By KENT BRAMPTON. (guest writer)
Whilst cringing through the pre-booked, supposedly predictive and ‘premium content positioned’ tv ads during the start of the sensible peoples’ lockdown, (some might call late Feb to early March 2020) before everyone else’s lockdown – I could not help to notice a fair array of ads exhibiting what could probably now be seen as antique forms of expression.
These outmoded tropes included the likes of characters, back-slapping, hugging and otherwise physically touching each other – along with a whole range of other relics like tourism spots, event promo’s and live shows still being spruiked – no doubt at the expense of all those who had to pay upfront for their media space or had not worked quick enough to delete and charge their scheduled advertising until you know…oblivion.
It seems some of the big spenders, flogging stuff if not advertised no one would ever want or need, have gone trawling through their archives, Perhaps skipping over all their fresh Olympic themes spots, to find likes the Ole’ McDonalds one where the ‘modern everyman Dad takes his car through a drive-through’ (not to plump up the poor kid with their confectionaries masquerading as food) but to buy a coffee, so he can presumably stay awake while he uses the car like a rocker in the hope of getting his ‘little blighter to stay asleep’. He cruises through multiple times to make an order. Anyway – in retrospect – It now seems like an add tailor-made for the lockdown virus era.
‘Daddy-O’ keeps his voice down as the late-night workers conspire to figure out just how much sugar he wants, after spotting the sleeping baby (in the probably non-age appropriate travelling capsule). The conceit, shared by the front line fast-food workers, takes on new meaning as they risk their lives, to feed the masses in the world of our new normal, all on the un-indexed youth training wage, no doubt.
Amazingly the spot is not really about pushing their waist expanding menu, just convenience, the lack of indoor eating arrangements and a whole lot of Mc Compassion.
You can see the remade, diluted, modernised pseudo-Australianising version of it here.
There is something slightly tenacious about the out of shape young ‘Dad’. He laps the drive-through like the tepid hoon he is, but also still figures a way to get his coffee and not wake the future brat in the back. No doubt there was a special seance at the agency, where they all watched the original spot but still felt compelled to flip a glass all put their fingers on it and watch it magically spell out a dictum about the character being required to have a ‘Dad bod’ as this would amazingly make him more ‘relatable to the demographic’, ( this is as opposed to say – just picking a terrific actor and letting them interpret moment in a fun and interesting way.) But as we all know, in the post ‘Supersize Me’ era, it would hardly have been a stretch for any actor to have beefed up for the role simply by eating their products.
By and large, the goal of the spot seems to be to reveal the staff in action as the quiet hero’s, perhaps a little bit at the expense of the father character as he is shown to be a bit hapless without the support of the plucky late-night Mac’as crew. Who are the same the world over if you watch some of the other remakes.
You can see an earlier, international standard, actually funny version of it – here. Funny because of what has escaped the scrutiny of the split village puritans and because of everything which is not been ironed out.
The residual subtext or the ‘take out’ is I guess he is ‘a typical male’, i.e. not particularly good with kids (but not a child abductor or a stalker), just a down to earth bloke ‘doing his best’ to be a good husband and a dad – who’s also come up with a clever-clever way of scoring a coffee – using the drive-through in the exact same way which would probably have a police car waiting for you before you made it to the curb… But one must commit to the bit. If the onerous omnipresent patriarchy truly exists, it surely must be strong enough to handle a slight ribbing. And so be it.
But I think one of the reasons people get so justifiably furious about TV Ads in Australia is they so often are so far behind the times of the general public they act as a proverbial turd in the swimming pool of the cultural zeitgeist.
NZ Toyota Bugger TVC
Occasionally in the past, some Aussie TV ADS used to actually speak back to us and show us who we are. I can’t think of many times that has happened this century. And if I can they were actually probably from New Zealand. For the most part, Australian so-called ‘branding ads’ just keep thumping on with the same dreary themes and it is all just slowing us down, holding us all back from our real lives – while failing to truly connect with the public and hence assist in pulling the market forces levers which promote real demand.
Frankly, the process of making tv ads in Australia, based on results and output on the screen seems to be designed specifically to muddy the waters of anything which reflects our true culture and disguise traits which show shared cultural values.
Honda TVC Dream Run
Not only do ‘tv branding ads’ shown in Australia on free to air most often fail to link to any kind of world we live in (unless they are copied from foreign markets), they also usually reek of creative conclusions as a result of group decisions, half plastered focus group suggestions and a whole range of un-realistic mistakes clients are meant to be protected from making by their very agencies & producers. But in Australasia they have emerged ferociously in the last two decades as a special Bondi cigar style ingredient called ‘but the client likes it.’
Which brings me to this colossal piece of glitter rolled fertiliser, masquerading as quirky ‘man-bashing’, called the Primo packaged Ham ‘Father and Son’ spot.
Let us set the scene. Dad in the kitchen offers an annoying Brat a cheese and ham sandwich, The Kid says, ‘that’s not how Mum make’s it’, Dad turns away with the offending white bread, flips the sandwich over and gives it back. ‘Ham and Cheese.’
He could be the Mums boyfriend I guess, but then why in tv commercial land is he allowed to be alone with the kid? He is meant to be the father. Simple as that.
The annoying reminder for contraception seems oblivious to his father’s ruse appears none the wiser to the flip. Linguistic tenacity and the physical dexterity to turn over a sandwich mean this potential ‘father of the year’ can enjoy a smirk and revel in his prowess over the unseen mother character.
Bravo Chap. He has succeeded in avoiding a tantrum by fooling a child while revealing probably the exact character traits and personality disorders which have perhaps led to the exact reason why the mother is now nowhere to be seen.
No doubt the whole anecdotal incident will play well in future custody hearings on both sides of the family divide. If the kid doesn’t grow up to be a sociopathic malignant narcissist it will be not without trying.
The fathers joy is no doubt, stemming from the depth of his prowess in the areas of his combined culinary and parenting skills, with the subtext or the take out being – ‘this is clearly a fish out of water scenario, I mean ‘What is the every-man Father doing in the kitchen anyway?’. It’s all smiling at the end but they, of course, have to eat the sandwiches in that stupid way you only ever seen any more in Australian tv commercials – you know where they naturally letting everything hang out of the sandwich splayed towards the camera in every angle, following us like Mona Lisa’s smile, in yet another form of visual abuse of our attention in the audience. No wonder people skip the ads, watch streaming, record everything or go online.
After viewing it a few times you may start to believe the pig got off lightly. * In comparison to say the creative escapes of Darrin Stephens on 1960’s tv show Bewitched, Darrin’s work now seems as edgy and as progressive as Banksy with a spray can.
In this scenario the letters of the glass in the casting séance spelt out an everyman father character – but this time they have adventured away from the ‘Dad Bod’ style man and cast a character who is old enough to be the child’s father but who was not visibly overweight. It’s a triumph in casting in that respect. It must have been difficult for the knuckleheads constantly pushing for a ‘game of snap style’ casting process to appeal to the presumably wide demographic of non-vegetarian or vegan sandwich lovers with a larger more obvious ‘happy eater’, but in this case, it was no doubt argued to such an overt depiction could lead to an unnecessary subterranean co-relative association with the scientific links between life-threatening health problems and processed meats. Hence the healthy-is looking Dad to push the pork products.
We all know since Australian tv advertising is exhibited to be puerile and unadventurous, what that means is every time we see a man in a home kitchen setting in an Australian tv commercial it has got to be some sort of joke. That is bolted on and assumed along with every other cliché in the book. The bread has also got to be as white as the cast members. Just as the relationship between the parent and child needs to be based on lies, deception and can only be reconciled by the clever insertion of the product.
And thank the gods for the voice over at the end, in case we had not seen and heard the name of what every they were flogging from the very first second, with of course the logo blanketing the screen. It is textbook stuff which seemingly writes itself unless you apply any thought.
Australians especially despise spots when they are so clearly out of whack with the way we are all living our lives. But for the most part, all tv ads on tv here – which are in the category called branding – also fall into the category of totally un-adventurous, unoriginal and cliché – while contributing to a view of life and an aesthetic so consistent it seems to be the visual expression of a longing for an era which never actually existed in this country.
What we are getting at here is if anything comes out of this lockdown, I think it is time for some real scrutiny on what we are all actually doing. Australian TV commercials are stuck in the dark ages and they are not working anywhere as well as they could because of it.
Everyone at every stage of the process is contributing to this derivative dross and there is no wonder there is no great push to bail this sector specifically out. People quite rightly hate tv advertising on Australian TV. But they hate it with the special hate of someone who truly wishes it was better and great. If we don’t strive to bring it back in a better way – it might as well not come back at all. It won’t fight back at all without better use of the tools and weapons of persuasion and using the range of creativity which is always actually at our disposal.
As the film crew, producers’ actors and agency strolled towards the set of the produce ham ad, someone would have asked what they were doing today? I have no doubt it was described in the same way ad agency wags for aeons have described, spots like this.
The agency wag would have called this a ” ‘C in a K’ plus kid’, with the twist that it’s the Dad, in the Kitchen. ” It’s a dark ages description, from an unreconstructed past, but absolutely still appropriate. If you figured out what the K stands for then you can also figure the C.
The team, including the agency, the copywriter (probably pretending he or she didn’t copy the idea), the client, makeup, hair, lighting, camera department – even the onset nanny and the nurse would have just shrugged at the entirely apt description and got to work as they always have, knowing exactly what to do in their jobs but also what it means in terms of it not progressing the industry or our culture our art or our form in any way.
But now, during this forced pause, while many of us are not working on things. We should all be looking at ways to be sure when and if we do start it up again, we don’t start it up in the same way.
[*It all seems like a bit of fun, of course, to distract from the serious commitment to character and performance a real live pig contributed to this commercial.]