Sorry Hollywood, I know you’ve had a rough year with the loss of Heath Ledger, Isaac Hayes, Bernie Mac and most recently, Paul Newman. But seriously, let’s end method acting. Bite the bullet and quit. I apologize to any readers who enjoy literary techniques as I have to refrain from metaphors that could cause harm for the remainder of this blog. Cool Hand Luke himself and Ledger were known for being method actors, and my apologies if it’s too soon to write this rant. Still, I’ve lost all my patience for method acting. Every time I hear someone talk about the method in an interview or at a coffee shop, I feel the need to ingest a healthy dose of jalepenos and napalm.
For those who aren’t aware of method acting, I’ll give you a highly biased rundown. Method acting, in short, is the becoming of a character. Until the turn of the century, acting was just that, acting. Performers pretended to be people they weren’t. Around 1900, a rich and very bored Russian named Constantin Stanislavski began to explore how to actually become different people on stage rather than impersonate characters. He would spend hours developing the perfect walk, the most unique and consistent lisp or the most minute way of tipping his hat. His techniques changed the face of acting by making it more real.
Towards the end of that paragraph, I got nice. I apologize. It won’t happen again.
The mere thought of spending hours “becoming a character” bothers me to no end. Snap out of it! You cannot be something other than yourself. The whole notion of “being” rather than pretending contradicts everything I was taught on Sesame Street. And I’ll be damned if you tell me that Big Bird and the Count were wrong. Even Cookie Monster, yes Cookie Monster was right. My next blog will be about how they stained his blue fur with red tape. I shouldn’t have brought it up, but ugh!
As marketing professionals, writers and designers, our job is very much like an actor’s. We search for the core of the products we sell. We find that one key element that makes them unique and interesting. Once we’ve harnessed that sense of brand differentiation, often called the unique selling point (USP), we start to find the emotional needs of our target audience and how our product satisfies those needs.
I don’t need to soil myself to sell diapers!
And it’s not like commercials can’t pull at emotions. Every Christmas, EVERY Christmas, my mother cries at one Hallmark commercial. At least one Superbowl commercial makes me laugh. Creatives are human too, with needs that products fill.
“But I don’t need things to make me happy”,says the thrift store trend-follower as she takes a sip from her Starbucks coffee. That sense of elitism drives me bonkers to the point where I will actually publish the word bonkers.
Can you even fathom what it would look like if our staff had to zip up each other in wedding dresses to express “how the perfect dress makes you feel?” Though hilarious and YouTube worthy, it’s utterly insane.
So how do marketing creatives transcend the pretentious artist’s way of believability?
We use “as ifs”, a sensible acting technique used to replicate the feeling connected with an event. All creatives do this implicitly, consciously or subconsciously.
Dirty diapers? I’ve sat in a wet puddle before and I know how irritating that is. More accurately to the target, I know that an accident can be embarrassing to everyone involved. Just the other week I put on a freshly pressed outfit only to spill coffee on it within minutes of being at the office.
I don’t need to “become a bride” to know the importance of finding the right dress. I understand how an outfit makes an occasion. Wearing the perfect suit to an interview gives me the confident feeling “as if” this interview is my special day.
So why do we “cheat”, as many method actors would call it? Frankly, because we don’t have a seven-figure contract to develop each ad. Or, because we like to get paid rather than skip out of a shift at our temp job only to blow an audition because we spent three hours “preparing” for a 30-second monologue.
If you think I’m whining. Stop. I just get so flabbergasted when our industry gets assaulted for not creating anything worth watching or noticing twice. Warhol was a genius for seeing labels as art. I hope others can see that as well. Next time you are presented with an ad that makes you stop (and many won’t because they’re awful), examine it. Put aside your natural defenses against advertising and see what its creators see in it- an understanding of how products change us and fill us with esteem far beyond the product itself.