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Max Barry wrote the novels Syrup, Jennifer Government, Company, Machine Man, and Lexicon. He also created the game NationStates and once found a sock full of pennies.

Blog

Thu 09
Aug
2007

Giant Beach Balls

Syrup I’ve been working on a Syrup screenplay for a while now. Longer than I like to think about, really. Anyway, there’s a bit I’m using from the book where our hero, Scat, is trying to come up with a brilliant new idea for a Coke TV ad, and instead has a bad one:

I have started to wonder about the beach: about variations on a giant inflatable beach ball. I am thinking about this ball rolling through a major American city, with people running and screaming.

It’s the kind of idea that is stupid yet oddly attractive. I have lots of those. So, apparently does Pepsi.

Now come on. That’s Scat’s stupid idea. The only difference is it’s Pepsi instead of Coke, and people having fun instead of being crushed to death. And that change, frankly, was disappointing. I really thought I was about to see some mayhem.

(Thanks to Jake for the heads-up. So to speak.)

Comments

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Machine Man subscriber Lyndal (#3242)

Location: St Kilda
Posted: 2574 days ago

I think that Pepsi is cashing in on the nostalgia for a Coke ad. I know that I have never gotten over my desire to run down the beach inside a giant inflatable ball - I think that is why I want to try Zorbing.

Jak (#2464)

Quote: "The Straight-Jacket makes it hard to type."
Posted: 2574 days ago

I love your books Max, but I seriously think that you missed your true calling in life.

Arianna (#3243)

Posted: 2574 days ago

I see YouTube viewers have given it only two stars, which sort of PROVES that it's a terrible idea.

Jake (#1479)

Location: In front of the computer
Quote: "Here's two herring and a squirrel: Amuse us!"
Posted: 2574 days ago

Thanks, Max. You just made my day. I can't believe you jumped on this so quick! I'm going to go show this to my friends and then lie down for a while . . . I feel a little light headed and giddy.

Machine Man subscriber Daniel Jordan (#903)

Location: Adelaide
Quote: "Here, have a shovel."
Posted: 2574 days ago

Max,
I reckon you should give serious thought to hiring a full time patent officer to follow you around and patent every idea, sentence - hell, every word you come up with...

Imagine all the people you could sue!

Keely (#1602)

Location: easy-peasy-24.livejournal.com of course!
Quote: "I always wanted to see the lights of Broadway... but then you get there and they're really kind of annoying."
Posted: 2574 days ago

I paid tribute to you in the comment I left on that video.

Do you think it's too late to sign up as official prophet of business in the midwest? You could set up a fortune-telling business and make billions.

Joscelyn (#754)

Location: California,USA
Posted: 2574 days ago

Marketing is something that has alway fasinated me and even more so when I read Syrup. I laughed hysterically at transformers, it is one giant ad campaign for GM. Have you seen it? other then the blatant advertising it was quite enjoyable im afraid to say.

Machine Man subscriber Adam Bowie (#3245)

Location: London
Posted: 2574 days ago

It's Rover from The Prisoner isn't it?

Jake Staines (#2395)

Location: Peterborough, UK
Quote: "I'm not going outside! There's carcinogenic space rays out there!"
Posted: 2574 days ago

There was an HIV/AIDS awareness ad a little while back that did the giant-rolling-ball-of-death thing, IIRC. It started off with one guy rolling down the road, picking people up until it reached the city as a huge towering ball of death.

But, being an HIV spot it was... you know... not quite as jolly as a beachball.


http://youtube.com/watch?v=R7FQu-zYVAU

...it was a lot more touching before some ass added Katamari music to it.

Ryan Speck (#3203)

Location: Seattle, WA
Quote: "I don't know what to put here... Typical."
Posted: 2574 days ago

Well, that was disappointing.


Leave it to Pepsi to ruin a perfectly good idea.

(Though, in truth, all I could think about was how much a giant beach ball would weight and how many people would be crushed beneath it.)

Machine Man subscriber Marleen (#2741)

Location: Berlin, Germany
Quote: "I want more expensive shoes in one place than I've ever seen in my whole life."
Posted: 2574 days ago

... and why not?

Obviously the marketing folk at Pepsi knows that it's a brilliant idea to, erhm, read your books.

Elle (#2618)

Location: New York
Posted: 2574 days ago

I'm not so much a soda drinker, so maybe I've just missed this, but seriously, "more happy"...? That's the best they've got?

Jaap (#3247)

Location: The mystical land of frolicking naked nymphs
Quote: "For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for Nature cannot be fooled."
Posted: 2574 days ago

Well the thing I noticed (besides the weight). Is that when your running after a huge inflatable ball in a large body of people, you get the gift of instantanious gift of letting "people not push you over a clif because the people behind you don't see the clif".

Yubi Shines (#1664)

Location: Canada
Quote: "HOPE RIDES ALONE!"
Posted: 2574 days ago

(sniggers)

(pause)

(begins to think about this idea carefully as a flash mob event)

Hazran (#946)

Location: UK (bottom bit)
Quote: "Only smoke when on fire."
Posted: 2574 days ago

Max, why don't Pepsi and Coke and Nike and all the rest just hire you instead of stealing your ideas? Sure buying your books is probably cheaper but then they wouldn't have to wait ages for you to publish.

Celeste (#2590)

Location: St.L. MO, USA
Quote: "You can't child-proof the world, so world-proof the child."
Posted: 2573 days ago

Well, Max, you are brilliant, and you probably would have been a good marketing guy.

I would be willing to bet that there is some guy like Scat at Pepsi, sitting in a brainstorming session, and he comes up with this stupid but weirdly attractive idea, and half the group says, "hey yeah, thats cool!" The two guys on the end dont get it, they only see the stupid part, and point out why we cant do that-and then everybodies faces fall as they realize the party poopers are right- and some other brilliant guy says, 'wait, there is a way we can use this" and he gets the bonus for the ad you just saw.

By the way, I've decided to go into marketing. With my eyes open, because I think everything you say about corporations is right- but they've got the group psychology on their side, and it works. I want at least to know how I'm being played!

Linnea1928 (#2654)

Location: Rosemount, MN
Posted: 2573 days ago

I hate that commercial!! It is a stupid idea!! This is why I drink Coke ... and read your books... :)

Machine Man subscriber Lowly Worm (#3028)

Location: Loves Park, IL
Quote: "Insert witty quote here."
Posted: 2573 days ago

Is it just me or does Pepsi have a 'thing' for big balls that look like their logo? Hmmmmmm...perhaps marketing should stop recycling ideas.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=8kj87G2BHDI

Ian Harris (#1034)

Location: Cambridge, UK
Quote: "£256.50, exc VAT"
Posted: 2573 days ago

Is it me getting old? Or are the nuts and bolts of that video painfully visible?

1. Idea nicked off Max.
2. Soundtrack a pastiche of Dandy Warhols' "Bohemian Like You". Surely Pepsi can afford the licensing?
3. An American street, but what look like the white cliffs of south east England...
4....with a shark in the waters where there are NEVER sharks.
5. a grammatically ridiculous strapline 'more happy', the most obvious attempt to make a slogan stick by making people 'but that's wrong' since Pink Floyd sang 'we don't need no education'.

Cuh.

Machine Man subscriber David (#1456)

Location: Sydney, Australia
Quote: "Why are the pretty ones always insane?"
Posted: 2573 days ago

Both Pepsi and Coke have been stealing your ideas for some time now. Which goes to show how bankrupt and undeserving of any respect they both are. When the sugared water suppliers have lost their mojo is there any hope left for American industry?

Hey, it just occurred to me that one of the big issues most US presidents have to deal with is whether they are a "Coke" or "Pepsi" president, yet I've never seen or heard anything about which camp president Bush falls into. I know way too much about his mutt and nothing at all about his taste in multinational sugared water pushers. I'm sure his failure to come out and clearly state his preference is at the root of all his problems. Are Coke and Pepsi so lacking in influence nowadays they can't even get the incumbent president to push their brand? Talk about pathetic...

Katy (#2345)

Location: Los Angeles
Posted: 2572 days ago

When I read that part, I thought that you were refering to an ad that was circulating about six years ago involving a giant cheesy ball rolling through a town and destroying houses. That one's real. I can't remember what the snack was.

Katy (#2345)

Location: Los Angeles
Posted: 2572 days ago

It occurs to me that it may have been an ad for some sort of Pizza Hut ball of dough with cheese in it, or something. It was a very obnoxious ad, actually.

Love your writing!

Machine Man subscriber Myke (#2316)

Posted: 2567 days ago

Just thought you should see this Fark thread in which Syrup, Jennifer Government and Company are all mentioned. The news story in question is about a Chinese couple that wants to name their child "@"

Machine Man subscriber Myke (#2316)

Posted: 2567 days ago

Oops, link didn't go through, here it is:

http://forums.fark.com/cgi/fark/comments.pl?IDLink=3005080

Robin (#3256)

Posted: 2567 days ago

Stumbled upon this, reminded me of Syrup:
http://www.adweek.com/aw/creative/article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1003627028

"Through the short film and other promotional elements—including authentically designed movie posters, movie-style trailers, an interactive digital program, promotions and packaging—we are able to extend the life of this campaign." said Judith Snyder, a Coke representative.

Ted Shaw (#3257)

Posted: 2566 days ago

A Chinese couple tried to name their baby "@", claiming the character used in e-mail addresses echoed their love for the child.

I would rather name my kid 6.



http://www.news.com.au/dailytelegraph/story/0,22049,22260769-5012895,00.html

Lottie (#3093)

Location: Sheffield, UK
Posted: 2566 days ago

Ba-bah ba ba BAAAH!

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