30 Sep

How far is too far?

Last night, around 10, I decided to just down tools and watch some mindless TV. My brain was frazzled and I clearly wasn’t going to get more work done.

I flicked through channels – past Traffic Cops, Nothing To Declare, Mock The Week – and settled on an old episode of Extras.
It’s an episode that I’d seen before, and a particularly cringeworthy one (even though that’s the style of comedy throughout the series anyway).

The basic idea behind this episode centres around racism, or – more specifically – the fear of not appearing to be racist in anything you do or say.
One of the main characters in the show, Maggie, is white and is attracted to another character, Danny, who is black.
His skin colour becomes a bit of a ‘thing’ in her head, and she’s petrified of inadvertently making racist comments in front of him, which inevitably leads her to make awkward/racist comments.

This theme builds and builds, throughout the episode, until the final scene with Maggie, Danny, Andy (the main character in the show), and Samuel L. Jackson.
Even though I know that all of the characters are actors, playing a part, and that there were several takes of this, and they all laughed about it in between takes, I still found that I was cringing more than I was laughing.
In part, I imagine myself looking on at this, as a real scene, thinking; ‘Stop, Andy. Stop talking!’
Here is that final scene:

The writers of the show – Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant – took a theme/idea and looked to see how far they could stretch it … and they stretched it as far as it could go.

You can apply the same rules to a creative marketing idea too. Take the basic idea and see how far you can push it before others tell you ‘that’s a bit too far’ or you realise it yourself.

I posted on Facebook, today, about the extension of the ‘Carlsberg don’t do ….probably be the best in the world’ campaign.

Carlsberg took the idea that anything they turned their hand to would be ‘the best in the world’ as far as they could (way beyond traditional media channels), including the ‘best litter in the world’.

They also ran this viral, below, which is probably about as far as they could’ve taken the idea. It’s mildly sexist – woman giving birth while hubby watches football, child named after footballers, Swedish au pair etc – but it’s funny and completely relevant to the original idea.

Anyway, simply put, if you get a ‘great idea’, don’t just stop at first base, thinking ‘that’s it, that’ll do’. See how far you can push that idea, how leftfield you can go. You never know where it might lead.


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