Do you want things? Generally, yes – but which things? Adverts attempt to make that decision for you but sometimes they go the opposite way and make you hate the corporate world more than you thought imaginable. This is The Good, The Ads & The Ugly.
There’s a theory in robotics which postulates the presence of the “uncanny valley“. For the uninitiated, the theory suggests that as robots look more and more human-like, people’s positive reaction to them grows. Then at some point the similarity becomes so close that they stop looking like humanoid robots and start looking like robotic humans. This almost-human-but-not quality is incredibly off-putting and people’s perceptions of the robots take a sharp tumble.
Now keep that principle in mind as we watch this Turkish Airlines advert.
From the very outset, something seems slightly wrong. The voiceover a little too measured, the music marginally too dramatic and that certainly looks like a city, but which one exactly? And then the name hits you. Gotham. City. Ben Affleck, in character as Bruce Wayne, strides from a building to his waiting car looking every bit like a no win-no fee injury lawyer. Whilst part of your brain knows this is fake, the scene is uncannily realistic. Look – all the African-Americans are in service roles!
We whizz through some more establishing shots which look like they’re lifted straight from the film, an inexplicably jarring club scene which is actually the only four seconds of footage that feels like it belongs in an advert (specifically any advert for spirits ever), and then back to Ben, sorry Bruce, on a plane.
Affleck’s career has had some ups and downs in its time and his casting as Batman was not met with unanimous joy, but he has been on an upswing recently. Let’s not forget that one of the last times he filmed on an aeroplane, he was fleeing the Iranian Revolution in his Oscar-winning film Argo. To go from that to doing conceptually forced sponsorship tie-ins seems like a definite step down. Just look at his face – it’s difficult to tell whether he’s brilliantly acting the cocky smile of a self-confident billionaire playboy or if the grim resignation of an actor who wishes he’d read to page 34 of his contract is showing through.
Finally we exit the uncanny valley and the ad is over. But wait…
Another advert, almost identical to the other has been produced for Metropolis. Thankfully, Superman himself doesn’t make an appearance; Twitter would have imploded under the weight of “Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Yes… actually it is a plane” jokes. Despite the fact they are advertising exactly the same thing, someone has tried vainly to make these opening shots look different. Planes pointing different way? Check. Dusk changed to dawn? Check. Appreciably different not-New-York-but-essentially-New-York cityscape? Check, just about.
Speaking of which, does an airline really want to be associated with films which repeatedly destroy skyscrapers in faux New York? Is that really the connotation that Turkish Airlines want to invoke when people think about them? Perhaps they’re just trying to prevent people mentally autocorrecting Turkish Air… to the more newsworthy Turkish airspace. After all, it’s not the fault of the commercial airline that Turkey’s military became embroiled in an increasingly acrimonious spat with Russia, which revolves around the fatal shooting-down of a Russian bomber in November 2015.
Either way, let’s hope that we pull back from the uncanny valley of ads that look like films and go back to what we’re more used to – films so full of product placement, they look like adverts.