This Mentos ad cracked me up. It starts off wearing the cloak of melodrama shared by millions of other Asia-Pacific TVCs and music videos, then uses a cartoonish gag that keeps Mentos propped up as a fun and brand for young and sophisticated Chinese consumers. Just the demographic that star agency BBH aims to win over. Nice job to BBH’s Johnny Tan and his creative team.
From Adrants, we learn of this new ad campaign from ConAgra foods for their line of Asian Inspired Healthy Choice dinners. When we first saw the image we agree with the poster at Adrants: lame. But it wasn’t until we actually clicked on the interactive that we just felt sad. Once again, an annoying and worn-out stereotype takes the place of something that could truly have been creatively Asian/Chinese inspired. Instead, we get this lazy excuse for ethnic cuteness that hearkens an unenlightened past. Am I being too sensitive? Sure, but this isn’t a stand-up routine, it’s a broad-based marketing campaign devised by ad hacks that should have been more thoughtful about their work. I’ve shrugged off cluelessness before, but in this case I’m more offended by the sheer lack of creativity on a creative project than I am by its explicit insensitivity. And the guy who plays this dude should be hung upside down a ferris wheel with a cactus atop his inverted ass.
There has been lots of buzz surrounding Burger King’s Whopper Virgins (agency: Crispin Porter + Bogusky) campaign, in which documentary filmmaker (and 70’s skateboard phenom) Stacey Peralta travels with a Burger King funded production crew to remote parts of the world and conducts Big Mac/Whopper taste tests for people who have no concept of what a hamburger is.
I love this campaign and hate it, too. I love it because it’s sneakily slick, impressive in its ability to render real emotion from images of friendly, curious, untarnished citizens of humanity. I hate it because it then proceeds to shamelessly tarnish them with the literal processed meat of the inching soldiers of global corporate hegemony. At the end of the day, this whole thing is purely fascinating, akin to scene in the movie theatre in Outbreak where the camera zooms in on the airborne particles carrying a fatal African virus traveling from one unknown audience member to another. That’s right, I just equated Burger King to a disease; anyone want to disagree?
Here’s a new Holiday Inn Express spot:
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This one’s a winner for me because, well, I’m very very uncool.
Just saw this Zales ad:
If an Asian version of this ad ran here in Shanghai, most of the Chinese women that I know would orgasm while sitting in their cubicles. Sorry for being crass, but melodrama hits a G-spot for pop culture consuming women in Asia. Sadly, most of it is about a million hairs more in-your-face than the one above. People here seem to enjoy allowing themselves to get blatantly jerked around by melodramatists pushing a wickedly overblown vision of romance.
For example, check out this Korean music video from a while ago. To me, this is the pinnacle of over-the-top cheese, and when I first saw it all I could do was groan. But in Asia, people like me are in the distinct minority. This particular video, in which (SPOILER ALERT) a chick has an accident and goes blind, only to have her boyfriend donate his eyeballs to her, takes romantic tragedy into the realm of the truly absurd. But it was one of the most popular videos in the region when it was released and is a potent reference even today as the embodiment of glossy, tortured tearjerker porn:
The thing is, this stuff is so pervasive here in China, whether through popular Korean soap operas, music videos for Taiwanese pop songs, and TVCs for everything from ice cream bars to SUVs. Forget irony, this is what has come to define romance for young women (and sadly, too many susceptible men) who can afford their trifling fantasies.
An ad like the Zales one, which hit on elements of cheese but in a subtle and warm and ALMOST realistic way, are almost non-existent on the networks. I think, though, that more and more folks, as they are increasingly bombarded by Western-influenced creative, are starting to wise up. It’s this kind of advertising that may become the style of record in the near future. I really hope so, because if I see one more young woman in a music video who has some terminal illness but refuses to tell her shy, mopey lover until it’s too late, I’m going to eat my left fist.