Sony's Soundaholic Ad Is Nothing Worth Listening to

A Commercial So Bad, It's Embarrassing

By Published on .

One thing you've gotta give the AdReview staff: We're consistent.

Every day we rise at 5:45 a.m. for our 16-mile jog, jumping jacks and yoga. Then it's a piping-hot bowl of porridge, a cold shower followed by self-flagellation with birch switches, the daily Jumble and "Mark Trail." And then off to work, with a Thermos of buttermilk to sip along the way. Mmm. Just a little creamy, just a little tart.

By the same token, we've been consistent in our worldview: We are for friendship and pistachios, against disease and the designated-hitter rule, and really against originality for its own sake.

Again and again for more than 20 years, we have railed against the idea that novelty is an important advertising value. Not only have we argued that audiences are indifferent to never-done-before, and that fixating on it detracts from the business of problem solving, we've actually endorsed borrowing other people's solutions if those solutions might serve your client.

And we mean that. The client isn't paying you to burnish your reel. He's paying you to sell crap to folks.

Running eighth in a field of two
But now, just this once, we have to consider the other hand. The other hand is: While heeding to the letter everything AdReview ever says, do try to cling -- however tenuously -- to your self-respect. Borrowing other people's creative solutions does not mean resorting to every threadbare cliche you can think of. Especially if the advertised brand is running about eighth in a field of two, do not trot out jokes and premises that have been used in about every 10th ad in every category for about 15 years.

Please. Because, you know, it's just embarrassing.

Consider, for instance, a commercial introducing the Sony MP3 Walkman. It begins with a tight shot of a young man, directly facing the camera.

"My name is Calvin," he begins, "and I am a soundaholic."

Leaving aside for a moment that the kid is a terrible actor, the opening salvo in the commercial is a 12-step-program gag that has shown up in more commercials than John Madden. To give you some notion, if you Google the fragments "my name is" and "and I'm," you get 1.3 million results. None of them is funny, either. (OK, maybe "My name is Sal, and I'm addicted to Lazytown.")

Audible sounds
Anyway, next we see Calvin doing all sorts of curious things to generate interesting sounds. "No one knew I had this condition. It was my own little secret," he says, as he swings on a wrought-iron gate, opens and closes pizza ovens, bounces a basketball. "It was just me and the sounds."

So naturally he seeks help. Next we see him at a doctor's office, and guess what the doctor is doing.

Go ahead, guess.

Right! That is exactly right! He is snapping on a latex glove.

Ha ha! Never saw that one coming!

Walkman and ears
Never mind what he's listening to thereafter. In the end, he finds true love and the solution to his problem: "All I need is my Sony MP3 Walkman, and my ears."

Ah, got it now. You should buy this MP3 player because it plays sounds. Now there's a positioning for you. The Apple iPod has changed consumer behavior and entire industries on a mass scale, is a de rigueur accessory for everyone under the age of 40, is being taken on by Microsoft's Zune on the basis of a half dozen distinct new features, and the best Y&R, Singapore, can come up with is that the product is audible??

Our name is AdReview, and snaaaaaap ...

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Review: 1 star
Ad: Sony
Agency: Y&R
Location: Singapore
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