Hype Sheet: LG Goes the Mentos Route

By Brendan I. Koerner

The Pitch A generic golfer tees off—so far, so boring. But who's that by the tee box? Why, a trio of overaged escapees from an Urban Outfitters catalog, perched on a boxy red sofa. No one seems to mind the interlopers, who somehow teleport wherever the golfer goes—a sand trap, a green. After a particularly well-played shot, the three men exchange awkwardly animated high-fives. The golfer finally snaps to reality and appears to ask his caddy, "Who dey?" The caddy scrawls the letters "LG" on a sheet of paper. "Don't just watch it, live it," the sweet-voiced narrator intones, as if any viewer could've failed to grasp such an obvious pro-FullHD allegory.

Rip-Off Of Though the action here is much slower—it's golf, after all—the ad is clearly a descendant of those classic Mentos spots of yore. The actors have no lines, but rather emote everything in the most exaggerated way possible. And the choice of golf as the commercial's centerpiece is telling—it's a sport that translates well among globe-trotting business types, who will doubtless catch this spot on CNN International or BBC World. In other words, like the Mentos ads, the intention here seems to be cross-cultural appeal—not to mention the convenience of being able to dub the ad for myriad markets.


The Spin This is a natural extension of LG's successful "Life's Good" campaign, which aims to lessen consumer anxieties about high-end electronics. The message here is thus similar to the message in, say, LG's print ads touting its sleek washing machines: "Our products are for enhancing life, not impressing your friends." Granted, the spot briefly flashes 1080p at its conclusion, but that's one of the safer geek terms—remember when Jessica Simpson mentioned 1080i in that great DirecTV ad? ("I totally don't know what that means, but I want it.") Yes, this LG FullHD ad is vanilla, but that's the point—if three of the whitest, dopiest guys in history are lovin' it, then a relative sophisticate such as yourself will be even more enthralled.

Counterspin LG is definitely taking the road less traveled here. Its Korean rival Samsung is going in the opposite direction with its latest HDTVs (the one with those "super clear panels" for "blacker blacks"); it's advertising them as veritable works of art, fit for the walls of tycoons and other high rollers. Samsung's approach is definitely the more conventional one, trying to make potential customers feel as if they're buying their way into an elite club. Is LG underestimating the ego-driven aspects of the current HDTV market? Let's face it, people like to brag about their snazzy new $8,000 sets, and they're willing to learn the technical jargon in order to up their impressiveness. And they probably don't want to think of themselves as dorky, aging preppies whose idea of a fun Saturday afternoon is soberly enjoying a televised golf tournament. Perhaps a spy movie or, better yet, a Hype Williams video would've been more appealing you-are-there fare?

Takeaway I was all set to slam this ad, given my general antagonism toward golf. But I have to admit, the jarring Mentos style grew on me after repeated viewings. I can see the wisdom in creating a cross-cultural ad, especially in this day and age of the weak dollar—a lot of those LG FullHD sets are going to be sold in Europe and South Asia. But you've also got to hand it to LG for sticking to their core message, which has brought them so far in such a short period of time—am I the only one who remembers when LG was considered a decidedly low-end brand? But the chaebol has reinvented itself, in no small part because of its partnership with Philips, whose expertise in marketing appliances seems to have rubbed off on LG.

Hype-O-Meter 7 (out of 10). Yes, it's laughably bland. But LG has reinvented its brand by demystifying technology, and this commercial totally jibes with that theme. Granted, however, it's likelier to appeal to technophobes than Gizmodo readers; rarely has an HDTV ad so underplayed the innovation angle. And unlike the Mentos spots, there's a noticeable lack of zaniness—tough to imagine the Foo Fighters parodying this one.


Brendan I. Koerner is a contributing editor at Wired and a columnist for both The New York Times and Slate. His Hype Sheet column appears every Thursday on Gizmodo.

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