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Staying Power of Iconic Westerns

Hollywood movies of the Wild West are the bedrock on which America’s narrative film industry was built.

In spite of repeated predictions by numerous film industry commentators that the Western movie genre offers a distorted and inaccurate view of America’s history that is way past it’s ‘sell-by-date’, it has proven to be remarkably resilient as an appealing storytelling theme.

Spaghetti Westerns

The 60’s ushered in a spectacular revival of the Western movie genre by Italian filmmaker Sergio Leone’s ‘The Man With No Name, Dollars Trilogy’. Filmed in Spain’s vast desert landscapes and starring Clint Eastwood as its itinerant anti-hero in numerous showdowns and shootouts, they became popularly known as ‘Spaghetti Westerns’.

With composer Enrico Morricone’s stirring soundtracks, ‘A Fistful of Dollars’, ‘For a Few Dollars More’ and ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’, were phenomenal box-office successes around the world, and to this day still enjoy a huge YouTube and Blue-ray Home Theatre viewing audience.

1. The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, Movie Trailer

Post-Modern Westerns

Filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino, The Coen Brothers and Taylor Sheridan successfully kept the Western movie genre entertainingly alive throughout the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s with what became known as ‘Post-Modern Westerns’.

Wild West Parodies and Amusing Analogies

For advertising practitioners Wild West movie and cowboy themes have often provided inspiration for spoofs or send-ups for entertaining brand communication commercials.

2. AT&T, The Train

Advertising Agency: BBDO, New York, USA

Dougal Wilson’s superb direction combines live action and animation in a surprising ending for this very watchable Western that very effectively communicates the commercial’s consumer promise.


3. Chicken Licken Soul Food, The Bootless Bandit Durango

Advertising Agency: Joe Public United, Johannesburg, South Africa

Directed by Peter Pohorsky and filmed on location in Almeria, Spain, the fully integrated campaign was spearheaded by a series of five 30 sec commercials that were finally edited into one continuous story called, ‘3 Pieces For Durango’.

Set in a fictional town called ‘ Harmony’, this entertaining parody of the Western ‘The Good, The Bad and The Ugly’, touches on topical diversity issues with ‘tongue-in-cheek’ amusement for many viewers.

Durango’s bootless stroll through the town I find to be a clever metaphoric analogy of how the path to an ‘inner peace’ may require some uncomfortable steps along the way.

4. Doritos, Chip Dip Desperado

Advertising Agency: AMV (Abbot Mead Vickers) BBDO, London

Directed by Gary Freedman, the ‘Spaghetti Western’ inspired Desperado commercial, was part of an integrated campaign to promote Dorito’s chip and dip combination.

The story of Esteban Ortega’s rise and fall as Mexico’s ‘chip-flicking’ champion won numerous awards in 2012. The accolades included a Cannes Gold Lion, a D&AD Yellow Pencil, One Show Gold and Silver Pencils and the International Andy Award.

The campaign was integrated with a free game App that challenged viewers to try their own hand at ‘chip-flicking’.

5. 7Days Baked Rolls, Saloon Gunslingers

Advertising Agency: Black Cherry, Greece                                                  

Directed by Peter Dietrich, this skillfully crafted Wild West parody of two competing alpha-male gunslingers in a saloon, that ends with a product sales pitch, makes for entertaining viewing.

6. Budweiser, Wild West

Advertising Agency: Anomaly, New York, USA

Directed by Ivan Zacharias, this amusing western parody stars Peter Stormare as the ‘Texas Outlaw’ and features Elton John’s song ‘Tiny Dancer’.

The commercial appeared during the 2011 Super Bowl live football championship coverage at the Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas, and was a great hit with TV viewers.

7. Levi’s 501, Campfire

Advertising Agency: BBH (Bartle Bogle Hegarty) London

Directed by Tarsem Singh, this Cannes Award winning commercial is a romanticised story that appealingly recalls the Levi’s brand’s American Wild West heritage.

The soundtrack song, ‘Ring of Fire’ by Johnny Cash, was an inspired choice that resonated with millions of viewers.

8. Electronic Data Systems, Herding Cats

Advertising Agency: Fallon Worldwide, Minneapolis

The phrase ‘herding cats’ is a metaphor for the impossibility of controlling the uncontrollable. The analogy likens the chances of finding an effective solution for complicated problems to that of successfully herding cats.

The award winning EDS commercial was directed by John O’Hagen in a rewarding, tongue-in-cheek, documentary style. It was aired during the American Super Bowl to much acclaim and became one of the the all-time viewer favourites.

9. Toyota, The Untameables

Advertising Agency: Saatchi & Saatchi, New York, USA

In automotive advertising, the analogy of horses and horsepower, has been a popular metaphorical theme for many decades.

However, directed by Steve Rogerts, this story of a rancher trying to tame a Toyota Tacoma, as he would a spirited horse, does offer a fresh, ‘Western’ twist to a well-worn analogy of horses and horsepower.

The amusing parody found great favour with USA audiences and became the most watched commercial of the month following its launch on TV.

10. KFC Christmas, The Crossroads

Advertising Agency: Mother, London

Roast turkey is the traditional Christmas meal offering in Britain but in truth it is not a great family favourite and secretly roast chicken would probably have been the preferred family choice.

As one of the posters in this integrated campaign insightfully reads: “The trick to enjoying Christmas turkey? Lowering your expectations”.

Directed by Nicolai Fuglsig, the ‘Crossroads’ commercial is an amusing Western-style parody featuring the theme music from Ennio Morricone’s classic Western “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” as the soundtrack.

The two protagonists are of course, a chicken and a Christmas turkey and the winner of the face-off can probably be easily guessed.

As Hermeti Balarin, partner at Mother, reminds us : “There’s only one day of the year in which you can’t get your favorite fried chicken at KFC. And that’s the 25th of December. Chicken rules the roost on the other 364 days.”