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Phenomenal photography, dynamic directing, energized editing, and moronic marketing highlight the top 3 commercials at the Cannes festival. Scott G points out a few things the advertising managers overlooked when approving these low-concept productions.

Each of the top three commercials at the 2006 Cannes International Advertising Festival is beautifully produced. If I was involved with the directing, photography, editing, sound, or special effects of any of these spots, they would hold a proud place on my demo.

But if I had anything to do with approving the production of these monstrosities, and thus harming my company’s marketing, positioning, and sales, I would hang my head in shame.

From bad to worse, here are the three (title/advertiser/product) spots:

“BALLS” SONY BRAVA
We’re in a modern city. Colored balls bounce down the street and rain from the sky. (Dramatic pause) That’s it. It’s pretty. Beautiful, even. Hell, it’s so jarringly lovely that it borders on the surrealistic. But there’s no actual content. It’s just colored balls bounding everywhere. Oh yeah, there’s some droning, whiny, shoegazing alt-rock blather on the soundtrack.

At the end, there’s an image of a TV screen. And some titles: “Sony Brava. Colour like no other.”

Okay, what is a Sony Brava? The commercial doesn’t say. If it’s a new TV screen that offers improved color, it seems like a side-by-side comparison between Brava and an ordinary screen would be the way to go. Which you cannot do in a TV spot; you need to use magazines or direct mail and ultimately get people to go see a product demo.

I mean, think about it: what is the point of making a commercial for your new color screen if I’m going to be watching it on my current color screen?

“CHOIR” HONDA CIVIC
People are on stage, holding sheet music and being lead by a conductor. But they are not singing. They are making car noises. So we cut to images of a car zipping around the countryside. To the sounds of the choir making sounds of a car.

So we can all see how this helps to sell the new Toyota. Oops, I mean Hyundai. Uh, Subaru. No, Honda! Sorry. There were a LOT of images of the choir and frankly, I didn’t really get much info on the automobile other than the fact that the engine makes noise, and the sunroof makes noise, and the wind makes noise, and the tires make noise, and the wipers make noise, etc.

At the end, a title identifies the car and adds “The power of dreams.” Which has nothing to do with the car, the model, the choir, or the commercial.

The power of dreams? There was a time when some people dreamt of world peace, not an economy car that hums.

Perhaps a number of you, upon learning of this concept, said to yourself, “Hey, that’s like Michael Winslow making all those sound effects in the ‘Police Academy’ movies.”

It’s a shame, really, because the spot itself has tension, excitement and a powerful sense of drama and style. As a short film, it is superb. As a marketing tool, it is stupid.

“NOITULOVE” GUINNESS STOUT
First, let me say that I like Guinness Stout. Which means I’ve been embarrassed for quite some time now by their brain-dead slipshod animated spots that feature two cretins shouting “Brilliant!” at each other.

So this new commercial is at least a step in the right direction. Except that it’s a whole bunch of backward steps. Here’s what happens in the spot: we see some guys in a pub drinking Guinness Stout. The film runs backwards (ooh, those clever filmmakers!) so the men exit the bar and move back in time until they are primordial creatures. A title informs us that some things are worth waiting for.

Uh-huh. What’s the opposite of “Brilliant”? That describes the marketing team at Guinness for approving this woefully expensive dreck. What’s the ultimate message of this commercial? Drink Guinness for the slime of your life?

Those of us who enjoy Guinness know that it takes longer to draw a Stout than most other beverages. Several minutes more. It’s part of the charm of the brew. Which means that “some things are worth waiting for” is a reasonable starting point for an ad. But taking people back through eons of time is ridiculous.

The “cleverness” of the concept is apparent in the title of the spot: evolution spelled backwards. Hey, Guinness, here’s another clever word for you: Ycoidi!

(NOTE: Yes, we realize it’s the Sony Bravia. Calling it Brava was a poor excuse for a dim-witted joke about the fact that the logo design was not, um, quite as clean as it might have been. I know, I know, it was juvenile. But don’t take us to task for being lisdexic or for making typoz, both of which are true, but the fact-checking gnomes usually catch most of that stuff, most of the tome.)

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John Scott G, an admitted word nerd, writes books, plays, screenplays, and political commentary. Author of “Area Code 666,” “Secret Sex,” and “Ambient Deviant Speedmetal Polka,” Mr. G also writes under the pseudonym Gerald Laurence. Every day he happily rubs a few phrases up against each other to create sparks in your brain. You’re welcome.

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