The Edge of Seventeen: The Most Memorable Ads of the Year

 
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We are a mere 24 days from the conclusion of 2017, and what a year it has been. A year where unattractive semi-redheads have dominated pop culture (i.e. Donald Trump, Ed Sheeran), the masses were repeatedly told to sit down and be humble, Frances McDormand kicked teenagers in the crotch, Jon Snow got it on with his attractive aunt, and much, much more. Through it all, some truly terrific advertisements were released around the world, and we decided to sift through thousands of hours of footage (or read a few “best of” articles, either way) and pick out some that are being recognized as the best of the year. Enjoy!

Gravity Daze 2: “Gravity Cat,” Japan

To promote the game Gravity Daze 2 (known as Gravity Rush 2 here in America), Playstation could have just gone the usual video game promotion route by just showing a few clips of gameplay, but this Japanese commercial went a wildly ambitious route instead, building a rotating set (similar to “Inception”) in an ad that both defied expectations as well as, seemingly, gravity.

Burger King: “OK Google,” United States

This little fifteen second ad caused a veritable fecal storm with a pretty simple premise; the Burger King employee in it doesn’t have time to tell you about the Whopper, so he just says “OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?” The commercial proceeded to activate Google Home on various devices and tick a lot of people off. Having said that, the best advertising is memorable advertising, and Burger King nailed that.

84 Lumber: “The Journey,” United States

If Burger King activating Google Home was like hitting a layup of pissing people off, sweet fancy Moses, 84 Lumber drained a three from half-court with their Super Bowl ad. This is affective advertising, but it straddled that line of being affective positively and affective negatively. Some people praised its political boldness on such a large platform; others deemed it as an epic, controversial failure. But sure as shootin’, it definitely is memorable.

The National Lottery: “Let’s Not Be Blunt,” United Kingdom

This one was a hit overseas as James Blunt, singer of the legendary depression ballad “You’re Beautiful,” plays an ego-driven version of himself as he creates a technological innovation to elevate the spirit of the people of the U.K. It’s the spectacular failure of said ridiculous plan and the comedy that accompanies it that makes this one great.

Samsung: “Ostrich,” United States

This is another one where it’s a pretty simple premise pulled off to perfection. An ostrich stumbles upon a virtual reality headset, and proceeds to live out its dreams of flight. It would be like the vertically-challenged writer of this blog putting a VR headset on and living the life of Shaquille O’Neal. Again, a simple idea, but executed with just the right amount of whimsy and Adorable Animal Factor that it became one of the most acclaimed commercials of the year.

The New York Times: “The Truth is Hard to Find,” United States

Whatever side of the political fence you may be setting up shop on, a majority of people can agree; news media is pretty embattled right now, and The New York Times has been right in the tumult. In response, they released a series of ads in which they attempt to make a stand not just for themselves, but for support for journalism in general. Regardless of your political orientation, the ads are undeniably moving.

Coca-Cola: “Line-Up Song,” Egypt and “The Pool Boy,” United States

Some companies just hit it out of the park a few times this year, and Coke was one of them, with a duo of fantastic commercials.

“The Pool Boy” is more what you’d expect from a big time ad master like Coke; excellent comedic timing, entertaining, and, in this case, pretty visually appealing as well.

It’s the “Line-Up Song” ad, though, that really is operating on its own plane of reality. The ad is so strange it’s nearly surreal, as Coke crafts a song to endorse the Egyptian national football team to the tune of “Old McDonald Had a Farm” … totally to infuriate Pepsi, the team’s actual sponsor. The result? An award-winning commercial.

Volkswagen: “Laughing Horses,” Germany, “The Button,” United Kingdom, and “Fast Film- Slow Motion,” Argentina

Volkswagen, to use a phrase I frankly despise using but may be appropriate in this regard, was absolutely LIT this year. It was so lit, in fact, it nearly burst into proverbial flames, with three truly fantastic, acclaimed commercials, all excelling in different ways.

“Laughing Horses” is just pure concept, which is just...laughing horses. But the horses are laughing so hysterically at the poor, vehicularly inept farmer that it can’t be resisted.

“The Button,” on the other hand, isn’t as comical, but it boasts some seriously jaw-dropping production design and direction. Before getting to the obligatory car shot at the end, it blasts through six incredible sets, all with the tones and visuals you’d associate with the genres their spoofing.

But the real treasure of this bunch is the “Fast Film- Slow Motion.” The commercial is, in reality, a tracking shot that really only lasts three seconds. But it’s made in serious slow motion, the slowest of motions, and the result is truly amazing; the camera goes one hundred meters, catching over twenty actors staged in various scenes. The rehearsal and preparation that had to take place to achieve this commercial had to just be preposterous, but oh diggity, was it worth it.

Jose Cuervo: “Last Days,” United States

Oof, what a freaking ad. This is one of, if not the, most acclaimed commercial of the year, and it deserves every single award it received. The premise is that the world is quite literally ending, and a posse of guests at a little cantina decide to just get dumpstered on Cuervo while the world crumbles around them to the tune of Elvis’ “It’s Now or Never.” It would be winning and obscenely entertaining just with that conceit, but it really transcends expectation thanks to some breathtakingl cinematography, which is more impressive than some movies that came out this year. The coloring, lighting, really all the technical specs aren’t just on point, they obliterate the point. Stunning, stunning stuff.

 

Now, an ad that holds a very special and dear place in the hearts of Trove associates, and just in time for Christmas.

Marks and Spencer: “Paddington and The Christmas Visitor,” United Kingdom

Starring a spritely little English teddy bear who unintentionally helps a burglar redeem himself on Christmas Eve...only to be the victim of a most vicious insult. The commercial is alright, but if you want to, shoot straight to the 1:10 mark and listen very carefully for the most casual and earnest f-bomb you’ll ever hear.

So thanks for tuning in guys! If you enjoyed what you read, or even if you didn’t, I command you to go on our website and read the rest of our blogs. Thanks again!

Natural Selection: Six Tips For Getting A Natural Performance From Your Actors

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Allow me to, once again, set a scene for you; imagine you’re Liam Neeson. That’s right, you have a very particular set of skills, skills that make you a nightmare for Albanian criminals (but if only you had given up your watch, you could’ve done more!). It’s a sunny March day in the bella citta that is Rome, Italy, and your 6’4’’, Irish self is enjoying shooting some baskets between shooting some scenes for Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York.” At one point, your film buddy Daniel Day-Lewis comes up to join you. You greet him warmly but find that he continues to call you “Priest” (your character’s name in the movie), speak his New York accent instead of his natural British, and be extremely hostile during your game of one-on-one. Suffice it to say, your leisurely shootaround has turned into a veritable Battle of the Five Points on the basketball court. This, my friends, is acting to the extreme.

Thankfully, in commercial video production, the chaos that accompanies method acting isn’t something we deal with often (i.e. Jared Leto’s gifts of rats while portraying the Joker in abhorrent “Suicide Squad,” or Robert DeNiro shaving down his teeth for “Cape Fear”), acting and performance is still a pivotal factor. We’re not looking for method actors (especially you, Jared, what were you thinking?) but we still need natural, believable, and realistic performances for the people we film. Since you’re typically dealing with non-actors, it’s important to know some key techniques as to how to really coax the proverbial acting milk from their proverbial acting utters. Of course, seeing how we of course have all the answers, here are six tips to help you get some good performances from your actors, whether they’re pros, “pros” (Jared. Leto.), or not actors at all.

They Can Take Our Lives, but They Can Never Take Our Freedom! -- Freedom in Script

The big, bad, venerable Marlon Brando, one of the the most acclaimed actors of all time despite his occasional air of entitlement (i.e. his flippant massive weight gain for “Apocalypse Now”...the horror) had a very peculiar method he would employ on top of his usual method madness. Often, he would have his dialogue displayed on cue cards off camera, or even go to such lengths as have the actor he’s speaking to in his scenes wear his lines. He did this because he only read the script a few times, not enough to memorize it, and wanted his dialogue to be as natural and realistic as possible, as if it was improvised.

While we aren’t looking for improvisation (sorry, Larry David), it is a great idea to give your actors a little wiggle room as to what they’re suppose to say. Some projects may be a little more rigid in what they need to hear than others, but your actors need to sound believable. You don’t want them to pull a “Westworld” and sound too artificial like a deactivated android. They need to sound conversational, but not too conversational. Stick to the script, but feel free to give some wiggle room if you think it’ll make the final product more real and authentic.

Clear and Present Danger -- Clarity and Firmness in Direction

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When director William Friedkin made a little horror movie known as “The Exorcist” in 1973, it was a truly tyrannical experience. When Linda Blair and Ellen Burstyn were injured on set, instead of helping them, he actually filmed their pain for the sake of realism in the film. When an actor playing one of the priests in the film was having trouble convincingly acting sad, Friedkin slapped him in the face as hard as he could and then immediately began filming, capturing how jarred the actor was post-assault.

While Friedkin was...extreme, to say the least, he did practice a key concept in getting a good performance from your actors; being firm, and being clear. (Having said that, if being firm and clear were a yellow lab puppy, Friedkin was doing an impression of a Great Pyrenees). With non-actors and actors alike, clarity is extremely important. I doubt very much that Stanley Kubrick was probably like “Alright, now you’re going to act sad.” Specificity is essential, and being firm in how you convey that is just as important. Yes, you want to be all friendly with your actors, but at one point you may have to say, “Alright, let’s cut the chit-chat, I need (blank) from you.” Occasionally, it’s alright to go a little mad with power.

I Have Become Comfortably Numb -- Keeping Your Actors Comfortable

While many directors like the aforementioned William Friedkin frequently revel in the incessant torment and abuse of their actors (such as Kubrick scaring Shelley Duvall while filming “The Shining” to the point her hair fell out, or Roman Polanski getting into physical fights with Faye Dunaway while filming “Chinatown”), when you’re dealing with commercial video production, such psychological abuse isn’t (usually) necessary. The entire process of video production may be a form  of psychological abuse in itself, but you shouldn’t wish it on your actors. It’s important to keep your actors comfortable; in a comfortable temperature, sitting on comfortable furniture, just feeling agreeable and loosey goosey (“Lucy Goosey”? Is this saying based on a person? Who knows?). A lot of people are fans of these latest fads called “water” and “food,” so having some of that nearby isn’t a bad idea either. You don’t need to go over the top and sing “Bella Notte” to them while playing an accordion and serving them pasta, but make sure they’re good and cozy.

All Your Perfect Imperfections -- Dealing With Imperfections in Post Production

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If you’re shooting an interview with someone about the nature of a new line of bumpers that’s sweeping the nation called “Rubber Baby Buggy Bumpers,” or if you want them to describe Sally’s routine daily actions and she happens to sell seashells on the seashore, there’s a solid chance that your actor isn’t going to Barry Bonds it out of the park on the first try. If you’ve ever watched the behind-the-scenes of a film or television show, or been involved in a shoot, you know a term commonly tossed around is “we can fix it in post.” And in the case of these tongue-twisting, laboriously labyrinthine, chaotically convoluted interviews, post may be your best friend.

Although you’re probably not going to be regularly dealing with tongue-twister interviews, there are going to be cases where your actor may be struggling with certain aspects of the interview. Be patient with them, and trust in the editing process when all of your filming is said and done. Obviously it’s pretty difficult to polish a turd, so don’t just settle with something terrible if there’s nothing there you think you can work with. Think of a production as a room; if it’s going a bit rough, your thoughts should be, “Well, it’s a bit of a fixer-upper, but we can manage,” not, “Well, there’s a massive mountain of trash in the middle of the room and the ceiling is gone, but we can manage.” But no need to demand full blast perfection when there’s always post to potentially right the ship. Having said that…

Safety Dance -- “One More for Safety” vs. Repetition

There’s a particularly odd saying that’s gone out of style as of late but that I still use on occasion; “don’t look a gift horse in the mouth.” It may seem particularly odd, given why would anyone want to even look a horse in the mouth, unless you worried that it had something in the back of its throat because it sounded a little … hoarse (I’m … I’m sorry). In reality, supposedly you discover that the horse is defective in some way by looking in its mouth, and the person who gave you said horse may be offended.

So, if you have just nailed an interview, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth and continue to force the matter in an endless cycle of repetition. So, if you have just nailed an interview, don’t look a gift horse in the mouth and continue to force the matter in an endless cycle of repetition.

Instead, take the glorious gift that has just been granted unto you, and run with it. There is a concept, however, known as “one more for safety,” which is pretty self-explanatory; get one more shot … just to be safe. Who knows, maybe you’ve got an “Abbey Road” scenario occurring and you’ve got a rando walking in the background of your perfect shot. But just one more for safety is enough. Using another, more macabre horse phrase, don’t beat a dead horse.

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Come On, Baby, Light My Fire -- Keep It Light

No matter your subject matter, whether you’re shooting a video about how to properly power rank kittens from “adorable” to “reality-shattering adorable,” or a shoot where you’re interviewing the Grim Reaper himself about how he feels about what he did to Mother Teresa, and Ghandi, always remember -- in commercial video production, keep it light. This is essentially the gist of the all of these tips; if you can achieve a general light repartee and attitude with your actors, you’re going to get good returns. As the incredibly wise songbird of a generation Justin Timberlake once said, “what goes around goes around, goes around, goes around comes all the way back around.” Even if it’s serious subject matter, if you have a good relationship with your actor, you’ll still get great material. If you’re making a video about potatoes and your actor has a country accent and calls them “taters,” don’t scream at them and tell them “THEY’RE CALLED POTATOES!” Such vehement vegetable vitriol will not be conducive to a good relationship, and your finished product will suffer the consequences. Think of like the opposite version of Ghandi’s “an eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” You’re giving out eyes, instead of taking them. Everyone would enjoy an extra eye.

 

And after that extremely bizarre way to end a blog, that’s it for this week folks! If you liked what you read or were fascinated by how significant a misfire it was, check out the rest of our blogs on our website! Thanks for reading!

Gratitude Adjustment: 8 Incredibly Complex Pieces of Production Equipment We're Thankful For

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It’s that time of year folks -- Thanksgiving! A time where we celebrate, according to lore, when the Native Americans and pilgrims sat around all chummy-like and raised a goblet (Goblet? Glass? Cup? Flask? Who knows?) to give thanks for their completely peaceful, nonviolent, and bloodless union and teamwork to build America! Even the turkeys that were sacrificed at the altar of gratitude had no choice but to be humbled to be selected to roam the serene fields of the turkey afterlife for such a celebration.

Here at Trove, we too have so many things to be thankful for, from Michael Bay’s career, thank you for teaching us what not to do, Michael, you cinematic martyr, to a foul-mouthed Santa with an animated bear named Paddington (check out this commercial at about the 1:12 mark, you won’t believe your ears). But in the hardcore, nonstop, intense profession that is video production, there are certain pieces of equipment, equipment which the common man cannot possibly imagine or wield without decades of studying and training, that we are so thankful for it borders on the romantic. So, for this Thanksgiving, we’ve decided to grant all of you, our loyal readers, a glimpse into the use of eight pieces of intricate, near-incomprehensible, astonishingly advanced equipment which we simply couldn’t live without. Read carefully-- these are easily the densest concepts we’ve ever discussed in our blogs. So, without further ado, here’s what we’re thankful for!

1. Planet of the Tapes -- Gaff Tape

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To call gaff tape “just another tape” is like referring to “Citizen Kane” as “just another movie,” or Buncha Crunch as “just another movie theater candy.” No, gaff tape is its own beast, a miracle of modern craftsmanship and a must on any production shoot. So what, one may ask, is the difference between gaff tape and the tape of plebeians? Well, it comes in different colors, for one. Very aesthetically pleasing. Roy G. Biv would be flattered at the vast color palette employed by the gaff folk when it comes to their tape selection. Not only is it easy on the eyes, but it also tears with the ease of the gentlest of breezes, and without harming what it’s actually taped to. It’s like having a girlfriend who just dumped you, and yet ... she still holds a warm place in your heart. The separation is one of peace.

2. You Can’t Hide You’re Lying Ties -- Bongo Ties

Another doozy here, listen closely. No, it’s not just a rubber band. Don’t be naive. Does a rubber band have a little piece of bamboo attached to it to help secure whatever it is you’re banding even more thoroughly? The answer is a resounding no. The Bamboo Factor makes the bongo tie virtually unstoppable -- it’s like the Genghis Khan of holding things together, without the fathering of hundreds of children throughout the Asian continent. In fact, a recent study states that police will soon be using them in the stead of handcuffs to corral criminals. You’re welcome law enforcement.

3. Can You C-47 What I C-47? -- C-47s

C-47s are beyond difficult to explain, but I’ll do what I can. The process behind their creation is an elaborate one; two small pieces of wood, fashioned together with a piece of piece metal which, upon said fashioning, creates a tautness which makes the device into a fastener of sorts. A more run of the mill, milquetoast use of a C-47 could be on a clothesline maybe to hold up your clothes while they dry. Well, maybe more pin than hold. A pin for clothes, used to fasten lighting gels and whatever else you may need to if gaff tape proves to be beyond your practical grasp. Our apologies for how difficult that may have been to understand; as we noted earlier, these are some truly confounding concepts we’re dealing with.

4. Let’s Get it Tarted -- Pop-Tarts

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Sure, there are a legion of snack foods that one could utilize on the set of a shoot for what us professionals refer to as “crafty.” You could always go the “healthy” route, or what The Man likes to portray as being healthy, such as fruit or granola. But imagine if the best elements of the fruit, dairy, and grain food groups could be combined into one snack. Such an idea may seem to tear the very fabric of reality, to demolish what any of us thought to be possible in this world. Yet, somehow, it exists, the form of the one, the only, the Pop-Tart. Strawberry, Blue Raspberry, S’mores, Brown Sugar Cinnamon, Peanut Butter and Jelly, frosted or unfrosted, toasted or untoasted; the flavors and alterations of Pop-Tarts and their unimaginable nutritional properties make it the proverbial Messiah of snackdom during production.

5. Do You Have to, Do You Have to Let It Stinger? -- Stingers

We talked a little bit about the film “Citizen Kane” earlier, Orson Welles’ 1941 masterpiece which is deemed by many to be one of, if not the, greatest film of all time. Many people don’t know, however, that a sequel was in the works, “Citizen Abel,” with a script and concept rumored to make it even better than the first. Unfortunately, production was derailed by the fact that lighting was needed on one end of the set, but an electrical outlet was on the complete opposite side of the set. Shackled by the limits of his equipment, the project was never finished, and the weight of this failure haunted Welles for the rest of his life.

If only Welles had a stinger. Or, as referred to by the common folk, an extension cord. With it, the technological glory that is electricity knows no bounds, and can be harnessed with the power of a veritable sorcerer.

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6. The Croixs Are Back in Town -- La Croix

Yes, Gatorade is the thirst quencher, packed to the brim with enough electrolytes to combat even a Category Five Hangover. Yes, coffee keeps you awake and spry, but at the cost of a pearly white smile and the casual erosion of your height being respectable -- I’m told it stunts your growth. Of course everybody wants to rant and rave about the “qualities” of water, but at this point water is to the production world as Tom Brady is to the NFL; we know it’s good, but we are tired of hearing about it. It’s time to take water up a notch -- let’s make it sparkle. Enter La Croix, the item most likely for millennials to become addicted to that isn’t going to get them thrown in jail. Its positive properties? Unknown. Its negative properties? Unknown. Its ingredients may as well be in hieroglyphics; La Croix is seemingly composed of nothing. But what’s more refreshing than a bit of mystery?

7. Dumm’s The Word -- Dummy Checks

Another extremely dense bit of production jargon here, stay with me here. A dummy check is the routine of accomplishing a task and then, after completing said task, making sure yet again that it is completed correctly. It’s checking, but for the second time. It’s almost like doubling the amount of checking you do. A double check, I suppose you could call it. A radical concept, to be sure, but this piece of abstract equipment is pivotal in creating a quality shoot. While the double or dummy check is used almost exclusively in production, it’s the hope of many that knowledge of the existence of the double check will spread very soon, spearheaded by an awareness campaign by State Farm.

8. P.A. to Z -- Production Assistants

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No production, or any project, really, is complete without having somebody at the bottom rung to constantly berate, abuse, condescend to, mandate menial tasks to, and essentially have to clean the rear end of the project when things get messy. A walking, breathing, living target of catharsis, a Production Assistant is the Prometheus of a production set, with the demands of their superiors working as the murder of crows that routinely gouge out Prometheus’ eyes. But someone must be there to serve as the sycophantic ying to the yang that is the unmatched power of the director, assistant directors, videographers, gaffers, and grips on a production set. At the bottom of the tallest and most majestic of skyscrapers rests the first brick that set the foundations for the whole monument; without it, the skyscraper could not be. So is the existence of the Production Assistant, and such is the life of a silent hero, as someone must bear the weight of the world on their shoulders.

 

So there we are ladies and gentlemen, the eight pieces of both literal and figurative equipment that we in production are so very thankful for, and simply can’t live without. Again, we apologize if we were vague; entire textbooks have been written on this subject matter, and the nature of some of these items are still unclear. Feel free to do a little research on your own time, perhaps a braver soul than I could tackle it with more concise analysis. However, if you were somehow able to tolerate it, check out our other blogs on our website. Thanks again for reading, and have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Becoming An Ad-onis: 8 Best Techniques to Create a Memorable Ad

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Until just recently, Trove was doing a blog series on Advertising through the decades, ingeniously titled "Ad Nauseam" (although this author does hope it didn't bring anyone to actual physical nausea). In that series, Trove talked about a slew of different ads and showed how advertising changed decade to decade from the 1950s onward, and we introduced you to the series with what was a truly terrifying ad--the dawn of the Jolly Green Giant. This ad has haunted my dreams every night since I saw it, as this Jolly Green specter of a vegetable-based doom has been permanently lodged in my memory.

However, whilst hallucinating this leafy leviathan stalking me at every turn, it dawned on me that this particular haunting actually proved to be pretty effective advertising; after all, it proved to be memorable.

But what truly makes an ad memorable? (Besides sheer, unadulterated horror, in the case of the Jolly Green Giant). There are all sorts of factors, both technically and narratively stylistic, that can aid in creating a memorable ad, and while you could construct an “Iliad” of advertising and discuss them all, we’ve went ahead and chosen what we believe to be eight (everybody does ten) of the best (in no particular order). Here they are!

1. A People Person- Create An Interesting Character

“15 minutes could save you 15 percent or more on car insurance.” How many freaking times have you heard this from either a gecko with an English accent, a squealing pig named Maxwell, or a crew of crestfallen cavemen? Everybody knows about Geico, and it’s because they really hammer home one of the key elements of advertising--creating an interesting character. Try as you might, it’s pretty hard to forget any of Geico’s mascots because they’re just plain bizarre. Pretty much any advertising mascot fits this bill, whether it’s Tony the Tiger growling at children or that old Six Flags guy with the killer dance moves. Character, in advertising, television, or even film, is essential.

2. Who Do You Think You’re Talking To?- Demographics

Do we all remember Kidz Bop? The grotesque display of musical irreverence that resulted in the shameful butchering of many beloved pop songs? (I.e. changing Lorde’s “Royals” lyrics from “grey goose/trippin’ in the bathroom” to “gold goose/singin’ in the bathroom). Well when they advertising their terrible product, how did they do it? They showed little kids dancing around, screaming the lyrics to the songs. They did not show a bunch of middle-aged men enjoying NFL Sunday saying “Wow, this game’s almost as good as the latest version of Kidz Bop!” You have to play to demographics and your target audience if you want to be anywhere near successful in your advertising. This seems like a serious no-brainer, but it’s so pivotal it deserves a mention on the list.

3. Living Just to Find Emotion- Appealing to Emotion

We wrote a great blog on this last year about how emotion resonates with people in not just advertising, but really in any medium. If you just sob uncontrollably watching something (curse you, “Inside Out”) or fly into an over-the-top rage (three words--The Red Wedding), you’re going to remember it. Same goes for advertising. Publix is famous for having these long commercials where an American family gathers for some sort of special occasion, and ends up having some sort of “adorable”, sentimental ending that leaves some rather misty. In no point in the commercial do they even mention Publix; the most they do is show the already-prepared food. They don’t mention Publix until the end, when the impact has already hit home and you’re already a pile of weeping goo. Potentially manipulative in some cases, but emotion always works.

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4. Repetition, Repetition, Repetition-Repetition

This one’s pretty simple; if something is repeated to you, the likelihood of you remembering it increases exponentially. It’s like constantly rereading chapters in a textbook to prepare for a test. In this case, though, it’s against your will. We talked about the Geico “15 minutes” quotes already, and really any catchy slogan you can think of has already won the memorable advertising battle because...well, you can think of it. Whether it’s the recently retired Buzz telling you to “Be Happy, Be Healthy” with Honey Nut Cheerios (they legitimately retired him to raise bee awareness, no joke) or McDonald’s constantly brainwashing you to say “I’m Lovin’ It”. After hearing something enough, you can’t help but remember it.

5. Sex Marks the Spot- Sexuality

Fortunately, advertisers don’t share the same problem that the band Right Said Fred had; they can never be too sexy. If there’s one thing that everybody on the face of the Earth can agree on, it’s that looking at pretty people is pretty wonderful. So why not play on humanity’s base instincts and feature somebody attractive in your advertisement? Put Margot Robbie’s stunning visage on a box of anchovies and I’m sold. Slap Ryan Reynolds’ abs next to a pile of used q-tips and women will constantly find themselves cleaning their ears regularly. How many of us have seen perfume/cologne ads that basically are just attractive people having sex in the ocean...and then gone out and buy that very perfume/cologne? I hate to say it, but sex sells.

6. I’ve Got 99 Problems, But A Bad Ad Ain’t One- Problem/Solution Method

One of the more effective advertising techniques that you honestly may not even notice, unless it’s the Beavis-esque Shamwow man tarnishing things right in front of you then immediately repairing them. Most of the time, the problem/solution method is a little more subtle. Southwest Airlines has its famous “Wanna get away?” campaign which they pull off extremely well, thanks to presenting a problem (something miserable happens to the ad’s main character) and a solution (the actual “getting away” of flying with Southwest). Bounty, the “quilted quicker picker upper” (try not to read that while singing) does the same, presenting a casual mess then cleaning it up. Advertising is all the more effective when customers can actually see a practical application of your product or service.

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7. Tickling Your Funny Bone- Mentioning Mortality (Just Kidding, Humor!)

Sure, humor falls sort of in the same vein as emotion obviously, but what differentiates it is that it’s employed way more regularly. It’s easier for advertisers to come up with a great joke and punchline in thirty seconds than get you to care about the characters in the ad and feel genuine emotion for them in thirty seconds. Everybody remembers a good joke. Watch the veritable solar system of ads that rotate around the venerable marketing sun that is the Super Bowl and you’ll find the proverbial cup running over with comedic ads, i.e. the reliably hysterical ads Doritos makes every year.

8. Can You See What I See?- Visually Stimulating

Perhaps the single most important aspect of advertising and all visual mediums is...wait for it...the visuals. While we did talk about sexuality already (something that is visually stimulating in other ways), you have to be visually stimulated by what you’re watching to even be remotely interested. Something absolutely has to acquire your attention. Whether it’s exuberant and bright colors, wild special effects, something completely out of the ordinary occurring onscreen (we’re looking at you, PuppyMonkeyBaby) or even something as simple as an actor’s portrayal of their role; if you’re not compelling customers to continue to watch your ad, you’ve already lost the battle. Like we said about sexuality, people want to watch pretty things. If people wanted to see the same old humdrum things they see in everyday life, they wouldn’t be watching television or even come across your ad. Something needs to stand out. Your ad overall, as a wise man named Cosmo Kramer once said, should be an “orgiastic feast for the senses,” and sight should be the sense you’re most concerned with.

So there you have it folks; the undisputed techniques on how to create a memorable ad, or, really, any memorable form of media and social convention. These techniques, as you saw, don’t have to just apply to advertising, but can apply to your short film, to a job interview, to your kid’s lemonade stand, to anything. If your job revolves around social interaction (which most jobs do) these could be the tips for you. You need to be the E.T. to somebody’s Elliot; you need to be “riiiiight heeeere.”

Thanks for reading again guys! If you dug the blog this week and haven’t checked out our other blogs go for it! And if you’re looking to work with some people who really get these fundamentals and can make them happen, check out our website at trovestudio.net!

Prep in Your Step: Five Factors to Plan Ahead for in Video Production

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It’s 2560 B.C., just on the outer fringes of swingin’ Cairo, Egypt. A time where scarabs are the  bug, Anubis was causing a ruckus from the underworld, and good ole venerable Djedefra was ruling the proverbial roost as pharaoh (if you don’t know Djedefra, that’s fair...o).

Now, Djedefra and his main posse are thinking about building them some monuments, so they assemble for an office meeting, Ancient Egyptian-style (perhaps in an oasis of some kind?) However, Djedefra’s feeling a little hungry and wants to go eat some Ra-men noodles (you’re welcome), and decides the monuments don’t need any planning. “Just slap some Amun-y together and Set up whatever you want” -- that’s two Egyptian god puns in one sentence. So, instead of three pyramids and a Sphinx, zero coordination or preparedness is conducted, and we have a monuments of a Nile crocodile in a top hat, a Cairo version of the Hollywood sign, a version of the Washington Monument dedicated to papyrus, and an obese tabby cat instead of a Sphinx. This, my friends, is the price of not preparing for one’s task.

The hypothetical historical hysteria adequately represents the veritable video void that would result if we at Trove failed to prepare for one of our shoots. Thankfully, per the words of our esteemed and magnanimous leader Benjamin Wade, “planning ahead is eighty percent of the project, execution is twenty.” So, we’ve decided to center this week’s blog on preparedness in video production, and five factors that are absolutely necessary to prepare for in order to have a smooth, copacetic, all-around efficient shoot; equipment, space, personnel, script, and scheduling.

Don’t Be A Tool-- Have the Tools

So you have an interview scheduled to shoot. Speaking hypothetically, you’re interviewing a Publix employee about how Publix’s “Strawberry and Oats” is better than “Honey Bunches of Oats with Strawberries” (complete and utter blasphemy), and that’s all you know. You set up a stool, organize lights around it, set up your green screen, bam, you’re done. Preparation complete. However, this (clearly insane) Publix employee arrives, and you come to find out that you actually had quite a few requirements -- they actually wanted a white canvas background instead of the green screen, a nice comfy chair (they have back problems) and, oh yeah, you’re actually going to be interviewing several people simultaneously, so make that six comfy chairs. That’s it -- you’ve effectively Hindenburged your shoot (oh the humanity!). Now you’re scrambling to find chairs, a background, rearrange the lights to accommodate a group. And all of this could have been prevented with some further inquiry and specificity.

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Space Oddity

Now what if you’re production is taking place elsewhere? Location scouting is essential. I don’t think Allied Forces just went “Alright, guys, we’ve decided we’re going to go ahead and hit the beach at Normandy. We’re thinking tomorrow by the way, don’t forget your bathing suits!” The invasion took months of planning, with factors such as phases of the moon, time of day, and the changing tides. Obviously, D-Day and video production don’t have as the same level of importance in the scope of world events, but if you’re a video production company, having adequate reconnaissance of your space is of extreme importance. You don’t want to assume you’re heading to a shoot in somebody’s house and find out you’re shooting in a backyard, or think you’re shooting in a massive warehouse only to find out you’re shooting in the janitor’s closet. Knowing the ins and outs of the space you’re in, how it’s lit -- that’s a literal “lit”, not the figurative colloquial “this place is so lit, brah” -- and even knowledge of the surrounding area are all essential.

It Takes Every Kind of People

Having noted factors tips one and two, what good are knowing the tools and the space for a job if you don’t have the right/enough personnel to brandish said tools or occupy said space? In every action movie where you see “let’s get a team together!” formula, do they just pick some random dudes or the cheapest dudes? Did Leonardo DiCaprio just walk down the street in “Inception” and tell four or five random people “Hey, I’m invading Cillian Murphy’s dreams, you busy?” Were the big cheeses of Middle Earth down with Frodo journeying to Mount Doom just with his three hobbit buddies? No way, one does not simply walk into Mordor with three hobbits, you get a badass dwarf, elf, wizard, ranger and knight to accompany them (pardon me for nerding out). It’s important to take serious deliberation and planning as to who you’re hiring, their credentials and qualifications, as well as how many and what types of people you actually need. Do you need drone work? Maybe you have a great videographer, but he doesn’t have great drone experience. Time to do some networking. Are you going to be changing scenery a lot and constantly moving equipment? You may need an extra PA or Grip. No need to pull a “Magnificent Seven” and be outgunned and outmanned by your project.

Two Wrongs? Don’t, Make a Write

“Are you talkin’ to me?” “Leave the gun, take the cannoli.” “I’m walkin’ here!” These are just a few lines that, like a bolt of blessed lightning, came to actors in the heat of filming and were improvised, proving to live in cinematic legend for eternity. Having said that, improvisation is not something regularly encouraged in video production; a script is your friend. Obviously, commercial video production varies significantly from narrative feature filmmaking, but a script to derive some sense of organization from is always a plus regardless. If you’re doing an interview, familiarize the client, as well as yourself, with the questions. Sure, in some cases you may not want to make the client aware of the questions to arrive at a more honest and organic response. In that case, still make sure you’re aware of the questions so you can arrive fully aware of what the end goals of those questions might be and of the production’s actual content. If you arrive at an interview and see the question “According to the theory of anatomically spherical lupine syndrome, what are your thoughts on the existence of the rotund canine phantasmagoria?” You very well may have no idea what the hell you have just said, and may want to do some research prior. Even if you’re just filming with no audio but have voiceover to be dubbed in later, you should still be aware of the content of the voiceover to know exactly what you need in your shot.


Don’t Push Me Cuz’ I’m Close to the Sched’

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Garbage lead singer, Shirley Manson, (not a knock on her talents, the band is literally called "Garbage." Having said that, terrible music) once said “I just want to live life a little freely and not adhere to any schedule -- just make music and have fun.” Well, Ms. Manson, people in the video production industry would say that you’ve gone quite mad with power. A schedule is -- or, rather, should be -- the backbone of any production; without it, the organism that is video production would be a gelatinous, formless blob, not dissimilar from William Howard Taft (poor guy got stuck in a bathtub once, that is impressive). Sure, it’s a start to know where and what you’re shooting as well as who you’re shooting with, but if you don’t take the time to figure out an actual approach, what good is any of that? I don’t think Vince Lombardi turned to his team and said “Alright boys, go score some points!” and left it at that. That’s what the playbook is for. And in video production, we have a playbook of our own -- the call sheet. The call sheet is basically the instruction manual for the shoot, which on top of listing personnel, the weather, and locations, also has a very specific, in-depth schedule breaking down every aspect of the shoot for the day. It’s excellent to have a regimen like this so you can get focused, get the shot you need, and move along to the next shot smoothly instead of getting bogged down in one particular spot or distracted by something shiny. If you have something tangible to keep you focused, there’s a good chance that focus is achieved.

So there you have it folks, five factors that you absolutely need to plan ahead for prior to video production. A shoot may seem too titanic a task to undertake, but if you make proper preparation with those five aspects, it’ll go as smoothly as Barry White’s voice. And if you’re reading this and are saying “I don’t believe it,” then I respond in the words of a sagely, small, green creature: “That is why you fail.”

 

Thanks again for reading this week guys! If you dug what you read, check out the rest of the blogs on our website. And if you’re looking for a production that obeys all these rules and minds its Ps and Qs to help you get a project off the ground, Trove is definitely for you!

They're Heeeeere: Trove's Top Ten Horror Films

 
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It’s that time of year folks; the time where scores of children don the latest and greatest in costumes and arrive to bother you routinely, panhandling for spare sweets to be generously doled into their pillow cases, trash bags, or whatever other impromptu candy carrier they’ve stumbled on. The time of year where spoiled teenagers claim to be much younger than they actually are to accomplish the same goals, with mixed results. The time of year where even older people, both men and women alike, go to great lengths to show as much of their bodies as possible, with a thin scrap of cloth constituting a “costume.” The time of year where pumpkins are savagely stabbed repeatedly to create unique designs for our amusement. The time of year for Halloween.

Seriously though, we at Trove, like the majority of the masses, love us some Halloween. In particular, we love us some horror movies. Some are, clearly, better than others, as, unfortunately, if you’re of the frame of mind that “Troll 2,” “The Gingerdead Man,” or the Nic Cage version of “The Wicker Man” are horror classics, you’ll experience what it’s like to be really and truly alone (Please, for god’s sake, watch those links.) That’s why this week, in honor of the beloved holiday, the minds at Trove Studio have assembled THE end-all, be-all, indisputable list of the greatest horror films of all time. (Having said that, we’re all talk and welcome various opinions.) So, without further ado, here we go with Trove Studio’s top ten horror movies!

10. “Funny Games” 2007

Written and directed by Michael Haneke, starring Naomi Watts and Tim Roth

We found ourselves with a pretty unexpected pick at ten with the little seen “Funny Games,” Austrian director Michael Haneke’s shot-for-shot remake of his own 1997 film. However, we concluded that without a doubt it’s easily one of the most disturbing and uncomfortable viewing experiences one can have. The story of two insane young men who hold a family hostage and force them to play some truly sadistic, decidedly unfunny games, “Funny Games” almost seems pointless initially, but that pointlessness is actually the point. Haneke is trying to comment on how easily viewers can tolerate onscreen violence and, by doing so, the violence actually becomes intolerable.

9. “The Cabin in the Woods” 2012

Directed by Drew Goddard, written by Joss Whedon and Goddard, starring Kristen Connolly and Chris Hemsworth

Now this is probably a pick that a lot of you may know, and for good reason. “Cabin” is meta, self-aware filmmaking cranked up to a freaking twelve, a smarmy, sarcastic, hilarious, but nevertheless thrilling and occasionally legitimately scary ride. It starts with your run of the mill, cabin horror movie set-up with a bunch of cliche punk kids going off to do amoral things in the woods and, of course, encountering some supernatural shenanigans. But while the the plot is initially so familiar, it’s done on purpose; the whole movie is a monster homage and satire of horror movie cliches, tearing through them at a breakneck speed with a plot that is so wildly unpredictable it’s like (to use a cliche) a proverbial roller coaster.

8. “The Evil Dead” 1981

Written and directed by Sam Raimi, starring Bruce Campbell

Speaking of cabin horror movies, this is THE cabin horror movie. Made on a shoestring budget by the now famous Sam Raimi (the original “Spider-Man” trilogy, “Drag Me to Hell,”) it also spawned two sequels, and the trilogy has spawned a serious cult following, of which Trove is a happy member. The premise is simple; a group of teens go out to a cabin, summon a demon by reading from the dreaded Book of the Dead, and the demon takes turns possessing them and, of course, killing in them in ways that are both brutal and creative. What really stands out about “The Evil Dead” is its nifty camera work, legendary use of practical effects (i.e. the infamous tree scene and just...so much gore), and unexpected occasional jet-black humor.

7. “The Thing” 1982

Directed by John Carpenter, written by Bill Lancaster, starring Kurt Russell

If we’re talking about practical effects, while “The Evil Dead” may be regarded as the king (hail to the king, baby), “The Thing” has to be the prince. Carpenter’s classic was critically trashed on its release, but has since grown to classic status thanks to those aforementioned effects (the poor dogs…), incredible tension, and some slick political allegory. Based on the novella “Who Goes There?,” “The Thing” follows a group of men in a remote research facility in Antarctica who find themselves infiltrated by the titular “thing” that can take the form of any living creature (or several) it comes into contact with. What better way to comment on Cold War and Communism paranoia than to tell a story where it’s impossible to tell who the real enemy is?

6. “It Follows” 2015

Written and directed by David Robert Mitchell, starring Maika Monroe and Keir Gilchrist

Horror has made a bit of a comeback the last few years, with films like “The Babadook” and “The Witch” proving to be new horror classics. But Mitchell’s “It Follows” might be the best of the bunch. It takes the familiar trope of the slow moving, unstoppable villain (i.e. zombies, Michael Myers, etc.) and cranks it to an eleven, as “it” takes many forms, and stalks our protagonists at a steady, calm walk that is truly unnerving. But what makes “It Follows” so unique is that the entity of the title is actually passed along through sex. Sleep with someone, and it stops following you and follows them instead. It’s a fascinating concept ripe with symbolism; you could write a paper on the possible interpretations after watching the film. While also being terrified of anyone that may be walking behind you…

5. “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” 1974

Directed by Tobe Hooper, written by Hooper and Kim Henkel, starring Marilyn Burns and Allen Danziger

This is one for the books here folks, possibly the most disturbing film you’ll ever watch. Hooper’s masterpiece plays almost like the most horrifying documentary of all time thanks to a gritty cinema verite style, a group of unknown actors, and the now famous gimmick “based on a true story” lending the film a truly frightening realism. Following a group of teens (surprise!) being hunted by a family of cannibals and their legendary muscle, Leatherface, the film achieves a level of violence that was not just radical for its time, but for all time. And it’s not just mindless, snuff violence; the film portrays a disillusioned and distrustful Vietnam and Watergate-era America where, as Hooper puts it as he refers to society, “Man is the real monster here, just wearing a different face.” So, he put a leather one on him.

4. “Psycho” 1960

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock, written by Joseph Stefano, starring Anthony Perkins and Janet Leigh

Talk about movies that pushed the envelope for their time; Hitchcock’s classic (one of many) pushed the envelope, picked it up, shredded it, and pushed it back on the floor. One of the most groundbreaking movies of all time, “Psycho” was shocking and taboo to audiences for so many reasons at the time, doing things on screen that had never been done before in American cinema. Graphic violence? Check, the shower scene. Sex? And, worse yet, adulterous sex? Check, the first freaking scene of the movie. Showing the contents of a toilet pre-flushing? Check, for the first time ever (not even kidding). Add to that some legitimate psychoanalysis never before seen in film, and you’ve got yourself a watershed horror film.

3. “Alien” 1979

Directed by Ridley Scott, written by Dave O’Bannon, starring Sigourney Weaver and Ian Holm (Bilbo!)

The chest-bursting scene. What else do I need to say?

Alright, I’ll elaborate. With “Alien,” director Ridley Scott took the slasher film to new heights--specifically, into space, as your slasher became a seemingly indestructible alien and its victims a gang of astronauts, led by one of the greatest heroines in cinema, Ellen Ripley, played by Weaver. To be cliche, you can cut the tension with a knife, as the atmosphere of “Alien” (or lack thereof, zing!) is extremely intense. But, as we’re coming to find out, the best horror films have both style and substance, and, while one may not notice on first glance, “Alien” actually has tons to say about rape, sexuality, and misogyny, by both literally and figuratively sticking it to the man.

2. “The Exorcist” 1973

Directed by William Friedkin, written by William Peter Blatty, starring Linda Blair and Ellen Burstyn

We realize our number one and two picks may not be very surprising, but it’s difficult to argue against them as being the best of genre. How does a movie where a young girl doing a possessed spider walk down the stairs not make this list? This is the rare horror film where the story comes first, and the horror comes as a result. The performances, script, music, direction--it’s all top-notch here to balance poignancy with very real fear.  A powerful and legitimately emotional portrayal of faith and motherhood, “The Exorcist” is also an indisputably terrifying viewing experience.

1. “The Shining” 1980

Directed by Stanley Kubrick, written by Kubrick and Diane Johnson, starring Jack Nicholson and Shelley Duvall

Here’ssssss number one! As great as the movies on this list are, Kubrick’s horror opus, reviled on its release (it actually got nominated for Razzies)  is the best of the bunch. While other films might be scarier overall, “The Shining” is not without moments that are immortal in the genre, whether it’s the scariest twins in film history, a wall of blood falling from an elevator, or REDRUM! On top of that, Kubrick tormented the cast to mine some authentic performances, whether it’s Jack Nicholson seeming to actually lose his mind or Shelley Duvall seeming to experience major fear (she was so stressed on set she lost hair). But what sets “The Shining” above the rest is the endless mystery behind what it all means. Interpretations abound, and none have been proven false or true. Is it about the genocide of Native Americans? The Holocaust? Domestic violence? Masculinity? It could be all of these and none of these. But that fact we don’t know, and the dizzying layers of depth behind the film, is what makes it our number one.

What do we think? Did we miss any? Doth we deserve praise, or scolding? Let us know what you think, and thanks for reading! You kids have a safe Halloween, and while you’re scarfing down candy in the next few days check out the rest of our blogs on our website!

 

Opening Up A Can of Whup-Ads: Advertising in the 1980s and '90s

Part 3 of Trove's ad nauseam blog series

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Hello again loyal readers! This week we’re witnessing the passing of a dear, dear friend--our Ad Nauseam blog series. As a group of boys who later became men once said, “so now we’ve come...to the end of the road.” With these week’s blog, we conclude our journey through the decades by boogieing past the right on ‘70s and entering the veritably gnarly decades that were the 1980s and ‘90s.

Our first stop this week, the totally tubular 1980s. That’s right baby, it’s going to be pretty “fresh.”

bless the rains down in ad-frica

After the societal revolution that was the 1960s and ‘70s, the cultural pot that had boiled over finally simmered down in the 1980s, a period which saw much less political unrest. (Unfortunately, it saw also a complete and wanton disregard for dressing like a normal human being and played pretty fast and loose with the word “fashion” but, I digress.) The world was by no means tiptoeing through the tulips though, there was still quite a fair share of problems which affected America; there was Cold War tension early in the decade, the Tiananmen Square protests in China, the dawn of the AIDS epidemic, as well as the evolution of Al-Qaeda in the Middle East. Despite all of that, America still found a way to improve its economy and watch it, as well as positive international relationships, really begin to grow. Some would attribute that to the presidency of Ronald Reagan, culminating in him ordering Mikhail Gorbachev to, in truly manly fashion, “tear down this wall.” America was still prospering though, and with that prosperity came an incredible era in advertising.

However, if one were to look at the proverbial hoops advertisers had to jump through during the ‘80s, it would seem like it’d be an era of failure more than an one of success. The conquering the latest technologies the 1980s dropped on America seemed almost as likely as not crying during a viewing of “Terms of Endearment” (DON’T JUDGE IT’S DIFFICULT TO DO). A little show by the name of CNN dropped in 1980, which sold advertising to countries all over the world, helping U.S. advertising spread farther than ever before. On the complete opposite end of the spectrum, MTV showed up in the ‘80s as well, as video effectively carried out the ruthless assassination of the radio star. Together, these two channels represented the beginning of a new age of television, where advertisers could now hone their target audience--cable. By the end of the decade, the Three Amigos (or Amigas, we don’t discriminate) of broadcast television, NBC, ABC, and CBS claimed about 19 percent each of television’s audience, while cable and independent channels had a little over 40 locked down, as more and more channels began to join MTV and CNN on the dark side.

ad-aptation

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Another pair of villains that began to axe their way through the door of advertising in the ‘80s was the dreaded duo of the remote control and VCR, the second scariest twins advertisers saw in the ‘80s (yes, I referenced “The Shining” twice in one sentence, and that’s okay). With that duo, television audiences could either record television and speed through the commercials, or flip to another channel once whatever they were watching took a commercial break. That’s when advertisers went all John Hughes and found their brat pack in the form of 15 second ads, the infomercial, and home-shopping networks.

With the public’s attention span beginning to run thin thanks to the VCR and remote, advertisers had to resort to either getting to the point as quickly as possible, getting a big name to represent their product to rope viewers in, or have them tune in solely for the sake of looking for commercial goods, and each of those methods accomplished those goals, respectively. Brands like “Nair” and “Energizer” were popular early examples of 15 second commercials thanks to the shrill cries of bare-legged women crying out “WE WEAR SHORT SHORTS!” and a rabbit going H.A.M. on a bass drum; Mr. T called you a fool and, therefore, pitied you if you didn’t buy the FlavorWave Oven Turbo, while Brooke Shields frequently washed her hair with Wella Balsam shampoo and encouraged you to do the same in a pair of running infomercials from the decade; and a dude by the name of John Eastman introduced an AM/FM shower radio on the first ever episode of QVC back in 1986. These were just some weapons that advertisers used to wage war on the pernicious pairing that was the VCR and remote control. Of course, we had our fair share of popular, more traditional ads in the ‘80s as well, such as an elderly woman, mad with power, asking “Where’s the Beef?” to tell viewers that the beef is, in fact, at Wendy’s, as well as Michael Jackson doing his “cha’mone” on behalf of Pepsi and Ridley Scott creating one of the greatest ads of all time for Apple’s new Mac. But really, the story of the decade was the evolution of technology, something that would continue as we move into the 1990s with the advent of the one, the only, the internet! Queue the dial-up sound!

the bomb dot com

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Think I could have possibly ended this blog series on any decade besides the ‘90s? As if! As much as there is to dig into the 2000s and 2010s, chances are everybody reading these has been alive for those decades, unless we have some very literate infantile followers or fandom coming from beyond the grave (a.k.a. phantom fandom, you’re welcome). So, it’s ‘bout time we roll to the ‘90s, a decade defined by two massive factors, the World Wide Web and Generation X. Starting to have the faint aroma of teen spirit around here, eh?

So, let’s start with the dubya dubya dubya. Once one did battle with the techno-screeching of the dial-up, they found more information at their disposal they ever had before. It’s like that scene where the ape in “2001: A Space Odyssey” figures out that he could use a bone to beat the hell out of his ape-adversaries and next thing you know we’re launched into the future. Suddenly people had significant control over what content they wanted, when they wanted it, and how they wanted it, along with the ability of increased access to information. On top of the birth of new “dot-com” businesses like eBay and Amazon which sold products directly to the customers, this also changed advertising in that it gave advertisers a new venue to campaign, albeit a very expensive one at the time (Hotwired began charging 30,000 dollars for 12 weeks of advertising online in 1994, a pretty hefty price at the time), but also challenged advertisers to have to become much more specialized in their approach. Ethnicity, age, race, and values all were able to be targeted, and advertisers utilized specialized consultants and various different departments to do so.

x gon' give it to ya'

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Speaking of values, those were very much in question by those aging baby boomers as a new generation changed the cultural landscape of the decade--Generation X. The head-banging, authority-defying, cynicism-spreading generation was hitting their twenties and thirties by this time, and they were taking the world by the cajones led by the likes of Kurt Cobain, the man who sold the world. Similar to the counterculture revolution of the 1960s, advertisers quickly took advantage of the skepticism of the new bulk of its audience, and proceeded to create some truly memorable, irreverent, and comedic ads that were just totally flippant or ridiculous. Macho Man Randy Savage screamed at you to “SNAP INTO A SLIM JIM,” while a couple of extreme teens instructed you to “Do the Dew.” Bud went on a rampage, putting a gang of frogs on display ribbiting the titular brand in excellent vocal choreography, while also presenting us with a posse of pals casually asking one another “WASSUUUUP?” A seemingly hispanic chihuahua implored people for some Taco Bell, and an endless lineup of celebrities and non-celebrities alike inquired as to whether or not you “Got Milk?” All of these famous ads went hand-in-hand with the internet, as their ability to go viral made them even greater phenomenons than they would have been initially. Halfway through the decade, total web ad spending was at 300 million, and by the end of the decade, it was nearly at a billion, a trend which would continue into the new, technology-dominated millennium we live in now…

 

So whoop, there it is! Here ends the tale of advertising through the ages, and what a tale it was, undoubtedly comparable to the likes of Homer’s “The Odyssey” and Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.” I’m very fond of you little hobbits for reading, and while Ad Nauseam must end, stay tuned for future blogs from Trove that we post weekly on our website! As a little sign off, here are some of the best ads that we at Trove are major fans of, being children of the ‘80s and ‘90s ourselves. Thanks for reading!

Pride in Advertising: The LGBTQ Community in Advertising

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Allow me to set a scene for you -- the year is 1994, and you’re living in the hoppin' environment of New York City, doing your best to emulate this new show “Friends” that just started and everyone won’t shut up about. You’re coming back from a night on the town, maybe of rocking out to the Beastie Boys’ new hit “Sabotage” -- f you’re looking for something softer, maybe some “I’ll Make Love to You” by Boyz II Men. Maybe you’re coming from the movies and about to begin life anew as one of the millions of people who won’t stop quoting “Forrest Gump” or “Pulp Fiction.” You arrive at your apartment, crash on the couch, and flip on the T.V., fixing to watch David Letterman’s new late night talk show on CBS, but instead see something your ‘90s self definitely wasn’t expecting.

It’s a commercial for Ikea. Nothing out of the ordinary, just a couple browsing the store, trying to put together the perfect dining room. You know, Ikea stuff. But at the time what floored people about this commercial is that the featured couple is two men. It’s not flashy or pandering or cliche by any means, it’s just a casual commercial about a couple creating a dining room. But the fact that it was two men was such a groundbreaking occurrence that it completely upended the notion of what could commercially be portrayed as a family, and it totally changed the landscape of advertising. This was the dawn of the LGBTQ community’s acknowledgment in marketing.

The right stuff

In the two decades following that brazenly ambitious Ikea ad, more and more advertisements have been released featuring same sex couples, but not without controversy. In 2013, J.C. Penney CEO Ron Johnson was fired for authorizing not just one same-sex ad, with two women celebrating Mother’s Day, but one with two men celebrating Father’s Day as well. In 2010, McDonald’s released an ad featuring a young man pondering to come out to his father, but it ended up being aired in France and not America.

But the LGBTQ community still shows up in advertising, with major companies releasing some truly memorable ads. On the print aspect, Absolut has been active in the market for almost thirty years, featuring several famous ads; a Ray Ban ad features two proud men holding hands and walking through the streets of New York City, encouraging people to “Never Hide;” General Motors went a little cheekier when they advertised for their Chevy Volt, choosing to celebrate Pride Week by having the Volt tell his vehicular parents “Mom, Dad, I’m Electric.” On the video production front, Amazon and Toyota went for a pair of brilliant bait and switches, choosing not to reveal the sexuality of their ads’ characters until the very end of the commercial to some solid comedic effect. Wells Fargo went more sentimental, with a revered and undeniably moving commercial about a pair of women learning sign language for their soon to be adopted daughter (you have to be a certifiable monster to not be affected by this one). These are some very effective, heartfelt, well-executed ads.

edgar allen faux

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However, there are cases where that pure desire to make some cash reveals a company’s faux-liberalism is really just a cash grab. While it can be great to see added awareness, there can be obvious frustrations with perpetuated stereotypes and cliches. For example, Budweiser’s print ad of a bottle being pulled from a six-pack that reads “another one coming out,” followed by the lazy “be yourself and enjoy a Bud Light” really isn’t the finest example of earnest advertising. Sure, Doritos and Burger King had rainbow products to honor Pride, but really, it’s much easier to just throw some color on a burger wrapper and say you’re supporting Pride than actually committing to creating something honest and meaningful. Sort of an issue of showing, not telling. Nobody wants to be emotionally pandered to or manipulated.

Even more middle of the road in terms of LGBTQ advertising is what some advertisers call “gay vague” advertising. In fact, it’s as middle of the road as you can possibly get; it’s like a proverbial deer in headlights. Do you dart across the road and make a mad dash to fully commit to LGBTQ advertising, or do you literally turn tail and head back to traditionalism? Well, gay vague advertising chooses to stand right there in the middle of the street, and have you make the choice of veering one way or the other. One of the best and most famous early examples of gay vague advertising would be the Schlitz Beer “I Was Curious” ads in the late 1940s. Typically these ads featured two couples, and the man in one of the couples is “curious” to try a Schlitz beer. So he and the man from the other couple drink a few, usually while their girlfriends/wives end up chatting in the background, and the ad ends with the two men staring at each other happily, apparently enjoying the beer. Or are they enjoying each other’s company? Or both? This is exactly what Schlitz was going for. If you’re in the LGBTQ community and you see this ad, clearly it’s about an LGBTQ couple. If you’re a heterosexual, clearly it’s just a couple buddies enjoying a beer. It’s all in the eye of the beer-holder, as the old saying goes. It’s difficult to deny that it’s a pretty deft strategy in terms of advertising, as it plays to many perceptions. However, it's difficult to categorize this as being particularly progressive.

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So whether you agree or disagree with the existence of LGBTQ advertising, the fact of the matter is ... it exists. It comes in many different forms; some good, some bad. Raising awareness is a positive, but the endgame of LGBTQ advertising should be to represent that community accurately. Nothing on the nose, nothing formulaic, nothing overly sentimental or hackneyed; just a casual representation of a community that doesn’t want to be perceived as overly different, portrayed as a stereotype, or seen as forcing a stereotype on anyone else. Just as casual as a couple of dudes picking a dining room set from Ikea. 

 

Thanks again for reading this week guys! Check out the rest of our bloggage and what else we do at Trove on our website! We’ll be back next week to finish up our advertising through the decades blog series, Ad Nauseam, as we dive into the 1980s and ‘90s!