If Seeing Is Believing, Sharp Is Not So Bright in Its Messaging

In New Spot for TV With Extra Color, McGarryBowen Comes Close to Admitting Paradox of Advertising a TV on a TV

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Yellow is an innovation? Really?

All this time, we'd assumed the three prime colors of the TV holy trinity were the three primary colors: blue, red and yellow. Nope, turns out that it was blue, red and green. Who knew?

If adding a blade to the Quattro razor makes for a smoother shave, it stands to reason that adding yellow to the video palette would make TV more colorful, bright and lifelike. Enter, then, Quattron, from Sharp, which outdoes the status quo to the tune of 33%. Whether this results in a noticeable improvement, however, we are in no position to judge. The slogan is, "You have to see it to see it," and the slogan is true.

Marketer: Sharp
Agency: McGarryBown, New York
The new commercial, featuring actor George Takei of "Star Trek" fame, not only makes little attempt to demonstrate the product difference, it comes within a whisker of self-consciously pointing up the absurdity of attempting to demonstrate the product difference.

After all, showing superior color on a TV commercial is a visual tautology; the picture quality is confined to the picture quality of the set being watched. This leaves it only for the ad to imply (i.e., fake) superiority by splashing all sorts of bright, vivid primary and secondary colors on the screen, as luminously as possible. Tropical fish have historically been popular subjects. Sony Bravia used DayGlo bouncing balls and cannon-fired wall paint, all of which looked good on any screen.

Sure enough, Sharp too goes the coral-reef route, on a flat-screen Aquos set up behind Takei.

"At Sharp," he says, clad in the white labcoat of a Sharp engineer, "our goal is to reproduce every color in the world on TV. Introducing Quattron quad-pixel technology. It adds a fourth color, yellow, to the standard RGB color system, creating a vast array of colors you can't see with your TV's three-color technology. But you can see this."

Here something odd happens. The flat-screen pivots sideways and Takei takes a gander.

"Whooa!" he shrieks in amazement. "Oh, myyyyy!"

Hmm. Apparently some sort of joke has taken place. It's clear enough even from the sidelong angle that the fish scene itself doesn't change, but maybe Nemo shoots him the finger or moons him or something we can't make out. Whatever hilarious and unexpected moment we've not been privy to, Takei chuckles right into the voice-over:

"Quattron from Sharp. You have to see it to see it."

It's as if McGarry Bowen wanted to have fun with the idea that a TV commercial for a TV is a fool's errand, but didn't quite have the nerve -- or the client leeway -- to admit that you actually have to see it to see it. But, no, conventions are conventions, and there's the yellow aquarium specimen looking approximately as bright and vivid in blue-red-and-greentron as it does in Quattron.

The net net of all this is that a pretty good idea -- seeing it to believe it -- is largely squandered by all the goofy misdirection. This would include the casting. Takei may or may not retain some futuristic Mr. Sulu resonance, but if so, it is not exploited here. He's just a strange guy with a deep voice, dyed hair and a vaguely creepy sense of humor.

Our best guess is that this campaign will succeed or fail based on a combination of media weight and online word-of-mouth about the merits of Quattron.

Of course, if TVs are like the razor business, we expect Sony to introduce Quintron at any moment -- "For the brownest browns on TV!" -- followed by the LC Octopix. Whoooa! Oh, my my my my my my my my.

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