Bizarre certainly has its place in the world of advertising. Properly conceived and used in moderation, bizarre advertising can, in fact, be quite effective.
But as anyone who has watched a lot of television advertising can confirm, consumers are bombarded nowadays with too much bizarre advertising — most of which simply isn’t bizarre or memorable in a good way.
The proper kind of bizarre advertising commands attention, but doesn’t leave one scratching one’s head in a state of confusion and/or disgust. A new campaign for Hefty trash bags from Euro RSCG/Chicago is pretty good at getting “bizarre” right.
The campaign’s success probably has a lot to do with the director chosen to execute the two new 15-second spots. He is Jared Hess, perhaps best known as the director of the 2004 cult independent feature film “Napoleon Dynamite.”
Hess cast performers who do bizarre well
Over the past decade the ad world has turned with increasing frequency to the feature film world to find new directing talent for TV commercials. In some cases, the directors may simply want to dabble in advertising just to see if they can do it. In other instances, the advertisers and ad agencies want to pull in a film director for the publicity value.
In the case of this Hefty work, it looks to be a little of both. What is clear, however, from these two Hefty spots is that Hess has a great eye for casting performers who can do bizarre exceedingly well in front of a camera.
Take “Baby” for example, the first of the two new Hefty commercials. This spot would be absolutely nothing memorable had Hess not found two actresses who could summon up bizarre facial expressions on cue — something these two women, performing roles as moms, do exceptionally well.
It’s never easy creating a 15-second spot that pops. Yet Hess has managed to do so simply because he gets so much bizarro-ness from these two performers in just a few seconds of screen time.
“Rager,” the second and better of the two 15-second executions, takes bizarre to new levels as it captures the unexpected early return of two travelers who appear to have left their home under the supervision of two strange people who know how to party and who, most assuredly, aren’t at all worried about keeping things tidy.
With only 15 seconds at his disposal, Hess didn’t have much time to generate an impression among viewers. So every one of the few images in this spot had to resonate. And they do. Each of the performers here does a great job of living in — and owning — this bizarre situation.
Messages are delivered subliminally
Some might argue that the scene is simply revolting. But Hess doesn’t rub our noses in the repugnant mise-en-scene. Rather, he lets the actors take center stage — so the bizarreness they convey becomes the main focus, not the hideous mess of a kitchen.
What is also nice about these two Hefty commercials is the way they don’t browbeat us with talk about how helpful Hefty trash bags can be in cleaning up major messes, or, in the case of babies, disposing of diapers and their accompanying odors.
These messages are delivered subliminally — again to keep the emphasis on the bizarre touches that make these spots resonate.
Who knows if Hess will continue to take on TV advertising assignments. He has now demonstrated he can handle the trickiest of all TV spots — the 15-second execution. We suspect he would do very well also with the longer online videos that many advertisers now make part of their ad mix.
We shall see.
Agency credits: COO, Jason Peterson; CD, Bill Rogers; senior art director, Jason Tisser; senior copywriter, Regan Kline; producer, Joe Tipre.
Production: Moxie Pictures, L.A. Director, Jared Hess; EPs,
Robert Fernandez, Lizzie Schwartz; head of production, Roger Zorovich; producer, Laura Heflin, DP, Munn Powell.
Postproduction and visual effects: Feed the Walrus, New York. Editor, Adam Jenkins. Sound design: Made, Chicago. Sound designer, Todd Bernstein.
Contact Lewis Lazare at LewisL3@aol.com