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Thursday, April 17, 2014

People behind ads are getting sneakier


The invention of the DVR was glorious in so many ways, not the least of which was that television fans could reclaim hours and hours of their lives once lost to sitting through commercials.

With the help of that handy FF button, breaks in the television action went from five minutes to five seconds.

This is bad for the advertising industry, obviously, and I've had twinges of guilt about that.

But lately, those clever ad folks have found a way to weasel their way back in.

They're making commercials we actually don't want to miss.

I started noticing this a few years ago. Television stars such as Steve Carell of "The Office" would get movie roles, and the smarties who sold ad time on "The Office" realized that people who love Steve Carell on television might also like to see him on the big screen. So they'd fill commercial breaks with trailers for "The 40 Year Old Virgin."

I'd be mindlessly scanning past Scott Conklin's latest peculiar pitch when suddenly, Carell's face would appear. My finger would instinctively cease the fast-forwarding, and even though I'd been fooled into thinking "The Office" was back on, of course I wanted to learn about the movie.

Brilliant!

The latest tactics are even more brilliant.

"Mad Men" has been airing retro-style commercials for products such as Dove, Suave and Vaseline.

The spots feature Don Draper-esque ad guys in the 1960s batting about ideas for ad campaigns. If you don't know better, you stop on the ad, thinking the show's returned.

Then, you stay because, hey, it's kind of "Mad Men"-ish.

"Glee" fans last week might have noticed the clever commercials sprinkled throughout the breaks starring members of the cast.

There are several of them, and they're advertising Members Project, an American Express initiative that's encouraging people to volunteer, vote and donate to charity.

One of the best ads (they're all viewable on YouTube) is titled "Don't be a Sue" and features Jane Lynch's Sue Sylvester displaying some of her less charitable personality traits.

She's orating, public service announcement style, about the reasons she could take a stand to save the earth but really doesn't want to bother.

There's really no good reason, the way Sue "C's" it.

"What do animals do but poop on your lawn and make you feel guilty about how delicious they are?" she says in the spot. "Why should children by burdened by the tyranny of reading? Words are hard!

"The arts? They don't need your support. What artists do need is soap. Seriously. The next time you meet an artist, smell him. I swear they rub their armpits with onions," Sue says, just before bumping a child off a picnic bench.

The end of the commercial implores viewers: "Don't be a Sue. Do something good instead."

Sue's spot is one of several, and each is filled with can't-miss, "Glee" style humor.

Farewell, hours of life once reclaimed.

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