Aiming For Humor, Ocean Spray's Anti-Regulatory Video Falls Flat

by , Nov 21, 2012, 3:52 PM
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Of all the peripheral foodstuffs on the Thanksgiving table, cranberries get the least respect. They're both underserved and underrated -- the Bill Wyman to the turkey's Mick Jagger, the “Star Wars Episode VI" to stuffing's “Star Wars Episode V.” Imagine their fate if they weren't so darn yummy, appealingly gelatinous and appropriately sized for purposes of dinner-plate tectonics.

So it felt like destiny when a paid-for tweet by the cranberry tub-thumpers at Ocean Spray bumped into my feed on Monday. Finally, somebody standing up for the sturdy, robust cranberry, right around the time of year when it needs an advocate most. The tweet proposed a your-click-for-our-video swap, just the kind of offer that Web denizens in the throes of pre-holiday torpor can't refuse. (Excellent timing by the sponsored-tweet-placer-people, by the way.)

As it turns out, Ocean Spray doesn't just care about the cranberry that will tumble gently, sweetly onto your plate tomorrow afternoon. No, mostly it's concerned about its Shaq-vs.-Kobe-level beef with the government, which has listed cranberry juice alongside other sugary drinks that it has targeted for regulation or mandatory voluntary desweetification or whatever. The battle lines aren't entirely clear, other than that the government sees some benefit in protecting its charges from mainlining fructose.

To combat this creeping libertarianism and curry public favor, Ocean Spray has taken the obvious first step: birthed a "funny" video for pro-cranberry-juice apostles to watch on their intelliphones and Internet computers. The not-at-all-awkwardly named "Bog Guys Boast Cranberry Benefits With Ocean Spray CEO" depicts a phone call between Ocean Spray prexy Randy Papadellis and the titular Bog Guys, two hayseed cranberry dudes described in the clip's YouTube blurb as "comical growers." The CEO asks the dimwits to rebroadcast his propaganda, but they might not be up to the task. Hilarity, presumably, ensues.

Except that it doesn't. It's one thing to come across as unfunny; it happens to all of us, except maybe Christopher Guest, on a regular basis. But it's entirely another to come across as both unfunny and borderline duplicitous. Clearly the point of "Bog Guys" is to rally cranberry juice devotees (raising hand) to make some noise about the idiocy of lumping Ocean Spray beverages into a group with soda or 16-hour-alertness potions. Unfortunately, the intent is so transparent -- and, depending on whom you ask, the message so misleading -- that it nukes any and all humor in its immediate vicinity.

During the phone call, Papadellis asks one of the two goobers to remember three important messages about cranberries. The first has something to do with nutrients, the third with balanced diets. It's the second that sets off my stealth-agenda alarm: "Unlike grapes, apples and oranges, cranberries are naturally low on sugar and require some sweetening to be enjoyed." Sounds a bit more involved than "has lots of nutrients" and "is part of a balanced diet," no?

Not that "Bog Guys" is helped by the obviousness of the rest of the humor -- goober number one starts his spiel before the phone rings, goober number two answers the call on a circa “Wall Street” phone -- but the underhanded message delivery kills it dead, and harshes my cranberry mellow in the process. Ocean Spray produces a whole lot of videos for online consumption. The company should stick to presenting its case with a minimum of whimsy.

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