Friday, February 9, 2007

Note to Chevy's Advertising Dept.: WHAT ARE YOU THINKING???

Have you ever wondered what the decision makers behind some of those high end, big budget television commercials were thinking, when they were deciding on what would work? There have always been bad commercials; it's not something unique to the present time. But there do seem to be a lot of them out there these days.

Some of these creatives are truly gifted, but there are others whose work defies comprehension. And the amazing thing is, these people actually land jobs with major advertising agencies or large corporations. Case in point, Chevy's recent Super Bowl ad contest. The winner was nineteen year old college freshman, Katie Crabb from North Prairie Wisconsin. She submitted her idea, made the pitch and her concept became a 2.6 million dollar national commercial for one of America's largest automotive brands. It aired on this years Super Bowl!

Let me pause for a second to congratulate Katie for her perseverance and her effort. She must have worked hard to put her project together.

That being said, have you seen the spot? My God what is going through the minds of the decision makers at General Motors. Here's an American car company, struggling to fend off the overseas competition, and they're investing millions of their stockholder's dollars in an asinine television commercial.

NOTE: If you'd like to see it you can copy the following link, paste it in your address bar and click...

I'm sorry but this approach and concept doesn't come close to working. It's an insult to the viewers intelligence...and an affront to men in particular. For those of you who won't get a chance to watch the commercial, it starts out with Chevy's HHR pulling up to a stop light. The car is filled with good looking young women. Suddenly, every man within walking distance of the vehicle is stripping down to his undies and scrambling to touch the car! What's that all about? There is no set sense to this spot. I don't blame Katie. After all she is only one year out of high school and I guess, considering her age and lack of experience, it's to be expected. But I do think that GM's President and CEO should take a long hard look at Chevy's creative department.

One of the national TV news magazines did a feature on the behind the scenes selection process. It showed five or six finalists making their pitches. Some of the work was really good; contemporary, hip and, if Chevy's target audience is the Y generation, right on the money. The decision makers in this case were Chevy's General Manager and his senior level creative staff. Now the GM is a guy about my age and he sat their trying to look involved; but I think that he must've been thinking about his next meeting. His minions were more concerned with impressing him than selecting the best creative. He must be one of these guys who tells his people to 'think out of the box'...and they did. They were so far out of the box with this selection that they should all be forced to go back to Advertising 101 and repeat the course. I've seen Army training films with better creative and execution. The TV segment interviewed the commercials director, who looked younger than Katie, and he effervesced over the concept and his execution. You couldn't help but wonder if there are any more seasoned Master's out there. Have all the great directors retired?

I would assume that this director made his bones in the world of music videos; where structure is unimportant and outrageousness is all that matters. Nothing is more trendy than advertising. It's always trying to be cutting edge and in touch with it's youngest market and that's fine. But, more often than not, it wrongly assumes that what works with the older audience couldn't possibly work with today's target demo. I say that's nonsense. Truly great creative works on multiple levels. Another spot that ran in the Super Bowl was the Bud commercial with the talking apes. It was funny and everyone in the room got it...old and young alike. And there are some other young contest winners out there who show great promise. If you saw Doritos Super Bowl Contest winning spot, which was written, produced and directed by 21 year old Dale Backus of Raleigh North Carolina, you know that it hit on every was GREAT. And the other finalists in their contest were terrific. (As a matter of fact, there were a bunch that didn't make it to the finals that were wonderful too. You can see for yourself at )

The night before the Super Bowl, CBS ran a special on the all-time best Super Bowl commercials. Viewers were given the chance to vote for the best commercial to ever run during the history of The Big Game. They picked Coke's Mean Joe Greene ad which was created way back in 1979. It works today...28 years after it was produced. People of all ages can still connect with that spot.

I guess that there will always be mind boggling, incomprehensible commercials. We'll always find ourselves asking the question "Who the heck put this together?" Having written, produced and directed commercials though, I must tell you that seeing them produced on a national level, can be a bit discouraging. But to the gifted and struggling talent out there I implore you not to despair; to carry on. American advertising needs you. If you give up we'll be left with more drivel like that Chevy commercial.

That's my thoughts...what do you think?

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