Pop-Up Ads Tell a Distressing Story of Love and Consumption in W+K’s New Music Video

Agency's innovative latest for Portugal. The Man

When last we saw Portugal. The Man, it had given us a music video for “Feel It Still” that doubled as an action-packed tool for resisting the American administration’s protectionist policies.

“Rich Friends,” its latest offering, created alongside Wieden + Kennedy and starring Glenn Howerton, is no less innovative but a lot more disturbing. Best experienced on its interactive site, ChardonnayAndAdderall.com, the music video is “interrupted” by a series of pop-up ads that tell a story about love as depicted by advertising … and its eerie dissolution.

“It’s been fun interrupting people’s favorite shows with our commercials, but we thought there had to be other art forms we could ruin with ads,” joke Max Stinson and Erik Fahrenkopf, creative directors at W+K.

Below is the static music video.

“Rich Friends” kicks off with a stately Howerton in a series of luxury ads. He pairs up with a woman from ads of her own. At the peak of their domestic bliss, they appear together in a mattress ad, tucking into the same bed.

The pop-ups get more frenzied as the situation takes a turn for the worst. Ads for innocuous things like orange juice and cereal are given a dark, addiction-addled edge, but the pair rarely lose their sponsored smiles, glinting falsely for the camera eye.

As we build toward a system crash, drugs, alcohol and violence end in death (brought to you by the local gun range—with clean-ups made easy with Floor Gleam).

A music video took the Film Craft Grand Prix at Cannes last week—The Blaze’s “Territory.” And as agencies take more of an interest in the format, it’s interesting to see what the format itself has to say about our industry.

“With a music video, only one thing matters: Making shit people actually want to watch,” says W+K’s creative director of publishing, Jason Kreher. “As advertising agencies stumble towards a new way of working, this video has been a refreshing reminder to always keep your eye on the audience.”

There is something hypnotic about watching an advertiser’s ideal of love—white, wealthy, heterosexual—play out in pop-ups that grow increasingly grim. Some pop-ups—themselves symbols of advertising at its most nasty and interruptive, now mostly appearing on sites of legally murky repute—have a pathos all their own, like the mascara ad in which the woman’s face is streaked with tears, or the cereal ad where the man, now oblivious to our gazes, lights a flame under his spoon to cook heroine.

The subtext seems to be that we’re being sold stories about life that are not only deceptive but destructive, even psychopathic.

“Rich Friends” is part of Portugal. The Man’s Woodstock album, which kicked off with “Feel It Still,” also pregnant with messaging for discerning viewers. The band calls its album “a speck of good news in between those glowing red embers of scat and toxic waste,” detritus of a world that “continues to burn like an out-of-control dumpster fire.”

While “Feel It Still” was an anti-anthem for just that kind of world, “Rich Friends” is one of two songs (the other being “Keep On”) that reflects “the tendency of the old and moneyed to leech off of the young and hungry.”

With other messages on the way (just as poignantly promoted, we hope), Woodstock is ultimately a work that asks listeners to take action if they don’t like the direction in which humanity is heading.

“Which brings us back to that flaming mountain we were talking about,” the band concludes. “It’s central to what’s going on with this album. Woodstock is an album that—with optimism and heart—points at the giant pile and says, ‘Hey, this pile is fucked up!’ And if you think that pile is fucked up too, you owe it to yourself—hell, to all of us—to get out there and do something about it.”

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