Thursday, 6 September 2007

Amalgamated Holdings Limited (AHL) is "one of Australia's premier entertainment, hospitality, and tourism and leisure companies", according to the Web site. They own, among other things, the Greater Union chain of cinemas. My closest complex, at Burwood, has 11 cinemas and is convenient because the Westfield carpark in the building is open late. It takes about ten minutes to drive there.

As a rule, I prefer the Dendy at Newtown, but they don't offer the range plus it's further to go.

Tonight I went to Burwood to watch The Bourne Ultimatum but left the cinema and got a refund. The commercials and trailers were still running 25 minutes after I took my seat. In 25 minutes, I can achieve a lot. It's about the time needed to do a blog post, including a graphic. Or read the hard news section of a broadsheet. Or read five or so pages of a text book.

The only ads that showed any originality were one for Bundy Rum and one for a Japanese-made home entertainment unit, the name of which I forget. The former displays, however, rather disturbing messages about ethnicity and class. In it, to the tune of Jupiter, from the Planets Suite by Holst, various English 'types' sing a song with the refrain "we wish England was Australia".

It's amusing because it quotes every available stereotype about England: bad weather, small houses, unhealthy punters. And about Australia: relaxed, healthy. (Of course, we could add: anti-intellectual, proudly uncultured, conservative.)

The disturbing element is from a similarity to a book I got on AbeBooks but didn't read (due to study commitments): Body Culture by Isobel Crombie. I got through half-a-dozen pages and found the writing a bit of a chore. It's not tight and because it derived from a thesis, the style is a bit ass-backwards. Instead of starting with the juicy bits, Crombie starts with an abstract and then gets down to making points, from the beginning.

The Japanese commercial was good. In it, on a dark set with silvery light, a mass of drum kits sits on a stagey platform. Then a series of out-of-date cars starts falling from the sky. The retro theme is fun and while the relationship of the visuals to the product is thin, there is a certain appeal here.

But I left the cinema, got a refund, and drove home. I wrote a letter to AHL, with a copy going to Choice magazine (a consumer-oriented vehicle of long standing, with offices in Marrickville).

What really pissed me off was the appearance, on the screen, about twenty minutes into the ads, of a message telling viewers they still had time to go to the snack bar for more high-calorie junk food.

I guess this experience echoes the big Angus and Robertson debacle I posted about last month, and which made the news here (SMH, ABC etc.). This is because both the bookstore and the movie chain are owned by holding companies with priorities that are not necessarily the same as those of customers on the street. Here's some blurb from AHL's 'about' page:

By working closely together, the businesses of AHL are able to share opportunities for revenue growth and rationalise operational processes across the Group. The effective application of this strategy is achieving the synergies required to underpin our profitability going forward.

(When I hear the expression 'going forward' I reach for my gun...)

Here's some from Pacific Equity Partners, which owns A&R: "Pacific Equity Partners strives to deliver superior returns to our investors."

I've bolded the words that seem to epitomise both my dissatisfaction and that of commenters on the Undercover blog post about the A&R scandal, which caused the company to offer an apology of sorts.


R.H. said...

I laughed when I saw you got a refund.
You're uncompromising, which is what criticism should be.

R.H. said...

The robots are conditioned to advert TV -that's how they pay for it: by getting their brains imprinted, but if you hand over cash for a cinema ticket you should get a rest from it all.
Maybe cinema-goers are seen as mugs? Imagine a stage show with an ad barrage beforehand, people just wouldn't cop it.

Matthew da Silva said...

They don't tailor ads for the audience. Or maybe I should be living in Paddington. My impression of Burwood movie-goers, however, is: cashed up. You pay half-a-mil for a two bedroom apartment there, or Strathfield. But the ads are aimed at Blacktown. Then again, the average punter in that city probably has a 400k mortgage.

The two ads I mentioned are tolerable, but not all have this level of refinement.

R.H. said...

The AFL has been sanitised, to suit Kath and Kim viewers. Every team had its bad boy before they started attending, but the biff appalled them; so it's been taken out, cleaned up. It's an entertainment now, a show, extending to off-field soap opera. I was one of its biggest fans, now I can't even watch it on TV -without a remote to cut that same advert after each goal.
It's acquired too many parasites, that's the trouble, too many hucksters wanting to make dough from it. It's ruined. Destroyed.

Matthew da Silva said...

RH I guess this comment belongs on the next post, about The Final Winter. Please see it! You'll love the subtle sway, the way the players fit 'types' but don't enlist, the fast pace and the backing vocals.

Pickledeel said...

Appreciate what you say about the refund. You would have appreciated sitting in that Amman theatre (comment on next post refers) - the movie started a nanosecond after the lights went out. No "singing hotdogs" as my kids call the pre-movie advertising. Which was a relief.