Slate Takes On Crispin

Over at Slate, ad critic Seth Stevenson takes a look at Crispin’s ads, and their effect as a whole:

It’s not personal. Every Crispin employee I’ve ever spoken with has been friendly and likable. And it has nothing to do with how effective or ineffective Cripin’s ads are as sales tools. The jury’s still out on that.
No, my distaste is purely aesthetic. Crispin ads annoy me. And I’m not alone. Every time some new Crispin spot airs on TV, my inbox fills with mail from readers who are disgusted, offended, or just generally skeeved out. For example, consider the zombie Orville Redenbacher popcorn spot (reader comment: “It is one of the most horrible, stomach-turning ads I have ever seen”), or the paleo-masculine “I Am Man” Burger King spot (reader comment: “Can it get any stupider? ‘Chick food’? Throwing a minivan off an overpass? Why not just show footage of Haditha with some CG product placement?”), or the ongoing BK campaign featuring the mute, plastic-headed “King” character (reader comment: “I like BK but the king is the creepiest thing ever to appear on TV and I know many people who suffer from nightmares thanks to him and these ads”).

Then he goes on to talk about the predominance of “frat guy” ads Crispin does:

Crispin also appears to have a strange obsession with dictating the bounds of male identity. In the “Un-pimp Your Ride” spots for VW, a somewhat cruel protagonist ridicules young men who dare to seek self-expression through the art of modifying their cars. In the “Making Things Right” campaign for Haggar, two middle-aged guys gruffly rule their suburban neighborhood—advocating physical force against any young men who dare to wear earrings, or listen to rap music, or date your daughter. And then there’s that Man Law campaign for Miller, where the concept achieves its most literal form.
I hate this kind of subjugating, behavior-circumscribing, frat-guy approach to humor. I realize it appeals to a certain target demographic (i.e., fratty guys of all ages). But it repels almost everyone else. And there’s a danger in that.

What’s interesting here is that when sites like Slate, or like USA Today every Monday, do a review of recent ad campaign, they rarely focus in on the canon of one agency.
I know it’s old news for us, because we dissect Crispin’s every move, but it’s rare to read in the general media about an agency’s particular style and its impact on the culture.
Should more agencies strive to create their own “style” and then find clients that’ll fit in? ‘Cause most ad agencies are all over the board stylistically and tonally, depending on who the client is.

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About Dan Goldgeier

Dan Goldgeier is a Seattle-based freelance copywriter with experience at advertising agencies across the U.S. He is a graduate of the Creative Circus ad school, and currently teaches at Seattle's School of Visual Concepts. Dan is also a columnist for TalentZoo.com and the author of View From The Cheap Seats and Killer Executions and Scrubbed Decks.