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This review of ‘Kids These Days’ by Nick Dimondi, is the 1st of six issued by the VCK for the six finalists in the 2009-2010 Crash The Superbowl Doritos commercial contest. You may page backwards or forwards through any of the six sequential
blog posts to read any/all of the reviews.
The Doritos Judges have spoken!
Let the murmuring begin.
Hey minions of the kingdom. Today’s the day we have all been waiting for. No more guess work. The gauntlet has been thrown. The fair maidens are swooning. The royal Banquet hall is abuzz, but not all guests are merry.
Over the course of the next week, I am going to review the commercials Doritos selected to represent their brand to the world this coming February. I will try to issue one thorough and detailed review per day. As expected, the King will be fair and just. The commercial will receive a PRO dressing and a CON lashing. I will be as frank and honest as I have been in the several hundred reviews I’ve issued over the last several months, showing no favoritism and even less undeserved mercy.
My life experience is a singular. No one is free of this truth. I may see clearly through something that is opaque to a fellow peer and because of contrasting socioeconomic backgrounds. No crime, just the truth.
A joke is only funny to those who ‘get it’. The better crafted the comedy though the wider the audience it appeals to. I admit there are occasionally jokes I do not ‘get’. It doesn’t necessarily follow that they weren’t funny. It just means that the King did not laugh. This however will be the bar to which these commercials will be judged. The king must laugh or the lions gate will be opened.
I will rate these commercials at a bar well above what is expected of national quality content. After all, it’s only fair to measure Doritos against the same bar to which they judge the rest of us. This rating is calculated taking into consideration the strengths of these videos relative to the quality of all 16 CTSB finalists from previous years and is measured on a scale of one (1) through ten (10).
The Video The Rating
“Kids These Days”…………………………………………8.2
“Snack Attack Samurai” …………………………….….7.0
“House Rules” ……………………………………………….4.9
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Before I start in with the reviews, I’d like to congratulate Five Point Productions out of Cary, North Carolina. They were the first to win the Doritos contest at it’s inception four years ago, and are back again with a vengeance in 2010. They submitted two great spots and employed a very smart strategy when registering with the contest. They registered their spots under pseudonyms and two different owner/households, so that each commercial had a chance to be considered for finalist status. Kind of pretentious huh? I know a few eyebrows raised around here when I did the same thing with my three spots (asking my brothers to come on board as producers to register my three spots separately). I told friends and family, “Hey, what if Doritos wants more than one of my wonderful masterpieces of Good Looking Chubby White Boy art?”…man did the eyes roll. That Jared is pretty full of himself they would think. Way to go Five Points. Thanks for redeeming me from my detractors.
You see, in the current rules format Doritos only allows one finalist spot per director/household…..”. The only way to score two finalist spots in a single year/contest is to register them with separate owners. So a director may be common to two spots, but not an ‘owner’ (blink, blink). I love semantics. This strategy payed off for the Herbert Brothers four years ago when they scored two semi-finalist slots in the semi-final eight, before eventually having one of their spots eliminated in the finals. It only makes sense that if someone can produce a great spot once, they can do it a second time, even in the same year. Frankly, if Doritos is serious about beating the competition via the USA Today poll, they should do away with the ridiculous ‘one per household’ rule, since it is so easy to execute a work around anyway.
Okay, on to the review.
PRO: A general rule to follow when producing content for national quality commercials is the 25-35/:30 rule. This rule suggests there should be 25-35 clips per :30 commercial. This requirement correlates with the entertainment requirements of our short attention span X-Box culture. Sometimes though, when content is strong enough, you can flip the bird to the rules and this is what Nick Dimondi did with ‘Kids These Days‘.
Except for the action cuts within the frame, this spot is arguably a single shot. I thought it was brilliantly conceived. I know personally as a writer/director I am always trying to brainstorm ways to have a single lighting scheme, single location, single camera setup yet still execute potent content. Excellent work here. These guys are not strangers to superior content. Five Points created the ‘Live the Flavor‘ commercial that won the first Crash The Superbowl contest, entering the advertising record books as being the first commercial created by consumers and produced for only $12,79. It should also be noted that the ‘Live The Flavor‘ spot would go on to score #4 in the USA Today meter poll….something that had never previously occurred for Doritos.
Lighting: Nice and even. They took a big chance here. I think if the sun is going in and out all day, it would have made the ‘single shot’ gamble a losing proposition. The viewers eye adjusting to a changing background and shadow scheme which would have distracted greatly. That the lighting environment never changed allowed this action to feel like it happened as part of a real single moment in time.
Casting: The casting was strong. I have cast before in Burbank California, and had over 300 submissions per role, inviting 60+ per role to be interviewed and I don’t think given the same script for ‘Kids These Days’ that I could have done a better job. I gloated for a reason. I believe these guys executed the casting in North Carolina and do not have the resources that I have here in So. Cal. (plethora of actors, many of whom are excellent and will gladly work for free to build a reel), yet still cast this with types as appropriate as any national production company would. The physical comedy was marvelous. I love the ‘pointy finger’ of the kid. I laugh every time he points that finger at the old man. It’s as if he is saying “No you didn’t….oh yes you did….and though I am clean cut and look harmless and normally respect my elders, I would so kick your ass right now old man, if only my ass cheeks didn’t feel like they were somehow wrapped around my earlobes“. The senior citizen had great acting chops as well. No weaknesses here.
Camera Work: Beautiful in it’s simplicity. Nothing to hate. A minor shortcoming I will address in the CON.
Writing/Script: The writing is very smart. When you think of how hard it is to keep the attention of a viewer who will be forced to look at basically the same static shot for :30, kudos must be given to the writer(s).
Editing: Though the editing job on content like this is made fairly easy compared to other types of content, there is always room to ‘blow it’ if your I’s aren’t dotted and your T’s aren’t crossed. This feels like Barrett Philips editing. If it is, great job man.
Branding: It is easy to understand why Doritos liked this spot. It is perfect branding. It allowed for the product to be on screen for the entire :30 but without being a distraction. Trust me people, this is not an easy thing to do. It is why ‘product placement’ jokes have become cliche. These guys made it the center of attention without making it the center of attention… genius.
The ‘love for the brand’ is what this whole spot is all about. From the beginning when the old man is digging for change…when the young guy comes sauntering up all hungry….when the old man tazers him….the object of their affection is clear and unencumbered by any other plot points.
CON: THere were a few things that should/could have been changed that could have added value to this spot.
Music Bed: Rarely have I seen a spot that can’t be helped by a music bed. ESPECIALLY one where there is no dialogue to worry about. This spot screamed for a music bed. There were some classical options in the directors tool box that could have worked beautifully. With the apogee riff of a sting placed right over the tazer, it could have elevated this piece to Oscar worthy.
Directing: The directing had some shortcomings. When the old man was looking through the glass, he should have been looking directly at the object of his affection, ‘The Doritos Bag”. He often looks in places that didn’t always make sense. Yes, I know he is a senior citizen and maybe the director was trying to suggest a little senility, but I’m not buying it. This old man is focused and prepared, complete with tazer. He also repeated his ‘peering into the glass’ action a few times in the same spot. This repeating of essential the same content took a couple of points off in my book. In other words: To be perfect, every second of the the 30 seconds should have relevance. If you can remove 2, 3 or 4 seconds and still tell the same story than that 2, 3 or 4 seconds is by definition, ‘fluff’. Analyzed fully, this is really a 22-25 second story spread over the :30 format. Becasue there are many other redeeming values, this is forgiven, but still a weakness that could have been strengthened with the addition of a visual/bit by way of writing.
PROPS / Continuity/ Blocking:
1. There are ‘blocking’ issues relevant to the main prop. The vending machine shakes a bit too easily when only coins are put into it by the old man. That the whole camera frame bounces a tad when this happens is a little disappointing. When the young man’s head hits the vending machine, it jarrs the ‘camera’ to the left quite a bit. This is a great site gag. Here, having the vending machine ‘move‘ is appropriate. Problem is, post black slug text graphic, when the live action picks back up, we find that the camera angle is returned back to where it was while shooting the earlier footage. Though this may be lost on the average viewer, it is the kind of stuff that is regularly scrutinized by peers and types that would judge wether a spot is Clio worthy or not. The director needed to devise a way to have the new camera angle (jarred vending machine) remain consistent for the last two action clips. Otherwise it becomes clear the last scene was shot earlier in the day before the camera/vending machine was actually hit in the head (moved) by the young dude.
2. I may be wrong on this because of ‘colorization’ issues, but I see where a traditional fire engine red bag of ‘Nacho Cheese’ Doritos suddenly changes into a red/burgundy bag of ‘Spicy Nacho’ after leaving the vending machine. Again, maybe it was just the overcast lighting, but I would have preferred to see the bag of chips in the old mans hand be just as snappy in color as the reflected bag off the glass. Admittedly, this is a minor point but it still looks like a continuity mistake where the bags flavors were switched.
3. I don’t think the mirror correction on the Dorito bag was necessary. The viewers would have given the creative/director all kind of love if he respected them to the extent they had to figure out the spelling by themselves. It would have taken all of 2 or 3 seconds, since the Doritos brand is so iconic (maybe even less time), and would have given the viewer that coveted interactivity they tend to respect when given them by great directors.
VCK RATING – 8.2
Please go to the next blog for review number 2 of 6
‘UNDERDOG‘ by jwsvoboda
aka Five Point Producitons