Watch Me Entertain Myself!

Sacha Guitry once said, "You can pretend to be serious, but you can't pretend to be witty." Oh yes, I'm the great pretender.
(pilot episode: 20 January 2004)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Coke Dupe

When the video went viral before Christmas of last year, so many of my Facebook friends posted the video on their walls. All of them had positive comments about the video, saying that they were touched or they cried or they remembered their loved ones. Some also said that it was a piece of great marketing.

Truth be told, while I was watching the clip for the first time, I found myself getting teary-eyed, especially upon seeing the surprised reactions of the family members when they saw who was at the door. And who wouldn’t be touched? The reactions were genuine and true. If they’ve never seen their son or their mother for such a long time, wouldn’t they be overjoyed? Wouldn’t tears flow?

However, after seeing the whole clip I walked away feeling not as bowled over as some of my FB friends were. In fact I didn’t bother sharing the clip on my FB timeline. After a while I started asking myself, “What was wrong with the Coke commercial? What was about it that left an uneasy feeling in me after watching it?”

Then it hit me.

It was the staging of it all, how manipulative, how calculated it all was. Even the scoring was brilliantly executed to give the viewers the emotional rush: pensive at the start, when the OFWs were narrating their sad state abroad; upbeat excitement as they head home, then plaintive solo piano to further emphasize the natural sounds of surprised gasps, joyful squeals and tearful speeches; and finally, an uplifting score to match the happiness in the end.

What bothered me even more was how certain shots were obviously staged, maybe even directed, especially in the “happy-ending” scenes were the Coke products were oh so prominently displayed. It’s clear that the subjects knew they were being filmed. Sure, they may not have known the arrival of their loved one, but still, the mere presence of a camera crew alone will have an effect on their behavior. And that gives the production people the license to “stage” certain shots, knowing that their subjects will react in a manner expected of them when their being filmed by Coke:
“Here’s the lechon, clap everybody!”
“We’re having a family meal together for the first time in years, clap everybody!”
“Coke is being served, smile everybody! Laugh!”
“Okay now, group hug!”

Yes, even I fell for it. The surprise and the tears were genuine. But beyond that, everything about it is manipulative. Had they resorted to hidden cameras, I’d grudgingly give them props for that; at least the subjects had no idea they were being filmed.

When the viral clip of the 100-year-old sharing the secret to happiness started doing the rounds on Facebook, I saw how the woman giving birth was so akting-na-akting. So I said, “Cut the crap, Coke.”


rudeboy said...

Ah, Joel. We are in an industry where we manufacture dreams and illusions in the service of commerce, after all.

It's strange, though, that despite knowing fully-well where the strings are and who's doing the tugging, we sometimes fall for our own devices.

I guess human responses are more predictable - and therefore manipulable - than we're willing to admit.

joelmcvie said...

@RUDEBOY: Hehehe, to be fair I did fall for the hard-to-fake and therefore possibly the most genuine thing on the clip: the reactions upon seeing their loved one (as well as, I think, most viewers too).

Yes, human responses are more predictable and manipulable, thus the success of this clip, the 100-yr old man, and a lot of Steven Spielberg's earlier movies. And that's why our industry still lives.

Justin C. said...

I didn't like the commercial of the 100-yr old man. Centenarians should be prohibited from drinking sodas. it's bad for their health.

Kiks said...

well, that's why they are effective, mcvie.

the companies know in which part of the heart, or the medulla oblongata, the likes of Coca Cola would pinch. otherwise, that project would not have sold and they won't be earning billions in pinas.

as for the OFW project, it slaps one back to the reality that the manila government isnt really doing anything to resolve the issue. parang au naturel na ang paglabas ng mga tao to find work abroad - like forced migration is the new way of life.

with that, i say, pardon my words, fuck the government for doing so.

itsyaboykorki said...

oohhh coke

ethan h said...

My background is in Marketing.

When I told family and friends that the OFW material is "produced" and that it was staged and these were actors, they all called me cynical and jaded.