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Wednesday, November 16, 2005

In Between

The wife and I made a decision this past week to unhook the Dish at the end of the month. That being said, I'm soaking it up like an addict.

What's caught my eye has been less of the programs (Lost, The Daily Show, My Name is Earl, The Office), but the commercials. Two stand out for their vivid imagery and playfulness.

The Sony "
Balls" spot features a stripped-down acoustic soundtrack of José González' "Heartbeats" behind 250,000 'superballs' flying, in slow motion, over the brow of a typical San Francisco street, raining down on anything that gets in their way. It was done without computer graphics by Fallon of London and is supposed to help sell Sony's newest LCD television.

The second is the water balloon "Jump In" piece for the new xbox 360 video game console from Microsoft. This McCann Erickson ad is set around a whole city, almost exclusively of children, partaking in a water balloon fight, to the tune of the quirky "Teddy Bears' Picnic." It's fascinating and fun, but also a bit creepy and ominous; the shaky, digital-video look, the vaguely rundown South American housing complexes, and the quick shot of the kid in the dog mask (ala Animal Collective/Morningwood).

I was conversing with my good friend Biru about these two ads and he provided the following breakdown that I agree with wholeheartedly:

If you haven't seen the other xbox360 commercial, the jumping rope one, you need to see it as well. Read the comments. People are so clueless it's amazing. These commercials are some of the most beautiful, inspired commercials in a long time, and the fanboys are up in arms that they aren't publicizing framerate, polygon count, dual-core bullshit. Nobody cares how the technology works any more, as long as it works. The similar transcendence can be traced through Volkswagen's commercials, from simply talking about cars and saying what it does to the beauty of the classic "Pink Moon" commercial, which perfectly distilled what it feels like to ride in a car, at night, in a particular mood. That was a brilliant evolution in marketing, and though this form has been around a long time (Coke has been doing it for a while, though they are a bit more disingenuous. Does anybody really feel like giving the world a coke will solve anything?) it has only recently reached its peak. The Beauty of the Bravia commercial is that it's more akin to a reverse test drive. Hopefully for Sony, you will one day be watching that commercial in wide screen high definition on the very same screen they are advertising. It has distilled the promise of their product's capabilities in an ingenious and nearly instinctually attractive way. They are selling the television as much as they are selling the beauty and wonder of sight. Similarly, the XBOX360 ads are selling the beauty and wonder of social play, of having fun in groups, not confined to solitude in one's bedroom.

We are finally reaching the level in technology where science has always promised us - transparent tools that help us do things we want to do instinctually without fetishizing the tool itself. We want information, we get it via the internet. Google and Mac OS X have enabled computers to more or less move to the background so that the real task can be achieved. We still have a long way to go, but the late 90's-early 00's have been more about promise than deliverance. We are in a place now where we are seeing results.

It's still ironic. That we need to buy a 3000 dollar television to see beautiful things, or a 400 dollar game console to play with friends. But the convergence of capitalism and instinct is getting to be nearly seamless now, it's like selling turkey sandwiches. They don't have to convince us that we need to play a video game or watch tv, or introduce us to some new way to pass the time or finish a task and stun us with hardware and all of that other bullshit. They are reminding us that if we are hungry, they have delicious turkey sandwiches for sale.

And we need to eat.

Nothing I need to add to that. Here's the José Gonzalez track as featured on the Sony commercial:

José Gonzalez - Heartbeats.mp3


  • At 2:13 PM, Blogger Flatlander said…

    Damn. I haven't seen either of those ads until this post. I like both of them but love the superballs ad. So simple yet completely engrossing.

    That's the best JG tune I've heard so far too. Thanks for the link.

    Doesn't the fact that the superballs ad was shot without any digital editing conflict with your friends point about technology reaching the point where it adds to our life without being fetished? The ad is beautiful without the assistance of technology; except for whatever technology was responsible for creating superballs back in the 50's/60's.

  • At 2:28 PM, Blogger jds said…

    Good point, the superballs commercial was low-tech, but they are selling a technonerd's wet dream: a high-end LCD television. That's the funny thing, it's selling technology without using the technology. I see that as the point. The commercials (both xbox and sony) are trying to use a feeling (excitement, childlike giddiness, vibrancy, fun) to sell a product which is itself void of feeling.

    But I can't speak for Biru, perhaps he'll speak up for himself.

    If you fish around the "balls" page you'll find a couple behind the scenes videos. Pretty interesting.

  • At 10:10 PM, Blogger =A= said…

    I don't really see a conflict in the absence of digital enhancement in that Bravia ad. It's not about high-tech or low tech, but about tools. In my mind, tools are not about possibility as much as they are about limitations. We want to fly without being surrounded in tons of metal and plastic and roaring engines. We want to record our dreams in color and sound. Tools get us as close as they can until their limitations overwhelm our desires. Eventually though, the limitations of the tools evaporate, and we can create unfettered. One need not look any further than sporting equipment to see that high technology's ultimate place has always been in the background, providing support for the basic tech of our muscles and brains. Consumer electronics are only now able to begin to do the same; to move to the back and let us use our senses again freely without static or fog.

    The shift in placement of desire, from object to emotion, "feeling", and capability is what these ads represent to me. I love that shift. The Bravia ad IS selling technology though, reminding us that there is a new capability supposedly as large as the shift from black and white to color: from standard definition to high definition. From a capability limited technology to one closer to our natural sight. A tech that allows us to see those bouncing balls (ha) as if they were dropped in front of our face (double ha).

    Or maybe it's just pretty, and I'm falling for it.

  • At 1:16 PM, Blogger Lea said…

    I love this song! And his album is very good!!


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