Jeff Goldblum For PayPal Just Makes Me Nervous
by Larry Dobrow, Nov 2, 2012, 10:50 AM
On the list of traits I prize in an online provider of financial services and bank-like transactions, "quirky sense of humor" ranks right up there with "good at tennis" and "hair smells like lilacs." I don't want online financial entities with which I do business to make me chortle; I've got the delightful Tim Allen for that. No, what I want from those entities is a pledge that they'll grow my tiny pile of money into a slightly less tiny one, and that they'll do everything within their power to safeguard my personal info. I want an advocate that moonlights as a snarling guard dog. If the entity happens to come across as pleasant and punctuation-conscious in its e-dispatches, that's a happy bonus.
I bring this up in the wake of a new and sublimely misguided PayPal campaign that has been tailing me online for the last two weeks. In the clips, Jeff Goldblum does his glib-agitated-funny Jeff Goldblum thing, attempting to make a case for PayPal as the financial linchpin of my existence. He also touts PayPal's offline offerings, hoping to lure active online customers like me into using PayPal products at "[my] favorite juice shop."
Setting aside the question of whether I have a favorite juice shop -- a gentleman never tells -- the videos manage to pull off an unfortunate trick: making a likable, user-friendly company seem less likable and user-friendly. Pre-campaign, PayPal was the company that made it easy to zip my fantasy baseball entry fees to and fro, and offered a wealth of other services if I wanted them. Post-campaign, PayPal is the company that does all that, but also wants to store my credit card numbers, passwords and frequent-traveler-program data, and allow me to e-pay for my mango juice in physical stores if I'm so inclined. This is a hell of a leap to take.
And frankly, I'm hurt that PayPal went the big-ass-ad-campaign route rather than giving me the news in person (which, given the nature of modern relationships, would've meant a blandly worded promotional email). I've been tight with PayPal for the last decade and this is how they tell me that they've changed, that they've grown, that they've planted their flag in my favorite haberdashery (not that I necessarily have one)? Why am I hearing this via aggressively placed online videos, rather than directly from the source? I thought we had something.
Goldblum's twitchy monologues sure don't mitigate the unease that comes with being simultaneously underinformed and overwhelmed. I dig the guy as an actor, but he's a poor fit in the spokespersonality role, stutter-sermonizing about tango lessons, only being able to recall that his credit card number "starts with a 5... I know there's a 2 in it," and "buying a chair, while sitting in a chair -- it's a funny story." The tics and half-improvised asides end up clouding the message (namely, that PayPal has a whole lot of stuff goin' on nowadays).
Worse, he imposes a personality on a brand that has done just fine without one for quite a while. Why now, and to what end? It's like an acquaintance showing up at your front door and assuming the friendship status of a grade-school crony: too much, too soon.
Walk before you run, ride a bike with training wheels before you ride a bike without training wheels, etc. This campaign marks one of PayPal's first forays into high-profile marketing, and it shows.
Speaking of acquaintances assuming a higher level of connection: I'm writing a story for the year-end issue of MediaPost's OMMA magazine on the worst online brand/marketing videos of the past 12 months. While I certainly have my own anti-favorites, I'd like to hear yours. Send any/all nominees to LDobrow@gmail.com, with a link to the relevant clip if possible. Submissions motivated by personal or professional malice are heartily encouraged.