So there I was, doing research on Hulu. (Really, it was research.) Up pops this mystifying ad:
Now, maybe if you’re already a classical music fan, you would recognize the name Brahms and the iconic bearded man and piano that barge into the scene. Maybe, if you listen carefully, you can actually hear Brahms promoting his “arts-enriched” cereal, but it’s hard to understand through his accent. The composer touts his product, “fortified with increased test scores and creative problem solving skills.” The spot wraps up with the kids sprouting white beards as Brahms assures the family that “that’s just the power of the arts!”
I’m sure more than a few viewers remain completely baffled by the purpose of the ad. Does it advocate for breakfast? For playing dress up?
This vague approach reminds me of the notorious AIDS sock PSA from the 80s:
Are we as embarrassed to talk about classical music as we are about sex?
The campaign, brought to you by the Americans for the Arts, revives the tired trope that the arts are good for you, and therefore should be part of your kids’ “diet.” There are similar spots for Van Goghgurt, Nutcrackers, and Elizabeth Barrett Brownies. Viewers are encouraged to visit their website, where after a few, hard to find clicks they can see 10 simple ways parents can get more art into their kids’ lives, featuring helpful tips such as looking for arts events in the local paper and going to the library. But you won’t find any actual art on this website, not even a Brahms ringtone.
Don’t get me wrong, any advocacy for the arts is good advocacy. The world would be a poorer place without AFTA. But this highly visible campaign squanders a real chance to connect with a wired audience that might just be interested in something more than their Hulu sitcom.
How about describing the intense focus a you can get from listening to Brahms? How about a blank screen, 30 compelling seconds of Brahms’ music, and then a challenge to the listener, such as: If you just thought clearly for the first time today, what could you dream if you heard the whole symphony? Just a thought.
In a distracted society, I think this angle is worth a try. Haven’t we already discredited the “eat your vegetables” approach to promoting culture? At the very least, can’t we produce ads that say what we mean, and skip the gimmicks?