The Commercial that Outraged All Musicians
Imagine you're 12 years old, playing the violin, practising hard and dreaming of a concert at a major concert hall. One day, you are offered a paid role in a commercial for a prestigious brand looking for talented young classical players like you. Bingo! Your knees shake, your cheeks turn red and you jump for joy. You can't wait to get up on the day of the shoot because it's your big day. But nobody told you that the story is rather different...
The advert for a certain luxury car brand's new model was presumably aimed at high-income parents whose children are assumed to have many hobbies, which, of course, must include prestigious classical music lessons. So, the creatives put their heads together and came up with the idea of shooting a funny commercial highlighting the superior soundproofing features of the interior of the new luxury vehicle.
You may understand now why the music community was so outraged. Young musicians are portrayed as annoying and not very talented tormentors of their music instruments. The background music is Richard Strauss's notorious epic fanfare called "Sunrise," made famous worldwide by Stanley Kubrick's 1968 film 2001: A Space Odyssey. The corporate joke is that the piece is played falsely, its grandiose melody sounding like a pompous cacophony of sounds. The condescending-looking "soccer mum" then muffles the false tones by rolling up the windows of her luxury car parked for some reason in the middle of the orchestra pit. Another double joke is the shot at the mother looking in the rear-view mirror at her daughter, who pretends she's probably the only one who can actually play well in the middle of the crowd of morons.
The problem is, however, that the musicians had to pass a regular audition where they had to demonstrate that they could play their instruments. Then they were even sent the score of the piece in question, only to find out on the day of the shoot that there was no need to play anything, just pretend, and that some other audio would be used later. None of those present had the slightest idea that this was a "joke" and their playing would be the subject of ridicule with a Strauss parody thrown in. One participant in the shoot described a perfect, professional filming environment with a large crew and equipment. It was then all the more of a shock when they saw the commercial for the first time on television.
Nowadays it's almost impossible not to tread on someone's corns if you try to make a joke. I can understand the effort of the luxury brand to look at the big picture, with elegance and a sharp sense of humour. But in this case, Infinity's marketing team showed a complete lack of understanding and knowledge of the music industry.
If you're a young musician and at the very beginning of your journey, especially if you play classical instruments (try coaxing out a nice tone on a violin, will you?), you're going to sound funny for the first few years. You certainly won't have your neighbours standing under your windows with a dreamy expression, but you'll be rather trying to ignore the thuds of a broomstick hitting the ceiling or the shrieking sound of window glass shattered by an oddly accurate brick. At this stage you are very sensitive and need maximum support from those around you, otherwise, you may just quit and give the world a manager, estate agent or insurance salesman instead of another Paganini or Mozart. Children in particular need love, understanding and a tremendous amount of patience from their parents and teachers.
I have a scenario for an alternative version of this very bad and, above all, most unfunny commercial. What if a children's orchestra played the beautiful melody of Strauss's epic fanfare live and with verve, and the mum in the posh car couldn't hear any of it because she was sitting in her soundproof, leather-scented, perfect car? She could only see the excited faces of the young musicians and, all eager, would eventually roll down the car windows to hear what was actually going on. Then she would look proudly at her daughter in the rearview mirror, who would wink knowingly, "Mum, you're impressed, aren’t you?" This positive scenario would also offer a lot more room for a joke or hyperbole.
Corporatists and marketers, hear the voice of the people! Children are not annoying, noisy, clumsy, or drooling props for your ads for products no one needs. Children are a gift, and when they play an instrument, they are doubly so.
Finally, check out this beautiful video by the New Brunswick Youth Orchestra, created in response to the aforementioned commercial. If this doesn't get you to practice your instrument, nothing will.
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