Successful ads may say more or less about the product advertised. But they invariably say a lot about the target audience.
Take the current DHL campaign. Its flagship 60-second commercial has been running a heavy TV schedule for months, which suggests it works – more people must be using DHL delivery services more often than before.
This means the campaign touches some invisible strings in people’s psyche, creating a nice, warm feeling. Since in my psyche the commercial creates nothing but acute irritation, it’s worth examining why.
The ad shows an electric guitar being custom-made in Nashville, Tennessee. The finished product is then rushed by a DHL lorry through the countryside, courageously overcoming all obstacles en route, such as a cow blocking the road.
The instrument then finds itself strapped into an airline seat, like a human passenger. Actually, large instruments go into the hull these days – and they certainly don’t travel in the cabin unaccompanied. But hey, what’s a little poetic licence among friends?
The guitar then makes its way into the strumming hands of a pop singer belting out some verbally and musically incoherent noise at a roaring London public. The atmosphere of a pop concert, that combination of a Nuremberg rally, orgy and opium den, is captured accurately. For all I know, that’s the footage of an actual performance.
Now I’m by all modern standards an old fogey and a hopeless stick-in-the-mud (which terms are universally used to designate cultured people). I detest pop excretions and actually object to describing them as music. If that is music, then so are the shrieks of a shaman dancing around a totem pole as a goat’s throat is being slit.
But the commercial clearly works because most people feel about such things differently. They accept those shrieks as music, rather than the extension of the pharmaceutical industry they actually are.
Fine, I have no quarrel with that. Or rather I do, but I timidly retreat when the collective modern bully asks his perennial question: “So what are you gonna do about it, sunshine?”
There is indeed nothing I can do. Except perhaps ask why DHL, and whoever employed it to carry that precious cargo across the ocean, had to bother?
Why didn’t the pop star just send his roadies over to a corner music shop, of which London has plenty, and pick up off the rack the first guitar they saw? How deficient would that instrument have been in producing the same three chords the ‘artist’ was playing? Especially since the sound was piped through electronic amplifiers and accompanied by the orgasmic roar of the heavily drugged crowd?
I defy even a person with perfect pitch to tell the difference. I mean, that’s not like Menuhin choosing a Stradivari violin for some concerts and a Guarneri for others. Pop isn’t really about tonal nuances, is it?
Now, before the commercial was produced and aired, it had been researched to death – no company would pump millions into an ad without trying to gauge the public response in advance. The research doubtless gave the commercial a thumbs-up: the focus groups loved it.
And the research didn’t lie, for if it had, the commercial would have been pulled after a couple of weeks. Hence the massive target audience out there – and, considering what DHL charges, we’re talking A and B+ – accepts that it takes a custom-made guitar rushed across half the world for a hack to strum out his three chords.
If these are the A and B+ punters, what are the Cs and Ds like? Oh well, let’s not think such gloomy thoughts on the last day of this millennium’s second decade.
A joyous New Year to all my readers, especially the music lovers among you. Happy listening!