Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Identical Ads

by Michael Roesler from i am playing outside

The Multiple Sclerosis fund raising commercial goes like this:

The Phillips Arcitec Shaver commercial goes like this:
(apologies for bad video quality, but this is the only full-length version on the web. Go here for higher quality short version.)

The two cents from Michael:

I saw these two commercials within 24 hours of each other, both on CNN. How the hell did this happen? My best guess is that one ad agency is lacking ideas. Did the MS people need a cheap commercial [since they're trying to raise money, not spend it], so they just stole Phillips' idea? Did Phillips think 'Hey, lets be assholes? Razors are way cooler than stopping MS?' And why is CNN dumb enough to be airing identical commercials? Haven't they noticed that something is up?

Whatever the outcome, I think its pretty tacky that a razor is putting itself up against fighting a disease.

Tsk tsk.

And two more cents from the Editor (Katrocket):

The people who schedule commercials work in a department called "Traffic". I used to be a Traffic Manager, and I assure you that the staff at TV networks don't actually view any ad content before scheduling airtime, so they would never know that the scripts for these two ads are similar. Scripts are read and approved ahead of time by Advertising Standards Councils (a sort of censor board), and given a pass or fail based solely on their national broadcasting regulations. If it's good enough for them, the network will air it until a complaint is filed.

Because MS is a registered charity, their time slot is usually donated by the network whenever there is low ad inventory (i.e.- not enough paying advertisers to fill up commercial breaks). It's a wild card situation where schedulers try to give all charities their fair chance at viewership, so they rotate PSAs (Public Service Announcements) as equally as they can, and absolutely no consideration is given to the content of the ad itself, or any other ads in the cluster (a not-so-fancy word for "commercial break") because all spots are labelled by client or product.

There's a few exceptions. They would obviously avoid running a beer commercial right after an ad for Alcoholics Anonymous. They try not to put car commercials, beer commercials, and "don't drink and drive" PSA's in the same cluster. But these poor schedulers have a dozen other more important criteria to consider, like meeting broadcast regulations and advertisers' demands, so occasionally something slips through the cracks.

I guess I'm just saying that CNN isn't that dumb, at least not in this case. They're just automated to the point where computers can't make the same kinds of creative or moral decisions that humans can. It's all monkeys and machines, baby.


The Imaginary Reviewer said...

I got deja vu recently with another couple of ads. One was for a breakfast cereal and involved women doing stuff with a bathroom scale chained to their ankle. The other was for a skincare product and had women with an odd metal moisturizer container chained to their ankles.

Are the ad people really that low on ideas?

katrocket said...

IR: Yes, they are. But the same could also be said about movies, songs, TV shows.... lots of repetition everywhere in media. Hundreds of channels offering slightly different versions of the exact same content.

SkylersDad said...

Thanks for the education on what goes on behind the scenes Kat!

i am playing outside said...

woo! i'm officially important in more places than one! thanks for posting this!

i'd still love to know why they are SO SIMILAR though. i mean good lord! how could TWO people honestly come up with the same thing at the same time?

pistols at dawn said...

Monkeys and Machines sounds like the title of the best porno ever.

Chris said...

A musician buddy of mine is fond of saying, "It's all one-four-five, baby," meaning that most blues and rock music has the same formula -- pick the root, the fourth interval and the fifth and you're playing Louie Louie. Play it faster backwards and you've got Magic Carpet Ride. Play it slow and you've got nearly every blues song ever written... It just plain works that way. His point in saying that, is that the formula for art (music in his case) is pretty much set -- it's the way you approach it that matters. It's blues. It's got a 1-4-5 progression. Make it unique, I dare you. Some musicians can. Others sound like ZZ Top no matter what they do.

Seems to me it's kinda the same in most media -- including advertising. Certain formulas just plain work. Can you make the formula unique? Or (the Holy Grail) -- can you invent a new formula that works?