Commercials That Make Zero Sense #1: Jim Beam “Bold Decisions”
I actually really like Willem Dafoe. He’s a really weird looking guy, sure, and he’s been in some ridiculous roles (the vastly overrated Boondock Saints, for instance) but he’s been in some pretty good films too. I especially like him in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. He’s got sort of a weird, Steve Buscemi-esque, “how the hell does a guy this weird looking become a successful actor” vibe.
So I don’t think the idea of Buscemi in a commercial is that bad. And I actually think he works quite well in this one. He’s got a pretty interesting, narrator-y voice which fits the tone of the commercial. Also, the whole thing is definitely going for a more epic, cinematic feel than the usual schlock you see while waiting for Seinfeld to come back on. But still: how the hell does this commercial have anything to do with the product?
I’ll summarize the commercial briefly. We start out in a bus stop, with a pondering Dafoe sitting on a bench staring at two Greyhound buses. One is labeled “New York” the other “Milwaukee”.
“Life boils down to a series of choices. Before long, the choices you make become you. But which you?” Dafoe asks in a voiceover. We are then treated to a series of images of Dafoe in different jobs: circus janitor, chess player, limo driver, sumo wrestler, skinhead, etc. The camera then fades back to the original image in the bus depot. “All choices lead you somewhere. Bold choices lead you where you want to be” says Dafoe, getting up and heading towards the New York bus. We then pan out to a screen featuring a bottle of Jim Beam and a glass with the words “Bold Choice” in the background.
Like I said, this is actually a pretty decent commercial from an artistic standpoint. It’s certainly aspires to a higher standard than those god-awful Bud Light commercials. But how is it in anyway related to Jim Beam? People who make bold choices are better than people who make cautious decisions, and people who make bold choices drink Jim Beam, therefore people who drink Jim Beam are better people. Or people who drink Jim Beam will be inspired to make bold choices, either because they have now entered an exclusive group of others who drink Jim Beam and make bold choices, or because they are drunk and seriously overestimating their own abilities.
I admittedly don’t know much about marketing. But if you were putting together a commercial for a brand of whiskey, wouldn’t you want to, you know, have a commercial that actually demonstrates that your product is good? Take the last five seconds out and this video could be anything; a trailer for a television show, a short film encouraging people to move to New York, or even a Greyhound commercial.