Thursday, March 22, 2007

A campaign dimly

Another campaign that seems to run a lot during the sporting events I watch - possibly because the main demographic is working males - is Charles Schwab's "Why the Hell is this Rotoscoped" series of ads. Below, one of many examples, although it's far from the worst, mostly because this guy doesn't move around too much:

Other, and worse, examples can be found here.

So, the big question: why is this rotoscoped? Schwab's VP of advertising claims that the cartoons force people to focus on what's being said. Does anyone agree with that? Because it seems to me to have the exact opposite effect - the animation makes motion look jerky and unnatural, people's mouths look weird as they talk, and the Uncanny Valley effect - the more realistic something that isn't real gets, the more turned off we are - is in full force. The animation is too close to reality to be escapist, yet not realistic enough to be familiar. Instead it's just creepy. How is distracting me with freakish-looking, oddly-moving people supposed to let me concentrate on your message? When I see one of these ads, I don't think, "You know, that guy is making a lot of sense." I think, "OH MY GOD WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIS FACE??"

Yet this explanation doesn't seem like a put-on, as it shouldn't - it's not like rotoscoping is just a switch on a camera. You really have to want to do it. (Maybe someone at Schwab is just a big Richard Linklater fan - Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly in particular, of course.) I'm still left wondering how anyone at Schwab actually believes what they're saying, though. If I was watching a regular ad with a bald, middle-aged guy sitting there talking about investment, what exactly is distracting me from his message that weird-looking animation isn't going to repeat?

The real answer, I would guess, is that the rotoscoping serves no purpose whatsoever - other than to get people talking about the rotoscoping. If it were a guy sitting there, you probably would forget all about it as soon as it ended. But if it's a creepily-animated guy sitting there... well. And there are articles about the campaign all over the web, the gist of most of them being "Have you seen these Schwab ads? Craaaaaazy!" So let's not pretend it "focuses the message." Schwab doesn't care if you remember anything the guy was saying as long as you remember the name Schwab and know that they're connected with investing. Which is about all I do remember. That, and that I will leave the room whenever one of these freaky ads comes on. Seriously, what the hell.

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