Remaking a classic

This post is being simulcast from Post Haste, the HenkinSchultz company blog.


There’s a fine line between creativity and blasphemy. I’ve especially found this to be the case when using classic and commonly revered pop-culture icons in the field of advertising. And over the past week, I’ve discovered two examples that prove the existence of this fine line.

First, we have the Office Space/World of Warcraft mash-up. I like this one.

Then, we have the A Christmas Story/Cingular spoof. I hate this one.

What’s the difference? How can I be so fickle, throwing one spot to the wolves while praising another for it’s clever application?

To me, both of these films are classics. One is a spot on account of cubicle life, complete with stapler wars and TGIFridays. The other is a cult Christmas institution of epic proportions, a movie that has transcended all other Christmas movies to take the place of “The Best Holiday Movie Ever Created.”

When you mess with a classic, it needs to be done carefully, with an importance placed on preservation of the overall idea. If you subtly drop a product in, and it makes perfect sense to connect the two ideas, then you have a success. If you try to cram a product in, regardless of the connection, you end up with a disjointed and nearly insulting effort.

Office Space is about office culture. It’s about wasting time while you’re supposed to be working. It’s about fiddling on computers. And it connects with people who enjoy subtle and smart humor. It matches the World of Warcraft crowd perfectly. It seems logical.

On the other hand, A Christmas Story is a movie about quirky families, character-driven relationships, and the art of getting what you want for Christmas. It is often held up as an example of holiday values – of family and caring and the old-time sensibility that Christmas can, at times, still conjure.

It has nothing to do with cell phones. You could sell bb guns, promote a kinder, gentler Santa at your department store, or develop an “Eat more Turkey” campaign around it. But not cell phones. It just doesn’t work. It’s insulting. It’s like using It’s A Wonderful Life to sell credit cards or other greedy vices.

Using a classic movie, even if it’s done well – shot for shot, word for word – needs to be done to accentuate the product, not just because it seemed like a good idea in a creative meeting, and not simply because it matches the season.

The World of Warcraft spot helps promote the product by creating a logical connection between computer games and cubicle workers. The Cingular spot misses this target, and instead instills a feeling of betrayal, as if someone took your favorite book and changed all of the characters.

Is nothing sacred?

This was lovingly handwritten on November 29th, 2006