HBO's Latest Gem: 'Water Cooler' Promo from Goodby Creatives Is a Winner

By Lippert's, Barbara | ADWEEK, February 16, 2004 | Go to article overview

HBO's Latest Gem: 'Water Cooler' Promo from Goodby Creatives Is a Winner


Lippert's, Barbara, ADWEEK


This little film, promoting the previously unheralded and unpromisingly named "Water Cooler Association of America," is hilarious from the opening drip. (Actually, it's more of a plink-plink-plink sound, which is even funnier.)

A sort of no-budget documentary-cum-industrial-trailer, it opens on the trade group's sad old buffalo-nickel-style logo (a lighthouse in a circle) and plunges right into how bad business used to be, with a clipped and somber British voiceover telling us that "the American workforce had stopped gathering around water coolers." Cut to a once proud and mighty cooler lying in pieces, beheaded, next to a dumpster, as anthropomorphic a shot as the discarded goose-necked lamp sitting in the rain in the dark, thrown over for the Ikea one.

Because we have never been asked to experience such pathos on behalf of coolers, we know something's up. Sure enough, as the 90-second promo continues, connecting the dots (or drips) becomes fun: that gathering around the water cooler equals buzz, and that buzz equals HBO.

It's a sophisticated, inside-the-industry joke turned on its head, from the point of view of the once-beleaguered and now-grateful-to-HBO water-cooler industry, and it never loses that focus, or the poignant stiffness that comes with it. It also has its own dramatic arc: As HBO's shows get more popular mad talked-about, the association gains confidence, and the film builds with deadpan cleverness.

Over the years, the home of Carrie Bradshaw and Tony Soprano has done some interesting promos (a '97 spot from BBDO involving chimps was actually the first commercial to win an Emmy). Indeed, at a time of creative malfunctions in the ad industry, cable-channel promos tend to provide some of the most consistently smart and surprising stuff on the air. (Of course, if they run only on cable, and on their own networks, they have more time and fewer restrictions.)

The ESPN work also has that knowing, deadpan quality, and its latest series, explaining why we need sports, is as fresh and funny as any of its previous award winners. That goes for Fox Sports, too.

And speaking of Janet's recent cup malfunction, the tagline of a certain now-notorious producer of private-parts-infused Super Bowl half-time entertainment seems eerily prescient: "Blame MTV." There's an especially amusing spot now running showing Sophie, a 13-year-old girl in the middle of her bat mitzvah, getting up to read from the torah. …

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