Unwarranted Conjecture: Where's the Hoopla?

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It’s 10 PM. You’re at home on the couch, staring at a brief that’s as inspiring as a sack of dirt clods. You sigh and stare down the white bull that is your blank Word doc. Grasping for a shard of illumination, you pull out Crispin’s retrospective tome, ‘Hoopla’. It reads like a compendium of new millennium advertising. Each page sparkles like a semi-precious gem.

A garter-clad chicken-man subserviently awaits your every whim (minus dick stuff). A dwarfish British motorcar challenges your preconceptions with iconoclastic urgency and hipster idealism. A mute king sidles up beside you with the gift of flame broil and vague threat.

This is the stuff, you think. This is the kind of irreverent, post-post-modern advertising that transcends the usual Carl’s Jr.-y dreck. Why regurgitate pop culture when you can create it?

Suddenly, you’re inspired. You’re in the zone. You’re conceiving new worlds: A Tourettic fan boat captain. A country-clutter cutter. A webisode called “Ginger Beard House.”

Next level stuff.

Just then the TV seizures and chirps with cheap synths and fluorescent flashing, snapping you out of your revelry. It’s a spot for Old Navy – a Crispin campaign you’re vaguely aware of, but now regard with laser pen precision. A Kim Kardashian clone vapidly sings about her “Super C-U-T-E” jeans while prancing from one choreographed scene to another, instantly darkening your mood.

Is there a wink to it? Is it meant to be ironic? No. It’s simply the worst of pop culture distilled down to 30 seconds of bubbly saccharine sludge. Ever a glutton for punishment, you turn to Youtube to dredge up some more Old Navy bile. Bad move.

This time a group of gal pals are at bowling alley singing “Only in My Jeans” to the tune of Debbie Gibson’s “Only In My Dreams.” Your eyes twitch.

In the next one, another group of girls sing “I’m Wearing a New Blouse” to the tune of Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now.” Your serotonin ebbs.

Next, Bootsy Collins churns out boots in a Funnovations factory, because – as the people of Crispin are fully aware – puns are the pinnacle of comedy.

And, finally, with the onset of “Don’t Jiggle It When You Wiggle It,” you close your laptop in soul-crushing defeat.

Contemptuous and a little dumber, you wonder what machinations are responsible for such an abomination? Surely, there must be an explanation. So you hit the bottle and devise a few theories.

Theory 1: Metal Machine Music

In 1975, Lou Reed released “Metal Machine Music,” arguably the most unlistenable album since the advent of the phonograph. Devoid of melody and rhythm, it’s comprised entirely of over-modulated guitar feedback – like an autistic Yngwie Malmsteen playing a chainsaw. The justification for the album remains a mystery, but you speculate that it was as a calculated backlash to the sycophantic reverence that was thrust upon the Velvet Underground during the 60s. Such rarified air can contaminate. Whether it’s delusions of grandeur or self-sabotaging hubris, Lou’s story was not unlike Crispin’s – that of a meteoric rise and tragic fall (an arc favored by films featuring blow and/or Marky Mark dong).

Theory 2: The Mentos Method

Mentos ads were an ugly anomaly. The weirdly foreign, hobo-cheap ads featured an absurd array of life-altering candy consumption that made us collectively shudder. But like depression-era circus pinheads, a freakish spectacle attracts a crowd. Consider Rick Astley’s ghastly resurgence, or those two girls and that cup, or Carrot Top’s physique (which, incidentally, can be attributed to his Napoleon Complex that was brought on by his roundly ridiculed androgynous-prop-comedy-ginger-clowning).

But you digress.

You have a hard time believing that Crispin has succumbed to the Chinese model of churning out cheap plastic crap, but the Schadenfreude side of you kind of hopes so.

Theory 3: Bogusky’s Exodus

With a creative vision not seen since Lee Clow (and bangs that could shame Kevin Sorbo), Alex Bogusky wasn’t just Crispin’s creative leader, he was the Adonis of Hawking Wares. The Swayze of karate-guy bouncers (and/or ghost pottery).

And, lo, like Icarus (another ego-drunk demigod), Alex flew too close to the sun. In a desperate effort to rediscover his life’s purpose, he abandoned his agency and retreated to a cabin in the woods, like a handsome Thoreau or a tenor Bon Iver.

Resigned to grumpy old men status, Sam Crispin and Chuck Porter fell victim to stereotype. Their fleeting attention spans were focused more on the Floridian shuffleboard/smorgasbord circuit than irreverent computer-y advertising. Sadly, their heir apparent, Andrew Keller, dropped the baton in favor of his crimper. And thus the soul of the Crispin machine was vanquished. Not even Ted McGinley could save this sinking ship.

Whatever the reason for the agency’s creative demise (or hiccup), one thing is clear: If ‘Hoopla’ is the Gospel According to Crispin, then the latest chapter is the ‘Book of Mormon’ – a preposterous sequel in which Jesus Bootsy appears in America to pander to ignorant savages tweens.


Chris Elzinga is a freelance copywriter in San Francisco. He is also the founding father of Prudism and Gimpressionism.


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