Coen Brother’s masterful TVC for Mercedes AMG demonstrates why quality film making still matters in advertising.
January 27, 2017
The high degree of craft demonstrated by the Coen Brothers is obvious in this new “film” for Mercedes AMG. The casting, wardrobe, acting, editing: it’s all first rate. Seeing Fonda at the end is wonderful – the cocky peace sign he flashes. Yet, everyone in the commercial shines, transcending the biker stereotype. You’ve got to love the two brutes getting stuck in the silver chains adorning their leathers. Or the grizzled biker chick wearing her lines like so many badges. Good stuff, which is what we’d expect from a Super Bowl commercial directed by the Coen Brothers.
Beyond the obvious, however, a thing I really dig (60’s verb intentional) about this film is how damn analog it is, on both sides of the camera. No smartphones. No CGI. Nobody’s tweeting. Instead we see a jukebox. Playing Steppenwolf. Dude holds up a cigarette lighter not an iPhone. Gloriously absent is all evidence of the modern world.
That is until we see the sleek new AMG roadster at the end.
Lots of commercials riff on previous decades but we can often sense the phoniness, kind of like viewing an off-Broadway production of Hair. Something about the cast or wardrobe gives it away. And we’re like: Oh, here’s a commercial making fun of the 60’s, 70’s or 80’s.
But not here. The righteousness of this commercial lifts it above mere advertising content. Rich in detail, fun to watch and just plain good the Coen Brothers remind us of why quality filmmaking still matters. Even in advertising. Especially in advertising.
Agency credit (and kudos) to Antoni, Germany and Merkley + Partners, USA
October 17, 2016
First things first. I love the song. Though recorded before I was born, Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” is one of those rare tunes that transcends time. If the song came out tomorrow, sung by Adelle, it would be a smash hit. It’s that good. And it’s certainly the best thing about Toyota’s big budget, 60-second anthem for Corolla, which debuted recently. Because of this commercial, I’ve been singing the hero lyric, off and on now for several weeks. In that regard it’s indisputably memorable.
And yet something is the matter. The “creative algebra” doesn’t add up. Using a classic ballad of female empowerment for selling mainstream automobiles to Millennials is not enough to turn the trick. Showing assorted attractive young people engaging in mildly rebellious behavior isn’t enough either. Try as they do to appear otherwise, the cars seem incongruous to the lovely pictures and strong music. By definition most every commercial is fabricated reality but if it’s pushed too far the stink of bullshit corrupts the narrative. In my view that’s what’s happening here. The ad’s slip is showing.
Said another way, there’s nothing particularly interesting or provocative about these cars except for the fact that they’re in this commercial.
The ad is clearly targeting twenty-somethings and according to this article might actually be working. I’m suspicious about this data so soon after the commercial’s premier. Especially given my intuition points in another direction.
And then, just before posting, I saw another execution in the “You Don’t Own Me” campaign, a 30-second spot.
30 second version, with story…
The same great tune. Slick production values. But this time there’s a story. A young woman quits her job from an ornery chef (he can’t own her) and starts a food truck business. The Toyota Corolla gets her from point A to Point B. It’s a simple story but it is a story. And it made me like –maybe the better word is appreciate- the campaign. Stories will do that.
I haven’t enjoyed a Toyota commercial in ages. Compared to the white bread suburban approach the brand has maintained for eons, at least this musically powered approach –helped now I see by stories- has ambition. What do you think? Have I gone soft or was my original assessment accurate?
(Author’s note: I’m avail for copy, content creation & creative leadership: https://steffanwork.wordpress.com)
“This next tune is about a jeep…”
The X Ambassadors are an alternative rock band from Ithaca New York. Signed on the Interscope label, the band has toured with the likes Imagine Dragons and Jimmie Eat World. They’ve put out two records.
The only reason I know any of this is because I looked the X Ambassadors up on Wikipedia. Why did I do that? Call it intellectual curiosity. The band is featured in a new jeep commercial, for their Renegade model. Here’s the log line for the commercial, from site ispot.tv:
“The X Ambassadors load up for their tour and take on the road in the 2015 Jeep Renegade. The car has plenty of room for their gear, a bit of guitar practice, writing new songs and general road trip shenanigans. Watch as the alternative rock band members explore the country as they make their way to their show in Portland, Oregon.”
“Road trip shenanigans…” And they all end up in Oregon. How precious is that? But seriously, when I first saw this commercial, I wasn’t even sure if the band was real. I assumed so yet the lyrics to the song, which drives the commercial, seemed to be written exactly for Jeep Renegade. The tune is even called, Renegades. Here is what they used in the spot:
Long live the pioneer
Rebels and …
Go forth and have no fear
Come close and lend an ear
Living like we’re renegades.
Forget that Levis did this commercial way better, using Walt Whitman’s Pioneers! O Pioneers! My second reaction, however, is why I’m writing about it at all. That’s because I thought the client and its ad agency had either written a song or contracted a band to compose one specifically for the product; in other words, a jingle.
Horrors! O Horrors! I know calling this piece of music a jingle is perhaps harsh. But not when you consider how neatly the lyrics and pictures sync up. Or that vignettes of the band’s “shenanigans” fit Jeep’s aspirations of marrying hipster culture and the great outdoors to a “T.” Or that this somewhat motley crew ends up in Portland. Well, it’s all too damn perfect.
And that’s the problem with this commercial. Despite every effort made to not look contrived it hopelessly is. In the end these so-called renegades come off as trust fund kids taking a free ride in the cool ride dad got one of ‘em for graduation.
Go Forth, for Levis. If you’re going to take someone else’s words steal from the best!