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Open-Ended Spots Make It Hard to Break Up With Yellowbook

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The plot is silly. The time element is Philip K. Dick weird. The chick-lit sensibilities narrow its appeal. The biggest news is missing in action. The endangered species of a medium being advertised is making its case on TV, an endangered species itself. The goal is nigh unto unreachable.

There is almost nothing from the Yellowbook campaign from Gotham, New York, that stands up under any scrutiny whatsoever.

Sigh. But we like it. In fact, we like like it -- a feeling reminiscent of that vacuous, uninteresting, pretty girl in our homeroom who infatuated us more with every dumb thing she said or did.

The TV spot is called "The Breakup." It's about an attractive young woman (with the most astonishing cyan eyes) who gets a call from her boyfriend. "This is awkward," he says. "It's not working. I just need to be alone."

The first twist is that this is taking place in some vague future where the decor is Chiasso and the phone is a giant telescreen. So she sees her soon-to-be-ex in his kitchen as he's dumping her -- and as a gorgeous fashion model appears behind him in her underwear, eating a breakfast apple. The brazen hussy! The cad!

Luckily, this is the future, so our jilted heroine wiggles her fingers -- a la Tom Cruise in "The Minority Report" -- and navigates from the breakup call to yellowbook.com in search of a solution. But which? "Couples therapy?" "Chain saw?" "Lingerie?" "Personal trainer?" "Pawnshop?" "Little black dress?"

Aha. This is the other twist: You can decide for yourself, by wiggling your own fingers toward yellowbook.com, where you choose the ending you prefer. There are three options -- and we'll not disclose them, partly because that would spoil the surprise and partly because they're all pretty insipid. And yet ... yet ... what is it about this little melodrama that so sucks us in? That so has us rooting for the spurned protagonist, even though, for all we know, behind those Caribbean-lagoon eyes may lurk a nuisance, a shrew or worse?

The Mystery of the Archetype. Why bother trying to unravel it? The fact is that whether you are a woman yourself or a little girl's Daddy (such as the AdReview staff) or just a slob of a man fantasizing about this suddenly available babe, you can't but at least toy with the idea of which Yellowbook.com advertised product or service offers the best revenge. And if you take the bait, you will be confronted not only with three endings but a host of convenient Yellowbook features.

One of them is consumer rating. Just as you can rate the various versions of denouement in "The Breakup," you can use Yellowbook.com to rate the plumber -- or pawnshop or chain-saw retailer -- you found there and, of course, to see the ratings by others just like you. This is the aforementioned big news. Combining the search functionality of Google and the Web 2.0 community of, say, Angie's List, the phone-book industry has at least some small chance of surviving the digital revolution.

(The future may be "The Minority Report" online wiggly-finger surfing. More likely, for Yellowbook, it will be "Blade Runner" post-apocalypse.)

Still, it's a sound strategy, and we ourselves would have been tempted to spend our TV millions bragging about it in the first place, rather than leading the audience on a cross-platform scavenger hunt. But you've got to hand them this: If viewers do let their digits do the walking to Yellowbook.com/tv, they're a click or two away from a search toolbar or mobile download.

Whereupon the real jilted protagonist gets its revenge.

Advertising Age Embedded Player

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