Justin Timberlake thinks the customers for 901 Tequila are "smart," too smart to be sold to in the obvious ways. "We're not car salesmen" he explains in a video about the videos he directed for the 901 Tequila brand at 901Stories.com. Apparently Timberlake is also the CEO of the "ultra-premium" tequila brand, so he is vested in this project on a few levels.
Well the "too-smart-for-advertising" consumer is pretty much the new way acquisitive consumers like to see themselves, and this brandertainment enterprise obliges with a lush series of expensively produced visions that aspire to (I kid you not) "epic" proportions. The three spots are in the "Tequila is Liberty" series. Granted they are not the kind of branded entertainment Webisodes we are used to seeing from Topps and IKEA in recent years. They take the entertain-us-don't-sell-us spirit of brandertainment and stuff it into a typical TV ad space, mix in a splash of pretentiousness and they get, well, something worse.
There are three short spots in the series. "Improved by Use" has a pompous jackass strutting through a club thoroughly unaware that he is a pompous jackass and dissing the crowd of sheepish partygoers for not being as impressively individualistic (or jackasstic) as he. I am not sure the ad knows that the guy is a pompous jackass either, by the way. Leggy women dominate the other two spots. In "Risk and Peril" a dominatrix ironically speaks of the freedom of men while two of them are bound to chairs. And in "Let Them Eat Cake" a self-assured woman in lingerie gives yet another soliloquy on personal empire-building.
901 Tequila is using these power monologues to dramatize its "revolutionary spirit." It "compels its users to elevate themselves from the everyday norm," the company says in its announcement of the campaign. "It is deliberately mysterious and sensational to heighten audience intrigue, utilizing excerpts from the pages of history's greatest stories. Each ad is an epic monologue creating experiential filmic dispatches... ."
It goes on like this, so I have to bring it to a stop.
They're not epic anything. They are no more or less advertising than the typical car ad, really. The point of the painfully self-conscious and poorly acted monologues are to get us to the product. They are spots that delude themselves somehow into thinking they are not spots. Remarkably, Timberlake, who makes his "directorial debut" in these spots, is an actor and comedian himself but doesn't get his principals to emote and deliver the strained speeches with any of the hard edge they need. Perhaps they will work better when seen apart from the main site and individually as pre-rolls. The campaign, done with The Martin Agency, is slated to run on video sites around the Web in coming weeks, followed by a print and TV run. Segregated from their silly ambitions the spots could arrest some attention at least. Well, the leggy women will. Which is sort of what traditional advertising always has done. Start this 'revolution' without us.