Dot-com sing-along a winner for Amazon

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Marketer: Amazon.com
Rating: Four stars
Agency: FCB Worldwide, San Francisco

Everywhere you look, the press is noticing that dot-com advertising is everywhere you look.

Only last week, our own boss showed up on NBC's "Today" to blab with some supposed special insight into the phenomenon, squeezing the Ad Review staff off ABC's "Good Morning America" the next day, where we were going to blab with some supposed special insight into the phenomenon.

Well, here's our insight: Deal with it.

It's a revolutionary new category with unprecedented billions of advertising dollars behind it, and the revolutionaries are using the doomed old medium to promote their new one. So maybe that is like fattening up the turkey for its future as your dinner. And maybe the ads are aimed more at investment bankers than dot-consumers.

So what? In the end, it's just more advertising.

Which, naturally, is the problem. The extraordinary clutter of dot-coms--combined with their bizarre, universal reliance on offbeat humor so that it's hard to see the trees for the forest--has made the job of penetrating the consumer psyche damn near impossible.

Not only does this affect wildly unprofitable new businesses such as Pets.com (Love those hand puppets. But who's going to buy dog food over the Internet? Nobody, for long), it also makes life difficult for wildly unprofitable venerable-granddaddy businesses such as Amazon.com.

Not insurmountably difficult, however.

Very seldom does a TV ad campaign come along that entices you, repeatedly, to stare at the set for every second of a 30-second spot. Some advertisers--notably First Union Bank--try, and fail, to grab you with gee-whiz visual complexity. Others do it with outlandish humor. But, um, pop quiz: What does Outpost.com sell?

At the moment, the reigning master of full-attention TV is The Gap, which uses slow camera moves on irresistibly fetching subject matter to rivet the viewers' eyeballs on its fashions.

But, now, add to the list Amazon.com, via FCB Worldwide, San Francisco, which has brilliantly, perfectly, hilariously re-created the circa-1961 Mitch Miller sort of chorus to sing about the wonders of holiday shopping on line.

The wardrobe is dead on. The haircuts are dead on. The camera angles and dissolves are dead on. The sets, the goofy, plastered-on smiles and the superimposed sing-along- lyrics typeface are dead on.

Dead on, inspired and very, very funny.

For our parts, we had completely forgotten about the lame Rotary Christmas party sensibilities and school-talent-show production values of the pre-karaoke past, and we were delighted to relive them. More to the point, though, we followed very closely along with the lyrics, and continue to do so viewing after viewing.

That's important, because the lyrics are 100% brand benefits. You'll have to imagine the harmonies and accordion-combo accompaniment for yourself:

"I spent 2 minutes, 2 whole minutes, 2 minutes shopping for your gift. And it was so pleasant, getting credit for a present that was really super easy to give."

And . . .

"Amazon's got a lot of books and DVDs, like Harvard's got a lot of Ph.D.'s. Toys and electronics and tools, like Chinese poker has a lot of rules. Ama-zon.com's got a lot.

Sort of Sing Along With Pitch.

Yes, dot-coms are everywhere--a great, dense forest of dot-comedy. What's unusual about Amazon.com is that you can make it out plainly, because it's one of the few discernible, sales-propositioning Christmas trees.

Copyright December 1999, Crain Communications Inc.

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