Ad Space – Zelle Is Life

You are now entering Ad Space, a realm of commercials, brought before us so we might examine how they work, and discuss why we both love and hate them so. So it is written …

The Product:
Zelle banking app

The Promotions:

The Pitch:
Zelle is so amazing, you’ll want to tell everyone about it. Constantly. To the point that you’re incapable of having a normal conversation, alienating your friends and family … but it’s such a darn good app, you won’t care!

In the 1998 dramedy The Truman Show, a guy named Truman is secretly the subject of a reality show. Unbeknownst to him, his every action is broadcast around the world 24/7. His hometown is nothing but an elaborate set inside the world’s largest soundsatage. Everyone he interacts with, from his mother to his wife to his co-workers to strangers on the street: they’re all paid actors.

How can any network afford such a ridiculously vast and complicated setup? Product placement!

Not only is almost everything in Truman’s world a brand name product that viewers at home can purchase, but everyone he talks to will find opportunities to display the products for the camera and describe all their amazing features. The sheer bizarreness and artificiality of this behavior is one of many factors that clues Truman in that something is off with the world around him.

Because, of course, real people don’t act the way people in commercials do. In commercial land, everyone is singlemindedly obsessed with whatever is being advertised. They’ll talk about it non-stop, reciting all sorts of details about the product, and will treat everything else as being unimportant in comparison. And we mostly accept that because, hey, these ads have less than a minute to get your attention and sell you on something; subtlety and realism must play second fiddle to expediency.

So it’s so absolutely fascinating (to me at least) how these Zelle ads have some of their characters act like standard commercial pitch people … while everyone around them reacts like a normal human being, utterly weirded out by this behavior. It’s such a small thing, sometimes just a short reaction shot after the spiel about Zelle, but by breaking one of the cardinal rules of commercials, it stands out from pretty much everything else out there.

I’m half-tempted to try something like this in real life. In the middle of a conversation, just start doing a sales pitch for a random product, with a big fake smile on my face, and see how people react. Would they think I’m the weirdo … or would they, like Truman, start looking for the hidden cameras recording their life?