>Finally! I woke to temperatures that didn’t fall below freezing last night. There are only a few patches of ice and snow in the shadows instead of the solid sheet of one inch thick ice covered with several inches of snow. I can venture out to get my morning paper without fear of slipping and sliding straight to the emergency room. Most of all, the national media can quit — hopefully — their condemnation of the DFW area for being so poorly organized that we allowed bad weather to movein the week leading up to the Superbowl.
For those of you who might not be familiar with this part of the American football experience, the Superbowl is the final game of the season. The champs for the NFC and AFC meet in a game that will crown the best team of the year. Hopefully, it will be a good game but, all too often, it’s a real sleeper. The best part of the game happens to be the commercials. As well they should be. Reports are that a 30 spot this year costs $3 million.
So, what does this have to do with writing, you ask? Good question. Now, let’s see if I can come up with a good answer ;-p
Actually, I’ll be honest, I’m riding high – or at least foggy — on sinus meds today and spent much of yesterday sleeping. So I don’t have a post ready and don’t want to try to pull something together that won’t make much sense. So, here’s a question and a challenge for you.
Think of your favorite commercials — from Superbowl Sunday or whatever. What makes them so good? How can you utilize that information or techniques in your writing?
>The Budweiser commercials. Specifically, remember the commercial where all the clydesdale horses bowed their heads after 9/11? Yeah, it was a beer commercial that had real emotion. I'm looking forward to this years commercials. Rumor has it that the trailers for Green Lantern, Captain America, and Thor are all playing during the game.
>That was a great commercial, Chris. So, how do you get that sort of emotion into your writing?Yeah, I'm interested in seeing the previews — kind of. I'm worried they are going to botch these adaptations like they have so many others of late. Which is, I guess, another lesson. How to take a classic and respect it, expand it without making it a parody of itself — unless that's what you're going for.
>I love the Budweiser commercials too, Chris, but I live in Colorado. If I drank Bud, I'd have to move…Other than that? The herding cats commercial. Because it's SO like my life and we're every bit as heroic as people who herd cows. or perhaps more heroic.
>Amanda,I was thinking that the real lesson for writing from that commercial was that you don't need words for emotion, you need moment. How you get the moment? That would depend on the story I suppose. You could always have a monster tear the leg off a dog… 😉
>Hmm, cute animals. Must add more cute animals . . . Can we use an alien species to display human emotions? Anyone who is around dogs, cats, or horses can understand them–or do we just think we do?
>Matapam,There have been studies that show that we understand animals and they understand us. There's also been at least one study that has shown the classic "puppy dog eyes" that dogs make when you're mad at them are blatant attemtps to manipulate us into not being mad. No soul searching there. 🙂
>Classic superbowl commercials … The McDonald's sequence of "I'll play you for that burger" commercials from the early 90's, with Jordan and Bird, growing progressively more ridiculous as the game progressed. The FedEx commercial a couple years ago with the "Castaway" character, delivering an unopened package that turned out to contain a GPS, a satellite phone, etc. The Budweiser clydesdale that didn't make the team, then spent a year in training …The key, I think, is to tap the reservoirs of shared-emotion and shared-experience that already exist in the culture, but to do so tangentially. The clydesdales 9/11 commercial worked by simply acknowledging and gently interconnecting several elements that already existed in the vast majority of us: the overwhelming emotion and imagery of that day, and the long tradition of honorable symbolism that Budweiser has carefully constructed and safeguarded concerning the clydesdale team. Their marketing division have given us a broad spectrum of iconic symbols over the years ("Bud"-"Weis"-"Er" frogs, "Bud Bowl, etc.). Each of those symbols has a carefully crafted aura of its own, and they are always VERY conscious of their branding for each icon. The clydesdale team has always been wrapped in a kind of almost-reverence, so it was perfect for expressing the message of 9/11.You can't build that kind of impact without lots of development leading up to the *moment* you're trying to convey, to get us to invest completely in each piece of the puzzle.
>A lot of aliens are already portrayed with big eyes…make them about three ft tall, give them over active tear duct and who could resist?
>I dunno. You make them look semi-human and then they look like ugly people. Cute dogs and kittens are different enough that different standards apply.I'd forgotten about the Bud. Weis. Er. Frogs. Hysterically funny, rather than cuddly.
>Um.I don't watch TV, much less sports on TV. If I catch ads, it's by accident.The VW mini-Darth Vader one Rowena linked to yesterday is sheer genius, though.
>The Superbowl is weird. Most of the time we do our utmost to avoid commercials. But somehow the preposterous cost of air time during the Superbowl has resulted in a ton of outstanding ads. People watch the game for the ads. Record the ads. Vote on the best ad. It's proof that humans are insane.
>Sarah, heroic? Herding cats may be many things, but heroic isn't the first that comes to mind. Futile, impossible, insane — those all come to mind. But if you want to think of it as heroic, I won't tell you that the cats own you and just let you think you're herding them and are in control 😉
>Chris, moment and emotion. That's the one thing I remember from that commercial. It made me feel. Sort of like the reading of the Declaration of Independence today followed by the message of support and appreciation for all those who have given their lives in the service of our country.
>Pam, the animals count but what is it about them that make the commercial work? What is it about them that speaks to you and how would you translate that into your writing?
>Chris, bwahahaha. Here's your challenge. Flash piece where the animal manipulates the human. Care to take me up on it?
>Stephen, great analysis. You also hit on some of my favorites.This year's Volkswagon commercial — the one Rowena posted yesterday — was by far my favorite of those aired today. There are few people who wouldn't recognize Darth Vader — even a pint sized one. The child in the costume managed to convey through actions and body language his frustration and hope all at the same time. No matter how many times he tried and failed to "use the force", he kept trying. His surprise when the car started spoke volumes, as did the way he looked back to the house to see if his dad had seen.
>Brendan, you just described the little figurines sold in gift stores! I knew they were alien plants. They're probably spying on us as we speak…..AAAAAAHHHH!!!!!1
>Kate, agreed. See my previous comment on that commercial.
>With animals, I think we see an exaggerated version of our own body language, without artiface or embarassment.A dog can droop his ears, like our spirits droop; they are the masters of Big Sad Eyes.A horse's head movements are exaggerated with the long neck. Bowing a head, tossing a head in disdain, turning a head to deliver a look of utter disbelief…With a cat, it's very tactile. Soft and warm, a comforting purr.Being pack/herd/pride animals, they all pick up our body language and emotions and respond to them. Yes, even cats. Even though they are the champions of disdain, and often pretend to be independant and solitary beasts. And dogs! Oh, they look so sorry . . . but give them just one more opportunity to nab that steak, and they'll make sure all the evidence disappears. And horses? A single horse-eating piece of paper blowing in the wind will remove all dreams of brave and noble steeds defending their master from your mental expectations. They are, when you down to it, herbivours. Creatures that other things eat if they don't run away fast enough.But, being pack animals, we view them as fellow pack members, and understand them. Or at least, we understand the emotions we impute to their actions.