Saturday, September 14, 2013

Q & A - Commercial Convo Podcast

Michelle Rubinstein and Anthony Viccora are two of my friends that are always creative and doing something. I remember them always mentioning how they wanted to start a podcast and once they decided to focus on discussing commercials, the Commercial Convo was born! A couple episodes in and they have discussed a few different ad campaigns, introduced some fun commercial based games with their guests and always take a moment for a television break.

I asked Michelle and Anthony a few questions about the podcast.

What made you guys want to start a podcast?

M: Well, I really got into listening to podcasts in 2008. I became obsessed with them and have always wanted to have my own. I have always been intrigued with shows and interviews done on the radio. There is something about just tuning in to hear a story and having to use your imagination to come up with the visuals. We tried to make a podcast with two friends of ours in 2009, but it didn’t quite pan out the way we wanted it to.

A: I just thought it sounded like a good time.

M: Ant’s a man of few words, haha.

In the first episode, michelle, you talk about where your interest commercials came from an AOL chat. Can you talk a bit about that and how it led to an interest?

M: The AOL chat with Yeardly Smith inspired me because it was refreshing to hear someone say to make a conscious decision to tune into commercials and to not turn them off or switch the channel. I really, at the time, had an interest in voice-overs, and she explained that listening to different commercials can inspire you and help you mimic certain voices. From that time on, I just always loved commercials and looked at them in a different light.

 Anthony where did yours come from?

A: I guess that I always liked watching commercials, I never wanted to mute them or change the channel but I never really considered how interested I really had been in them until Michelle and I would talk about them. It’s funny because people always seem to talk about how much they hate commercials but then end up in conversations about which ones they hate and why or even ones they think are funny. I think deep down everyone likes commercials to some degree or another, I mean nowadays the entertainment value can be right up there with the television shows that surround them.

M: It’s true! I really do believe people love to talk about commercials to some degree.

Since the show starting you guys must be watching commercials more critically. What are some of the things that you look for?

M: Like Ant said, before the podcast, we always watched and discussed commercials. Whether they were funny, dumb or we liked the song used in the ad. That’s another big reason why I love commercials, the music. There are so many times where I will shazam a commercial just to get a song. We fell in love with the band Parov Stelar, because their song  “Booty Swing” was used in The Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas commercial. I’ve discovered many bands just from watching commercials. Since we started the podcast, our way of viewing them hasn’t really changed. 

A: The first thing I always look for is comedic value but besides that that, I always need the story makes sense, (does that make sense haha?) I almost want to use the term plot hole to describe what I mean. When something doesn’t make sense in the story of the commercial it drives me nuts, I cant focus on the commercial and I lose all respect for whatever they are trying to sell me…It’s hard to explain without an example… there is a commercial for these lights that go on your glasses and they show these situations where they can be helpful, they say “where are Foster Grant Light Specs helpful” a woman is reading in bed and her husband is trying to sleep that one is fine, but then they have a woman in a dimly lit restaurant and she says “when I want lobster not liver” as if she was going to just grunt and point at the menu and not exchange any words with the waiter and accidentally get Liver…Like c’mon that doesn’t make any sense, it just drives me nuts and I just lose all respect for the people who directed that commercial and who wrote it and the fact that no one questioned that example…

What is your current favorite campaign ad running?

M: I really always seem to love Target’s campaigns. I think there back to school campaign this year is really cute and simple. However, I just discovered AT&T’s new web-only campaign for their Digital Life products. There are three commercials in which someone is interviewing the home’s pets and they talk about how the house is being controlled when no one’s home. It’s really funny, and I always wondered what our pets think when no one’s home and we set automatic timers and what not. It’s a cute who doesn’t love talking animals? It’s the talking baby commercials I can’t stand!

A: I would say a pretty consistent favorite of mine over the last few years lately have been the Geico campaign, not all of them are winners but for the most part I enjoy the heck out of them, they usually do a pretty good job retiring the ideas before they get too played out, an art that is clearly not something most people in the entertainment industry don’t seem to understand, its happening too much in the film industry, I mean the hangover is a trilogy, seriously how many times can people see the same movie…getting back to commercials though the insurance industry as a whole have been pretty entertaining to me.

M: Yeah! I love Geico commercials. I also feel like they always do a great job and have a good variety of commercials to advertise their insurance. Hey, it sold me. I have Geico…and so does Ant.

A: Well what sold me was the savings, I really did save 15%, actually it was more like 22% but still I recommend them haha.

What is the worst Commercial that just drives you nuts?

M: Referring back to my comment about talking babies…The All-State commercial with the talking baby and the Mime. I really feel that talking babies are just creepy and un-natural. Even more un-natural then talking pets, haha.

A: I hate the same commercial! Sometimes I’m surprised at how much it bothers me. What annoys me most about it is that the first time I saw that commercial they hadn’t added in the baby talking portion yet and I thought it was amazing, the mime I thought was very entertaining and I enjoyed the exchange he had with them and his exit from the conversation most of all. The next time it came on I literally stopped what I was doing and watched with delight and as soon as the baby started talking my smile immediately turned to a deep frown, the kind of frown that takes work to put on, you know what I mean? It’s because of the muscles in your face aren’t used to moving in that way, the commercial was ruined and now I cringe when it comes on…

On the show you have your guests take part in a commercial themed game.
Where did you guys come up with this idea?
How do you decide what kind if games to play?

M: It kind of came to us all at once. When we decided to make this podcast, we were in the car driving and listening to the radio, and there was a commercial on, and I said” Wouldn’t it be funny to have a show, that is just all commercials? I bet people would hate it and we would be the only ones into it.” Then later on we decided we should just have a podcast about commercials. We discuss them anyway…we might as well record it. We then started thinking about different games we could play with guests like “Who’s that voice” and a game in which you guess the campaign from listening to the song from the commercial. I’m pretty good at guessing voiceovers from commercials, and I thought that would be a fun game.

A: Yea we just thought it would be fun to do with people, kind of test how critically they actually could listen to a commercial, we also had a game where we just said the tag line to see if the person could guess what brand it was for. It kind of shows how commercials and advertising gets into your head without you even realizing its there…actually its kind of creepy when you think about it haha.

I love the tv show interludes. It's a clever little twist. Where did that idea come from?

A: I just thought it would be funny…Really above anything else I just like to make people laugh and I’m really into puns and pun like things which I feel like the TV break is about, kind of flipping things around.
M: Yeah, haha, sometimes I just let Ant have his moment to shine you know, humor himself.

Michelle you have a degree in communications and Anthony you have one in business. Does your academic background influence your interest in commercials?

M: A lot of my major was made up of Advertising and Marketing classes. Most of the time our homework assignment was to just watch commercials and be prepared to discuss the latest campaigns in class. I absolutely loved this, so just from that I feel I’m more into commercials than the average joe.

A: I don’t know that I would say my major changed my interest in commercials because my interest in them really didn’t have much to do with what I studied, but I can say that I find it difficult to separate the business from the entertainment or message of the commercial…I think about what the business sells and how its doing or what they represent…Take Walmart for example, I hate Walmart and I have expressed this multiple times while recording and because of this anytime a Walmart commercial comes on I have a hard time enjoying any aspect of the commercial or even listening at all.

Where would you like to go with commercial convo? Is it something you plan on doing for a while? How would you like it to evolve?

M: Naturally, I would love to be able for this to take off and become something like The Nerdist or Stuff You Should Know, and just become a full time podcaster. Wouldn’t that be dope? Haha, but we’re just having fun and doing it as a hobby for now. It can be hard because of our schedules to keep up with putting out a new episode, so I hope in time we get on a better schedule with that. But for now, it’s all about just hanging out talking about commercials.

A: I’d like to sell out Amphitheaters and concert halls world wide and have thousands and thousands of screaming fans who cant help but hang on our every word, that would be kind of cool…Joking aside I really just do enjoy putting out something that people can listen to and hopefully get a laugh or two out of it, or at least enjoy. As Michelle said our schedules are somewhat preventative at times but I’d like to keep up with it for as long as we can…I mean it’s not like there’s going to be a sudden drought of material, if anything I bet over the next few years commercials become more entertaining, more controversial and even more relevant to our generation, a younger generation and it will perpetually give us something to talk about.

You can Follow Michelle @michruby  her blog, m.ruby's everything and Anthony @Antkonio. Don't forget to subscribe to their podcast, Commercial Convo.

If you are interested in being a part of Q & As, send me an email!

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