Sunday, July 30, 2006

Adblogging: The Fruit Guys

Selling cheap, functional underwear can be neither easy nor fun. For Fruit Of The Loom, they've taken to a strategy that mostly emphasizes brand recognition probably because, after all, underwear is underwear. They have three ads running in a regular rotation right now, all based on the pretense that the four guys dressed as fruit that have populated their commercials for a number of years are really the members of a band. Two of the three have music video-type credits at the start of the commercial; the one that does not was perhaps filmed before the "band" idea fully matured.

"Blue" is the best of the ads -- here's the full video, which is cut down for the commercial (the lyrics are here). It's a catchy version of the falsetto white-boy ballad popularized by the likes of Ben Folds. The song makes no sense, and it helps that the lyrics are hard to follow. The last line of the songs sounds like, "the world embraced my sacred underpants." It sounds better set to the music, which is very appealing. (NOTE: The lyric is probably "slate blue" and not "sacred", but it's still pretty weird.] The visual appeal is also strong and the product is inserted into the setting almost imperceptibly. The underwear shown mixes with the setting and the mood. That the "band" is four men dressed as fruit just heightens the surreality of it, and makes us remember the brand -- the whole point of these ads.

"You Can't Over Love" is somewhat less effective, and is frankly kind of creepy -- the full video, which like "Blue" was cut down for the ad, is here (the lyrics are here). The song is a maudlin country ballad about a father, a son, their comfortable underwear, and a dead hamster. Seeing the shot of the father sitting at the edge of the son's bed for a profound talk about the nature of life and death is not improved by the fact that both are wearing only underwear. I'm not sure I trust the intentions of a dad who doesn't put on his pants for that talk. The bizarre implications perhaps bothered the producers, because they defuse the weirdness by cutting away to the "band" in the studio supposedly previewing the video. One complains bitterly that there's "a lot of Apple", the lead singer, in that video. Apple is oblivious; he's captivated watching his own performance. They don't cut away like that for the other ads, preferring instead to show as much "music video" as possible.

But the third ad is perhaps creepier than the second. It's the one probably produced before the "band" idea took hold, as there's no music video style credits at the start. It shows the band standing on pedestal playing a fast, hot, sexy rhythm on bongo drums. All around them, underwear-clad models are dancing joyfully and in unison. Unlike the other two ads, this one primarily highlights the characteristics of the product. The way the women dance shows potential buyers that the underwear is comfortable, easy to move around in, and comes in a variety of colors and styles. But what kills the ad for me is the expression of the faces of the "fruit". Alongside a pulsing beat and juxtaposed against the legion of scantily clad beauties dancing around them, their straining, earnest expressions recall an activity other than playing bongos.

The Fruit Guys have been around for a while, and there's now even a Hispanic version of the quartet. Hopefully we'll see more ads as strong as "Blue," and fewer as weird as "You Can't Over Love".

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