About Advertise


by Andy Davis / 06.05.2009


There is so much wrong with this it’s hard to know where to begin. Casino advertising is an obvious place. Especially a casino dubiously situated on the verge of an industrial area and the lower middle class suburbs of Goodwood, Ruyterwacht and Elsies River. Just a skip around the corner from the townships of Langa and Nyanga.

Now let’s look at the words. “House of the Raise ‘Em Fun”. Does that even make sense? But that’s the least of their worries. It’s an obvious play on the song “House of the Rising Sun”. A song popularised by a British band called The Animals who covered it in 1964 and it subsequently became a number one hit. Now research is something they obviously don’t teach at advertising schools. Because anyone who had done a bit of research into the song upon which they were basing their expensive billboard campaign would know that it’s a bluesy lament about the perils of gambling and prostitution. Fuck, all they actually had to do was listen to the lyrics.

My mother was a tailor.
She sowed my new blue jeans.
My father was a gambling man,
Down in New Orleans.

Now the only thing a gambler needs
Is a suitcase and a trunk,
And the only time he is satisfied
Is when he’s on a drunk.

But taking pot shots at advertising agency creatives and their clients is too easy to be considered sport.  Especially when the history of this song is so interesting. Indulge me, won’t you, while I take you on a little trip. It first surfaced in 1937 when a guy called Alan Lomax was traveling from town to town in the good ol’ US of A recording popular folk songs sung by ordinary people in their natural environments for the Library of Congress. In Middlesboro, Kentucky he met Georgia Turner, the 16 year old daughter of a poor miner. And she sang her favourite sad song for him about a wasted life of booze, gambling and prostitution, called the Rising Sun Blues. Lomax published the song in a songbook and it soon found it’s way onto the guitars and through the lips of musicians like Pete Seeger and Woodie Guthrie. Hell even Bob Dylan did a cover of it on his debut album. But it was the Animals who recorded the electric version that shot to number one in 1964, and became the cult classic we know today. Apparently the Animals’ version of House of The Rising Sun, so impressed Bob Dylan that it influenced him to abandon his acoustic sound and go electric on his next album Bringing it All Back Home. Thus changing pop music forever. But I digress. The music industry is a bit of a lottery, and those who succeed often do so at the expense of others who are potentially more worthy. It’s a bit like gambling really. The only one who ends up winning is the house, or the record company. So don’t be too surprised to learn that Georgia Turner died broke, of emphysema in 1968 at the age of 48. All in all she made $117.50 in royalties from the House of the Rising Sun. 

Think of that and hum that haunting little ditty next time you roll down to the “House of the Raise ’em Fun” nestled so profitably amongst the ghettos of Cape Town.

House of the Rising Sun (Original Lyrics)

There is a house down in New Orleans
They call the risin sun
And it’s been the ruin of many a poor girl
And me, oh god, Im a-one

My mother was a tailor
She sewed these new blue jeans
My sweetheart was a gambler, lord
Down in New Orleans
Now the only thing a gambler needs
Is a suitcase and a trunk
And the only time he’s satisfied
Is when he’s on a drunk

He fills his glasses up to the brim
And he’ll pass the cards around
And the only pleasure he gets out of life
Is ramblin from town to town

Oh tell my baby sister
Not to do what I have done
But shun that house in New Orleans
They call the risin sun
Well, its one foot on the platform
And the other foot on the train
I’m goin back to New Orleans
To wear that ball and chain

I’m a-goin back to New Orleans
My race is almost run
I’m goin back to end my life
Down in the risin sun
There is a house in New Orleans
They call the risin sun
It’s been the ruin of many poor girl
And me, oh god, I’m a-one

12   5
  1. Jonathan says:

    Who is the agency?

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  2. jezebel says:

    Wwwhile it’s true that a large proportion of music profits still go to the record labels, the industry is changing rapidly in the face of increasing access to digital equipment and the world wide web. the CD is dying (well, it’s dead, but we’re always the last to know down in the sunny south) and independent representation, promotion and distribution is picking up (speed and supporters) the world over. that’s worth singing about.

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  3. The JZA says:

    The agency is the one that starts with an Oh. and ends with a Why?

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  4. Faith says:

    Such a oor play on the title of the song though, what a FAIL.

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  5. Brendon says:

    I agree….Copywriting FAIL

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  6. amandasevasti.com says:

    I worked at the agency five years ago and they’re still using the same image, always altered slightly. That woman has worn about 20 different colour dresses. The problem with basing your copy tone on puns is that they always run out and you’re left scraping the bottom of a very low barrel. Obviously.

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  7. Craig says:

    Firstly, don’t start by blaming the creatives behind this. If you were in the world of advertising, you’d soon understand the frustrations of working with clients and the often detrimental effect they have on creative work. It is a poor pun, sure, it is rare that you will find a GOOD one. But that’s what client wants, so inevitably, that’s what client gets.

    I’d also like to propose that, although I am very much a fan of the song, and I am anything but a fan of the gambling industry, I think it actually does reference the song and its meaning quite well, as it puts a positive spin (no pun intended there) on it all, by replacing the negative connotations of the gambling house referred to in the song and juztaposing it with an attractively fun and exciting element of gambling. So the ad, and dare I say, the pun, do work effectively.

    It is obvious that you have a personal attachment to the song, and a discerning dislike towards the gambling industry, but bottom line is: It’s an amazing song, a mediocre ad, and a terrible industry (gambling).
    Your criticism is justified, just ensure it’s guided towards to appropriate party involved.

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  8. Andy says:

    Craig you seem keen to absolve the advertising creatives, but that’s bull. Reckon this is in the same realm as the slutty “work it baby” Pampers ad, and blame should be equally apportioned between the creatives and the client. The creatives came up with this jive in the 1st place. All the client had to do was nod their heads and pay the bills. It’s not as if the creatives are forced or coerced to come up with this shit. They just don’t push their minds very far.

    And have you ever been to Grand West. Where exactly does this ‘attractive, fun element of gambling’ reside at Grand West? It’s a myth, bru. That’s a whitewash of the reality of the gambling business, which mainly involves taking money from people who can’t afford to be gambling and are either deluded that it’s ‘entertainment’ or too stupid to realise that the house always wins.

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  9. Sean says:

    We all work in the real world, I’ll admit, but I don’t buy Craig’s argument.
    “If you were in the world of advertising, you’d soon understand the frustrations of working with clients and the often detrimental effect they have on creative work.”
    It reminds me of politics.
    “If you were in the world of politics, you’d soon understand the frustrations of working with citizens and the often detrimental effect they have on creative work.”
    Interpret creative work as you will.

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  10. jezebel says:

    ha ha haa! I acutally agreed with craig at first, but up with sean because now i don’t even agree with mySELF…and i don’t know – does that make me the client, the agency, AND the industry?

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  11. Craig says:

    Well, firstly, I never at any point actually condoned the world of gambling. I entirely agree with you, Andy, on your views of the gambling industry and how they manipulate and rob the masses. However, as a creative working in the industry myself, I am more than familiar with the creative and production processes of advertising whereas, I get the sense Andy, that you are not. I understand your point of that it is indeed the creatives who come up with the work and that clients are the ones who just nod their head and pay the bills. What working in the advertising industry will enlighten you of, is that clients often force and subdue the creatives to conjure up work that they most certainly are not proud of. I’ve had to do the same and, frankly, it sucks. You underestimate the influence the clients actually have over creative work. And now especially in these dire economic times, clients are becoming even stricter with creative work and increasing how much they overlook it.

    “It’s not as if the creatives are forced or coerced to come up with this shit. They just don’t push their minds very far.”
    To be fair Andy, a comment like this just illustrates that you’ve never worked in the ad industry. The creatives are in fact forced and coerced to come up with ‘this shit’. And to make a claim that they are too lazy or lack the creativity to come up with better, is plain unfair to the creatives. You obviously also don’t understand the frustrations we face, as our creative work can almost be seen as an art, so we have a strong personal attachment to our work, and when it gets shut down by clients, who often don’t have a creative bone in them, it truly comes like a slap in the face. Imagine painting your whole life, creating something that is, in your eyes, a masterpiece, then having some client rework it with a permanent marker. It gets extremely aggrovating.

    “And have you ever been to Grand West. Where exactly does this ‘attractive, fun element of gambling’ reside at Grand West? It’s a myth, bru.”
    It is no myth, actually. It’s this attractive, fun element that lures people in, in the first place. The pulse-quickening, exciting, and addictive adenaline rush of gambling is what attracts so many people to spend their hard-earned money there. Along with the idea of winning money. No myth here.

    So please do understand that I am not condoning the world of gambling, or saying that this particular ad is very good, I am merely defending the creatives who were behind this piece, as I am one myself. And if anyone were to blame, then yes, it would be the client.

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  12. Roger Young says:

    defending the creatives
    should read
    defending the “creatives”

    Craig, people who work in advertising are whores and are all found out in the end. You will end uo a divorcee poet in Table View, living in a garden cottage and regretting the miserable copy you spent your life forcing out.

    Just admit it, you wrote this horrible ad. And then at least you earn points for manning up.

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  13. Andy says:

    Craig thanks for the response… 1st off – we all got to admit that there can be no condoning of this ad… it is a brutal and unwittingly honest communication from a Casino, to allude to a song about the perils of gambling, alcoholism and prostitution to drive customers through their doors. If it was intentional, I would applaud the sheer chutzpah of the campaign. But really it’s just a bad pun forced onto a billboard probably on a stretched deadline. No one thought they’d win any awards for this, especially considering they never even bothered to check what the song was all about. Had they done so, the creative wouldn’t have dared and the client would have shut it down long before they got into production. Or do you think Grand West wants to associate with these lyrics

    “Now the only thing a gambler needs
    Is a suitcase and a trunk
    And the only time he’s satisfied
    Is when he’s on a drunk”

    If this all blows up, the association with the song will be described as ‘unfortunate’ by their PR agency, as they try and sweep this all under the rug.

    But I do believe in creativity. And there’s always ‘another idea’ that the client and creative will agree on. There’s always a 3rd way both sides would be happy with. And creative ideas should probably be carried forward, promoted and sold by your client service types more vigorously. But the truth is, it’s hard to find people who actually give a shit about quality in the corporate world.

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  14. Manie says:

    i vote for andy, becuase the boy can surf

    craig, can you?

    if not – end of debate

    the world should be ruled by surfers

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  15. Anonymous says:

    I like your writing style. Good to read

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  16. Gregg says:

    Rock on Andy… this site (and article) is really cool … its great to see the articles stimulating debate..

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