'Mrs. Robinson' ad shows how to reach viewers
Forty years ago, "The Graduate" was released to great acclaim. In the film, Ben (Dustin Hoffman) returns home after his university graduation and falls in love with childhood friend Elaine. The final church scene in which Elaine runs away with Ben from the altar where she was about to marry another man is a classic of movie history. The film also features a memorable Simon and Garfunkel song.
I attended an all-night showing of world commercials at movie theater in Tokyo's Shinjuku district.
In one ad, Dustin Hoffman, now much older, speeds in an Audi car to a church, as the song "Mrs. Robinson" blasts.
This time, though, he is the father of the bride. He re-enacts his old scene: banging on the locked door, racing up the stairs and screaming the girl's name. She runs out of the church. In the car as they drive away, he tells her, "Just like your mother." (The commercial has not been aired on TV here.)
I saw 500 commercials that night. The annual paid event started nine years ago. About 1,000 people spent seven hours enjoying innovative commercials from 50 countries.
Some were so funny that they did not require subtitles. There were also serious ones addressing social issues such as AIDS. Either way, most of them were entertaining and I can understand why the event is popular.
Japanese commercials are usually short, lasting only 15 or 30 seconds. Perhaps because of time constraints, it is difficult to both sell products and entertain at the same time. So I felt the Japan efforts tended to rely more on the popularity of the celebrities in the ads rather than a good story that makes the commercials fun.
A recent newspaper article described a survey that found that some commercials have the opposite effect than intended because of how they are presented.
The survey, conducted by a team of researchers led by Hirobumi Sakaki, a Keio University professor of social psychology, found that 86 percent of viewers feel annoyed when commercials interrupt programs just before the show's climax. Messages like, "We will show you this dramatic ending right after a commercial break" tend to really annoy viewers.
Furthermore, 34 percent said they hate such breaks so much that they refuse to buy the advertised product.
Advertisers cannot afford to lose customers after spending so much on their commercials. Naturally, companies want to cool-headedly measure the effectiveness of their ads.
How can advertisers entertain consumers and also lure them into buying their products? They should try captivating the viewer from time to time.
--The Asahi Shimbun, Nov. 27(IHT/Asahi: November 28,2007)