Hewlett Packard: Stick to Plan A for Plan B

I enjoyed Drum’s ad for Hewlett Packard, featuring Plan B doing She Said, which I caught a couple of weeks ago before the Tintin film:

It’s a 21st Century truism that for every artefact created, there must be a “the making of” film (because we can’t handle anyone being behind the scenes any more). Even David Attenborough devotes a precious portion of his prime time Frozen Planet slot to big up the intrepid film crews. They do a heroic job but for God’s sake keep them behind the camera. If I want to see Scottish lighting technicians getting excited, I’ll watch the Robot Wars grand final.

But I actually didn’t at all mind – and even quite enjoyed – Mr. B’s little film. He kept it nice and simple, with the reflections in the studio glass the only visual extravagance and it actually worked well. I was able to temporarily suspend my anger towards HP for ripping me off on expensive cartridges for my Photosmart Premium printer.

But if the cinema version was tight, punchy and just about got away with the tag “unpretentious”, the longer film I’ve just watched on YouTube failed on all these counts. See what you think:

Morrissey The Consumer Monkey: Fancy a Second Hand HP Printer Rejected by a Bitter Independent Research Professional?

A nice, pacey exposition of musical craft was replaced by B’s dubious musings on the profundity of his own lyrics (learn from Mark E Smith, mate, don’t discuss them), set to moody shots of said besuited soul-boy from the kind of fly-on-the-wall documentary-style filming that should be splatted with a rolled-up copy of the Racing Post.

Where it really sealed its ignimony was the sequence at the end in the Ritzy in Brixton – a venue presumably chosen for its ‘keepin’ it real’ credentials – in which The B-Meister performs some kind of free prize draw on behalf of his ink-hungry American paymasters, with the lucky winner gesticulating and whooping from the stalls like a 60s Iowa housewife. Our hero, until a minute ago telling us how much he “loves being an artist”, has been turned into a poor man’s Leslie Crowther.

Having started the ad a shuffling, broodingly porky lump of complexity in black and white, reminiscent of Robert de Niro in Raging Bull, he ends it evoking the automated toy Morrissey The Consumer Monkey, from Vic ‘N’ Bob’s Big Night Out.

So I can see she's got two apples there ... does that mean she's really got four? Or does that doubling effect not apply to pomaceous fruit?

Sophia Loren once said that “sex appeal is fifty per cent what you’ve got and fifty per cent what people think you’ve got.” Perhaps showing a little less of the artist’s musings would be a good idea if Plan B is to retain his mystique. Plan B should take a lesson from The Smiths, whose Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want is bringing joy and anguish in equal measure to their fans in the Christmas John Lewis ad. The power of hearing the track (and of the John Lewis ad) for me is in the simple rarity value of a Smiths track being used in a piece of film: getting the permission was the event and it’s got a load of publicity for John Lewis beyond the ad itself. Keeping a mystique around a band is quite a feat these days.

But perhaps the Reeves and Mortimer surreality has become the reality and Morrissey IS a consumer monkey after all. I know he’s obsessed with Fanta, if that counts. My favourite image-shattering tale of a pop-star-in-retail-environment is Stuart Maconie‘s story of having seen emotionless German electro-popsters Kraftwerk at their untouchable best on stage one night, only to spot one of them buying a tube of toothpaste in Boots the next day. Artists have to go to the shops too.

Did I ever tell you about my encounter with John Cooper Clarke in WH Smith? No really …

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About Simon Riley

Qualitative researcher in the UK. I listen to people from all walks of life and think about what it all means. I work for leading brands, media companies and government.
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