I have to admit, I have a love-hate relationship with advertising. My first job at a production company was as a production assistant in TV Commercial shoots. At first it was all very exciting, everything was new and what I really liked was being on a set making an audiovisual product, no matter what that was. Not until several months later when I was given a bigger responsibility on set and had to deal with clients and agencies that I realised this was not the world I was supposed to be in. After a year of doing TV commercials and before I went to LA to study film I said to myself I would never work on another commercial again, if that’s what I had to do to make it in the business, I was just going to change paths. I never did another commercial ad again and it’s been four years.
Since then, I was lucky enough to be able to work in documentaries, short films and feature films as well as teaching and earn a living without entering the advertising world again. I have to say I am the minority in a country with no film policy, no film industry, no incentives or funds for film (but this is a story for another blog).
Advertising in Paraguay is a 18 million dollar business. We even have a lot of foreign brands going to Paraguay to shoot their commercials. So most of the workers in the industry make a living by doing ads. Most production companies can’t survive without producing commercials, even though they sometimes would like to focus more on films, music videos or TV, but there is no money there, yet (hopefully!). Not all of them of course, there are some that only want to focus on ads and that is great, we need ads as we need film and TV and documentaries.
Look, I’m not saying everyone thinks like me. This was just my choice. I preferred to do things that I cared about. To tell stories that interested me. Sometimes in advertising, we are the last link to the chain, and most of the time even if you are trying to be creative, at least in our advertising industry, there is little flexibility to this.
Sometimes I see the same ideas getting recycled every once in a while. Some of the usuals one are:
Family or friends eating a barbecue. Yes, we love barbecues, and this would be in the slice of life category. We feel the familiarity about it.
Party in the summer. Young attractive people, beach (even though we don’t have real ones), sun, music, usually an alcoholic drink. These are stories around the product or products in action (like everyone drinking the beer).
Shopping Malls Christmas commercials. Usually starts in a house, a beautiful looking family goes to the mall to buy presents and have the best time. These would also fall in the category of stories around a product.
I could go on and on. There is also this fixation with brands of only using their own colours. Usually happens with cell phone providers. The palette has to be in their colours otherwise clients would get confused and think it’s another brand. And when I mean their colour, I mean only that colour, real story. I mean, really? I think consumers are much smarter now to not confuse a brand with another.
Things are changing and risks are being taken, step by step. Last year a beer brand made four part documentary about players of Paraguay’s indigenous football team. One of them, I think the best, directed by a female student of mine, Tania Cattebeke.
Guaraníes de Selección – Capítulo Cuatro: Esperanza (Picante)
Some friends of mine worked on a beautiful commercial for an international brand of an antibacterial soap where the brand is never shown and it tells a story with a cinematic language.
Lifebuoy – Angelito Purahéi (Maneglia Schémbori Realizadores)
This year a car brand did a very interesting commercial to promote not only their SUVs but also a film. Since they had an association with the film Los Buscadores, a commercial hit from Maneglia Schembori, they did a TV ad with the theme and feel of the film which was an Indiana Jones style treasure hunt. It was the first time in Paraguay that a brand did something like this, very risky, taking advantage of the link, benefiting both and being creative about it. I think it turned out great!
Comercial Toyota – Los Buscadores (Synchro)
I do have to admit that working in commercials are a great way of getting experience. What sometimes I miss about it, is that rush and intensity that you have to produce something in two days and when it’s finished you go on to another project and start again, and so on. So you get to shoot a lot and work a lot. We usually work with friends and get to have a lot of fun on set and then next week you are working with another group of friends and that’s rewarding.
The problem for me is the story and the message that you want to be associated with, so it’s a little tricky sometimes. A friend of mine recently told me about the experience of doing commercials instead of film: “It is like you want to eat but you can’t so you drink water to sustain yourself but it’s not enough”.
But I do think a little different now. I would prefer to keep working in films, tv shows, documentaries, but I can’t say I won’t work on commercials anymore. I’m open to possibilities and I would also like to think that brands will treat their clients with a more respect and not underestimate them. And that we would have more advertisements like the examples mentioned above.
In the end the main objective is to communicate your message, we can’t forget that it’s all about the story.
Percy, L., & Elliott, Richard H. (2016). Strategic advertising management (Fifth ed.).
Categorization of Ad Formats by Appelbaum and Halliburton (1993).