Most marketing strategies prey upon the desire among consumers to be better people, in some form or another. A new music video satirizing the advertising industry, however, depicts what might happen if a product was geared toward people who wanted to be much, much worse.
“Dangerous” is the latest video from electro music project Big Data, the folks who last brought us the Facehawk project, which animated info culled from its users Facebook profiles. While that venture demonstrated by example the ease with which people are willing to hand over their personal data, the music video for “Dangerous” draws attention to the people who work hard to exploit this data.
Directed by Brandon LaGanke and John Carlucci of GHOST+COW, the video is an incisive send-up of advertising culture in the form of a fake commercial for “Big Data Sneakers.” Viewers follow the launch of this fictional sneaker from the product development process to the actual TV ads, and all the meetings in between. The only difference from real life is that the product subconsciously encourages its wearers to headbutt unsuspecting victims, causing their brains to erupt into geysers of grossness, and the marketing team is pegging its aspirational campaign to a life of outright immorality.
“The concept was inspired by the idea of ‘lifestyle marketing,'” says Alan Wilkis the producer behind Big Data. who created the song with Dan Armbruster from Joywave. “More specifically, what would happen if the lifestyle being sold alongside a product was both openly and inherently evil. That’s what first drew us in, and the story more or less grew from there.”
The first we saw of the eventual ad is a shapely woman in sports bra and shorts out for a morning run. Closed captions at the bottom of the screen recite copy for the ad, as we listen to the song. (“Now with Big Data Shoes, you can be the person you’ve always wanted to be.”) The first indication that the product might be a bit… off is when the testing phase includes jumpsuit-clad prisoners walking around in these shoes, and one of them headbutts another, causing his head to burst open like a potato in the microwave for too long. During various meetings afterward, creatives debate the look of the commercial and its viral strategy, and it all seems eerily plausible.
“A large captive audience is hard to come by now, and the consumer is more distracted than ever. As a result, brands have to be more crafty in order to penetrate their average consumer’s consciousness,” Wilkis says. “We’re in an era of data-driven marketing, and advertisers are thus able to be hyper-specific and hyper-targeted. Our easily-accessed information, social networks, and online behavioral patterns give marketers the tools to anticipate exactly the sorts of products and services we’re most likely to respond to, oftentimes in a manner we don’t even notice.”
As an example, Wilkis cites a study about advertising that uses facial composites based on the people who comprise one’s network, in order to tailor an individualized spokesperson based on subconscious facial preferences. Although hopefully we’re still far away from advertising knowing our basest impulses better than we do, with these kinds of shady ploys in play, it’s not much of a stretch to imagine marketing designed to emphasize bloodlust.