Thursday, 31 July 2008

Fallon; Flogging Fun

Fallon have made a name for themselves beyond the microcosm of the Advertising Industry with the success in the wider society of their less directly selling and more open in meaning adverts for Cadburys.
Fallon are of course a long established advertising company, having been in operation for twenty-five years, with offices across the globe but the effect they have achieved with their most recent advertising is to make themselves a talking point in addition to the adverts being note worthy.
The two central adverts in the Cadburys campaign - Gorilla and Trucks - have stirred up a great deal of general cultural interest because of the entertainment value of the texts. This, of course, is the intention. Fallon long ago noted the need for adverts to step out of the context of advertising and become entertainment so that its marketing effect would last beyond the act of broadcasting; through the adverts becoming a topic of discourse or phatic interaction.
The effect of the first advert - Gorilla - was especially powerful in this regard. The combination of anthropomorphism and narrative enigma and action in the text powerfully interpellates the readers of the advert. The anthropomorphism is the trick of it; the our sensation of affinity with the great apes is well established and the fascination evoked by their behaviour is a constant part of human life. Apes - real or mocked up have played key roles in several texts (the Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan sequence, Clint Eastwoods Every Which Way movies, The Mighty Boosh, Trading Places, the now infamous PG Tips adverts, etc.) because they are so wonderfully 'other'. It is this otherness and our sense that perhaps the gorilla really could play the drums - and enjoy the experience - that gets us talking about the advert long after the text has left our screens.
The second advert, Trucks, is not so powerfully effecting. The sense of play and enjoyment is still present but the anthropomorphism is not. The audience do not read the Trucks as enjoying the fun but their drivers; who we do not see. This anonymity prohibits a strong identification with the world of the text and limits the interpellating force of the advert.
These two adverts display a key aspect of Fallon's approach to advertising; a structure for adverts that can only be called the Fallon Fun Format. The trick of the structure is to hold the selling or branding message back until the very end of the text. This is most obvious in Fallon's excellent spots for Sony Bravia where the branding message arrives only briefly at the very end of the text after the intriguing fun has played out. In the first of the Bravia TV spots, Balls, the combination of the rubber balls pinging down the steep streets of San Francisco and the laid back soundtrack is great fun to watch and the product/brand being pushed is only revealed at the last when our appetite for information has been whetted. The same structure is at work in the Gorilla, Trucks and other Bravia spots and this is no coincidence. The selling function of this structure lies in the breaking down of our defences to the branding through the entertainment provided. We are captured by the high entertainment value of the adverts and thus do not begrudge the advertisers their crack at the whip when it comes; it seems fair recompense for the show they have put on rather than a hectoring annoyance. This last achievement is the greatest because most audiences dislike advertising breaks and the commercials that fill them; turning that response around is very clever indeed.

Close Up Of Terror

Michael Powell's Peeping Tom contains an even more trenchant critique of the close up. In this text the close up is an act of murder and the 'director' is a psychopath. Not even Sunset Boulevard is as scathing.

Posted with LifeCast


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