I like to believe that I am someone who is not greatly susceptible to advertising. Possibly this is for no other reason than because I don’t tend to buy much ‘stuff’. However, that is not to say that I don’t appreciate a good advert when I see one and, over the last year or so, there has been a series of commercials on the TV, whose narrative always succeeds to hook me in. Each commercial is quite different both in style, mood and substance, but each succeeds in provoking exactly the same series of responses in me. It is a progression of emotions, proceeding from bored inattention, to interested and empathetic engagement and, ultimately, quiet annoyance.
One ad portrays a sequence of hopelessly confused customers attempting to order a simple cup of coffee, each being confounded by the linguistic twaddle, which exists around modern-day coffee-drinking. I experience empathy with the simple coffee-seekers’ quest faced by the insurmountable superiority of coffee-aficionados.
A second ad has two women stuck in a lift. Strangers thrown together by adversity, they strike up a swift and unlikely friendship. They share possessions; experiences; confidences, while they wait to be rescued. I experience a fuzzy glow of warm humanity at their simple kinship.
A third ad sees a man sitting at a table on a busy commuter train. From a bag, he produces a large number of electrical items, sockets, plugs and cables, and proceeds to wire them all up to the train’s power supply until he has a network of equipment all charging up in front of him. I am amused by the man’s brazen ingenuity.
So far so good. I am either experiencing empathy or fuzzy warmness or amusement. But then comes the punchline for each commercial. Just as I am wondering what this ad is meant to be promoting; just when I am starting to think it might be for some product, which will stir me from my Scrooge-like commercial existence, the denouement is revealed.
Hence the quiet annoyance but, also, I find myself left with the grudging respect of the fall-guy who has been successfully duped in a game of three-card Monte.
And, exactly like that 100% pure beef patsy, I will watch the same advert the next day, forget what it is mean to be promoting, and experience the whole gamut of emotions all over again.
© Simon Turner-Tree
McDonald’s commercials put Simon in a spin.