It’s Cartoon Friday, again!
I don’t usually select music videos for Cartoon Friday, even animated ones, because I use those during the rest of the week. But today I find I have a lot to say about this video — “Take On Me” by a-Ha, from their album Hunting High and Low. It premiered in 1986.
I don’t remember being a particular fan of the band, but I was obsessed with this music video around the time it came out — when I was approximately eight years old. I watched a lot of MTV and, while I can appreciate fine concert photography today, at the time I only liked music videos that told a story. The animated music video was the height of the art form to me, taking the expressiveness of music and transforming it with the kinetic energy of a cartoon.
While I was vaguely aware of the romantic plot of this video, what grabbed me of course was the way it so convincingly depicts a comic book character coming to life — and the idea of being drawn into a fantasy world. This was even better than just reading a comic book or watching a cartoon — however dangerous those wrench-wielding antagonists may be, facing them would be worth it to be able to step into the pages of some beloved book. In a nutshell, this video captivated me and always held my attention anytime it aired.
So, it was with distinctly mixed feelings that I viewed this recent Volkswagen commercial when a friend shared it with me. Since I don’t watch TV except on the Internet, I’d probably never see it otherwise.
Let’s get out of the way first that obviously this is a highly effective commercial — it succeeds because lots of people, myself included, are talking about it. I’m writing a whole blog post on it. It works.
It also made me laugh — the reveal of the guy in the meeting at the end is laugh out loud funny. And, I agree that advertising can be an art form. I’m a Mad Men fan, after all.
Yet I feel profoundly mixed feelings about this commercial. First off, there’s that feeling one gets when one’s childhood is sold. After laughing, I immediately felt a little guilty for doing so. As if I were somehow disloyal to that classic video (though hopefully the band are getting a nice fat payoff) and, more so, to the younger version of me that loved it. Would I have loved this as much then if it had just been a commercial?
When I tweeted links to both the original video and the commercial, I heard from a college-age follower:
@KitOConnell ….how did I not know this existed. Literally thought as soon as I finished VW ad "wish it wasnt a car ad!"
— Matthew Roberts (@btx91) October 4, 2013
Of course: it makes perfect sense that someone of his generation might not be familiar with the music video at all. But while I may be scraping by financially and scrapping in the streets as a gonzo journalist, people my age are “supposed” to be settling down with a house, a good business suit, and a fancy new car.
I asked comedian Jessica Garcia — Twitter’s @RealLipsMcGee and the friend who shared the video with me in the first place — what she thought of it.
The trend of using a catchy song to gain attention is nothing new but what VW has done is tug at the heartstrings of its target demographic. … The fact that A-Ha’s ‘Take On Me’ was used makes me feel old.
Punching the nostalgia button until it breaks is nothing new to advertising, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it.
What are your favorite cartoons — or animated music videos? Maybe I’ll use one in a future installment.
What do you think of this commercial? What’s on your mind tonight? The watercooler is an open conversation.
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Photo by John Steven Fernandez released under a Creative Commons license.