This latest ad from Intel came on during Ocean’s Thirteen on TBS Friday night. It was annoying and obviously cliche from the start, and as Stuart Miles said, “‘cheeseball’ marketing at its finest.”
Everything about a Kung fu/martial arts commercial — the predictability, lame variations (bears and Kung fu, Kung fu clowns, baby Kung fu), music and sound effects — makes me want to throw the remote at the screen when I see one. Even worse, the commercials turn me off to the product. I end up questioning the managers who signed off on the idea. If they approved THIS, how original could their product be?
Using martial arts as a storytelling device in ads is the result of laziness: The creative team couldn’t come up with any other ideas or all of their ideas got rejected and they had to get paid for coming up with SOMETHING.
It’s the fail-safe premise for ads because they’re cheaper to produce*, produce (cheap) laughs, and can be used to sell any product — soda, computers, cars, clothing. Sometimes, it even IS the lame product.
The idea is so trite that it’s even become an overused ideas overseas, and the go-to-solution for small businesses. Case in point, this dud for a cell phone game, this clown infested parody of a parody ad for Bell South Yellow Pages, and this ho-hum mobile phone spot from Montenegro telecommunications company M tel, featuring the white-bearded-wise-man typing insanely fast on a Qwerty keypad.
The failure rate of Kung fu ads isn’t exactly 100% though. In fact, in recent memory, there has been one Kung fu ad that is among one of my all-time favorites…This one, from Mountain Dew:
Pepsi ran one within a few years of the Mountain Dew ad, but it inspires the expected, much cheaper laugh.
The major reason I prefer the Mountain Dew ad is because it makes fun of itself from the very beginning. The story is ridiculous but smart, and is executed even-handily. The tone is also tasteful and not outrageously disrespectful.
On the other hand, Pepsi uses the old “this might be a serious ad” trick. This sometimes works, but here unfortunately, the punch line is delivered too late and lacks enough power to make us believe in this Kung fu story…The story about a Pepsi-worshiping monastery.
*Although I’ve never worked on a major commercial, I imagine Kung fu ads to have low production costs because it doesn’t take a genius to direct a bunch of people to say “hooooyy–hiya!”.