Okay, enough is enough already.
For several years, Ocean Spray has been running a long, popular series of TV ads with two supposedly real guys who stand around while one of them awkwardly and explains their beverage. Their speech and actions are stilted because, hey, these two cranberry farmers are just supposedly regular, rustic guys and not used to acting before a real camera.
I hate the ads.
I hate them for two reasons. The main reasons is because they're blatant, full-on theft of old ads from the 1980s for a product called Bartles and Jaymes Premium Wine Coolers. And the other is, being forced and fake, they're annoyingly unfunny. (Yes, I know this latter is personal taste. I'm not saying one can't enjoy them, that's personal taste, just that being "forced real" their artifice shouts through, and as such draw cloying attention to themselves and don't have the charm, whimsy and humor of the reality they're trying to pretend to be.)
But the main reason is the theft. I know that there's no copyright on two unsophisticated guys standing by themselves talking haltingly about their beverage. But I'm not saying what the ads are doing is illegal. Just that they are blatantly, shamelessly copying someone else's idea.
And B) Badly.
There's no particular reason I'm mentioning this now. I've wanted to mention it for years ever since I first saw these ads, but I've patiently put up with them. Hey, they're "just ads." But at a certain point, you just get fed up, and say, enough already.
If you don't know them, the Bartles and Jaymes ads were extremely successful and ran for quite a few years in the '80s. What distinguished them is not that they had two guys pretending to be hick farmers -- but they used two guys who actually were not actors. And it was clear that they were not actors -- including the one guy who never even spoke, just the way he moved was enough. And the ads were loaded with authenticity and charm and clever whimsy. Always ending with a polite, "Thank you for your support."
The main guy in them, David Rufkah, was a cattle rancher in real life, and a former Air Force veteran. His silent partner, Ed Maugg, was a general contractor. In the ads, they were supposedly Frank Bartles and Ed Jaymes, and their sense of reality was so strong that for quite a while that's who the public thought these two men actually were, that's how believable they were. But even when they later became famous, the fact that they weren't really Bartles and Jayme's themselves didn't impact the ads' popularity one bit. In fact, it added to some of the charm, since they were just two guys totally out of their depth, in the larger, hipper world around them.
By contrast, the forced treacly nature of the Ocean Spray guys, from the way they speak, to how they fake-awkwardly move to even what they're saying are just leaden to me. But most especially compared to the Real Thing they're copying..
And it doesn't help in the comparison when the original was so witty and wry in understanding subtlety and character. And charm.
Here's the Real Thing. You likely won't look at the fakes in the same way again.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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