Doritos – The VCK Reviews – ‘The Smackout’- by BHAYWARD

3 of 6

This review of ‘The Smackout’ by BHAYWARD, is the 3rd 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.

If the reader cares to see these videos for him/herself, the easiest way is to go to the CTSB YouTube channel.

The Video The Rating
1. “Kids These Days…………………………………………8.2
2. “Underdog……………………………………………………8.0
3. “The Smackout……………………………………………..7.5
4. “Casket………………………………………………………….7.7
5. “Snack Attack Samurai……………………………….7.0
6. “House Rules………………………………………………4.9

The Smackout‘ by BHAYWARD

The Review

PRO:
CASTING/ACTING: As a SAG actor and occasional CD I can say that these actors are exactly the type I would expect to see sitting in the waiting area prior to an audition/interview for this spot. They epitomize the type of characters you would expect to see in a living room about to huddle together and watch the big game. Not too old…not too young. Not one of them are over the top aesthetically…which is good. In branding, it is often tempting of a CD to cast ‘looks’ that can distract from the story or worse yet, the product. Everything here is strong yet neutral. It works for me.

SOUND DESIGN: Nice design. Not an overly difficult design mind you,….straightforward thuds/smacks/Dorito bag/etc., but the mic technique used on the main actor was very, very good. When he delivers the “…you look like a little girl…” line, the timbre and intensity of his performance really comes through. In the absence of a music bed, or any other foley this performance really shines. Nice E.Q.’ing.

Note: Since the inception of the contest, only four (4) of the sixteen (16) Crash the SuperBowl finalist commercials have contained music of any kind. Something to consider, especially since Doritos morphed from allowing any music (original or royalty free) in the first year to now only permitting music provided in the D.T. Box. If history is an indicator, Doritos might just not like music beds (not implying a conscious decision on their part). If true, I personally don’t agree. Rarely do I see content of any kind that can’t be strengthened by the appropriate music bed. I am only suggesting that it may be the prevailing trend of preference of Doritos, not branding in general.

LIGHTING/EDITING: The lighting on this commercial is nicely done. Everything is even. No hot spots. Nothing distracting. There is an issue of colorization I think relates to the lighting and I will address that the CON. The deployment of light to tell the story on a realistic looking ‘set’ was definitely achieved here. The editing is very good from clip to clip. Again the story is moved forward in a logical, aesthetic, sequential manner. There is a minor issue with regard to dialogue that I will address in the CON but overall it is a very professional cutting job.

DIRECTING/DP: It works. The actors all got to where they should have been per the script. I like that the black eye didn’t appear immediately and only matured after the run to the store for Doritos. This is a nice detail the type of which is often lost on Directors. The shots are all good and keep the viewer interested. The C.U.’s, M.W.’s and, the W.A.’s, are nicely mixed, and make it easy to follow the story. The W.A. where the dude slo-mo’s through the air is especially nice. Very good work on what I am guessing was not the easiest of sets to work execute this type of story.

STORY/LOCATION: The story is practical. Not sensational. Relative to content, it works for a SuperBowl game day crowd, but might be less effective during prime time some day in March. I think the writing nailed this specific assignment. The set was chosen well. It is not overdone in splendor yet has a nice homey, cozy,*warm feeling to it (*not talking about the coloration). It invites the viewer to imagine it a place they would also want to sit and watch the big game. It just feels good. Great work.

CON:

EDITING/COLORATION: The editing was mostly tight, but one issue bothered me, and it happened twice. It is the kind of think that I hate seeing in any type of editing. Both times the wife was ‘cut off‘ by the husband/boyfriend, she stopped talking before her boyfriend actually cut her off. This smacks of rookie editing. Not trying to insult anyone here. After several years of writing/editing this type of quick-fire dialogue, it is eventually learned how to tighten it up.
The reason I blame the editor is because even if the acting performances didn’t provide the correct ‘trail off’, the editor should still have had a one or two word overlap and faded the wife/girlfriend dialogue over the course of those two words to simulate a trail off as the boyfriend interrupts (starts his dialogue). If the editor of ‘The Smackout’ thinks this a petty critique point, he should experiment with the edit and discover just how much more compelling the interplay between the two characters are with this element added. A major premise of the story is that this ‘ritual between men‘ is so important that they dare not be interrupted by anyone…….I feel this loose editing robbed the moment of it’s full due effect and as a result a couple of rating tenths.

The entire commercial has a color scheme I do not like. Normally I don’t mind things a little warm, but this went way over the top. The red and yellow need to be dialed back quite a bit. Maybe the tungsten (2800°K and 3655°K) used for the inside lighting made the natural outside lighting (4000°K – 6500°K) look just too blue for the editor/director’s liking. Maybe in an attempt to lessen the exterior cyan/blue effect the decision was made to warm up everything in post. Admittedly I can only guess, but unless it was for the preceding reason or for color blindness, there really wasn’t a good excuse for being so warm with this expression. If I was the editor/director definitely I would have gotten the skin tones as pleasing as possible and  the devil may care where everything else fell.

Note: If I am correct and it mattered to the editor what intensity of ‘blue’ was expressed by the bay window lighting, he could have used an eight point garbage matt on an overlay to achieve any bay window color he liked. After all, this is a still stick clip with relatively zero movement from the actors.
I challenge this editor to do an experiment. Take the W.A. living room clip  of ‘the girls’ and add a little cyan (maybe some blue as well) by degrees and notice if you don’t start seeing the natural colors of the set begin to stratify themselves. You should start to notice, the bag on her lap will start to become a true red while her peach shirt turns…..peach. The pillow by the left elbow of the long haired brunette will start to separate out nicely…the paisley print on it will start to get it’s own character against the balance of teal/blue fabric. Throughout the frame you will start to see the white wall become
white again…the subtle difference in the two girls skin tones instead of them both looking…well….burnt orange. Etc. etc. etc.

WRITING: Though a good story, it is not a great story. Everyone I show this commercial to emits a chuckle or giggle….not a pronounce ‘laugh’. It is the same shortcoming of my own three submissions this year. Although funny and interesting, none of them make you grab your stomach. To be honest, none of this year’s spots solicit the kind of laughter as say ‘Free Doritos or ‘New Flavor Pitch‘ from last year or ‘Mousetrap‘ and ‘Live The Flavor‘ from the contest year before that. I’ve shown friends and associates this years field (some have viewed them right here in my office) and it seems without exception the reaction is a bit below the excitement level of years past.

Reference: In case anyone hasn’t figured it out yet, my rating scale is based on many factors but large among these is the Herbert Brothers commercial from last year and how it performed against the field of industry professionals. Herbert Brothers were #1 in the USA Today poll and received an 8.46 for their effort. I definitely do not feel anyone in this years field exceeds that mark. Accordingly I will not rate any as highly. ‘Free Doritos’ offers a lot of data to be gleaned by the serious writer with an eye to improves themselves. It isn’t that the Herbert Brothers main sight gag (whack in the scrotum) is very original, because it’s not. That gag has been a staple of comedy since before Joe or Dave were born. It was the way in which they incorporated it that was uber appealing to the masses.

Similar to ‘Free Doritos’, ‘The Smackout’ has two major action moments. In the Herbert Brothers spot, the first action moment occurs when the dude busts the glass in the work place and ‘frees’ the Doritos. At this point all of the USA Today ad meters goes from 5 to 10. Everyone appreciates the chains of employment bondage being broken and anarchy reigning. With the first sight gag in ‘The Smackout’, there is no one rooting for anyone…..no champion to be caused, so although it is a great action shot, the meters don’t necessarily peg out across demographic lines. It is only a depiction of someone getting belted in the mouth. Additionally, unlike the first two videos from Five Point Productions, neither is there an ‘underdog’ (someone we can root for) moment that will help the viewer to sympathize or relate. Again, it is just a dude getting punched in the face.
In ‘The Smackout’ the second action shot comes from the ‘glazed over prostrate’ dude ‘waking up’ and shcoking his counterpart. The moment does have entertainment value but again, it will not be enough to peg any meters and for the same reasons as the first gag. Herbert Brothers second sight gag was an extension of the first and they upped the ante in the process. After returning from the logo/slug, the boss gets whacked in the scrotum. For everyone holding a meter who didn’t understand why they so liked anarchy in the work (smashed glass)…. the boss’s nut cracker explained it to them in no uncertain terms, and the meters pegged again. I mean, who doesn’t sympathize with the ‘going postal’ mentality of the average cubicle worker?

‘The Smackout’ had some great action moments and solid production throughout. It would def. not embarrass anyone were it to be played as a national commercial, but I can’t see this choice by the Doritos judges translating into unanimous clockwise tweaks on of the golden ad meters come February.

VCK Rating – 7.5


Please go to the next blog for review number 4 of 6:

Casket‘ by ms


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4 responses to “Doritos – The VCK Reviews – ‘The Smackout’- by BHAYWARD

  1. I will admit that your critiques are well thought out. I appreciate your contribution to the contest and although some of us didn’t agree with the judges decisions (who would if you entered and lost) There are valid points made that show some continuity to what Doritos has chosen throughout the years. Personally I like the polished enticing spots like Doritos Please, A Smash Hit, Casket, even Dave was a riot. There were at least 25-30 commercials that could have made it. I credit you for actually watching so many of the spots and taking the time to review them. Figuring out the science of what makes a spot click is tricky and it will be interesting to see if anyone places this year. For the filmmakers sake, I hope someone at least gets 400k. I doubt anyone gets the mil, but I never thought that last years winner was that great. Maybe us LA folk are out of touch with the rest of the US when it comes to what works. After all Hollywood does churn out some pretty bad sh*t.

    • Hey Mike,
      Glad you came to join the conversation. I am a SAG actor but have been for only four years. At age forty-five most of my life has been spent away from the Hollywood scene. I concur with you that there is a fairly high % of Burbank/Hollywood types that are just plain out of touch with the rest of America.

      I think if film-making creatives used the internet and the power of social networking to venture from their comfort zone to include non-industry regular folk in their social circles, they might realize the ‘other’ stories that could be told through film, and in the process better discern what appeals to the masses.
      I know that this is easier said than done, but it is sort of like a broader approach to the research that should always be done when writing a script, if we want to make it read authentically.

      As I disclaimed in the beginning of this blog series of six reviews: “My experience in life is singular”. It is important to recognize this uncertainty when we write/review/create. I can’t tell you how many times artists I have discoursed with have assumed that because something is foreign to ‘them’ it must also be foreign to everyone else on the planet who reads it or reviews it, because after all, no one in the world has lived life any fuller or differently than them…..
      To those stubborn peers who happen to be male, I ask them to describe what it was like to have their most recent menstrual cycle. Sometimes they ‘get’ what I am trying to say. Sometimes they don’t.

      Hope to see you back in the kingdom again Mike.
      The VCK

  2. Jared,

    I think you might have been a little too kind with this review. I actually think this is one of the better written, acted and directed spots, but the cinematography should have sunk it’s chances. The colors aren’t just off. This was shot incorrectly. Maybe it looks better on a TV but on the web, the shots of the girls are gray, miscolored and without contrast. I think that it might have been shot too dark and the editor had brighten the footage a lot. The color on the guys look strange too. I’m all for Doritos picking spots that are rough around the edges, but if this aired during the superbowl, everyone who just bought a new high-def TV for the game would look at this and say “yuck.” It’s a funny story and the actors and the stunts were great but I never imagined doritos would pick a commercial that had major, technical flaws when they had more than 4,000 entries to choose from.

    This also is another spot that was shot with a cannon 5D and I suspect that whoever shot the ad didn’t exactly understand how the camera worked yet. If they had just rented a simple HVX this would have been plenty good enough for air. Again, this pick baffled me.

    • Hey Dan,
      You could be right. This may be underexposed footage that was pushed in ‘post’. Thing is, the average Ad Meter holder doesn’t understand this stuff as well as you and I. Yes, it would probably be the kind of thing that would sink any Clio award possibility but I think it is suitable enough to be digested by the masses without too much difficulty.

      Your points however are valid and duly noted.

      The VCK

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