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The Attention-grabbing Power of Parodies in Advertising

For creative conceptualisers, parodies of films, novels, famous characters, and folk tales, offer inspirational opportunities for attention-grabbing commercials of memorable message impact with ironic exaggerations for comic or dramatic effect.

1. Icelandic Tourism, The Icelandverse

Advertising Agency: SS+K (Stern, Shepardson & Kaminsky), New York, USA

‘Icelandverse’, directed by filmmaker Allan Sigurðsson, is an entertaining parody of Mark Zuckerberg’s introduction of Meta and its ‘metaverse’ where “you’re going to be able to do almost anything you can imagine”.

Featuring a Zuckerberg lookalike named Zack Mossbergsson, as Iceland’s chief visionary officer, the ‘metaverse’ send-up, opens with the message;

Hi and welcome to this very natural setting. Today I’d like to talk about a revolutionary approach on how to connect our world without being super weird. Icelandverse is enhanced actual reality, without silly looking headsets”.

A scene of Mossbergsson in a pool wearing much too much sunscreen, is an amusing reference to a viral video clip showing Mark Zuckerberg surfing in Hawaii, with his face covered with so much sun-block, that it looks like he’s wearing a Halloween mask.

The humorously incisive ‘Icelandverse’ commercial motivated over 6 million views in less than a week, and is bound to be a future award-winner of note.

2. UNDP, Don’t Choose Extinction

Advertising Agency: Activista, Los Angeles, USA

The parody of a talking dinosaur making a dramatic appearance at the UN General Assembly Hall, to startled security staff and international delegates, serves as a powerful metaphor for the delivery of an impactful message.

Produced by Framestore Pictures and VFX Studio’s Film Director, Murray Butler, and Creative Director, Marco Marenghi, the United Nations Development Programme’s climate crises campaign commercial, features an impressive integration of live action footage, and a computer-generated, North American Utahraptor, that was by far the biggest raptor ever to walk the earth.

The ‘Don’t Choose Extinction’ address was penned by speech-writer David Litt, and the music soundtrack, by String and Tins Sound Design and Production, was composed by Rachel Portman OBE.

3. Amazon Alexa, Ironing

Advertising Agency: Droga5, London, UK

Directed by filmmaker Andreas Nilsson with masterly storytelling skill, Alexa’s voice-activated virtual assistant commercial ‘Ironing’, is an entertaining parody of a medieval battle fantasy.

The superbly enacted scenario of “A voice is all you need”, is an epic, ‘interrupted drama’ that is engagingly watchable.

4. Greenpeace, Wasteminster

Directed by the Dutch filmmaking and special effects duo of Jorik Dozy, and Sil van Der Woerd, Wasteminster, is a powerful parody of direct quotes from Boris Johnson and his government about plastic waste.

The scenario is an impactful depiction, by the ever watchful environment activists at Greenpeace, of what would happen if the plastic waste the UK exports each day, was instead, dumped on 10 Downing Street.

The call for responsible remedial action by Westminster to stop passing the buck, and being a duplicitous ‘Wasteminster’, features a ‘plastic’ Boris Johnson, and Environment Secretary Michael Grove, with two of Britain’s best impressionists, Jon Culshaw and Matt Forde, providing the ‘voice-overs’.

5. Sennheiser AVX, The Oracle

Advertising Agency: Philipp and Keuntie, Hamburg, Germany

The cinematic Sennheiser AVX parody, directed by filmmaker Tore Frandsen, centres on the story of village ‘Oracle’ revered for his accurate predictions. He wakes up briefly from his slumber every 10 years, to answer one question about the future, before going back to sleep again as he has done for countless decades.

The location of the remote village a videographer journeys to for recording the moment the ‘Oracle’ wakes up, seems to have been purposely kept anonymous in keeping with the fictionally inspired theme of the amusing tale.

The music soundtrack is by composer Toni Martin Dobrzanski and performed by the Budapest Art Orchestra.

Numerous advertising awards were accrued by Sennheiser AVX’s ‘The Oracle’ that include the following edited selection:

Winner of Best Direction EuroBest
Gold for Best Directing at LIA London

Gold for Best Cinematography at LIA London

Gold for Best Edit at LIA London
Winner of Best Direction at Clio New York

Winner of Best Cinematography at Clio New York

Winner of Best Editor at Clio New York

Winner of Best Director at ADC Hamburg

Winner of Best Director at New York Festivals

Winner of Best Film (Branded entertainment) at New York Festivals

Winner of Best Film (Television/Cinema/Online) at New York Festivals 

Winner of Best Edit at New York Festivals

6. CANAL+, The Bear

Advertising Agency: BETC, Paris, France

Brilliantly directed by filmmaker Matthijs Van Heijningen, ‘The Bear’ is a highly watchable parody of a typical mogul Movie Director; part creative genius and part control-freak. The reason for the odd, thin shape of the bear director, named Paul Bearman, is rewardingly revealed at the end of the commercial.

‘The Bear’ motivated 1.5 million online views immediately after its first airing, receiving worldwide acclaim and winning a Cannes Film Craft Grand Prix.

7. Smart Fortwo, Big Cliché

Advertising Agency: BBDO, Düsseldorf, Germany

Featuring a parody of an epic car chase scene where a police car is typically filmed in mid-air slow motion, the Smart Fortwo commercial was directed by the Canadian filmmaking duo of Michael Gelfand and Ian Letts, known as The Perlorian Brothers.

The cleverly conceived, 40 second parody scenario, is a gem that effectively highlights the Smart Fortwo as the perfect car for the city, being anything but cliché.

8. Carlton Draught, Beer Chase

Advertising Agency: Clemenger BBDO, Melbourne, Australia

This parody of a classic Hollywood, L.A. cops chase scene, superbly directed by Steve Ayson, is highly amusing and one of my all time favourite beer commercials.

Winner of a Bronze and Gold Cannes Lions in the ‘Alcoholic drinks’ and ‘Direction’ categories, and a New York Festival Gold World Medal, when ‘Beer Chase’ was first released online, it motivated an impressive 2 million views in 6 days.

9. Cadbury Lunch Bar, Film Extras

Advertising Agency: Ogilvy, Johannesburg, South Africa

This classic parody of “How to get ahead in Advertising”, was impressively directed with understated humour by filmmaker Adrian De Sa Garces,

Filmed in the Czech Republic, the scenario centres on Tumi, a feature movie extra who, being an entrepreneur at heart, seizes every opportunity he can find to promote his car-wash business with some free advertising.

The amusing antics of Tumi, the Lunch Bar adventurer who is always hungry for much, much, more, makes for entertaining viewing.