Narcissism at Its Finest: Advertising Insiders Fall in Love With Mediocre Movie About Themselves

Last Updated Apr 7, 2010 2:16 PM EDT

A short film titled The Last Advertising Agency on Earth has inexplicably become the darling of the ad world (video below). "Inexplicable," that is, if you're not employed by an ad agency -- the movie is jokey but not funny, and it leans heavily on a series of stereotypes about agency life that would seem forced if they appeared in, say, Mad Men. (Has anyone, post-1991, ever seen a pair of panties pinned to a cubicle wall?)

The appeal for ad world insiders, however, is that the video talks to you in the soothing, snide language that denotes success in advertising.

The video was made by Saatchi & Saatchi Toronto to promote a design conference, and the premise is that it's a historical documentary explaining how ad agencies blinked out of existence "because they chose to ignore the changes going on all around them," i.e. digital media. It begins:

Throughout history mighty empires have risen and fallen. The Mayans. The Romans...
And we see the usual stock footage of statues and frescoes.

The show picks up a bit as the narrator walks around a deserted set of agency offices and examines the abandoned artifacts of the lost civilization, which include a photographer's loop, a PostIt note inscribed "Bad ads make kittens cry," and a bong sitting on a desk.

It's enough to raise a wry smile, but it doesn't have the kind of breakout appeal of, say, Pendulum's awesome video for the song "Slam." A brief search, however, proves me wrong: The video has been linked and name-checked by just about every advertising-oriented site on the planet. Everyone in advertising loves it.

Why?

Here's a jaded possibility: The script is structured around advertising's favorite narrative device: A string of cliches enunciated in the faux-earnest tones that denote wisdom. It criticizes the industry it celebrates, and it pours scorn on those who aren't innovating fast enough to keep up. It is repeating back to the industry everything the industry has spent the last five years telling everyone else.

In other words, it's chicken soup for the ironic hipster ad agency soul. The creators should be applauded for nailing their target market so perfectly. Consumers, however, will be left scratching their heads as to why anyone in advertising thinks this might be entertaining.