Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Monday, September 25, 2021

Geico decided to give their spokeslizard a vacation and turn over their television advertising to an assortment of celebrity endorsers.

Succinctly: The spots mostly suck. I like Peter Graves as much as anybody does, but his attempt at faux-ironic non sequituring (“I put on some tangerine lip gloss”) just comes off as awkward.

But there is one spot that does work, and work wonderfully. Don LaFontaine, the near-ubiquitous booming voice in all those movie-theater trailers, does a masterful self-spoofing of the tagline cliches that he often writes himself.

I particularly enjoyed the off-the-bat use of what’s probably his signature narrative gimmick:

Customer: When the storm hit, both our cars were totally underwater.

LaFontaine: IN A WORLD where both of our cars were totally underwater…

Customer: We thought it would take forever to get some help.

LaFontaine: But a new wind was about to blow!

Customer: With Geico, we had our check in two days.

LaFontaine: Payback — this time, it’s for real.

The beauty of this one is that LaFontaine’s quips, as intentionally corny as they are, actually do service as effective punchlines when paired with the cinematic-dramatic theme music. And that self-satisfied nod while he removes his headphones was just the cherry on top. Enjoy!

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/25/2006 11:47pm
Category: Advert./Mktg.
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cute snippernot-so-cute snipper
Yes, I realize Discover Card’s “What If” little scissors are supposed to be Fantasia-grade cute. And I appreciate the thought Discover and the Martin Agency put into the conceptualization.

But, sorry. I look at the TV spot, and I still see the scary-ass Zuni voodoo dolls from my B-grade movie memories. Fortified, I guess, by the prospect of credit card debt. Yaaaggghh!

As I figured, the key to dulling the potentially malevolent cutting tools was the background music:

To avoid any sense of foreboding, the TV commercials use an “unapologetically celebratory” soundtrack, [Martin creative director Hal] Tench says, created by a music production company called Horrible Music, which gives the sense the scissors are “objects on a mission” rather than menacing.

Hmm. My imp of the perverse is tempting me to remix this commercial, subbing in a more ominous musical track, in the style of Sleepless in Seattle as a horror movie. The hour’s getting late for me, but if you’d like to take a crack at it, here’s the QuickTime clip.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/25/2006 11:15pm
Category: Advert./Mktg., Movies
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One John Barbas (whose name is vaguely familiar on a personal/family level, although I can’t place it) has his cover blown on the N Train:

As I looked at my daughter, I casually commented in Greek: “Honey, your hair is a mess. Why didn’t you comb it?” To which she responded, in staccato Greek, “Daddy! Leave me alone!”

At the next stop, the elderly lady stood up and, as she walked past us, looked at my daughter with an adoring grandmotherly expression, and told her in flawless Greek: “Sweetheart, you look adorable. Dads can be a pain sometimes.”

Then, staring at me with the nerve-chilling countenance of a 19th-century schoolmistress, she admonished me. “As for you, my son, you have a lot more to learn about little girls.” Walking down the ramp, she turned and waved goodbye with a smile.

What’s left unsaid here: When your second language is a fairly obscure one in New York, like Greek is (as opposed to Spanish or Mandarin, which are supported by much larger communities), you feel pretty assured in shooting your mouth off in public without being understood by anyone other than your companion. So when a third party picks up on what you consider to be a secret code, it’s more of a shocker. You figure Greeks are so thin on the ground, and you never encounter any that you don’t already know, that the odds of being overheard are rare enough to throw discretion to the wind.

That said, I’m surprised that I haven’t run into this scenario more often myself. So far, I’ve got only one instance, from a few months back. I sat down in a Chinese restaurant on the Upper West Side, and of all things, I hear two middle-aged women a couple of tables over chirping in Greek. It was the typical American dialect, too: Slightly inelegant, with noticable sprinkles of English filler words like “y’know”. I didn’t reveal myself as being in the know, but I was tempted; as it was, they were just chatting about random personal gossip, nothing noteworthy. It made for a slightly surrealistic experience for me: A steady stream of Greek from people who weren’t my relatives, while dining on fried rice.

by Costa Tsiokos, Mon 09/25/2006 10:11pm
Category: New Yorkin'
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