Advertiser: Six Flags:
Agency: Grey Advertising, New York
Ad Review rating: Three stars
Loud rock music can cause hearing loss. Tennis playing can cause debilitating tendinitis in the elbow. Roller coasters can cause motion sickness and vomiting.
These are all common, if not intended, consequences of otherwise enjoyable activities. And so, if you were marketing rock music, tennis rackets or amusement parks, you could certainly consider them all brand attributes.
Attributes. Not benefits, because puking is not a brand benefit.
Oh, wait a second. Yes it is.
In a new spot from Grey Advertising, New York, we see a teen-ager running in super slow motion, directly toward the camera, to the famous "Chariots of Fire" theme. When he reaches his destination, we see a menacing roller coaster in the distance behind him as he throws his arms out in triumph--or something. What he has reached, it turns out, is an outdoor trash can, into which he promptly hurls.
Young, nauseated and ready for more. Talk about a completely unexpected gag.
Yes, in a bold stroke of classic advertising pre-emption Six Flags has become the first amusement-park marketer to take a categorical pro-barf positioning. This leaves Disney, Busch Gardens and the rest to carve out their own unique niches--strolling cute gigantic vermin, storybook adventures made real, vertigo-induced seizures, what have you--or throw up their hands in defeat.
Well, maybe not defeat, but you have to hand it to Grey and Six Flags. Not only is this commercial far less nauseating than you'd expect in a spot about nausea (no stomach contents are visible), it rather nicely gets into the dizzy head of its core market. The psychology of teen-age boys, after all, is to look fear and reverse peristalsis right in the face. This spot perfectly captures that perverse teen macho, laughing at the phenomenon and validating it at the same time.
It is adolescent in a market heavily dependent on adolescents, daring in a category built on the dare.
A second spot is also daring--in a most politically incorrect way. It shows a dwarf in a shoe store, trying on one pair of shoes after another. He asks for one with a heel, then for one with a higher heel. He finally ends up in a pair of red women's pumps. "I'll take 'em," he says. Then we cut to the entrance of a Six Flags ride, where the heels get the guy past the minimum-height yardstick.
Wow. Congenital-defect jokes on TV.
But, damn it, it's cute. Though no doubt the National Council of Little People or some such organization will emerge to decry the insensitive treatment blah blah blah blah, the fact is the spot doesn't ridicule people of differing height. It simply takes an odd, funny path to notice another slightly annoying aspect of amusement-park culture that most everyone can relate to.
It doesn't have quite the enticing come-on value of Puke Cam, but it does get us in an amusement-park frame of mind. And it makes us want to see even more candor from Six Flags.
That lunch the kid blew ... how about a spot on how much it cost?
Copyright May 1998, Crain Communications Inc.