Talk to the hand…

Visualizing their age-old theme line, “The Midas Touch,” the Martin Agency has created a talking, disembodied hand to shill for the franchise auto repair shop, a mish mash of brand equities.

For some reason, the golden, floating hand is also a tad surly. Perhaps its creators were desperate to avoid comparisons to Hamburger Helper’s talking oven mitt. News flash. A talking hand is a talking hand, regardless of attitude and color. And for what it’s worth, Hamburger Helper was there first. In any event, choosing one isn’t exactly Sophie’s Choice. You can lock both these critters in the glove compartment. Then run the car off a cliff…

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“I was here first!”

I’m not against old-school advertising. Or even critters. For example, I’ve got a soft spot for the Pillsbury Doughboy. Creating memorable characters based on a brand’s attributes works. Unfortunately, it often doesn’t. Especially in the 21st century. I’m afraid the “Midas Touch” (or whatever they’re calling it/him) has short lifespan written all over. There’s only so much concept to work with.

In the two spots I’ve seen the hand dodges a few bad jokes (“high five” and “an arm and a leg”) while reminding some rube about “getting that Midas touch” down at the corner. Yikes, sounds like a creepy come on. Hand job, anyone?

Happily, the disembodied hand works better on the Midas website. Facing out, it kind of stops you in your tracks. There, helping hand puns set up the simple engagements one would expect from a car repair site. Appointments. Locations. Et-cetera. The site is crisp and clean and, well, the hand kind of works. So thumbs up. (Get it?)

Their Facebook is a push. When I visited it the top bit was a knock-knock joke setting up a view screen for the commercial. Um, I guess so. What else are you going to do with a disembodied hand… on Facebook? Needless to say, I did not adventure to Twitter. I just don’t feel the need to follow a car repair site, let alone some bored copywriters fronting for an advertising spokesthing.

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“if you go chasing rabbits…you know you’re going to fall.”

“What’s your wild rabbit?” is the enigmatic question posed in Hennessy’ ad campaign from revered agency Droga5. I’ve seen these ads for some time now on marquee billboards, in national magazines, even as films. And while I admire agency and client for going all-in with a high concept (clients typically insist on showing drinkers drinking) I don’t get it. Not really.

Yes, of course, on a poetic level I know what the copy is saying: that the “wild rabbit” is a metaphor for your passion. And, because liquor ads are never wrong about these things, we’re supposed to find ours. Masculine icons like filmmaker Martin Scorsese (Raging Bull, Taxi Driver) and fighter Manny Pacquiao reveal what their wild rabbits are. In some ads the body copy overtly describes what the “wild rabbit” is: “It’s the voice that keeps you up at night…lurking in the corner.”

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Yikes! Given all that lurking who wouldn’t need a drink?

Joking aside, I cannot salute this creative flag. (I want to. For its chutzpa alone.) Yet for me this is a well-hit ball that just goes foul.

Chasing rabbits seems like pipe dreaming. It evokes the notion of big plans gone to seed. Of men sitting in dark corners getting hammered and talking about tomorrow. But tomorrow never comes, does it? Just despair. That’s what I get when I take in these melancholy photographs and the dark prose. Are we not taught to avoid going down rabbit holes?

In the famous movie Harvey, Jimmy Stewart plays an alcoholic with an imaginary rabbit for a friend. He’s found his wild rabbit and it leads to the booby hatch. Some years later Grace Slick warned us about chasing rabbits in her iconic song White Rabbit about a bad acid trip. In the context of booze advertising, don’t rabbits seem wildly inappropriate? In addition, every time I hear the phrase “wild rabbit” I think of Wild Turkey bourbon. That can’t be good for business.

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I’ll have what he’s having. -From Harvey

Maybe I’m missing something. After all, Droga5 seldom botches. When I was researching this campaign I found a nifty piece on a blog called Breaking Copy.The author is gung-ho about the campaign but I don’t buy his analysis. He writes the campaign “feels familiar, tapping into a shared cultural memory of Alice In Wonderland and the woodlands of Old Europe. It’s also a little bit sexy — after all, what are rabbits known for?”

The blogger mentions two other well-known references –which are fair. The first being Alice in Wonderland. It’s been a long while since I read the fable but, to my memory, Alice gets into a world of trouble chasing her wild rabbit. I believe the negative phrase “going down a rabbit hole” stems from her massive tribulations down there. Still, Wonderland is ultimately a magical place where creativity, imagination and personal freedoms are celebrated –perhaps to a fault. In any event, I’m willing to concede getting stoned on cognac can be a wonderful experience. Was Droga5 trying to tap into that? As in Lewis Carroll’s story maybe the indirect homage to inebriation is intentional. After all, liquor ads cannot go there directly (that’s why they are so hard to do). But then why the prizefighters and movie directors, this idea of “bringing something into the world?” It’s muddy.

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“Can we see some ID?”

His second “a little bit sexy” reference relates to bunny rabbits’ affinity for reproduction. I suppose on one level getting drunk and chasing “tail” is akin to “breeding like rabbits” but I’m very certain this has nothing to do with Hennessy’s message, even on a subliminal level. What do you think?

The blogger ends his discussion by stating the campaign’s intent can be summed up in six words: “Getting white people to drink Hennessy.” He actually may be on to something, albeit possibly racist: that white folks will appreciate the brand’s enigmatic approach more than black people. However, this takes me back to my original concerns about the campaign. Namely that rabbit holes, imaginary drinking pals and the Jefferson Airplane paint pictures most Anglo Saxons would find upsetting. They may be reasons to drink Hennessy but they strike me as the wrong ones.

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