Garfield's AdReview

By Published on .

"Big Ad" is a big ad.

Huge cast. Remote location. Aerial photography. A 100-voice choir and the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra performing a gloriously stupid version of "Carmina Burana." On the brink of the post-advertising age, this Australian faux epic from George Patterson Partners harnesses the magic of the advertising age while simultaneously spoofing the greatest excesses of the advertising age.

In fact, to see this exuberant last gasp of the old paradigm, it's easy to forget how morbidly advanced is advertising's age. But, let's face it, you will see this work of genius thanks to the very Internet technology that spells the end of the advertising age.

Remember, you read it here first, in Advertising Age.

But so much for the contextual preamble. Let's commence the admiring, shall we?

"Big Ad" is shot on a great, sweeping New Zealand plain ringed by an imposing, jagged mountain range. It opens with a shot of a single man, clad in a pale-yellow robe, marching and singing. He leads a horde of other smocked believers. Then from another direction appears another contingent, dressed in red. The two armies stride purposefully, apparently into conflict, alternating lines in the chorale.

It's a big ad.

Very big ad.

It's a big ad we're ii-innnn.

OK, it's already funny: the heroic music, the cast of hundreds CGI-multiplied into thousands and the very silly lyrics in pure mockery of all that is pompous and overblown. But now other groups are coming-blue and white-making the nature of the mass congregation less clear. Meanwhile, the pace quickens.

It's a big ad.

My God, it's big.

Can't believe how big it ii-issss!

It's a big ad.

For Carlton Draught.

It's just so freaking hu-uuuge.

As the frenzied mobs near one another, we suddenly realize, ah, "Braveheart" this isn't. These zealots are a dumpy lot, all but stymied by a flimsy snow fence. That's about where funny turns into hilarious. With the next aerial shot, we understand "Big Ad" is spoofing not just TV-commercial spectacle in general, but British Airways spectacle in particular. The difference is, these colorful extras don't coalesce into a winking smiley face, a la the classic Saatchi & Saatchi spot. Here the red and blue form a thirsty human, while the yellow and white form a pint of Carlton.

At a critical point the glass is tipped. The yellows go scurrying, and from the air we see the whole animation in grand scale: The liquid goes gurgling into the vast, red digestive tract.

It's a big ad.

Expensive ad.

This ad better sell some bloo-oody beer.

Oh, man, how can it not? How can "Big Ad" not propel Carlton from its current distant third in the Australian beer market?

Because, as we mentioned earlier, this commercial doesn't simply spoof cinematic spectacle for the fun of it. It does so for the message of it: that Carlton is the un-pompous, understated, self-deprecating beer, confident enough of its good taste that it needn't preen and pose-and likewise those who drink it.

Well, is that not the magic of advertising-to make a brand stand for an idea, and make the idea noticeable, and make it stick? Isn't that what Volkswagen did, and Apple? Nike and "Diamonds Are Forever"? Of course.

Maybe this masterpiece is the death rattle of the advertising age. But what a way to go, and what a splendid reminder of a life often majestically lived.

Review: 4 stars

Ad: Carlton Draught

Agency: George Patterson Partners

Location: Melbourne, Australia

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