December 29, 2020

Stop lying to us

An epic blog post

December 29, 2020

Stop lying to us

How much B.S. can advertisers force-feed us in a single commercial break?
Have you ever watched a commercial and asked yourself what the hell is going on there? Why are these people dancing in ecstatic bliss around this laundry detergent? Why are we overusing inspirational phrases like “a technological breakthrough,” “challenging the basics,” and so on to describe a car – well, you are not alone.
It seems that the term “truth in advertising” is only something ad agencies use to lie – about themselves.

Let’s look at one of the latest pile of nonsense the advertising world has manufactured lately. Obviously, I am referring to the “what the f” commercial of the year, the “Zendaya for Lancome Idole Fragrance Campaign.” It begins with an image of Zendaya, the once child model/backup-singer and Disney channel star, mounted on a saddleless white horse wearing only a tiny sexy spring dress. The horse (who I presume was a unicorn in the original script) seems as confused as I am. Is this a Lady Godiva reference? Female empowerment thing? Hemorrhoids lotion ad? As she starts riding to town, the camera provides us a close up of her face; she seems confident, happy, and complete. The mystery is solved – female empowerment! Unstoppable by Sia is playing! You go, girl!

No one seems to notice this confident young woman looking for something elusive as she gallops around town. Is it a Starbucks? Bed Bath and Beyond? Drug dealer, maybe? – that would be a nice twist… She discovers her destiny in the form of some stairs. (Wait, what?) She charges confidently up the stairs, only to appear on a different street – similar to the ones we have seen before, never mind, maybe it’s a metaphor? – she charges ahead, this time with even greater confidence – right out of town. Déjà vu? Didn’t we shoot the first scene here? Now she is up a hill (Where did that come from?) – never mind again! she needs to keep going! The direction, or any other storytelling aspect, is irrelevant at this point! Now she gazes at the city (again) and with a spectacular confident, but still, feminine movement (because girls can be tough and graceful at the same time). She raises a bottle of perfume. It sparkles as the sun gracefully caresses it! – Catharsis at last!

No wait, there is more! she is replied by sparkles of other women – presumably on white stallions as well, waving their perfumes right back at her – WE ARE UNITED! Now we hear the slogan for this “I can – We will” (wasn’t that Obama’s?) All women needed is for this famous chick to ride around town on her unicorn, sorry – white stallion, to liberate and empower women.

At this point, the viewers are recovering from a series of convocation spasms and are just happy that this torment is done with, trying desperately to focus back on their TV dinner.

Now look, I get it. You need to glorify a product, and that’s fine. But please explain how buying a perfume is empowering women? This mish-mash of cliches and pointless storytelling is bad enough, but to add insult to injury, what kind of message are you sending to women anyway? How are we guys supposed to look at this movement now? The deeper you dig into this, you realize that this is just another brand trying to capitalize on the female empowerment movement without any real substance. Sorry, Lancome – you’re busted! And I know I’m a guy writing this, but my 12-year-old daughter was as baffled and offended as I am.

I am guessing sales were looking up for Lancome and that they consider this to be a success. Its true advertising is effective. Even using that 30-second slot on TV just displaying the logo on a black background would boost sales. Ask yourself, could there have been a more effective commercial? I, for one, think so.

Lies travel faster and further than the truth. But the truth runs deeper. That’s why I left the advertising world and focused on Branding. Unlike Advertising, Branding is about taking something true and making it interesting. With an emphasis on the TRUE part. Brands who are loyal to their truth make a difference while making a buck. Lot’s of bucks, actually. So, advertisers, I ask you, why lie to us? We’re gonna’ find out. Lies will help you win the battle. The truth will help you win the war. Win the war!

BTW look how Ryan Renolds roasts commercial cliches: