Like con artists, TV ads love to come up against a naive mark who thinks he’s above their eerie powers of manipulation. But don’t worry–Slate is here to ruin your innocence, and make you all the tougher for it. Their slideshow, “There are 12 Kinds of Ads in the World,” draws back the curtains of modern advertising to reveal a classic piece of insider knowledge from one of the industry’s most famous ad men, Donald Gunn, one-time creative director for the renowned Leo Burnett ad agency.
We’re somewhat partial to the ads that tell little stories–or, as Gunn calls them, “exemplary story” ads, which he illustrates with the recent Volkswagen “car crash” spots:
It’s shocking and violent, but at heart it’s really just an exemplary story spot. Once upon a time, some people went for a ride in a Volkswagen, gabbed about trivial matters, got into a scary accident, and emerged unscathed–thanks to the VW’s excellent safety features. The end.
We like to think we’re pretty impervious to the effects of ads, and yet still we develop irrational affinities toward certain brands. (We even rooted for the Geico caveman before he got his own sitcom.) At least now, armed with this insider’s guide to the DNA of most every ad on TV, we can pick apart the mechanics while still laughing at that crazy gopher, lusting after that sexy cookie, or crying over that magic bottle of shampoo.
It’s not quite a peek at the inner workings of the Skull & Bones society, but it’s arguably far more useful for the average consumer. Check out the slideshow, and then you’ll be armed with one more tool to help endure another 2:20 break without being secretly zombified. (Disclaimer: you’ll probably still be zombified.)