|CAVEMEN DIED OUT FOR A
It would not be an efficient usage of my time
for me to ask whether or not everybody is now sick of the heavily-marketed
insurance-related ad campaign which centers around the phrase, "So easy a
caveman can do it," because, clearly, everybody is. What I will ask, instead,
is why the company responsible for these ads have not yet realized this fact.
For whatever reason, despite the millions of
dollars which are regularly poured into these operations, advertising agencies
remain oblivious to the most basic facets of the standard gag lifespan.
For illustrative purposes, let's say that you're
at a party, and one guest arrives sporting a mustache that has recently been
over-trimmed from the sides. The situation may well seem ripe for a jibe
from the assembled crowd, and so some wiseacre yells, "Hey, Hitler, can I
get you a drink?"
This initial verbal swipe is equivalent to
the first commercial of any given gag-centric marketing campaign. It's not
all that funny in analysis, but if you're at the party and you're in genial
company and you've already had a few, it's not at all unthinkable that it'll
go over pretty well. So pretty much everybody laughs. Hence, a successful
initial marketing effort.
Seeing the positive reaction to the initial
gag, somebody else in the crowd yells, "Sieg heil!" Properly executed, this
will garner a reaction similar to the initial gag. It is not at all clever
in and of itself, but it succeeds because its humor references the first
gag, which is still fresh in the audience's mind. This is equivalent to the
second commercial in any given gag-centric marketing campaign. Not funny,
but generally benign, and passable if the first commercial was funny.
Here, however, is an important distinction
that has escaped the grasp of more television ad men than current technology
can record. The second gag in this situation is a follow-up, not
a one-up. The follow-up, as noted, consists of a non-humorous
statement that operates solely on residual humor from an initial gag salvo.
A one-up takes a minor theme from the initial gag and crafts a separate
-- and generally superior - gag around it.
The differences between these two may seem
minor, but become quite substantial over a length of time. A good series
of one-ups can actually increase in humor as new entries are added,
one atop the other. The humor derived from a series of follow-ups, however,
is like a small amount of water passed from one hand to another. At best,
you may be able to keep up your momentum for a while, but even that requires
considerable skill in delivery, and you can never generate more humor with
this method than that with which you started. Inevitably, the humor trickles
out ( or dries up, timing itself being an important element in these situations)
, and you're left passing around a concept with no humor value, whatsoever.
Hence: the third commercial of any given gag-centric marketing campaign through
whenever they decide to put it out of its misery.
It's possible I'm overthinking this, but if
this article can in any way contribute to the long-overdue death of the caveman
commercial series, it's been worth it.