I don’t go to the movies very much anymore. It’s a combination of not liking crowds, getting annoyed at people using their phones, not wanting to pay $13 and thinking most movies just don’t look like they’ll be very good. So that would explain why I only got around to watching a movie as popular as Jurassic World recently while on a plane. After watching it, I remembered why I never thought I should bother seeing it in the first place.
There’s nothing wrong with sequels. Sometimes they’re better than the original. But usually by the time you get to the fourth entry in a movie franchise, there’s a good chance you’re not going to be watching something great. Jurassic World is not great. It isn’t even good. I wouldn’t even call it entertaining. And this is coming from someone who is a passionate defender of the brilliantly dumb Fast & Furious franchise.
What Jurassic World is, though, is the perfect example of why making something bigger, or adding more things than are needed, does not make it better. But, as you might’ve guessed, I’m not just talking about the “dinosaur theme park gone wrong” movie idea. I think “bigger is often not better” can be applied to many things in life, but it’s particularly true of the industry I work in, advertising.
At ad agencies, the most cliché client request is to “make the logo bigger.” Which, at first blush, is a fair thing to ask for. They want to be seen. The reason why that phrase can be a sticking point for agencies is because they often want the logo to be much bigger than it needs to be. The thing is, it’s not just the logo they want more of in their ads. It’s selling points. It’s their brand message. It’s their brand history. It’s hints of their brand colours. It’s whatever offer they might have in market for the next few weeks. They always want more for the sake of more, not for the sake of making the ad better.
Why is that bad? We can compare Jurassic World to the original Jurassic Park to find out.
You can argue that Jurassic World is supposed to be a different kind of movie than Jurassic Park, but that doesn’t matter because it’s still a bad one. Jurassic World is simply more for the sake of more. It is excess without purpose. Amping up the idea behind the original doesn’t make for a better movie or even a logical one. It’s big, loud and flashy but doesn’t have anything new to say.
Jurassic Park was more than a masterwork of suspense, dread and action, it was (based on a book that was) a commentary on the hubris of mankind to think it can control nature. Not the most in-depth commentary, but at least it gave you something to think about while watching dinosaurs chase people.
Jurassic World tries to build on that commentary by tying in its own plot points of militarization and genetic modification, but they don’t have the same effect. This is partly because there were two other sequels that have come before that have consistently shown when you try to create dinosaurs, you die. But it’s also because they aren’t really new ideas. They are simply taking the “mankind thinks it can control nature but can’t” commentary to an absurd extreme. All Jurassic World does is revisit the same points as Jurassic Park, but with a bigger budget.
This is exactly the problem. The bigger something gets, the less likely you’re going to get people to pay real attention to it. Viewers of Jurassic World aren’t sitting on the edge of their seats waiting with dreaded excitement about what might happen in the next scene, they’re eating a pound of pop corn and looking to each corner of the screen every ten seconds because another bright and flashy thing has entered the movie.
Jurassic Park made you want to wait for what happens next while Jurassic World trains you to just expect more, more, more, no matter what that “more” is. There are more raptors and now they’re smarter. There are new dinosaurs and they’re bigger (and also smarter). There are new evil humans looking to exploit the dinosaurs for their own gain. There are literally thousands more potential human victims. Each of these humans is faceless with no character or backstory and therefore carry no weight when they die. None of these “bigger” things make you care about what’s happening in the movie, it just makes you look at it.
Jurassic Park had less dinosaurs on screen and more suspense from what you couldn’t see. It had less characters but you got to know them better so you might actually worry if they’re going to die. It had less guns. Less explosions. Less Vincent D’Onofrio. And because of this it had more uniqueness. More story. More of a moral. More Jeff Goldblum.
The “bigness” of Jurassic World distracts you so you don’t have to think much about it. Jurassic Park kept things at a slower pace so you could fully realize the terror of what was happening on screen.
So what does any of this have to do with advertising? Well, you probably have noticed that there are more ads than ever. Online, on TV and outside. Everywhere you go physically or digitally, you’re being advertised to. Ads are screaming at you, begging you to pay attention but usually without a good reason to do so. They want you to look but don’t care if you come away remembering what you saw. There lies the parallel to Jurassic World.
Bigger logos and bigger type distract they eye but they don’t give you anything to think about. A longer voiceover at the end of a 30 second commercial might tell you more about a sale, but it doesn’t tell you anything about what a brand stands for or how a product can be useful to you.
It’s now more important that you see a logo than really know what’s being advertised, besides the brand itself. Ads are becoming less about telling a story of how a product benefits you and more about ensuring you see the brand’s logo within the first few seconds of seeing the ad. They are trying to do too much at once, much like Jurassic World, rather than trying to captivate you with a compelling story in the way Jurassic Park did. You can make the logo bigger, but that doesn’t make a consumer more engaged.
Flash can get people’s attention, but it can’t hold it overtime like substance. Years from now, I can see parents introducing their kids to Jurassic Park as a movie they won’t soon forget. The only reason they might show them Jurassic World is if all four movies are on Netflix and it’s raining outside so you might as well have a marathon. It’s a spectacle rather than something special.
In every industry from film to advertising, bigger might become the norm (if it isn’t already), but it will never be better than a good story.