You may remember Steve Delahoyde from his sound-off last year on the Netflix rate hike. Or you may know him for his funny short films, the likes of which he will be showing at Monday's Funny Ha-Ha. Today though I'm letting him go off on a Jaguar commercial that filled him with so much rage that he ended up writing a fairly lengthy discourse on how much he can't stand it. He does work in the advertising realm, so he knows of which he speaks, but really, I just think he was crabby when he sent this to me.
Outside of the Super Bowl or some live televised event that can't be missed, not many of us watch commercials anymore. That's unfortunate because, when done well, they can be instances of filmmaking at its best. Something beautifully shot, touching, well-cast and that tells a great story or a solid joke in under thirty or sixty seconds is pure art (considerations of bad consumerism and all that blather aside). I have, and likely always will be, more a fan of the short form beauty of a well-crafted commercial than I ever will be of any feature film. Unfortunately, because of our DVR and never having enough time, I don't get to watch spots very often. But when I do, like during a game, I get angry when I have to sit through a bad one. And this, I believe, is one of the worst spots ever made:
As its face, an innocuous, typically bland car commercial, yes. But let me break down its elements for you:
1) Let's start with the premise. Okay, the car is a Jaguar, which is also the name of an animal. And the shots, and the music, and the copy imply that what we're seeing is these cars acting like these jungle creatures having a good time. When you think of jaguars, the animals, do you think of them "playing"? Have you ever seen a jaguar "at play"? No, of course not. You probably can't really even picture what a jaguar looks like, other than it's a big cat. And the second thing that likely comes to mind is that all a jaguar does is sneak around and kill things.
2) The first three shots are stellar. We just see little snippets of the cars through a bunch of jungle. Ooh, and there's another car, this fancy blue one, coming to life! This is going to be an exciting, action packed commercial! What a setup! Except then, just a split second later, in immediately the next shot, the blue car is being chased by the other two. Way to kill that momentum. Go watch it again and see what I'm talking about.
3) Back? Okay, so how does that even logically happen? We've seen the other two cars already buzzing around the jungle, and then this blue one come to life while stationary. How is it, all of the sudden that it's in front of these other two? Imagine this scene being edited in another context. We see the bank robbers riding away from town on their horses as fast as they can. Then we cut to our hero who tilts his head up to reveal his face under his white cowboy hat. He pulls on the reigns and the horse flares up, on its back legs, Lone Ranger style. And then in the next shot...the bank robbers are chasing the good guy. What the hell?!
4) How did we get from the jungle to being around a bunch of warehouses? Are the jaguars/Jaguars done with their play and now they're going to work?
5) At :17 when we enter the big warehouse with all three, how did it suddenly become daylight (the bright light coming through the windows)? Didn't we just move from daylight in the jungle to nighttime in this urban setting? Does this planet, where cars act as animals, rotate around the sun every 8 seconds?
6) Why those zoom-ins on the cars when you put their names up? The edits don't line up and it's disorienting. I feel sick every time I watch it. At least use a star wipe after that cheesy digital zoom-in and get off the shot. Don't go back to the old footage like we can't see the editing trick you're trying to get away with.
7) Next, the typeface looks like it belongs in a spy film. It's very something-on-a-screen-that-James-Bond-is-looking-at. So you've set up that these cars are like playful animals, but then immediately you're taking me away from that with this poorly chosen font. In the final frame, "Welcome to Our Jungle" looks only slightly better than the abysmal "jaguarusa.com" at the bottom. This isn't a spy movie about Terminators in space, it's about jungle cats in non-jungle settings, and it looks stupid.
8) At the opening it reads "Location: Undisclosed" Why even include that? It's a jungle. What more do we need to know? Why add the mystery? Oh, that's right: because this is a spy film about animal cars.
9) Nice drop shadow on the text on the final frame there too.
10) Sometimes when a tagline feels like you've seen it before, that can be a good thing. But "Welcome to Our Jungle" feels like something the company had pushed aside in the mid-80s and found while cleaning out a closet. It would have maybe been fine back then, particularly with the song reference, or better still, had they gotten a Guns N' Roses licensing deal, but now?
The only thing positive I can say about this spot is that I like the music.
Learning that this spot is one of the first created by a year-old company, Spark44, that Jaguar has founded as its in-house ad agency makes perfect sense. It has the feel of too many cooks in the kitchen and design by committee (and all those other design-y cliches).
In closing, I will continue to spit on the ground whenever this comes on, the worst commercial ever made.