What Did Simon & Garfunkel Know and When Did They Know It?

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And in the naked light I saw

Ten thousand people maybe more

People talking without speaking

People hearing without listening

People writing songs that voices never shared

No one dared

Disturb the sound of silence


So the problem with radio -- that is, radio advertising -- is that again and again and again, in every country in the world, it squanders its most potent asset: the extraordinary power of sound.

The visual power of sound, more vivid and fetching than any video can ever begin to achieve. Hell, you can't even hear a beer pour on the radio these days, and that is one of the most irresistable sounds on earth. What you can hear on radio commercials, an absurd percentage of the time, is fake phone conversations. The limit of advertising's capacity to harness natural sound seems to be imitating the poor quality of a phone call.

No surprise, then, that the radio category here on the Cote d'Azur sounds like rush hour at the NSA. We wonder why we fight it anymore. Maybe we should accept this tic as a given, and try to find ingenuity within it -- which, lo and behold, we have. Two advertisers have departed from the default scripted-funny-phone-call form at least to the extent of using unscripted funny phone calls.

Phony phone calls, actually. It's like "The Jerky Boys Go To France." But very funny, and very well thought out.

One of the campaigns is for JetBlue from JWT, New York. In this case, the advertiser is actually making prank phone calls to itself. JWT recorded the conversations between its jokesters and real-life, unnaturally pleasant call-center operators. In one, the caller asks for a 1st-class seat. When the operator -- or Customer Satisfaction Executive, or whatever -- tells him JetBlue has no 1st class, he asks her just to put a curtain behind his seat. Very cheerfully, she declines to tell him to go fuck himself. Instead, she describe the leather recliners all JetBlue customers sit in.

In a second spot, she talks about free DirecTV and the guy asks how he's supposed to shlep it around on his trip. Again, she chirpily and patiently explains the TV is fixed to the back of the seat. He confesses embarrassment. She says anybody could get confused about it. It's like dialling an 800 number and reaching a Stepford wife.

In a good way.

But even better is a campaign from Lobedu Leo Burnett, Johannesburg, for Coca-Cola's Twist Lemon -- previously known as Lemon Twist. In this campaign, a fictional government official -- Tolerance Maseko of the Dept. of Name Transformation -- calls actual people to inform them that names dear to them are being Africanized.

TM: Your family owns a tree farm named Spekboom, is that correct?

Voice: Yeah.

TM: Yes, sir. I just want to inform you that in line with the Transformation, the department has decided to give the farm a new name. Now we've got a choice of either Sine'Clancla or Sine'Shasha.

Voice: Ummm...

TM: You can choose one or the other. Sine'Clancla would mean "Fortunate" and Sine'Shasha would mean "We have Trees."

Then a voiceover: "It takes time to get used to a new name. Lemon Twist is Now Twist Lemon. Put a twist in it!"

Which this ad certainly does, gently spoofing the reconciliation process using a charming, funny exercise in televoyeurism in perfect parallel with its selling message. Ambient sound or no, this is pretty nearly a perfect campaign.

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