24 October, 2007

The USA is #1 (in foreign ads)

Last week I had the privilege of spending some time in Rome, Italy. As this was my first trip abroad, I was excited to see the different types of advertising. I had expected to see something more inventive, more sustainable, more intelligent than our average beer commercial, but sadly I was disappointed. I saw, instead, mostly cookie-cutter spots with little inventiveness.

My visit was at the height of the Rugby World Cup in France, the third largest sporting event in the world behind the FIFA World Cup and the Olympics, so naturally I figured I’d get the A-game ads. I wasn’t impressed. In fact, the commercial that seemed to appear most—an ad for Philips’ new electric razor—was disappointing for a number of reasons.

The coverage (and, of course, the commercials) was on BBC World so, naturally, the spot was in English; but there were many things about it that, in my opinion, missed the mark. The spot unfolded as follows – we see footage of Wright Brothers’ flight attempt as an American announcer says, “Flight;” then, footage of an ice ax hammered into ice with announcer saying, “Mount Everest;” then, footage of the moon, accompanied by “the Moon.” Finally, it’s capped by footage of the new Philips’ razor and commentary about its revolutionary design.

Two of the three feats mentioned were accomplished by Americans, the third by a New Zealander, and all of it was told via an American voice over. Keep in mind, the Rugby World Cup took place in Rome and featured four semifinal teams—England, France, Argentina, and South Africa—from three different continents, none of which were North America*. Not that it mattered much. Despite a jump in popularity, rugby probably ranks well below soccer and just above pick-up-sticks with us Yanks.

So, why then, with such little American interest in the sport, in an Italian speaking city, being broadcast by a British station, was this Philips’ commercial being narrated by an American voice? Why, if I’m watching this commercial anywhere but America would I even consider buying anything from this company? I wouldn’t. How many Americans were even watching BBC World, anyway? The answer: not enough to make it worth Philips’s trouble to target our audience.

So what does that say about Philip’s approach? In an event so patently uninteresting to the average American, why make a spot that’s so very American? When you figure it out, let me know: I’ll be enjoying the Cuban cigar I was able to sneak through customs.

*By the way, USA was in the Rugby World Cup. They lost every game they played.

Nick Piché, Copywriter

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4 others 'fessed up:

Anonymous,  October 25, 2007 at 7:02 PM  

In the last sentence of the third paragraph, the word "capped" is spelled incorrectly.

J. Alfred Prufock,  October 26, 2007 at 9:14 AM  

In the first comment of the most recent blog, Anonymous decided to pick at the author's spelling rather than add anything of any note to the discussion itself. Get a life.

Anonymous,  October 30, 2007 at 5:02 PM  

Wow how I ironic! Your username itself is a misspelling! I'm assuming of course that your name is in reference to T.S. Eliot's poem "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock".

"Let us go then, you and I, When the evening is spread out against the sky"

Great stuff!

M.M.McDermott,  October 30, 2007 at 5:08 PM  

Yeah, I noticed the user pulled an Eliot reference. I'll stick with Bukowski, though. Don't need 80 pages of footnotes to fully understand a one page poem. Thanks for posting, Anon. and J. Al both. Nothing like dialogue. Even if it has nothing to do with the post itself. It's a start. Onward, friends!

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