February 23, 2010

Olympics notes

- Isn't it odd how skier Bode Miller looks even more like George W. Bush this time around? And how skater Johnny Weir is starting to look like Michael Madsen from all those Tarantino movies?

- Have you noticed how over the years short track speed skater Apolo Anton Ohno has gone from the Newest New Thing to the Old Reliable of Winter Olympics television entertainment? Every time you see him, you know, win or lose, you are in for a few minutes of hypnotic circling suddenly devolving into some insane wipe-out that will leave every single person in South Korea extremely worked up.

- Three commercials in heavy rotation on the Olympics broadcasts -- McDonald's, Wal-Mart, and Chevy -- feature little girls' hockey teams. Is hockey supposed to be the best "keep-her-off-the-pole" talisman?

- Speaking of commercials, why don't advertisers make slight variants of their commercials to keep people from completely zoning out the 73rd time they've seen it? They shoot way more footage than they use, so why not whip up alternative versions to keep viewers awake during the Olympics? Here's an easy way to keep siblings competitively engaged: shoot three or four different punchlines and then make one slight variation in each version's set-up shots. That way, somebody who is paying close attention will be able to achieve dominance over the rest of his family by accurately predicting the punchline. It will drive his siblings crazy, so they will also study the commercials looking for clues so they can beat him to the punchline.

- Also, advertising agencies keep missing the sweet spot between too boring and too interesting that you don't notice what brand is being advertised. A lot of prestige ads that run on the Olympics are so expensive, so filled with show-offy scenes from around the world that you often lose the thread before they finally flash the sponsor's logo for 0.8 seconds at the end. I'm sure those kind of ads win awards -- nobody loves to give awards to each other more than advertising people -- but are they really effective at selling whatever sponsor that's revealed at the very end? Especially when the stylistic theme of countless commercials is exactly the same: Despite, or perhaps because of, global diversity, everybody on Earth loves us. The Globalist commercial is inherently distracting because it packs so much information demanding to be decoded into one 30-second spot that viewers' attentions are constantly tempted away from the point of the commercial into distraction and woolgathering. Professional advertising people tend to be so knowing and quick about standard visual imagery that they are clueless about what goes through other people's heads when presented with a picture of a landmark that strikes ad folks as the worst depths of cliche: Oh, look, there's that big rock that begins with an "A" in that place that begins with an "A," so that shot must be from, what, Antarctica? But, there's no snow. That big rock must be in some other large place that begins with an "A." Africa? Argentina? No, now I remember, that big rock is in Australia! Wouldn't it be awesome to visit that big rock on vacation? Out of all the big rocks in the world, I hear it's the biggest! But isn't it inconveniently out in the middle of nowhere and, in the final analysis, is just a big rock? By the way, if there's no snow in Australia, how come there are Australians in the Winter Olympics? Speaking of no snow, whatever happened to the Jamaican bobsled team? Hey, that commercial's over. What was it about, anyway? Well, never mind, we're back to the luge. Wow, von Schievenhuffel is going really fast!

Instead, why not borrow a trick from cable networks that keep a small logo up on a lower corner of the screen? Hey, this show is on the Discovery Channel! I'll have to try to remember that. Similarly, put the sponsor's logo in the corner throughout the commercial. Your ad won't win any awards and your ad agency might get sanctioned by the Advertising Council for violating the professional ethics of the advertising business by being overly attentive to the client's interests instead of to your own sense of creative self-expression, but, so what?

- In general, what human beings like is Similarity-with-Variation. That's why people enjoy the architecture of Paris more than the architecture of Magnetogorsk or Beverly Hills. In Paris, most buildings are six stories high and have mansard roof, so streets are harmonious, but there's a lot of variation within Baron Haussmann's limits. In contrast, as Woody Allen in Annie Hall and Nathanael West in Day of the Locust complained, there's too much variation in Beverly Hills: "Mexican ranch houses, Samoan huts, Mediterranean villas, Egyptian and Japanese temples, Swiss chalets, Tudor cottages, and every possible combination of these styles," scoffed West. That's what ads during the Olympics are missing: the optimal combination of continuity and difference. It's why short track speed skating is fun to watch (once every four years): everybody always goes around and around for awhile, but then something crazy happens. People like that.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

35 comments:

Anonymous said...

Steve, very insightful comments on advertising....what's your take on the sassy/cocky fox football robot? My dad can't stand him- too arrogant for a robot - shouldn't they know their place? plus it draws attention from the company's ad....rare good point by my dad. His other nugget is that refs should have chalk in their whistles so everyone can see when it blows- that idea has progressed into an elctric light which goes off since officials re-loading their whistles with chalk would be too time consuming and reminiscent of Revolutinary war soldiers.

We are only a few years away from a chip inside the football that knows when the ball breaks the plane of the goal line....can't wait, I'm giddy. And if that Fox robot ever learns to think on its own...well look out because it's a whole new ballgame.

Dan in DC

Anonymous said...

Off topic but there is a young figure skater for Australia who has the most exotic mix I've heard.

"her mother was African-American, born in Louisiana, while her father is of Chinese background but was born in Bangladesh"

http://www.theage.com.au/sport/winter-olympics/lee-is-making-all-the-right-moves-20100211-nv3i.html

josh said...

No comment on NBC running Ice Dancing instead of a great masculine and patriotic moment?

Darwin's Sh*tlist said...

Looks like somebody's been watching a lot of Mad Men on DVD.

Anonymous said...

Girls hockey might "keep-her-off-the-pole" in more ways than one.

Anonymous said...

Please give them no more ideas about commercials. We do not need more logos on the screen. Networks like G-4 are already 'serving' their viewers with a bar at the bottom with useless 'news' feeds. Not only are they useless they are really distracting. If the logos replaced the commercials that might be worth it.

josh said...

Girls--and women--playing hockey;dumbest thing I ever heard of. I surely will pass thru this life,my mortal remains slid into the yawning grave and my black soul sucked into the maw of hell-oh,sorry. Anyway,trying to say as long as I live I shant watch any womens hockey. I hate womens sports in general. Manly women beat nice girly women. Billie Jean King,after many years,admitted she was "bisexual." Ha ha ha! Bisexual. Hot porn stars are bisexual. You sir are a man! And that well known race car driver,who has won one piddling race,yet she is deluged with endorsements.Roll eyes.As a mere "yute" I was in love with one Rosemary D.,a very short and petite little girl but the smartest in class. My other love was hockey which I played all winter. One day I imagined inviting Rosemary to play hockey with us,as a way of breaking the,yes,ice. I laughed at the absudity of a girl running herself ragged playing hockey.Womens hockey--did I say it was dumb? I DO like that girl Von,she is very attractive,but the tall rangy girl is not my beau ideal. I also like Ohno,as he had the guts to stand up to the Korean. Remember,Steve and guys,the Korean boxer when the summer olympics were there,who got his ass solidly kicked by one of our fighters,a man of color I think his name was Jones--and the lousy stinking (Korean)judges gave the match to the Korean!?? I never saw such blatant cheating in my life;at least until Mark McGwire showed up!

Anonymous said...

Home Depot actually runs or has run at least 4 different versions of their "More Saving. More Doing" ads during home improvement programs in my market. They use slight variations on the music and with the cuts in a different order.

They all use this somewhat uncategorizable genre of music: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XX6zxVuDjrw

Anonymous said...

Nothing is wrong with Magnitogorsk architecture.

Instead, why not borrow a trick from cable networks that keep a small logo up on a lower corner of the screen?

Please don't give them ideas! A small logo? Nowadays these things are huge, opaque, and often animated.

eh said...

How do you find the time to watch the Olympics on TV?

jimbo said...

Hey Steve, how about some HBD ruminations on Shani Davis?

Anonymous said...

You know, if you were a little bit more of a shyster and a huckster, then you could sell advice like that for 7 figures.

Maybe 8 figures.

You shkotzim think too small.

Anonymous said...

- Isn't it odd how skier Bode Miller looks even more like George W. Bush this time around? And how skater Johnny Weir is starting to look like Michael Madsen from all those Tarantino movies?

I think Steve is watching too much TV. At any rate, god help us is Miller ever wants to run for office. Bush used to be wild man before he 'sobered' up. Miller gives us a similar narrative. He used to be Mr. Miller Time, but he's now Mr. Patriot.

Anonymous said...

Steve is back!

agnostic said...

Commercials from the 1984 Olympics:

YouTube link

That's from before the culture turned multi-culti, meta-ironic, and gay. No globalist commercials -- if anything, there's a focus on rooting for U-S-A.

No lame and vainglorious attempt to fob off commercials as concept art -- just straight talk about product quality, affordable prices, and pitching in to serve the consumer. Plus scenes of people getting together to have fun.

Notice how many of the commercials begin with a show of the sponsor's logo or drop their name early on, rather than conceal it.

As for similarity with variation, if I remember correctly, those McDonalds "When the U.S. wins, you win" commercials were like that. They had ordinary people thrust into different Olympic sports in their imagination.

Captain Jack Aubrey said...

By the way, if there's no snow in Australia, how come there are Australians in the Winter Olympics?

Actually they do have snow and skiing in Australia, as I learned while watching some arthouse movie on the telly a few years back about a girl who runs away from home to live in a ski town. The movie was called (TGFG) "Somersault." Thredbo Village is one Australian ski resort.

Even if they didn't have snow in Australia I imagine they'd have some sort of "winter" sports competition, as the Aussies seem to be among the most competitive people on the planet, sports-wise, who perform well beyond their numbers in the Summer Olympics. In medal counts the Aussies were 5th in 2008, 4th in 2004 (tied with Deutschland), 4th in 2000, and 5th in 1996. So here we have a country with 22 million people that is routinely besting all but 3 or 4 much larger countries in the Olympics medal count - a phenomenon all in itself. Of course like every other Western country while it's hypercompetitive on the athletic field it is rapidly letting itself be overrun at home by third worlders, but oh well.

All that really has nothing to do with your post, I guess.

Anonymous said...

The explosion of girls hockey teams in the past decade is a fascinating sociological phenomenon. Is it white middle class girls retreating to a sport where they won't face competition from blacks? Is it just a sign of the de-feminizing, distinct from over-sexualizing, of female youth culture? (Maybe and no are my guesses.) One thing to keep in mind is there's been a parallel rise in synchronized skating, which demands girls be feminine and indistinguishable while performing. I don't know what hockey girls did before now (soccer maybe?) but synchro has definitely benefited at the expense of singles/freestyle. The camaraderie and much less demanding synchro (both financially and in skills) has been sucking up young skaters for a while now, which may explain why the US is unlikely to medal tonight.

Simon said...

Funny, I hate the architecture of Paris!

ricpic said...

The wisest comment I ever heard regarding advertisement is that what counts is not the brilliance or even effectiveness of this or that particular ad or commercial, what counts is the appetite teasing masturbatory consumerist sea we swim in, revved up by ALL the ads, good bad or indifferent.

ironrailsironweights said...

Remember,Steve and guys,the Korean boxer when the summer olympics were there,who got his ass solidly kicked by one of our fighters,a man of color I think his name was Jones--and the lousy stinking (Korean)judges gave the match to the Korean!?? I never saw such blatant cheating in my life;at least until Mark McGwire showed up!

Not that it worked out so badly in the long run. Roy Jones, Jr. went on to have an excellent and highly lucrative professional career, winning titles in four different weight divisions, and is still active at age 41.* Meanwhile, the winner of the controversial bout, Park Si-Hun, never fought professionally.

* = Jones will be fighting the Dorian Gray-ish Bernard Hopkins in a couple of months; the combined ages of the fighters will be 86.

Peter

josh said...

The "shkotzim", thats a new one!

Dahlia said...

Guess who rang the NY Stock Exchange closing bell?

Shaun White, LOL!

http://www.nydailynews.com/money/2010/02/23/2010-02-23_usa_gold_medalist_shaun_white_rings_closing_bell_at_new_york_stock_exchange.html

Seriously, I'd like to know the Sailer take on why this guy is so popular. I know he is just such a dominant athlete in his sport and is personable, but I don't think that explains all of it. I'm not even sure why I like him!

My mom has as her favorite Apolo Ohno, but he just doesn't have the following of White. Vonn is behind White, but distantly. Why? Even guys seem to have crushes on him.

mark said...

While Australia doesn't have many good places to ski New Zealand has a few quite good places (further south, higher mountains) which are only a short plane ride from Sydney or Melbourne.

Some in New Zealand hold dreams of hosting the Winter Olympics although I think they will forever remain dreams (but not because of the lack of snow).

Dahlia said...

OTH, Kyra Phillips is shameless with her hitting on Shaun White. It's that bad. See video.
http://www.nypost.com/p/blogs/popwrap/watch_cnn_anchor_shamlessly_hit_2Gq0YOfgcq0KVWn7hASB0L

"About an hour ago, I turned around to see my co-worker staring at the television in horror. Now, this typically doesn't have a good track record in my office: plane crashes, building collapses, unqualified Alaskan governors being tapped for the vice presidency. But this time, there was nothing but brilliance flickering across the screen.

What my colleague couldn't tear herself away from was CNN Anchor Kyra Phillips blatantly hitting on US Olympian Shaun White during their brief chat this morning. Now, look, far be it from me to judge those who use the guise of professionalism to mask secret sexual agendas (Eliza Dushku! Nathan Fillion! Cookie Monster!), but even I've never been this blatantly obvious.

Show a little respect Kyra, this is Vogue CNN!"

rob said...

The explosion of girls hockey teams in the past decade is a fascinating sociological phenomenon. Is it white middle class girls retreating to a sport where they won't face competition from blacks?

Probably the fathers' influence. If your son plays sports with black kids, well black behavior isn't far from teen boys' goals. But my God, your daughter being influenced by the sexual behavior of her black teammates? Hockey is way safer than that.

MacSweeney said...

Every single commercial having a cutesy Olympic spin to it gets really irritating after a while. It's to the point where a commercial gets instant affection from me by simply NOT doing it.

Reg Cæsar said...

In general, what human beings like is Similarity-with-Variation.

On Tin Pan Alley, this was called "the same, only different".

When everything in a city is the same height, that generally means the land is popular, but construction is restricted. Downtown Washington is a good example.

But what explains the uniformity of color in such cities-- grey in Washington, brown in Paris, yellow in Barcelona?

Reg Cæsar said...

Some in New Zealand hold dreams of hosting the Winter Olympics although I think they will forever remain dreams (but not because of the lack of snow). --Mark

There's a vigorous discussion of a winter Kiwilympiad here.

I think a better idea would be for the Southern Hemisphere nations with winter facilities to stage their own games in the July preceding the Summer Olympics. Call it the "Lyric Games", after the southern constellation. Other potential host countries besides New Zealand would be Australia, Argentina, Chile, South Africa, perhaps Lesotho or one of the high Andean lands.

Tom Regan said...

As other posters mentioned, Australia does have snowfields in the mountains roughly between Canberra and Melbourne.
However many of Australia's top winter Olympians are imports.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of McDonalds I was quite surprised to see one of their Olympic commercials featuring a middle class white family. In this ad, mom and dad buy a happy meal to take home to junior. Dad carries the meal hoping the kid will thank him, but the kid takes the meal from him and thanks mom instead.

I did not notice it was a McDonalds commercial until the third time I saw it. I had grown used to McDonald's commercials being geared toward the "urban" and "ethnic" markets.

I wonder if McDonald's is trying to change their marketing strategy, or if they just realize that whites are the only ones who watch the winter games.

Anonymous said...

Ineffective Olympic ads?...you gotta be crappin' us, Steve. The Scientologists alone will recruit enough 17-21 year old pod-people to refresh their ranks for a generation. Hell, I think 70%+ of the Olympians are already Scientologists.

Whiskey said...

Steve is right that most advertising exists not to sell the product of the sponsor but to win awards and insider approbation of the mostly female and gay advertising staff.

Look at what NBC is advertising now. Back in 1984, the A-Team was running on NBC, now you have ... a bunch of fat people being screamed at by gay guys and diva-esque personal trainers, fat guys doing tricks on TV, celebrities laughing along with Jerry Seinfeld (remember when he was actually funny?) at ordinary people ... and celebrity genealogy.

Sure, I want to know who Sarah Jessica Parker was descended from (my suspicion? Mr. Ed!) or take marriage advice from Charlie Sheen and Alec ("Rude Little Pig") Baldwin. But this sort stuff just rules with women.

Girls hockey is one of those "sorting out" sports. You have to be middle class to afford the equipment and ice fees. Its good along with Golf to get into a near Ivy to Ivy with a scholarship (women's sports are preferred due to Title IX).

But it does compete with the overt sexualization of teen/tween culture, with Exhibits A, B, C, and D being Miley Cyrus pole dancing at the Nickelodeon Awards, the Twilight books/movies, Gossip Girl, and Sex and the City (tween girl fanbase, believe it or not, in TBS re-runs).

I suspect the end result will be a mixture, a sort of class snobbery, mixed with ultra-permissive sexual behavior. The teen equivalent of Susan Sarandon visiting an "edgy" performance art venue to get Barfed upon. I kid you not.

David said...

> most advertising exists not to sell the product of the sponsor but to win awards and insider approbation of the mostly female and gay advertising staff <

Some of it is just straight corporate boasting/masturbation. Witness the ads for things like giant corps that put out no product for the average consumer. "Acme Global - our corporate clients say they value us 10 to 1 over Global Amalgamated!" Who cares? It's the equivalent of an office newsletter being broadcast to the world, at exorbitant cost. Masturbation and status-seeking and one-up-man-ship - thatz American capitalism (along with outsourcing, racing-to-the-bottom, and nation-wrecking...)

Anonymous said...

As other posters mentioned, Australia does have snowfields in the mountains roughly between Canberra and Melbourne.

The island state of Tasmania also has snowfields.

headache said...

OT, but this just in:
Pfund mit Gewichtsverlust

Britain apparently no better than the European PIGS states. Seems only the Nordic countries, Germany, Austria and the Netherlands have their houses in order.