MovieTalk With David Byrne

We were just checking in on David Byrne’s blog, which we’re prone to do whenever we see him at a show (OMG, maybe he’ll blog about us! LOL!) and while we didn’t get a review of the CYHSY show, we did get blow-by-blow analysis of the ads David was forced to watch while waiting for Will Ferrell to hit the screen. From his post:

Went to see Stranger Than Fiction, which I thought was good. I laughed, I cried. There were a series of ads shown in the theater before the movie previews.

Verizon, LG, chocolate. A phone/music player that looks stylish, like an iPod. No information provided. Does it hold much music? Does it synch to your computer? It looks nice.

An SUV. A CG landscape in bright yellows and greens. All flat layers of color swelling and looming all over the screen. Vaguely Ryan McGinness style graphic of swirls and a baroque colorform landscape. A graphic road appears, zipping into the center of the frame, and on it is a photographic image (not flat) of an SUV. The impression is given that with this car your world will be bright, cheerful and colorful. No other ?information? is provided.

Zune Player. Images of hipsters grooving together to this Microsoft MP3 player. The impression is given that it is the music player that is bringing these attractive people together ? people of all races, and all attractive ? and therefore we too can meet these sexy women if we have this gizmo. Tag line ? ?welcome to the social? (sic). (Is that English? Did Borat write this ad?) No other ?information? provided, though I know that the ?social? and sharing part is only partly true ? ?shared? music ?goes away? on this player relatively quickly?.as will your new friends.

The National Guard. The National Guard is portrayed as an organization that mainly helps people in trouble (primarily due to natural disasters) and specializes in daring rescues. Cut to various testimonials (are these real Guardsmen or actors?) of guardsmen talking about how proud they are, how selfless and how all walks of life are represented. Uh huh. Lots of stockbrokers out there. There?s a brief mention that one might even get posted ?overseas?, which I guess is a code word for Iraq. Would anyone be stupid enough to voluntarily serve over there now? The Guard uniforms look exactly like U.S. Army camos, and they say U.S. Army on them. The Army is shorthanded these days, and since there is no chance of the draft being reinstated ? can you imagine how fast the Iraq occupation would be shut down if boys you actually knew were dying? ? they?ve upped the ante on their ads. I seem to remember the National Guard presence in New Orleans post-Katrina. They appeared to be doing more guarding than rescuing, as I recall.

An ad for a cell phone with speakers that slide out. A crowded city street. Everyone is wearing white iPod headphones and clear fishbowls on their heads. They are all isolated in a world of their own, is the clear implication. One couple tries to smooch through their glass prisons ? but everyone knows you can?t kiss with a fishbowl on your head. One guy, clearly frustrated, takes off his space helmet/fishbowl and smashes it into a million pieces on the street. He rips out his headphones and begins listening to music from a small object he proudly holds aloft. A cell phone with tiny speakers that slip out. (I can imagine the sound quality! Freedom! A 1962 transistor radio!) Immediately all the other young hipsters take off their helmets and rip off their iPod headphones and are grooving to this guy?s tunes! The world, it is implied, has been liberated by a new gizmo and an early adopter. Bring back boom boxes on the subways!

There?s a CG cartoon ad for Coke in which a polar bear family overhears a large group of penguins romping to a Beach Boys Xmas tune ? the natural enemies meet and become friends over a Coke. Coke, not bombs.

The last ad that I remember: an SUV falls off a crane on a loading dock and continues falling through the Earth in CG animation until it erupts out of the center of a Chinese courtyard ? and somehow manages to flip itself right side up. No information given about the car. But, if it can do this?.

Do we purchase a car because the ad agency made a cute video? Is that how we make decisions? Maybe we do. Maybe the cleverness and technical virtuosity exhibited here imply to us that those same values carry over to the SUV. This would be a natural assumption to have about a person ? if a person were clever, entertaining and executed something perfectly one would probably assume they had other good qualities. And the odds might be pretty high that you?d be right. In the case of ads the cleverness and the object being promoted are separate entities ? rationally we should therefore love the ad agency and the director, not the car company that simply chose them to make the ad.

And his insight has not fallen on deaf ears. The lesson to be learned is simple: The half hour you have to wait before the movie starts could be so much better if you go with David Byrne!

UPDATE: But David’s more than just a NYE hugger and commercial critic these days; he also composed and recorded the opening theme song to Wired’s new PBS show Wired Science! Like we say, everything should have a theme song.

Tags: David Byrne