special effort to see what companies had come up with to get their money's worth. Expensively produced ads abounded, of course, but this one is the one I've remembered the longest, and it's probably not hard to see why.

First off, it gives you the bait - a great story which seems to serve up a nice heaping dose of schadenfreude. Then comes the switch, and there's that moment of surprise when you realize you've been duped, and the ad's actual purpose shines through. Give it some more thought, and you realize exactly how clever the ad was - it was simultaneously the least expensive commercial to air during that Super Bowl and (arguably) the most memorable. Everyone had heard by then about how expensive the ads were, so even the usual audience aversion to reading text on a screen was overcome by curiosity, and the embarrassment of the "switch" moment meant that people actually remembered what product the commercial was for. Absolute genius.


Example 3: John Jameson - The Irish Beowulf



This was actually the ad that inspired this treatise (which, believe it or not, was originally intended to just be a link and a short description). An adventure story refined to its purest form, here we meet Captain John Jameson, who so prized his beloved whiskey that he went to retrieve a barrel that had fallen overboard, only to meet with trouble and turn up victorious when everyone had thought him dead. The briefness of the commercial format works to advantage here, as most of Jameson's swashbuckling feats of derring-do are left to our imagination - half the fun of stories like these comes in adding your own flourishes and embellishments, after all.

True, this piece isn't as clever as the FedEx ad, nor as inspiring as the Levi's one, but it's easily the most fun - who doesn't love a tall tale about a drink-and-life-loving Irishman? And the integration of the product name into the story means you remember what the commercial is for (always a hazard of story-based ads). I've never tried Jameson's whiskey (Brian is a hard-core Bushmill's lover), but I have to admit I'm far more tempted to pick up a bottle at the grocery store since I've seen this ad.
missroserose: (Book Love)
I don't watch much traditional television. First off, the scheduled-time-slot system never appealed to me, as I hate the feeling of realizing you're missing your show and are going to be behind on the story. Even with the advent of TiVo and such, I was never really interested in paying $60 a month for a constant supply of a service that I would use maybe 5% of the time. You can imagine how pleased I was when studios started releasing shows on DVD - if I wasn't up on the latest episode of a given show, well, that was a small price to pay for being able to watch the shows I wanted at my own convenience without any ads.

Recently, however, I've started watching shows on Hulu, which, while it does have certain scheduling restrictions, is lax enough about them to be convenient. Additionally, they have the genius setup of only one commercial per break. Back in the days when I did watch network or cable television, I would just mute the commercials and go take a bathroom break or something; when there's only one ad, it hardly seems worth it, so I usually pay attention. (Another genius idea is the countdown timer at the top reassuring you how long until your show starts; no more wondering "How many more goddamn ads are they going to play?)

That said, I couldn't say I actually recall very many of their ads. Maybe I have high standards, but I find the happy-people-bopping-around-to-cheerful-pop-music style far too generic to be memorable, and usually the only ones I remember are the ones that completely fail the critical-thinking test, which isn't exactly likely to make me interested in the product. (A particularly egregious example, which (amazingly) I can't find on YouTube, involved a bunch of teenagers driving recklessly in a Volkswagen car while the Donnas' cover of "Safety Dance" played in the background. I suppose Volkswagen was trying to tell parents that their cars would protect their recklessly driving teens, but I found the ad "WTF?"-inducing on two levels - first off, that anyone would buy a teenager a brand-new car, and secondly, that showing parents what was previously a comfortably unillustrated and distant concept ("teenagers do stupid shit") would make them want to enable that behavior. If I'd had a teenager and was thinking of buying them a car, that ad would have turned me off of the market pretty instantly.)

Given the limitations of the format, I can understand why most ad agencies go for the MTV quick-edit-to-happy-music format. Telling a coherent story in thirty seconds is tough; far easier to simply try to associate your product with a generalized sense of fun/sexiness/happiness than to explain why people should be interested in it. (Additionally, research shows that simply seeing a product name repeatedly, even without any additional associations, makes people more likely to choose that product in the future, so that probably explains why some of these commercials play five different times over the course of a half-hour show.) That said, the ads that have stuck with me have universally been the story-telling types, especially particularly clever or ambitious ones. I realize that "snarky and cynical with actual critical-thinking skills" probably isn't the demographic most advertisers are aiming for, but I want to emphasize to any company executives who might be reading this that I appreciated these ads especially because they didn't insult my intelligence. That alone makes me far more interested in their product than all the bouncy-happy-pop-music in the world, and I'm sure I'm not the only one.

Without further ado, here are three stellar examples of intelligent, story-based advertisements that have impressed me and (miracle of miracles) made me interested in trying their product:


Example 1: Walt Whitman Wants You To Buy Blue Jeans



Given the aforementioned difficulties in telling a coherent story under the strict time limits of a commercial break, this ad takes the ambitious tack of tapping into our overarching cultural narrative. While the images that make up the montage seem rather random, the collection (along with the narrative) coheres rather well into a strong sense of cultural identity. The association of old-style black-and-white images and scratchy recordings with the Great Depression can't be ignored, but this ad wisely avoids the feeling of desperation and want that such media often portray; instead, the dynamic shots of people actively living life give a feeling of hope and inspiration. "America's been here before," it says. "We'll conquer it again. (And in the meantime, buy jeans.)"

I particularly like the way this piece stokes a sense of nationalistic pride without being heavy-handed or xenophobic. Instead, it tells us a story about our strengths as a culture - our multiculturalism, our ambition, and our desire to live. Like most grand messages of hope, the ad opens itself up to accusations of pretension (Slate's Ad Report Card columnist reports seeing the ad at the movie theater and hearing the silent thoughtfulness of an audience impressed, only to be broken by the one joker yelling from the back, "They're pants!"), but I think the nature of the product helps belay that reaction - blue jeans are one of the constants of American life, across all racial and social lines. (Admittedly, I may be more inclined to positive feelings about Levi's simply because they seem to be the only brand that makes a style of jeans that actually fit me properly.)


Example 2: Our Ad Agency Cost Us $1.3 Million


I can't find this one on YouTube, so a link will have to do. I'm a little surprised I found it online at all, given its age.

I first saw this ad during its original (and probably only) airing at the 1998 Super Bowl. I'm not sure if that was the first year that the price of an ad slot during the Super Bowl was making headlines, but it was the first year I was aware of it and made a special effort to see what companies had come up with to get their money's worth. Expensively produced ads abounded, of course, but this one is the one I've remembered the longest, and it's probably not hard to see why.

First off, it gives you the bait - a great story which seems to serve up a nice heaping dose of schadenfreude. Then comes the switch, and there's that moment of surprise when you realize you've been duped, and the ad's actual purpose shines through. Give it some more thought, and you realize exactly how clever the ad was - it was simultaneously the least expensive commercial to air during that Super Bowl and (arguably) the most memorable. Everyone had heard by then about how expensive the ads were, so even the usual audience aversion to reading text on a screen was overcome by curiosity, and the embarrassment of the "switch" moment meant that people actually remembered what product the commercial was for. Absolute genius.


Example 3: John Jameson - The Irish Beowulf



This was actually the ad that inspired this treatise (which, believe it or not, was originally intended to just be a link and a short description). An adventure story refined to its purest form, here we meet Captain John Jameson, who so prized his beloved whiskey that he went to retrieve a barrel that had fallen overboard, only to meet with trouble and turn up victorious when everyone had thought him dead. The briefness of the commercial format works to advantage here, as most of Jameson's swashbuckling feats of derring-do are left to our imagination - half the fun of stories like these comes in adding your own flourishes and embellishments, after all.

True, this piece isn't as clever as the FedEx ad, nor as inspiring as the Levi's one, but it's easily the most fun - who doesn't love a tall tale about a drink-and-life-loving Irishman? And the integration of the product name into the story means you remember what the commercial is for (always a hazard of story-based ads). I've never tried Jameson's whiskey (Brian is a hard-core Bushmill's lover), but I have to admit I'm far more tempted to pick up a bottle at the grocery store since I've seen this ad.
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What do you get when you cross pro football with the Oregon Trail?

Dysentery, of course!

missroserose: (Default)
What do you get when you cross pro football with the Oregon Trail?

Dysentery, of course!

missroserose: (Shake it!)
Slate today has an article on masturbation in the animal kingdom, complete with various YouTube links. These made me laugh the most:



Yeah, if I lived in a tank I'd probably get bored too.





I think this is probably the sweetest thing I've ever seen. They sound so happy!

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