Why Ratchet & Klank Ads Post No Danger

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Client: Sony PlayStation 2
Agency: TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif.
Star Rating: 3

You think it's easy being the Conscience of an Industry? No way, Jose.

The spot is a terrific takeoff on the Jackass genre.

First of all, we're exempt employees, meaning that when we rack up overtime being conscientious, there's nothing extra in our paychecks. Secondly, we're constantly getting requests for our moral indignation, which isn't as easy to summon as you might think.

Oh, we're scolds when we have to be, but that doesn't make us crybabies.

An awkward moment
So imagine how awkward it was when our friend, distinguished colleague and noted smart mom Ann Marie called our attention to the new PlayStation 2 campaign from TBWA/Chiat/Day, Playa del Rey, Calif. In one spot, three kids are shown on video -- i.e., like in a reality TV show -- in a suburban backyard monkeying around with a futuristic hand-held cannon.

Kid #1: "All right, we're gonna try to hit that water bottle with the new upgradable Gravity Bomb from Ratchet & Klank Going Commando."

One of the teenagers tosses the bottle into the air as another discharges the weapon -- which sails past the target and over the back fence, yielding a thunderous explosion, fireball and dense smoke.

Kid #1 "Oh, whoa."

Kid #2 "You missed it."

Kid #3 "My bad."

Not fit for this world
Despite the collateral damage -- the destruction of the neighboring home -- the boys are delighted. Why? Because the explosion was, like, so cool -- just as the advertised animated video game is cool, what with all blowing stuff up and everything. Then the voice-over: "The Gravity Bomb, one of 51 weapons and gadgets not fit for this world."

Precisely my friend's point. Not fit for this world. Gee, she reasoned, won't this encourage actual stupid teenagers to deploy ordinance in their own neighborhoods? You know, like the adolescent morons who see a dangerous stunt in a movie or on Jackass, then kill themselves trying to duplicate it, God rest their souls.

Well, sorry. We'd like to get all irate for you, but no can do.

Spoofing a genre
For one thing, the spot is a terrific takeoff on the Jackass genre, and on its testosterone-poisoned mentality. Secondly, to the best of our knowledge, there are no Ratchet & Klank handheld artillery pieces actually in existence, so this would be a particularly difficult stunt to copycat.

Finally, at some point, advertising cannot be responsible for everything that goes wrong in its wake.

Advertising does, obviously, have some responsibility to the society at large. Its first duty is neither to lie nor mislead. Its second, as an uninvited guest, is not to upset or offend large numbers of people in the audience. And of course it probably shouldn't encourage antisocial behavior.

Clearly fantasy
But this spot, and a second one called "Tractor Beam," are clearly fantasy. The central joke is that they stage in mock real-life stunts that are possible only in the PlayStation universe. Anyone who takes them seriously enough to act out is already a stupid and dangerous Gravity Bomb waiting to happen.

If you're looking for something to be worried about, Ann Marie, turn your attention to car ads, which increasingly are all about speed. And the 17-year-old moron next door, alas, does have access to a car.