The 2014 British Arrows Awards at the Walker Art Center

The British Arrows Awards and the compulsive appeal of <div style="page-break-after: always"><span style="display: none;"> </span></div> the commercial.

It’s hard to pinpoint the moment that the commercials became as big a feature of Super Bowl Sunday as the game itself (or those surreally canned halftime shows, for which some Faustian bargain seems to be made annually between the artists and the dark forces of corporate behemoths). But the deal is done, and there’s no going back on recognizing the vast ingenuity and mind-boggling resources thrown into influencing what we buy.

Those who have caught previous presentations of the British Arrows Awards know that there’s no shortage of commercial creativity on the other side of the Atlantic. Part of the appeal is seeing the cultural differences in what are essentially 30- and 60-second films, and the quirkily idiosyncratic characters and ideas that arise. 

Having taken a sneak peek at the winners this year, I’ve seen everything from a lonely widower tending his
late wife’s grave then spooning premium chow into his small dog’s food dish (moving and bleak in the same instant), a fat footballer in the football pitch (AKA soccer), a riff on cannibalism (always hilarious), and the unlikely realization that the Aldi food chain promotes some pretty edgy messaging (branding that might be worth a try this side of the pond, where their stores seem to lurk in self-imposed anonymity). 

It’s all compulsively watchable, which is why we keep turning out every year. With the American icons of the Pillsbury Doughboy, Madge (“You’re soaking in it”), and the Hamburglar rattling around our collective memory, commercials are the visual equivalent of potato chips—you can’t watch just one.

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