Of Great Men and Great Parties
By Chude Jideonwo, THISDAY, 05.18.2007
I have agonized week after week on the good sense of critiquing ads produced by heavyweights (depending on who’s wielding the scales), but after reading two articles on the following two ads in this paper and The Guardian in the past month, I think someone should say what some of us think. That would be me, thank you very much. The Star (Lager Beer) ad which runs on television every night should have run its full course by now I thought, but obviously not. Which is why each time it plays, its k-leg becomes even more glaring. Let me remind you of the basic plot: a guy calls his friends and says he has ‘run out of fuel’ and they bring the party to him.
Now let’s leave out the pseudo-American accent and the ‘slow learner’ look on the main character’s face, let me detail the problems with this plot: first, was this young man going to or coming from the party? No one thought to tell us. Now if we answer for ourselves and say he was going to the party, then how come his ‘friends’ came from the same direction as him? How come he was going in a different direction from the one where they came? And if he was coming from the party (i.e. he had left the party), then why are they bringing the party to him? Thirdly, how come his friend got the brainwave so fast it felt like he had been expecting his friends car to ‘kaput’ all along, and why were the girls around him (suspiciously looking like ladies of the night) smiling inanely like it was a telepathic brain wave?
Other sundry layman issues: why is the commercial shot around a hill - what is the essence of that big gesture? Why couldn’t they use models who looked more like Nigerians of any social class? Where did the open field suddenly appear from? And where exactly did the Deejay plug his equipment to produce music knowing as we did that this was an open field for which they were unprepared? I hate to make the comparison, but you will remember that when Michael Power pulled this kind of stunt, it was plausible because he had called his radio DJ friend and the music came from car stereos. So where is the plausibility in this ad?
Since I have mentioned Guinness, I might as well now pose certain questions to my friend, Udeme. The Guinness Greatness TVC is actually one I really like – especially for the tone and voice of the narrator. There is a cool, soothing feel to him that I always look forward to – and the opening and closing ‘My friend Udeme is a great man’ are winners any day.
However, it is the space between the beginning and the end that I have a problem with. The script is fantastic, but the message is wobbly. Too much wuruwuru to the answer. Why is Udeme a great man? Because he wanted to be a pilot? And what is so great about that? The answer obviously lies in ‘there is a drop of greatness in every man’, but in that case, this ad didn’t do that message justice (and for that matter, neither did the Guinness road and TV shows), because it means then that the narrator himself is a ‘great man’. So why would he stand beside a door and tell me that his friend is a great man – if he also is a ‘great man’ like every other average Joe? Conflict, conflict, conflict.
Or is Udeme a great man because he is a pilot? Big deal. What about lawyers, and surgeons and for that matter, journalists? If this ad tells me Udeme is a great man because he is a pilot, then we might as well assume that Guinness is for pilots. Or maybe he’s a great man because he dreamt of being a pilot and eventually became one? Fantastic message, but that defeats the entire effect of the ‘greatness in every man’ copy. Let me not ask how comforting it is to see a pilot who obviously loves his bottle, and demonstrates that love on a daily basis, what is the more important issue is the fact that this ad contradicts its own message all the way: is Udeme a great man because he drinks beer or because he is a pilot? And what makes either of that good enough for his friend to wax so poetic about him?