November 05, 2005

Superball Philosophy

This has been going around the blogs for a bit, here via Moira --an advertising company sent thousands of brightly colored Superballs bouncing down San Francisco hills for an advertisement for a new TV. Follow Moira's links to pictures and the ad.

But the ad raises a philosophical problem. Its tagline is "Colour like no other." The idea being that the new TV lets you see colors you can't see on other TVs. And the bright color of the Superballs are presumably meant to get this across--this is the color that you will see on the new TV, like nothing you can see on any other TV.

But what are you seeing it on? Your old TV (or computer monitor). So in a way the commercial is self-defeating. The more you need the new color capacity (assuming there is any), the less vividly the commercial will convey the new color capacity. In the extreme, if you have a black-and-white set, you really need the new color and it's really unlike what you've currently got, but the commercial won't convey that at all.

I think the answer probably has something to do with stylization and heightening; in order to convey an unfamiliar experience, you have to exaggerate it. So in this case the Superballs are unusually bright, perhaps at the top of your old TV's response, to convey that if you get the new TV you'll have this sort of color all the time. Though I'm not sure even this makes sense when you think about it hard. Of course, ads don't work on the thinking-about-it-too-hard level.

Posted by Matt Weiner at November 5, 2005 08:55 AM

ads don't work on the thinking-about-it-too-hard level.

Yes, I have been mystified for a couple of years by Citibank's ads which are premised on the idea that it's a good thing for a bank to not think money is all that important. Googling for examples of these ads, I find that I am not alone in this mystification.

Posted by: washerdreyer at November 6, 2005 11:47 PM

More examples. Why am I talking about my pet peeves on your blog, rather than mine? I don't know.

Posted by: washerdreyer at November 6, 2005 11:50 PM

All blogs are become one.

Posted by: Standpipe Bridgeplate at November 7, 2005 07:05 AM

All your peeves are belong to us!

Posted by: Matt Weiner at November 7, 2005 08:51 AM

That was a stupid comment, wasn't it? Sorry. OM.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at November 7, 2005 09:21 AM

A few years ago there was an ad for DiGiorno frozen pizza, set in some secure facility like Cheyenne Mountain.

A hapless computer technician is seen on security cameras about to eat his DiGiorno pizza. Security concludes that there has been an unauthorized pizza delivery and sounds the alarm. Teams of soldiers with machine guns swarm the room and pin the technician down. He squeals, "It's not delivery! It's DiGiorno! Here... taste!"

The scene ended there but it is interesting to contemplate what the next line of dialogue might have been.

Posted by: Richard Mason at November 7, 2005 12:42 PM

I always did wonder what was going on in the "drop the chalupa" ad. It seemed to me that this was shown at a time when police pulling guns on innocent people was not exactly a source of laffs but maybe that's me being PC. Oh, and does Taco Bell really want to point out that their chalupas can be reasonably supposed to be deadly weapons.

Actually, thinking back on it, the reading that the dog wants the guy to drop the chalupa because dogs like people to drop food objects is probably the correct one--like a dream retrospectively created around the sound of the alarm, the ad no doubt sprang to life from the image of the dog encouraging the guy to drop the chalupa.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at November 7, 2005 01:53 PM

I think it is, in its way, a heart-breaking piece of film. Tagline aside, that is.

Posted by: slolernr at November 17, 2005 01:23 PM

In the seventies, there was a commercial for a television that verbally described the colors in a scene then said something like "If you do not see these vivid colors buy our new TV".

This ad was in responce to concerns such as yours, expressed in Mad magazine among other places, about earlier ads. The seventies ad did not avoid ridicule however.

Posted by: joe o at November 17, 2005 02:17 PM

Heartbreaking? I agreed with you about this, but are you OK, slol?

[I would not dispute "moving," but I worry that you're showing a disposition to be easily saddened.]

Posted by: Matt Weiner at November 17, 2005 04:38 PM

Setting aside your second question (it is very generous-spirited of you to ask, but seriously, what does it mean for someone who spends a noticeable amount of time and energy pseudonymously posting on blogs to be "OK"?), I think a case could be made that if you can ignore the last few seconds of crass advertising, that's a poignant piece of film. Especially with the wistful soundtrack -- "we had a promise made / we were in love". In any case the surge of color represents an ephemeral burst of joy, but with that musical accompaniment, the emphasis seems to me to rest on "ephemeral".

(Someone who's really at loose ends might try attaching the video to a different, more upbeat piece of pop and see what that feels like.)

Posted by: slolernr at November 18, 2005 12:27 PM

Hey, did you add that bracketed part while I was commenting?

Posted by: slolernr at November 18, 2005 12:52 PM

No, it was always there. (Or, I might have added it sometime yesterday.) Is it better to spend time and energy posting on blogs under one's real name? So yes, 'heartbreaking' I thought suggests a bit more reader-response than the others, and reminded me a bit of this et passim.

That's good close reading with the burst of color--especially with the densest part coming at the end. I think the deserted streets at the beginning add to the atmosphere of desolation. Here are the rest of the lyrics to the song (I think most of them are in the ad). I'm not quite sure whether I ought to be resisting my propensity to be moved by the song.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at November 18, 2005 03:32 PM

(Breaking this off because it's a digression, and because I'm trying to get to the point where I have twice as many comments as posts on the blog.)

I've been sitting around trying to figure out what it is that the ad reminds me of--something with the pattern of gradually perking up interest, ending with a radiant burst (but none of it too obstrusive). I've finally decided that it might be the comic book "song of an areopteryx" that accompanies the Gunther Christmann et al. CD White Earth Streak, and I realize that's impossibly obscure. (See here, and I just twigged that the cartoonist is the guy who does a lot of the experimental music scene in Milwaukee.) But I think there's also another ad that it reminds me of. Perhaps there's some sort of original template, or perhaps it's just a natural trajectory.

I just deleted a long rant about a cell phone ad that perhaps exemplifies this trajectory (short summary: the football happenings depicted in the ad made no sense).

Posted by: Matt Weiner at November 18, 2005 03:38 PM

Okay, on reading the rest of the lyrics I confess I have no idea what the song is actually about.

Posted by: slolernr at November 18, 2005 04:48 PM

I forgot to mention that, by the principle that the incongruous detail is the most important for figuring out a text's meaning (this probably has a name in real literary theory), the key to any interpretation of the ad is probably the frog, which I only noticed on the third viewing.

The ephemeral nature of joy has come up here before, but I'm generally in agreement with you that the ad emphasizes the ephemerality.

The Crooked Timber post that probably sent you here has a longer version--I don't think it's as effective, though the very last image here is nice.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at November 19, 2005 07:59 AM

The ephemeral nature of joy has come up here

I bet it has, but clicking on your link gets me an error; the ephemeral nature of weblogs....

Posted by: slolernr at November 20, 2005 01:29 PM

Oops, pasted the URL in twice. Here.

Or you can think of the error as a subtle ploy to reach the two comments per post threshold, which with this very comment I do! Hurrah! I think I'll celebrate by posting two things that no one will comment on.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at November 20, 2005 08:07 PM