Commentary

Pestilence, Death, Sloth -- And Other Bewildering Moments In The Latest Facebook Ad

Facebook recently launched "Airplane," its second-ever TV spot, via Best Agency in the World, (and that's a fact, son!), from Wieden+Kennedy/Portland.

WK’s first effort for FB sold us on the idea that the social network was like a chair. Surprisingly analog (it focused on everything but how users interact with Facebook), it was also really terrible.

Still, creating terrific, big-budget old-school TV commercials is second nature to this top creative shop. Think of such iconic works as “It’s Halftime in America” for Chrysler, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like,” for Old Spice, and the hundreds of beloved, award-winning spots they have produced for Nike over the years.

Plus, this new commercial promotes “Home,” a highly anticipated new Facebook feature for Android smartphones. Specificity is what was missing in the first spot.

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Given all that, this one should have been a home run, or any other sports analogy you’re into. 

Um, it’s worse. Really. The first was at least beautiful to look at, if also obtuse and tone-deaf. This one is seriously creepy, chaotic, claustrophobic, and also obtuse and tone-deaf. An alternative title could be “Cats on a Plane!”

The intention, I guess, was to have the FB experience seem so immersive that it comes alive right in front of your eyes!

Yeah -- why not spend a fortune in production to stir up all our fears of being stuck in a flying tin can with a guy who unleashes anarchy and refuses to turn off his effing phone, even when the fiight attendant warns him to do so? (And though it might refer to the Alec Baldwin incident, it’s not at all charming or amusing here.)

A YouTube blurb explains: “A very boring business trip gets a lot less boring, when Facebook Home brings a guy's friends on the journey with him.” It also notes that this guy is “not half as conservative as his khakis might convey.”

My takeaway was that he’s your typical hipster type, with oversized black glasses and a three-day beard -- I never noticed the boring or conservative parts. But I was alarmed that the first thing he did was open the overhead to check on the men squished in there on either side of the aisle. (Both nearly naked, they were supposed to be chillaxing on vacation, see, posting their pictures on FB. But the alarming visual suggested that they were packed into coffins --  yeah, they’re really chillin’!)

Then, with a mere flick, he releases a bunch of drag queens, one of whom rolls down the aisle in the food cart. Ha ha, see, he’s not so boring! The secret life of traveler X is full of naughty secrets! (FB has a terrific history of supporting the LBGT community. This is a wrongheaded way of showing it.)

He then clicks on a photo of his nephew -- the only nine-year-old kid in America who wears a jacket and bow tie (as well as a face full of cake) to his own birthday party.

Okay, I get it. It’s Felliniesque, or something.

The last thing he does-- after being told to shut his phone off -- is “like” a picture with two cats. The feline felons then run over the heads of his fellow passengers.

He’s a Hipster Hoarder who has unloaded his whole messy history in a tiny, crowded public space. Ewww.

It’s like watching “The Birds” in 60-second form.

If they’re trying to reach younguns, it’s the opposite strategy of the one Facebook needs to pursue. Accessibility is not the problem. Au contraire, kids want more control, more privacy, and more exclusivity in their social interactions. That’s why they’re fleeing FB: they’re seeing the downside of documenting every second of their lives so that strangers can come across their unseemly, but seemingly undeletable, posts and pictures from their pasts.

That goes too, for turning on your phone and having your Facebook world explode on your home page, which is really all “Home” does. I prefer having an app for that, so that I can get to other, less time-sucky stuff first.

Also unspoken is that this immediate, bouncy, immersion in all things Facebook will make it easier for advertisers to track all the crazy fun. That, too, is the opposite of what most human demos -- never mind 18-24s -- want.

I find it hard to believe that there’s nothing fresh or fun here -- that this monster company in the social space can’t come up with a decent ad that connects. It’s the Emperor’s New Hoodie: Part Deux.

7 comments about "Pestilence, Death, Sloth -- And Other Bewildering Moments In The Latest Facebook Ad".
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  1. Jonathan McEwan from MediaPost, April 12, 2013 at 5:07 p.m.

    For irony's sake, I think I'll like this on Facebook...

  2. George Parker from Parker Consultants, April 12, 2013 at 8:41 p.m.

    The W+K mantle of integrity has passed from Portland to the London office. Besides the Facebook shit, look at the Velveeta Smithy rogering simpering housewives on his steaming anvil (Sorry, Barbara, got carried away there!) Portland is now demonstrating the truth of what dear old dead Jay Chiat once said... "I can't wait to see how big we get before we turn to shit." Careful Portland, you don't have to answer to a BDHC. Get a grip.
    Cheers/George "AdScam" Parker

  3. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited, April 12, 2013 at 8:45 p.m.

    Portland is also home to Portlandia and Grimm. Keep following those breadcrumbs kiddies and your world can blow up.

  4. Michalis Michael from DigitalMR Ltd., April 13, 2013 at 4:37 a.m.

    Barbara, interesting strong views. I can simply say , I liked the one with the chair and did not like the airplane one. I wonder if the agency did copy testing before they launched this. And if they did I wonder what profile of people did they test it with. My passion is private online communities for co-creation and facebook is a huge one. Their ad agency could do wonders with access to so many respondents! Best Michalis

  5. Carol Gray from WriteAway, April 13, 2013 at 3:07 p.m.

    Love the emperor's new hoodie! Brilliant!

  6. Barbara Lippert from mediapost.com, April 13, 2013 at 6:37 p.m.

    Thanks, everyone. @George-- I can't believe I left this out, but it's there is one saving grace for the spot: the TUBA music!
    it's very distinctive. For realz.

  7. George Parker from Parker Consultants, April 14, 2013 at 6:04 p.m.

    Barbara...
    The new spot is even fucking weirder. ZuckerNozzle delivers his lines as if he has a broomstick up his arse. My favorite bit is when the goat screams at him to shut the fuck up! Even his employees (they are actually the ones who developed "Home') look at him like he's a douchenozzle (OK, a very rich douchenozzle) By the way... Their offices look like shit! Not the kinda place I would like to "Lean In!" Gotta go... Tuba lessons call.
    Cheers/George

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