I’ve often pondered the reason why major marketing firms neglect classic films when designing campaigns for clients. Classic films boast countless worthy scenes just waiting for an enterprising soul to transform them into commercials. Apparently, someone has finally hit upon this goldmine since we now have three campaigns designed around classic films and their iconic stars.
Mastercard is using images of Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe and John Wayne in their new “Perfect Jeans: Priceless” ad. Before I comment, have a look for yourself:
As a whole, I’m impressed with the treatment of the stars. One of my major concerns with the effort to “mainstream” classic films is that the films and stars would be mocked by modern barbarians who have no appreciation of greatness. I was afraid after seeing such a commercial, my response would be, “How dare you!” However, after seeing the current Mastercard ads, I discovered I rather liked them. To my tremendous relief, the producer of this commercial understands the magnificence of classic film and most classic film actors. The producer handles classic film with care. The three legendary giants pictured (Brando, Monroe and Wayne) are glorified as the creators of (dare I use this dreaded and overworked word?) cool. Not cool in the revolting modern sense, either. No low-slung pants, foul language or violence needed to prove coolness. This is cool in the first and true sense of the word. It’s the cool that means class.
Although, I believe there is room for improvement. From a purely stylistic graphic design standpoint, the grunge layout is highly unsuitable for the subject matter. (If you don’t know what grunge is: it’s a copout shortcut graphic designers use when they either have no talent or have run dry creatively. It is characterized by excessive use of Photoshop brushes in the shapes of paint splatters and drips, dirt, ripped pages, sand and sometimes flowers.) In case you can’t tell, I’m not a fan of the grunge style. It’s so overused! Look around you right now. Flip open a magazine or turn on the tv – I bet you can find some piece of graphic design with elements of grunge on it. As someone who hopes to enter this field someday, I have no respect for the designers who revert to this style for every project they work on. Aside from my own prejudices against the style, it just doesn’t convey the proper meaning about these fabulous classic films. These films are works of unbridled creativity, incredible talent and perfected skill. Using a two-bit modern design style as the vehicle of delivery is a complete insult.
By the way, the font used for the word JEANS in the final scene with Marlon Brando is called Bleeding Cowboys. It is one of the most overused free fonts on the planet. Watch – now that you know what it is, I bet you recognize it everywhere. I find it inexcusable that it appears in this national campaign.
Next, we have the new Direct TV ad using a clip from the recent remake of King Kong:
I never saw the 2005 Peter Jackson remake, so I don’t have much of an opinion of the use of this film for a commercial. Although, I do not feel the same indignation to see the remake used as a TV spot, as I would if Direct TV had chosen to spotlight Fay Wray instead of Naomi Watts.
Finally, the ultimate insult – saved for last, of course. I refer to the Breyer’s Ice Cream commercials. Apparently, Breyer’s isn’t content anymore with doctoring ice cream, they’ve decided to pair their “special recipes” with classic films. In particular, I am talking about the Breyer’s commercials using real clips from Gone With The Wind and King Kong (What is it with King Kong, anyway?) with new footage of this modern actress named Jane Krakowski spliced in. Don’t ask me who she is – I have no idea. And after this abomination, I don’t care to find out.
This is offensive on so many levels. 1st- Replacing a perfectly cast classic era actress with one of our modern wannabes. How could anyone with a basic knowledge of classic films ever even attempt such a horrifying task? Even worse, if you submit yourself to the torment of viewing the “Behind the Scenes” video of this spot, you’ll see the crew boasting about the thrill of replacing dear Vivien with Jane. It’s like a nightmare from a parallel universe or something. How on earth can they all be so blind?
2nd – Jane K.’s dialogue. All that ridiculous modern innuendo, trying to photograph Gable with her cell phone, the crass references to her own body. Apparently, the writers are trying to “modernize” Gone With the Wind. From the info of the Behind the Scenes video: “Re-discover classic films with a new, modern twist” Heaven forbid! Who ever said it needed modernizing? Give me their email, I’ll set them straight. It’s perfect just the way it is! Who gave you permission to mess with it?!
Breyer’s wasn’t satisfied to defile only one classic film – oh no. They also took on King Kong:
I’ve got the same grievance with this one. “I’m so tweeting about this when I get home”? Ugh! Classic films are classic because they do not reference any modern inventions, people or popular culture. The makers of this ad actually think this “take” on King Kong is cute and sophisticated. Are they kidding?
The “Behind the Scenes” spot is even more disturbing for this one. One of the crew members has the nerve –the nerve!- to hope that this horrific practice of replacing a classic film star could become a trend. Oh…my…gosh. Get me a chair somebody, I’m feeling faint.
I promise, here and now, if a film is made either replacing or borrowing a classic film star and released in theatres, I will not go to see it. Even if Christian Bale is in it. I couldn’t possibly stand it. Even now, I’m practically throwing things at the TV when these Breyers commercials come on. I think I’d have to run from the theatre screaming in horror.
On a semi-related note: Why have our filmmakers become so creatively dry that they cannot dream up fresh, new, “modern” ideas for commercials and films? Why are they all constantly borrowing from the past? I’m not just talking about the commercials here. I mean rich and famous filmmakers like George Lucas, who brazenly admits Star Wars is a conglomeration of tons of other films, including The Adventures of Robin Hood with Errol Flynn. What the heck is wrong with filmmakers? Are they just opportunists masquerading as creative people who actually just steal ideas from classic films to make their fortunes? Or are they genuinely creative people who have found themselves stranded in the Desert of Ideas? It doesn’t really matter, I guess. We have a small group of extremely talented people who are making fresh new films, but the rest are forever recycling tired old scripts, stars and gags. This is why I find myself disinterested and detached from modern Hollywood. It’s nothing but an unfulfilling illusion and it looks like the little man behind the curtain is running out of tricks.