Sunday, October 21, 2007

Cool Shit Alert: The Cadbury Gorilla



I really like this commercial: Gorilla Feels the Groove. I haven't written about a meme in a while, and this advert gives me a good feeling, so I think I can find an excuse to write about it.

First of all, why am I so attracted to it? It's the simplicity -- the gorilla's nonverbal acting, an expressed and gestured emotion, with a perfectly appropriate Phil Collins song. There's something profoundly sincere about the drumming and the monkeyface, looking toward the sky, and I think the fact that it's a gorilla makes it more austere somehow, and more authentic.

Cadbury beats Apple, in my opinion... as far as feeling the pure joy, vicariously making love to the music, Gorilla affects me more than the rockin' silhouettes, who look like they're having fun, but may be a little too awkward, or choreographed. It might be because the silhouettes seem to be dancing for, and/or addressing, the camera, whereas Gorilla seems to be alone in a studio, complete at peace with his Genesis. If that was a human making that enchanted face, I don't think I'd buy it.

Of course, you might take a second and look for meaning, thereby delaying the inevitable happiness that the commercial can bring. Make no mistake... the search for some sort of pun is futile. The commercial is a non-sequiter.

But you need to get past that to see why it's so damn successful. The point of a commercial is to induce an effect in the viewer, to take over a piece of mental space, and the Gorilla kicks some serious ass in that regard. First, you have to catch the audience's attention, like the Apple commercial does with bright colors. The extreme close-up of a Gorilla face does the trick, in my opinion, through a combination of fascination and confusion.

The commercial never explains the gorilla, but before we get so confused that we're bored, it moves on to the second effect: inducing a mental state. When you make the connection between the blissful, distracted expression and the ghostly soundtrack, you start to get it. When the bass kicks and the gorilla fully surrenders to the beat, you fall in with him. A few riffs later, you're in love with the song, and with the gorilla, and you're either laughing in amusement or tapping in empathy. Once you get the second effect, the carefully-crafted cerebral response, you get the product shot. There doesn't need to be an explicit connection. They just need to be correlated.

It's not manipulation, necessarily. If you're not making claims about the product, you certainly can't be lying. If you can craft such a simple image of pure joy, you've probably experienced it, and you probably know its nuances, and you probably want to bring it to your audience. This is my universalist optimism about good advertising... consumers are so savvy these days that the only way to seem sincere is to be sincere.

So I'm going to stake my faith in the idea that the director of this commercial doesn't give a shit whether I buy Cadbury chocolate. I think he was just using that forum as an excuse to bring the joy of music to his Gorilla, and through his Gorilla, to me.

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