One of my favourite albums is 2001 by Dr Dre. I bought it when it came out in 1999 (man, it had been a long wait since The Chronic) and listened to it on CD. This meant I had a specific pattern of consumption: first, I rinsed Forgot about Dre. It was so damn catchy, I had to play it on a loop. Then, a week or so later, having dabbled in the other early tracks, I started to play it from the beginning: The Watcher, Fuck You, Still Dre, Big Egos, Xxplosive, What’s the Difference and Light Speed led into Forgot About Dre. Then I’d probably start again because those were all brilliant tracks, so I’d get a run of ten going with different favourites rising and falling over the months.
Then I drove to Italy with my wife, and that was one of the CDs that soundtracked the journey. So we’d listen to the whole thing, and I discovered that some of the later tracks were also brilliant (particularly Bang Bang). This made the album last for years, revealing itself in different ways, at different times and at different speeds.
Anyone my age or older will probably have their own versions of 2001 (I have several others, including Rumours, Physical Graffiti and Songs In the Key Of Life): albums that not only stayed on heavy rotation for years, but subtly transformed, like a fine wine, perhaps in response to my own changing age and emotions.
Have any ads worked on me in the same way? I mean, have they been good enough to watch again and again, possibly even improving over time?
(By the way, I know I just wrote a blog piece about scarcity being good for ads, but there are always some exceptions that prove the rule. And if anyone managed to make an ad that stood the test of a thousand viewings, hats off to them.)
If you’re my age, you saw this ad a billion times. Why was it so rewatchable? If memory serves, you could sing along with it; you could do an impression of the ‘fried onion rings’ guy; and you could wonder how ground beef could really be served ‘just like a steak’. But you could also wonder how the hell this construction-site male chorus came about. The driver’s clearly not happy about all this. And if they want chips so much, why don’t they just ask for them?
Despite featuring one of my favourite people on the planet, this ad left me cold for months. Then a strange thing happened: I grew to love it. It’s about everything and nothing; it’s about that disapproving look Thierry gives us at 00:25; and it’s about wondering if he’s supposed to be calling Robert Pires at the end.
I could have chosen dozens of kids ads – Trio, Coco Pops, Smiths Crisps, Um Bongo… any shitty food, really – but this one never gets old. What the absolute cast-iron fuck is it about? Why is Kia Ora too orangey for crows? If it is too orangey for crows, why do the crows want it so much? How does a basketball turn into a pile of laundry? As with the Dre album, over the years different crows became more and less intriguing.
What can we learn from that? Well, fiction advice suggests posing a question at the start, then refusing to answer it until the end. Oddly, though, I think these ads pose a bunch of questions and never answer any of them. They don’t really make sense, so the itch is never quite scratched, making the ads endlessly compelling.
So maybe write ads with a bit of logic and a lot of madness. That way they’ll last longer.