Last year, I wrote about Method's 'Shiny Suds' advertisement, which sparked a decent amount of controversy based on its slightly creepy appraoch to illustrate the effect cleaner residue can have on a shower. I've embedded the ad above because I'd like to use it to quickly discuss another ad which caught my attention, the Bird's Eye frozen food campaign using Willem Dafoe as a stuffed polar bear.
The inclusion of Willem Dafoe in a fish finger ad would have garnered some press coverage on its own due to the seeming mismatch between the actor and the brand. This is the man from Platoon (and a less gravitas bestowing Spiderman), so flogging frozen goods may create a bit of a gap of expectation in consumer's minds. Brilliantly however, Bird's Eye & AMV BBDO leveraged the gap in consumer expectation to make a memorable ad by playing to Dafoe's unique image and the strangeness of his presence in the commercial.
'Never underestimate how far dedicated brand spokesmen will go to sell fish sticks'....
Source: Dafoe in Boondock Saints
Every element of the commercial seems to lend itself to being slightly off-kilter and creepy. The polar bear seems to be designed as part hallucination/part ratty hand puppet. The lack of emotion conveyed by the puppet's minimalist face and its passive-aggressive tone means that its expected behaviour and intentions are slightly worrying & unclear. Dafoe's voice makes this part as his tone easily switches from paternally reassuring & humorous to slightly sociopathic, leading the viewer to wonder if the commercial will end with a laugh track or simulated animal puppet violence. Conclusions like this make it woth noting that compared to Bird's Eye's previous campaigns (example below), this is quite a departure in a new direction.
Compared to the previous campaign, and in general, I really like the Bird's Eye ad. However, as I previously said in my post about the 'Shiny Suds' ad, I'm not exactly the target market. I'm certainly shower much more frequently than buying frozen fish sticks, but in both purchase decisions, I don't have much involvement. As a 20 something guy, I'm still surprised that the shower doesn't clean itself with everyone using so much soap in it; as for frozen fish sticks, if I purchased any, I can tell you they would live forgotten in my freezer until the next equivalent of the Pre-Cambrian extinction came around. This aside, its not a great time to be a housewife in advertising. From showering to food, it seems that placing the archetypal homemaker in creepy situations is the current de jour for challenging convention and gaining interest.
So, if both ads bank on housewives in creepy situations, how can I like one and feel slightly apathetic to the other? Relative to each other, the 'Shiny Suds' ad just has more malice, which while aiming to be funny, leaves an odd aftertaste on the psyche. Simply put, 'Shiny Suds' gives off a creepy/edgy vibe by being mean and creepy. The elements brought to bear in 'Shiny Suds' seems useful if attempting to bring about behavioural response to a worthwhile need (i.e. London Cabwise Advertisements), but just seems somewhat offputting when used on a FMCG.
Alternatively, the Bird's Eye advertisement also comes off as quite creepy, but by utilizing odd voice acting, unusual visual cues and a soundtrack that seems like Phillip Glass also came along to production. The creepiness generated by the combination of the advertisments odd elements isn't as visceral or threatening as with 'Shiny Suds'. Instead its more of a novel creepiness, an awkward feeling that plays out like something from a TV edited David Lynch movie.
The comparison with elements of a David Lynch film reminds of another recent ad set in suburbia (shown above) for Gu Chocolate Pods. The unusual composition of the Gu ad is leveraged to suggest some manner of illicit suburban underbelly instead of a purely creepy encounter, but once again shows that suburban convention can be challenged for an interesting effect. The product matches with the elements of the advertisement in a way that the previous examples do not (chocolate pods and a conveyed feeling of relaxation & illicit sensousness do go together better than with fish sticks), however all three show how skewering suburbia's norms and feeling of routinized security can generate attention.
Regardless of comparions, considering the Bird's Eye ad as a whole, one can definitely see that potential exists to generate interest for the product. Perhaps the most final measure of success for the campaign though, is how the chief food purchaser in the household reacts to it. A stereotypical housewife may not be positively swayed by the method campaign, however, Bird's Eye's ad may have successfully found a balance that leverages creepiness into prolonged recognition and consideration.
What do you think? Are you more or less likely to buy frozen fish sticks after this? Where would you place the ads presented on a scale of creepy & interesting to creepy & uncomfortable?