Tv commercials

A Brief History of Hidden Camera TV Commercials

At restaurants like Tavern on the Green in New York and Arnaud’s in New Orleans, diners are seen seated for formal meals complimenting the server on their coffee. Moments later, they are informed that it was not the ‘gourmet’ brew usually served, but a cup of Folgers instant coffee that had been ‘secretly swapped’. Surprised customers then praise their deceitful servers.

This scene and others like it played hundreds of times in TV commercials in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Variations date back to the 1950s and some commercials, like the now infamous spot of 2017 Chevrolet that represented amazed spectators marveling at the automaker’s many JD Power and Associates awards, which are still aired with regularity. Instead of using actors, the spots claim to highlight the reaction of real consumers to the products, often with the use of hidden cameras positioned outside the line of sight of unsuspecting customers.

Despite skepticism, the people in these ads are often members of the general public offering their unprecedented answer to beverages, laundry detergents and automobiles. That doesn’t mean, however, that there isn’t a bit of premeditation going on.

The idea of ​​recording spontaneous reactions for advertising purposes dates back to the 1950s, when Procter & Gamble arranged for housewives to compare the whiteness of laundry washed in their Cheer detergent with the relatively darker load that resulted after soaking in the competition. The camera was not “hidden” and the spokesperson made no secret of his intentions – he was holding a microphone – but the women were approached in a laundromat and not in a casting office. Those who appeared in such places to receive a fee of $108, plus residuals that could add up to thousands if the ad was run multiple times.

This approach was honed by Bob Schwartz, a former director of the prank series Hidden camera. In 1969 Schwartz formed Eyeview Films and worked with advertising agencies to capture spontaneous reactions to products. An early spot for the Spic and Span floor cleaner was successful, and other companies and agencies followed suit. For a 1982 spot, Schwartz set up his crew in a supermarket and invited customers to try Oven Fry, a new frozen chicken product from General Mills. The most expressive reactions (“mmm-mmm!”) were asked to consent to appear in the ad.

In more controlled contexts, it is necessary for advertisers to ensure that the pool of potential testimonials is relevant to the product. Prior to filming spots like the Folgers tasting, a team of market research employees typically recruited people in inviting them participate in street polls. They are asked about their coffee preferences – to better determine if they even like the drink – and are then invited to a nearby restaurant for a free meal. Of two dozen couples selected for a Folgers spot in San Francisco in 1980, two or three were selected for commercials.

Folgers spots aired for years and were memorable for how surprised people seemed that they had just consumed granulated crystals instead of freshly brewed coffee. But that doesn’t necessarily mean viewers believed their reactions. A 1982 consumer survey found that consumers often found their endorsements too rigid, meaning they were incited, or too natural, suggesting they might be doers. Although ad agencies went to great lengths to ensure authenticity, their praise made audiences dubious.

Why would non-actors cover products with compliments? It takes a bit of psychology on the part of ad agencies. For the 2017 Chevrolet spot that was derided for people overreacting to the mere sight of a car, one of the participants – who asked to remain anonymous due to a non-disclosure agreement –Recount The AV Club that the upbeat environment and surreal exposure to a new car after agreeing to participate in market research made their group feel like it would be rude to say anything negative.

“We never reshot a take, but you felt really bad for saying something negative about Chevy because there were 50 cameras on you, and it was just this one. [host],” he said. “He did this magic trick to make it look like you were hurting him if you said something bad about Chevy. You didn’t want to see that guy stop smiling. It was really weird.”

Candid? Sure. As sincere as if they were among friends and not a team of marketing managers? This is an other story.