Friday, March 14, 2008

Silly Kohler

I’d meant to write this post when this new appeared on the back cover of Wired but events intervened…some of them related to personal plumbing. It's appropriate.

Plumbing fixtures are necessary component of Western civilization that some companies have turned into art forms. So have some ad agencies.

There’s no doubt that the creative done for Kohler Company by GSDM deserves all the awards and the fame it’s gained over the past few years. In broadcast alone, GSDM has set a very high bar, featuring “The Bold Look of KOHLER®” in some of the most marvelous commercials. You can watch them on the company’s website here (click on the TV Ads tab) – I’d direct your attention to “Dilemma” especially which for some reason I find hilariously funny.

The same has mostly applied to the Kohler print advertising over the years. The company and the agency have used some of the world’s most remarkable and imaginative photographers to create downright funny or highly provocative visualizations of Kohler bathroom fixtures – and you can see many of the executions here.

In fact, there’s a significant lesson in this creative for other advertisers: with these executions, Kohler has drawn a bright line between its products and all others. If you’re hip enough, in this case, you will be using Kohler.

[Many homeowners and plumbers prefer Toto – its creative is focused on product. I’ve been told that they rather have quality than quirkiness.]

Nevertheless, there’s funny and there’s silly. The first image in the new, 2008 “As I See It” Kohler ad series, an imaginative photo by Mark Holthusen featuring the MargauxTM faucet, is silly.

Holthusen is much caressed for his imagination and his style. It’s also appears (as many of Wired readers will know) that this execution was inspired by the failed 2004 Kerry Conran film, “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” – a great cast and a terrific CG effort wrecked by a piece-of-crap script.

The ad, which envisions the little Margaux faucet handle as the control stick of an aircraft, falls into the Steampunk category – nothing wrong with that. But doesn’t anyone at the agency have a shred of sense? Steampunk systems are supposed to be workable in theory. Portraying faux combat jets with fixed landing gear (no matter if they’re wearing spats) is silly.

Just as ridiculous: The missing cockpit canopy. Without a canopy, what keeps the pilot from sticking her elbow into the stream of fire from the rifle-caliber machine guns mounted behind her? (As she appears to be perfectly capable of doing, thanks to the easy, one-handed control of the faucet handle.)

Altitude? Forget it. No cockpit canopy, no pressurization. Streamlining? Add all the gear spats you like, what about the open cockpit as a wind trap? And speaking of the open cockpit, check out the pilot’s all-white flying leathers. Perhaps no JP-5 fuel residue or hydraulic fluid afflict the aircraft; nor, unless it’s heated, will the fancy costume protect the blonde from the chill of zooming around the sky at 300 or 400 mph.

Silliest of all, the pilot isn’t strapped into the cockpit. There doesn’t seem to be any flight harness. Now you can look this up here: “The aspiring fighter pilot is taught basic air combat maneuvers, some defensive, others offensive…the Break, the High-G Barrel Roll…the Vertical Rolling Scissors…the Immelmann.”

The first time Blondie pulls an Immelmann, she’s coming right out of that cockpit.

I presume the spiffy Margaux faucet and the stylish Undertone® sink are under warranty. This is one dogfight Kohler isn’t going to walk away from; but don't worry. As Rob Schoenbeck says in his comment, the company is bulletproof.


Rob Schoenbeck said...

Richard: For Pete's sake, it's an ad...only an ad...and a print ad at that. If the average viewer spent only one-tenth as much time reading it as you have analysing it; Kohler and its Agency could pat themselves on their backs for a huge success.

Most people view advertising as just that: "advertising". They suspend belief because they know it is not real. What will engage them, captivate them and hopefully enable them to remember the ad and, more importantly, the product/brand, are the many various and sundry things you singled out as being silly.

Think about still remember those cowboys herding cats even though you (or the 'average' Joe) cannot remember the advertiser.

Sit back... relax... enjoy... suspend belief and you too will find the humour, charm and occasionally the relevance of an ad to the product it features.

Ann Costa said...

Richard! I'm glad you are recovering so well from your "product testing" project.

It was a bit shocking to me since I didn't know you had heart issues, but then amusing to think of how you brought a new way of looking at things to the medical professionals who cared for you. I also enjoyed your comments on the ads, etc. Your blog is very entertaining and thought-provoking.

Wishing you Good Health...Ann.

Richard Laurence Baron said...

Rob's right of course...only an ad. All in good fun: Ha, ha, ha! (Are those cracks I see in the fuselage?)