For very different reasons Flash Gordon and the Shawshank Redemption are two of my favourite films. And they have both been the influence, at least in part, for two very high profile recent TV campaigns. Now although I love both films I’ve also worked in advertising for 11 years so I don’t usually have too big a reaction to pop culture being utilised in this way. But this time I did have big reactions, big opinions, each one the polar opposite to the other. Love and hate.
So why is it that I love the Innocent ad so much? Why does it work? From the off it feels like they understand the source material, the whole things stays firmly tongue in cheek and they do their own thing with it. And then they top it all off by throwing in Hawkman Brian Blessed to seal the deal. It takes something camp and overflowing with nostalgia (first film I saw in the cinema, first “date”, first movie tie in t-shirt from M&S) and keeps it that way. Really speaking I should be a tough crowd for this campaign, I’m a dyed in the wool geek who still owns a Flash t-shirt (not the same one) as well as the movie soundtrack. But I love it and more than anything it’s because the tone is the same as the source material, it makes me feel like I do when I think about the film. And it definitely makes me want to stick Flash Gordon in the DVD player when I get home.
The More Than campaign, or should I say the More Than Freeman campaign, on the other hand has a very different effect on me. It’s not just the lazy similar words approach that apes Compare the Meerkat. It’s everything about it. When I see a rooftop and hear a Morgan Freeman style voice I want to think about liberty, the human spirit, triumph over oppression and adversity. I don’t want to think about insurance. Shawshank sits alongside Twelve Angry Men and One Flew over the cuckoo’s nest as mainstream films that have made me think and feel things about life and the human condition. I don’t want them to be repackaged to sell me stuff accompanied by a so cheap it’s almost non existent gag. The advertising professional in me switches off and the movie fan in me turns over the TV the second it starts. And I usually tweet about how much I hate it too. “But you’ve remembered it though haven’t you”? Yes, but for all the wrong reasons. I won’t be using More Than (totally irrationally especially as an ad creative myself) and I’m not sure Shawshank will get its yearly airing in my house either, double fail. If you haven’t seen it I think I’ll spare you as it really would not be fair.
So like I say be careful with our pop culture and make sure your tone matches the source.