Aug 11

The joy of hordes

I’m a sucker for big ads. I’m talking cast-of-thousands ads. The ones that require a director to be half artist and half general.

I’m enamored of these ads because (1) you can find new details every time you watch, and (2) I’m jealous that I’ve yet to work on one of these things myself. Surely fun is more intense on a grand scale.

My fault. I could just as easily have started a script with “Open on screaming horde of 3,000 running across a field” instead of “Open on couple seated in cafe.” What was I thinking.

Here are four really good cast-of-thousands ads to stir your love of the genre, starting with the new ad from IKEA that inspired this topic.

Not too long ago, Comcast gave us their “Field” commercial. The HD war is over, they said, illustrating the concept by having an army of HD channels overrun the old-school, boring businessmen of the satellite world.

I featured this crazy horde ad for the Motorola Cliq phone when it first appeared, but bring it back because it fits today’s topic. It’s filled with cast-of-thousands goodness.

The grand-daddy of them all is the following ad from Carlton. They not only had fun making The Big Ad, they ridicule the idea of making a big ad in the first place. I give this ad my highest rating partly because I love it and partly because Brits are funnier than we are. (Update 8:55pm, 8/17: Oops. My mistake. Carlton Draught is Australian, and so is the agency that created the ad. So the Americans get pushed down one more notch on the humor scale.)

My life goal remains unchanged: if I can’t write one of these spots one day, I would at least like to be cast in one. I’m sure I could wear funny clothes and stumble on cue.

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  • MikeP

    A quick correction Ken, Carlton Draft is from Australia. (We Aussies are also funnier than you; sometimes.)

    As an Australian living in Korea at present, watching that ad just makes me want go home and drink some bloody beer.

  • Paul B

    Thanks Mike, you just pipped me at the post. Brits indeed! We might have a sense of humour but that’s going too far.

    Otherwise love your stuff Ken.

  • ken segall

    I’m humiliated! I stand corrected. I guess this betrays the fact that I don’t really drink beer — I just like the ads. Thanks for the correction, and I will fix at once.

  • Pepe

    Ken – See if you can convince that robotic eye in your masthead to double as a fact checker.

  • Saman

    Hi Ken, Long time reader, first time poster. Just wanted to let you know about a couple of things that might interest you.
    1. We have a show on Australia’s ABC called Gruen Transfer which is all about advertising. You can catch it on the net and I highly recommend it for you.
    2. In Australia there is an advertising code that does not allow beer ads to glamourise beer like Coke ads for example. You would have noticed the men in the Carlton ad all were fat and not handsome. This is a result of this code.
    3. The Ikea Gö ad was also shot here in Sydney. First time I saw it was on your site. It looked like Sydney suburbia. They called it a fun day out for couples. My wife and I declined since they were not paying and expected you to be available for the full day.

  • ken segall

    Thank you for a most informative comment. I was unaware of all three of your points, and I think I’m a better person now. I just watched an episode of The Gruen Transfer and found it to be really interesting — a nice blend of advertising fun and serious conversation, well produced. Ad people would do well to watch it and expose themselves to categories and intelligent opinions they might not encounter in their daily grind. I will now become a regular watcher. I was going to ask what “Gruen Transfer” actually meant, then I remembered this thing called Google…

    So thanks for speaking up. Much appreciated.

  • Tom

    Hey Ken,

    you left out this The Axe-commercial (slightly-NSFW):

    Great examples otherwise!

    On a side note, how do you feel about the fact that IKEA only shows it’s brand name in the last seconds of the commercial?
    It might spoil the apotheosis a bit, but I reckon that not showing it until the last few seconds might infer with the ad’s effectiveness.

  • ken segall

    Thanks, yet another spot to add to our collection. A far nicer looking horde than the one Carlton Draught was allowed to show too :)

    I don’t have any problem not showing the brand name until the end. If you’ve succeeded in keeping someone’s attention that long, the reveal is more effective — and it’s hard to turn away from those first 25 seconds.