Friday, December 14, 2012

Google Kinks It Up for Chromebook

I Will Dare's Jodi recently lamented how the Kinks' song "Father Christmas" was used in a commercial for Google's Chromebook (their foray into the world of notebook machines). It's not about the now outdated notion of selling out by the artist, but the egregious misappropriation by the advertising agency that made the ad. The lyrics even in the chorus are not something that could be interpreted as upbeat; it's all about the underprivileged mugging a street corner Santa, telling him to give all his toys "to the little rich boys." Here, listen for yourself:

And now, listen to how that was surgically butchered to hawk the computers:

That is certainly worthy of lambasting, even though songs with less-than-positive lines excised for commercials for quite some time. Back in 2008 I wrote about what was done to "American Pie," for example. So it's nothing new, even though for those who know the lyrics this could be a new low.

I'm led to believe Google's intention was to provide a low-priced computer that was available by those who cannot afford the fancy machines from Apple or other companies, but to equate that with the tone of "Father Christmas" is beyond a stretch. Only by manipulating the lyrics in an almost Frankenstein-like manner in the commercial can they even make it palatable as a promotional device.

Jodi's outrage stemmed from knowing what the lyrics are, and being flummoxed that anyone could think this a song about committing robbery was good to associate with a product they wanted to get people to buy. But apparently the Christmas association, lacking in cheer though it is, must be sufficient for those making such decisions. That it alienates the people who appreciate the song's message is of no consequence to them.

Basically, it's Madison Avenue flipping the bird to people who actually pay attention. Again. Granted, they've done that so much now that it's difficult to not be completely jaded, but still this seemed like crossing a line. But perhaps the larger source of dismay for those of us who do know the words of these songs that get appropriated for commercials and have their original context utterly ripped out is the way it stomps all over our illusions that such attention is worthwhile, that our appreciation is meaningful, that we wouldn't be better off having never bothered to be mindful of the lyrics. Clearly the implication most others are perfectly content with their ignorance; we made some error in bothering to care.

Then it occurred to me that it may have been not blithe dismissal of the song's tone but intentional embrace of it. These days it's increasingly difficult to get viewers to actually sit through TV ads, with DVR's allowing for easy fast-forwarding past them. So how do advertisers get people to pay attention? They introduce an incongruity that is so risible that it inspires a backlash from those who would be outraged, and in the screeds posted against them they get their ad embedded and watched by those who follow those who were outraged. While that seems counterproductive, it stands to reason there's a certain percentage of that audience who will respond first with incredulity about the use of the song but then, having seen the ad all the way through, think the product itself—irrespective of how it was promoted—is worth thinking about.

It gets around the cynical dismissal by essentially attacking then sneaking behind the gate during the battle. (That metaphor breaks down but you get the idea.)

It seems ridiculous, of course—because it is—but maybe that's how it could be effective. It's so crazy that we have not developed any defense against it.

That doesn't excuse the brutalization of a trenchant Ray Davies composition, but if that's what it is, it doesn't seek to be excused.

Or it could be that really very few people are paying attention. It certainly works on that level, too.

It is simultaneously incredibly stupid and insidiously clever by not seeming anything more than stupid. The bastards.

"Don't make us annoyed" indeed.

No comments:

Post a Comment

So, what do you think?