‘Maybe it means something.’
‘I doubt it.’
‘Yeah, I didn’t think so.’
It’s been observed that criticising La La Land is like criticising a fluffy kitten. And I’d be the first to applaud the romance, the effervescence, the sentiment; the twinkle toed dancing and the knowing nods to the musical’s Golden Age; the yellow dress, the violet night sky, the red firemist Buick Riviera. Of course, it’s a welcome antidote. Perhaps it’s a necessary sedative.
But there was a moment in that first 15 minutes - somewhere in amongst the euphoric traffic jam, the frivolous flatmates and the glamorous poolside party – that I thought: ‘Hold on a minute. I’ve seen this before.’ I’ve seen it in a thousand positioning statements, mood edits and concept boards. It’s the stuff of lifestyle marketing, contemporary commercials and branded content. It’s the stuff of the vignetted advertising so beloved by Globo-Corp. It’s the stuff of La La Brands.
‘It’s another day of sun.
Another day has just begun.’
La La Brands are what you get when you aggregate the emotions, smooth over the edges and round off the corners. They’re what you get when you seek to communicate grand universal truths and big unifying themes; when you’d like to teach the world to sing. They’re modern marketing’s all-pervading algorithmic answer.
La La Brands inhabit their own fanciful dreamworlds, removed from the reality around them. They are full of sunny optimism and simplistic motivations; of ersatz ambition and paper-thin purpose. They are rootless and soulless. But why worry when they have the wind in their hair, the sun on their backs and a soft sweet smile on their faces? They are the eternal sunshine of spotless minds.
La La Brands characterise their consumers as two-dimensional actors in a suburban soap opera; as extroverts not given to introspection. They depict their lives as light and airy, bright and breezy; they deny them psychological depth or emotional texture.
At La La Brands every passenger is a ‘customer’; every fragrance is ‘designer’; every stadium is ‘iconic’; and every meal starts with ‘Enjoy.’ For La La Brands personalisation is just a name on a coffee cup; customer care is just a voucher; diversity is just a superficial casting decision. And tax is something a yacht does. ‘I hope this email finds you well.’
‘They worship everything and they value nothing.’
We should beware the banalities of La La Brands. Because we will all at some time or another be seduced by their siren call. They sing to the tunes of Doris Day and Celine Dion. They’re aspirational and nice; sensible and smart. But they are also fundamentally boring, banal and bland. They’re ultimately unfulfilling.
Of course, the success of La La Land really derives from the fact that, having established the universal sunshine of California, the unifying fantasy of stardom, it follows a more authentic, more individual, more troubled narrative arc. It’s the story of foiled dreams and flawed romance that makes it work.
‘I’m letting life hit me until it gets tired. Then I’ll hit back – it’s a classic rope-a-dope.’
The greatest challenge facing anyone working in commercial creativity today is to protect their ideas from the unrelenting bombardment of didactic data and reductive research; from the inexorable pressure to moderate and mitigate; to pucker, pout and smile. The challenge is to roll with those punches, soak up those hard knocks; and, like Ali, emerge from the ropes restored - with a brilliantly eccentric, awkwardly human, irrational, irregular, inspirational, knockout idea.
‘People love what other people are passionate about.’