You have to feel for journalists and publishers, since everybody else insists on (a) swiping content from newspapers and magazines, (b) “aggregating” all that content on the Series of Tubes before (c) having your hot startup get bought out by Silicon Valley for $300 million while (d) the journalists who created all that content get pink slips.
So yeah, any form of advertising that’s bringing money to print is a godsend.
HOWEVER: John Oliver is right when he goes off about “native advertising,” a new twist on an old concept. Instead of having news, then ads, why not knock down those walls and make the ads look just like news?
I still believe that real ads in real newspapers and magazine are far more effective than banner ads on the web. Also, this trend can’t last forever. John Oliver is right about somebody having to create all this content, and get paid for it. The trouble is how easy newspapers and magazines made it to either read the stories for free — most paywalls are a joke — or “aggregate” the stories online with no consequences.
Either way, John the Oliver is proving that you can go on deep, 11-minute comedy rants that actually educate people, about serious topics, while making them laugh. Lectures are boring. Mockery is the greatest weapon.
This is three minutes of film, via the Series of Tubes, that doesn’t have a single special effect or Michael Bay explosion. Yet it’s blowing up the Series of Tubes like nobody’s business, and not simply because it has cats.
Watch it, then we’ll dissect this to see how — and why — it works so well.
Here are the top 3 reasons why this snippet of film by BuzzFeed works so well:
1) This is actually a long ad for Friskies … with barely a glimpse of the cat food they’re trying to sell you.
So right there, it’s refreshing, since 99.999 percent of TV ads are in your face, hoping to grab your attention for three seconds before you (a) change the channel, (b) pull out your iPhone or (c) amble on over to pillage the pantry.
Even the insanely hyped Super Bowl ads, the ones that are so famous that we get backstory about the advertising folks who created them, despite the fact they look more like your neighbor Bill the Accountant than Don Draper — well, those supposedly amazing ads are typically disappointing. They try too hard. Too fast, too loud, too much. You can see all the money on the screen and yeah, a lot of it is wasted.
Instead of 30 seconds of cars zooming and Danica Patrick in a bikini selling web domains (don’t get that one, either), we get 3 minutes of slow, leisurely voiceover from a cat while B-roll runs wild.
And it is hilarious.
DEAR KITTEN is also different from some of the better Super Bowl ads, like the Darth Vader kid who starts the car using the force. Those are more like one-joke skits, except not so much that the repetition drives you nuts like a bad SNL bit that’s gone on too long. This kitten business isn’t Johnny One Note at all.
2) A different kind of funny
Most ads aim for broad humor, things that the lowest common demographic will get in a heartbeat. You know, people falling down, exasperated moms, Santa actually coming down the chimney and frowning because LIttle Billy ate all the cookies and drank all the milk.
DEAR KITTEN is a higher form of humor, with great writing. Here’s a section of the script I love, even after hearing it three times:
You should be aware that there are two kinds of food. The first is sort of a brown, dehydrated nibblet. I think they give us these because they are training us to be astronauts. Just a guess. The second kind is wet food. It is so special they keep it in little armored metal casings that no claw can penetrate. With no claws to speak of, the humans can somehow open them. It’s like some dark magic.
Now, that’s great writing, full of sweet little setups and payoffs.
3) Building up to a climax
The writing is good in the beginning, gets better in the middle and rocks at the end.
This is the opposite pattern from most movies, novels, TV shows and circulars in The Willapa Valley Shopper, and not simply because many writers got started at these things called “papers of news” where you’re brainwashed to write using the Inverted Pyramid, which is inherently boring and should be taken behind the barn and shot.
The best stuff goes first because when you pitch a movie, book or TV ad, that’s what you lead with. Otherwise, the thing won’t get off the ground. And that’s what they want to see in the script or the dailies: the awesome stuff you talked about, whether it was dinosaurs roaming the earth again or aliens invading Nebraska, you know, because their spaceships run on corn or whatever. But if you put the very best material up front, by definition the middle will get your junior varsity stuff and the ending will be complete rubbish, the bottom of the tank, the leftovers, the scrubs.
Check out the last part of DEAR KITTEN.
Dear Kitten: I should warn you of the monster known as “Vac-Koom”. It can eat and yell at the same time. And I’ve seen it eat everything. Seriously, like a paper clip and two cat toys. Didn’t even flinch. To hide from Vac-Koom, you may use the curtains of invisibility. Oh yeah, you’re good. Good hiding. Hoh, boy.
Dear Kitten: One final note. Once in a while, you might see a little red dot. I’m going to tell you this right now. It is real, and it can be caught. I did it once. I held it for a full minute. But when I lifted my paws, it was gone.
So Kitten, welcome to the household. You’ll do just fine.
Brilliant. I’m glad they saved the best for last. Vac-Koom and the Curtains of Invisibility will become part of internet lore now.
It’s no secret why many bands let giant corporations use their songs in advertising: musicians are starving artists. There will always be more talented musicians in the world than money to support them.
So musicians have a few choices. They can work a day job and do gigs on weekends, milk their One Hit Wonder for 20 years, try to make a living on tour — or sell their music for commercials, movies, theme parks, whatever pays the bills. Usually, there is no One Hit Wonder, no tour, no sales to record labels or car commercials. The struggle to pay the bills become a struggle for artistic life or death, because if you’ve got no money, you’ve got no free time to do what you love.
Hey, I sympathize. Artistic purity is great until you have to pay the bills. I think it’s almost easier to make a living writing the words, even as newspapers die off as if an asteroid came to kill the dinosaurs, than to do it plucking a guitar.
This video by Jon Lajoie, now, is crazy funny because you can smell the truth in it.
Well done, Jon and bandmates. I hope a corporation with a sense of humor actually buys the rights to use your song to sell something, anything at all, because you have won the Series of Tubes.