Thursday, October 23, 2008

Late Night Sideshow

Late night television is a mysterious world of locally produced advertisements full of strange characters and bizarre commercial premises. These commercials do not have the talent or the budget to create the typical desires of the commodity self. Rather they create a desire similar to a circus sideshow, where unique acts and displays draw you closer by their curious nature. In Cleveland Ohio, there is a furniture store called Norton Furniture that airs its commercials late at night. These commercials feature the owner, Marc Brown, in some very odd circumstances that are loosely tied into the store’s credit policy. These advertisements seem to capture the essence of the sideshow, creating an attraction so unique you can only experience first-hand to believe it. To describe the advertisement to another person is impossible. You have to see it to believe it. The novelty of these commercials lends itself well for word-of-mouth advertising, and in this we find the desire created by the Norton Furniture commercials. “Bragging-rights” would be the best term to describe this desire. It is the desire to be the first person to find the strange and sometimes funny commercials to show off to your friends. It’s as if to say, “I may have become a major player in the success of this commercial because I found it first and I shared it with everyone!” These commercials, by their bizarre qualities, create a desire to share the experience.

In one his commercials, we find Marc in his store surrounded by several lifelike animals and the sounds of a very active jungle. Marc, in his raspy voice and awkward hand gestures, then addresses the audience directly telling them that “. . . seriously, if you can’t get credit in my store (pause) you can’t get credit anywhere.” He then walks over to a mannequin dressed as a police officer asking it to help him. The viewer is left dumbfounded. Questions like, “What was that?” and “Is this guy for real?” will flood the viewers head. Usually the next step for the viewer is to call a friend over to confirm that the commercial is incredibly odd and perhaps funny. The viewer may then try to share the experience of the commercial with more people and so on and so on.

This low budget, bizarre commercial design has been adopted by Absolute Vodka in an advertisement featuring Kayne West. The commercial is set up like a short info-mercial selling a tablet that can transform you into Kayne West. This commercial is trying to create the desire of sharing to help circulate itself by word-of-mouth. However, it does not have the same effect because it utilizes a very well known vodka and a very well known pop music artist.

The novelty of these commercials is found in its hacky, low budget quality, and it is these qualities that may inspire ridicule from the viewer. But, that ridicule will make the advertisement memorable for the viewer and create the desire to share it with other viewers. The draw of the unique and bizarre is more powerful that many people realize.

Nathan Irish

TA Kate Brandt

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