In February, McSweeny's published a poem titled "This is a Generic Brand Video," by Kendra Eash. The poem perfectly captured - and more interestingly, mocked - the clichés of advertising, something that was probably hard for some brand execs to watch, but was perhaps also a small lesson about the intelligence of an audience.
What happened next was amazing. Stock video footage provider Dissolve took the text of Eash's poem…and set it to actual stock video clips available through their service. The result was two and a half minutes of a wistful kind of funny that challenged all of us in marketing and branding to be better, more creative, and a lot less predictable.
That's the great thing about a really good parody though. Sure, sometimes we're at the wrong end of it and yes, not everyone will always find it funny, but in the end, if it succeeds, it will at least make us think.
Here are a few of recent parody ads that did just that:
The First Ever 2014 Cadillac ESLP: Poolside vs. Ford Upside - Anything is Possible
Cadillac gave us a Super Bowl commercial touting the benefits of good ol' American hard work and consumerism.
Ford answered with a commercial featuring the founder of Detroit Dirt, showing that what's really important is trying to make the world a better place…and having a car that helps you do it.
"Luxury Defined" - 1996 Nissan Maxima Craigslist Ad
When Luke Aker made a funny video to accompany his Craigslist ad listing his 1996 Nissan Maxima for $1400, one can assume all the filmmaker really wanted to do was get full asking for his, ahem, "gently used" car. Instead, he attracted the attention of the folks at Nissan who promptly offered him full price as well as $1000 to the charity of his choice.
But Nissan didn't stop there. They paired with MotorAuthority to ask car enthusiasts what they should do with the car. The final vote came in Nissan is going to restore the car to its former glory and put it on display. A great example of a brand not just going along with the joke, but getting in on it, and making themselves look good in the process.
Adobe Photoshop Parody
Anna Hill , a North-Carolina based photographer, felt like cosmetic ads were so overly manipulated and plastic looking that they might as well be advertising Photoshop. So she took that idea and ran with it, producing a series of ads that make Photoshop the beauty product. Our favorite tagline? "Immortalize Your Beauty. No one will ever know…as long as you never let anyone see you in person again."
Friskies-Branded "Kids React" Parody
"Kids React" is an incredibly popular weekly show where kids 5-14 give their opinions about everything from rotary phones to the controversial Cheerios commercial. For April Fools' Day, Friskies partnered with the YouTube producers and sponsored "Cats React": a video in which kittens and cats "react" to viral videos and "give their opinions." What we love about this is that not only is Friskies willing to take a risk, but they clearly understand the importance of subtle sponsorship.
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Airplane Stars Shirley Love Wisconsin Summers
Did you love "Airplane" the movie? Then you'll definitely get a kick out of this commercial from Travel Wisconsin in which the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Robert Hays reprise their roles quoting famous lines from the movie while also singing the praises of Wisconsin in the summer. Is it a parody that might go over a lot of people's heads considering Airplane came out in 1980? Sure. But we don't imagine too many Milennials were considering Wisconsin for their summering destination anyway.
The Weather Channel vs. DirectTV
In January, DirectTV dropped The Weather Channel from its subscriber service due to contentious contract negotiations. DirectTV did not want to give The Weather Channel their requested increase of one penny per customer, saying that TWC airs too many programs that don't fit with its stated mission of delivering the weather.
In January, The Weather Channel took out a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal and the L.A. Times, saying, ""If DirecTV truly believes nobody cares about The Weather Channel, then it should have no problem waiving its punishing cancellation fee for those who must change providers." Two weeks later, they released an ad that brutally spoofs DirectTV's "Get rid of cable" campaign" and was intended to capture the frustrating of DirectTV subscribers who miss The Weather Channel.
The Weather Channel maybe comes across as a little too bitter in this instance, but we're not going to lie, so far this is better than an episode of "The Real Housewives."
"First Kiss" Parodies
The "First Kiss" video of 20 strangers kissing got a ton of hype-and almost 25 million views on YouTube-in the first 48 hours. But then people found out it was actually an ad for a clothing company. And that all of the participants were actors and models and musicians. Some people got mad. Other people made parodies. Here are just a few of the ones we like best.
First Sniff: "We asked some dogs to kiss for the first time…"
Snog Frozen Yogurt: The first branded parody…
First Gay Hug: "We asked 15 homophobic people to hug gay strangers…"
This one is really sweet… and a perfect end note.