Here’s a look at a two DPS print ads from a couple of issues of the United States edition of Esquire magazine from late last year – I get them from the excellent Auckland library system, hence the dates. Lest I get accused of only having critical and deeply cynical views of the world of advertising, I’m going to give a big thumbs up to one of them (I know, I know…shock, horror etc.).
Let’s start off with the good one shall we? It’s an advert for Hyundai’s Sonata Hybrid (November 2011 issue). An advert for a hybrid Hyundai midsize family car? Surely it must either be a yawnfest or outrageously hyped up? Actually, it’s neither.
There’s the mandatory photo of what is admittedly a good-looking car (in the modern idiom of course, it’s no Ferrari 250 GTO), there’s a headline and there’s a page full of copy.
The subtle inclusion of the businessman in the jetpack is the first clue that there’s a touch more to this ad than anticipated. The headline is the next element to grab me - “It’s 2011. So why is this our first hybrid?” is the question being asked and you know what, that’s a good question. I’m a car guy, and after reading that, I want to know why it’s taken Hyundai so long to get with the eco-friendly program, so you’d better believe that I dived straight into the copy.
The text isn’t flashy but it answers the headline question very well, mostly by addressing the issues that would be uppermost in a potential buyer’s mind – despite their much vaunted green status, most hybrids are small, ugly, have feeble power outputs and are about as exciting as an episode of Coronation Street, so why would I want one?
Hmm, it turns out that this hybrid doesn’t look at all bad, is efficient, has more than 200 horsepower and is state-of-the-art. All according to Hyundai of course, but that would be just enough to make me think that I could live with one of these things, particularly if I was a Yank facing a petrol price that I could barely imagine a few years ago.
So it’s an eye-catching ad that stood out in a 176-page magazine that’s absolutely brimming with ads competing for my attention. The visuals and headline got me interested enough to read the copy, and the copy methodically took me through the reasons to allow a hybrid into my life. Yes, Hyundai’s ad interrupted me but I don’t resent that intrusion in this case because it’s a good ad.
Onto the bad then, perhaps even the ugly if you want to be harsh. This DPS from the December 2011 issue is a “custom advertorial spread” according to Esquire.
It’s for Casio’s Edifice range of watches and it’s one of those celebrity ads that we railed against here. Walton Goggins? Seriously? I’ve got nothing against Walton, he was excellent as Shane Vendrell in all seven seasons of The Shield, and although I haven’t seen his more recent Justified series, I suppose it must be doing okay seeing as it’s heading for its fourth season (that’s no guarantee of quality I know).
The ad itself just makes no sense to me. Take an actor whose best-known role was in an intense dramatic series that had him killing his wife and young son before topping himself and then make an advert about him being a new father. That seems incredibly incongruous to me. Then instead of showing him with the child mentioned in the headline, the creative team used a photo that has him in a dark garage looking less than warm and friendly; downright sinister in fact.
Compounding these strange choices, is that headline, which states: “Being a new father, I’ve never been more acutely aware of the ephemeral nature of time. It’s so precious.” The ephemeral nature of time? You’ve got to be kidding me! By the way, the sub headline mentions that Walton is reprising his role in Justified, where he plays “a character as wise as he is violent and unpredictable.” Good golly Miss Molly, that’s just got to be helpful when it comes to selling watches.
Which brings us to the watch itself, complete with fourteen-character product code. It’s a tough looking watch, the kind a man’s man might wear, albeit not one of Casio’s ultra-rugged G-Shock range. What’s the tie in between the celebrity and the watch? He’s a new father. Oh that’s perfect, let’s run with it.
Actually Casio and Esquire, let’s not. This is nothing more than a random celebrity endorsing a random product and that’s just weak. There’s not even a logical tie in. Even the associated video makes no sense; is it about wasting time? Being bored perhaps? At least have him roar out of the garage in the car, and make me feel like my 1:18 wasn't entirely wasted like his was.
The Justified character is an action man from the South, so have him diving out of an exploding shack into a pond full of alligators while wearing an unstoppable G-Shock watch. This treatment would be obvious and not even remotely clever but it would be more logical than this creepy effort, ephemeral nature of time notwithstanding.