Oxytocin kills the fun in C-K amusement park spots

Scene from “Language Barrier” spot

When we heard Cramer-Krasselt/Chicago had picked up the Cedar Fair amusement parks advertising and public relations account, our first thought was “wow!”  What a great opportunity for C-K to really have fun with a piece of business that — let’s be clear — is ALL about having fun.

C-K is no stranger, really, to a fun account. The agency has had a long association with Corona beer.  For that account the agency chose to come at fun in an entirely unexpected and utterly satisfying way. In fact, C-K proved it could do fun quite quietly in a long string of oh-so-peaceful beach-themed commercials for Corona beer.

The Mexican brew, alas, has moved on from that concept, but the work hasn’t really ever been as distinctive — or as fun — since that ill-considered decision was made.

Which brings us back to Cedar Fair.  It’s a large regional operator of amusement parks that include Cedar Point and Knott’s Berry Farm.  Yes, we were eagerly awaiting a real blast of off-the-charts creativity in a campaign that would herald a new marketing era for Cedar Fair, as well as the start of a pleasure-filled summer season.

Behavioral research not usual to analyze amusement park fun

So, imagine our shock and amazement — and disappointment — when we discovered Cramer-Krasselt had gone all scientific on us in its new TV campaign for Cedar Fair parks.  Of course, there are other components to the campaign, including radio, out-of-home, online, public relations, social media and media partnerships.

But television is the medium best able to convey the true aura of an amusement park. So where did C-K go for inspiration in developing this new TV campaign with the tagline “Thrills Connect”?

Well, it went right to consumer behavioral research. We know.  It’s not exactly the most fun thing on earth to analyze an amusement park in terms of behavioral research.  But C-K did.

What the creative team zeroed in on, apparently, was something called oxytocin, as well as some insight from one Dr. Paul Zak.  According to Zak, “a thrilling adventure with others induces the brain to release oxytocin, which makes us feel close to others.”

We did our own research and discovered oxytocin is known colloquially as the “love hormone,” which makes it easy to see what Zak is getting at in his research. 

But rather than doing something, uh, fun with the love hormone thing, C-K got  sidetracked and came up, instead, with commercials that feel a bit weird,  More than a little forced.  And just not fun in the full-throttled way they should be.

Plus, the commercials don’t do an especially memorable job of showing off the rides that are the centerpiece of good amusement parks.

No excitement in roller coaster ride

Cedar Fair “Embrace” spot sceneThe stranger of the two spots, “Embrace,” involves a family of three who are taking a roller coaster ride.  Each coaster car can only seat two people. Though we don’t know it at the beginning of the commercial, this circumstance requires a family of three to split up. In this instance, mom must sit with another male stranger in the car ahead of her son and husband. 

We see mom repeatedly telling herself and her seat mate she’s not scared (or maybe a little scared), as the gentleman next to her reassures her she’ll be fine. The ride begins, and we see just a snippet of the coaster in action.  As the ride ends, we see the mother tightly clutching the man next to her with an expression that we read to mean she was scared to death.

The woman’s husband and son apparently aren’t sure what to make of the tight embrace, which causes them to question their mom.  Would anyone have guessed it was the old oxytocin kicking in that caused mom to react the way she did? Probably not.

A chance to let loose

A second TV spot, “Language Barrier,” is just plain goofy.  A typical American kid is trying to ask a non-English-speaking Asian visitor if this is his first ride on a roller coaster.  The foreigner, unable to respond in English, gives a big thumbs up, as if to indicate it’s his first ride.

The coaster takes off and a second or two later it’s over.  Only now the American kid has in a flash apparently mastered the visitor’s foreign tongue.  Or at least enough of it to get him through a 30-second TV commercial.

The spot comes off as a fairly weak stab at humor. But more importantly, it left us with little to build a compelling argument for why we should visit a Cedar Fair amusement park.  Unless, perhaps, we were in the mood to do a little more research on oxytocin.

Come on, you guys and gals at Cramer-Krasselt!  Drop the science and have a real go at showing us what fun is all about at Cedar Fair parks.  Even the tagline “Thrills Connect” feels too scientific to us.

This is your chance to really let loose.  Please don’t let something as dry and academic as science stand in your way!  Please.

View the spots here.

Agency credits: EVP/COO, Marshall Ross; VP/CD, Pat Hanna; senior copywriter, Beth Kerin; senior art director, Jessica Foster; producer, Addie Pampalone; VP/lead producer/motion, Rob Jaeger.

Production credits:  Production company, Furlined, Santa Monica. Ted Pauly, director;  VP/EP, Eriks Krumins; senior EP, David Thorne; head of production, Merilee Newman; line producer, Leah Fleischmann;  DP, Igor Jadue-Lillo. Editing: David, Inc., Santa Monica, editor, Jay Herda. Audio: Optimus, engineer, Joel Anderson, colorist, Tyler Roth.

Contact Lewis Lazare at  LewisL3@aol.com