16 September 2011

The Age of Persuasion on... "Loud" Commercials

This month, the Canadian Radio and Telecommunications Commission slammed broadcasters for "loud" commercials- ads that blare louder than the programs they punctuate.  

No question, commercials seem louder.  People get angry if anyone says otherwise.

But are they actually louder? 

While working last year on The Age of Persuasion, I put the question to one person certain to know:  the Sonic Swede, the Nabob of Noise, engineer Keith Ohman.

"Well" says Keith, "it's not that simple."

Keith explained, I scribbled notes, and Terry O'Reilly explained in this segment of our 2010 episode Ask Terry Some More.

Seems the answer might be more complicated than telling broadcasters to turn down the volume. 

"Yeah" I hear you saying, "but they're still louder!"

Keep it down, I hear 'ya.  At least, for the moment, we've still got the 'mute' button.

Shhhh!  You didn't hear that from me.

09 September 2011

Here's a New One: America as the Underdog.

This summer, the Cannes Ad jury honoured this storied spot for Chrysler, wrapping its brand around the 'new' Detroit, to the music (and strategically omitted lyrics) of Detroit's own Eminem.

It's smart positioning, aligning Chrysler with the tough, edgy, street-surviving fighter, facing down automotive rivals with a chip on its shoulder.

What's remarkable is what a 180-degree turn this is from a four-generation tradition of ballyhooing Detroit as the squeaky-clean hub (pun intended) of the vehicular world.  Where 1950's executives with pencil mustaches smile benevolently down on a shop floor run by earnest working folk in denim overalls and a Calvinistic gratitude to the nation that puts an impact wrench in their hand, a few bucks in their pocket.

That 'old' Detroit is captured here, in a film created to promote a (failed) bid to win the Summer Olympics.  After a rather tedious opening (Memo to Mayor Cavanagh:  STOP HELPING!) the film really gets cooking at about the 2:15 mark:

Eminem wasn't born when this second film was made.  Yet 8 Mile already Road divided two classes, two cultures.  And the Detroit riot- the Black Day in July- was just two years away.

The Chrysler ad represents not just the position of Chrysler as the feisty underdog, taking on global competition, it repositions Detroit itself, formally ending its projected self-image as a white-bread industrial dynamo.

Naval-gazing and self-deprecation aren't so startling in Canada, whose culture embraces critical introspection.  But in the U.S., to admit that there are ashes from which the Phoenix must emerge, is one bold work of counter-culture.

Was there a choice?  Ultimately, no.  There's a whole "Emperor's new clothes" vibe to pretending Detroit still enjoys automotive supremacy.   (See under "W" for "Where have you gone, Lee Iacocca?")

The smart move, for now, is to celebrate that it's picking itself up off the mat.