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What Can Bran Do For You?

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This series takes a candid look at the advertising being crammed onto your television screens and into your heads. Is it really good advertising, or just wasting a commercial break? Reader suggestions are always welcome.

In writing this series, and participating in the discussions it has created, I've learned to explain myself a little better. I understand that the point of advertising is not merely to have a guy stand in front of the camera and say, "This is our new product, you should buy it."

Advertising needs to be clever and entertaining, so that the company can keep its audience captive long enough to pay attention to what they are selling, and so there can be a way of getting you to think about their product subconsciously. The best way to do that is to make an advertisement that sticks in your brain, and by remembering the ad, you remember their product.

That being said, there are two sides to the coin – smart clever and stupid clever. Stupid clever is easy, all you have to do is make an ad about dick and fart jokes, and maybe even be metaphorical about it. Smart clever takes a lot more work, because often times you want the clever parts to be subtle enough that the audience has to really be paying attention to get it.

I personally think smart clever (for instance, a lot of the European advertising, which can be smart even when it's dumb) is the better move, because when you force the audience to really pay attention to your ad in order to get the jokes, you are in turn forcing them to really focus on the product you are peddling, which (theoretically) makes it stick with them better.

The idea behind this series is that most American advertisers seem to disagree. Our latest culprit is All-Bran cereal, a product of Post. Surely most of you, who have been in this world of ours for a while, are familiar with the product. All-Bran cereal, like any other bran product, is very high in fiber, and thusly helps keep your bowel movements "regular" (in frequency and consistency, among other qualities).

However, Post apparently disagrees, and feels you need a fresh reminder of exactly what All-Bran is capable of doing.

Granted, anyone who is merely giving passing interest to this commercial may only take note of the construction worker and his conversation about having problems staying regular, and how All-Bran's 10 Day Challenge helped solve that problem. Obviously, there really is no Challenge, you don't win any prizes or anything like that. Much like Activia, everyone's new favorite yogurt, All-Bran is merely promising that if you take a product that makes you go to the bathroom, after a short period of regular usage you will feel more able to go to the bathroom.

However, unlike Activia, All-Bran feels the need to take it a step further. Instead of people telling you how it made them feel more regular, they need to bombard us with metaphors. We start with the line "something had to give" followed by a steel beam being pulled from a wall. Then we transition to a truck being cleverly positioned behind Mr. Construction Worker so that it looks like large granite boulders are falling out his backside. We finish with him perched next to a truck which subsequently dumps a large load of bricks.

Last but not least, in case the point hadn't hit home just yet, they finish off with what is apparently the latest slogan, "Do It. Feel It."

This time, I will even throw in not one, but two different European ads for the same product, as an example of what I think is truly clever. These ads show the product, but have an ad that isn't really about the product. You have to be quick to get the joke – like the cleverly worded "Reckon you could pass one of those bricks?" – which means paying attention, which means extra attention on the product.

Thanks, people from Post cereal. Do I appreciate the digestive benefits of your bran cereal? Absolutely. Do I need an advertisement full of heavy-handed verbal and visual metaphors to remind me? Not really. Sorry All-Bran, but I'm not buying it.

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About Geeves the Butler

  • I like this. There should be more deconstructing of advertising going on – knowing the methods by which advertising becomes efficacious is one step to erasing the disease of the passive consumer. Good job!

  • Great idea and well done.

    One thing, the two ads you link to are the same ad, not different ones. Oh, and they are Australians not Europeans!