Grand Theft Schwab?

Charles Schwab Commercial Target Market

Charles Schwab knows that video games are mainstream: Witness their latest television spots.

The latest TV campaign by Charles Schwab caught my eye from the moment I first saw one of the spots. The animated ads use a technique called rotoscoping, which I first remember seeing employed in Ralph Bakshis 1978 film version of Lord Of The Rings.

A more recent example of rotoscoping can be seen in A-Ha’s 1985 music video, Take On Me.

In rotoscoping, animators trace live action frame by frame to use as the foundation of their animations. But it was not the rotoscoping technique of the Schwab ad that arrested my attention, but rather the style. The spots have a very distinctive style, which I’d seen before.

In Grand Theft Auto. See for yourself in the comparison below. On the left is a screenshot from one of the Schwab ads and on the right is a detail from one of the initial loading screens of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas.

Charles Schwab Commercial vs. Grand Theft Auto

I think the styles are just too similar to be a coincidence. Slate’s Seth Stevenson offers his take on the ads and agrees with me that the visual style is arresting but then goes all esoteric by explaining that the cartoony feel washes “out the real-world details present in a live actor’s face, and in an actual background set, lets us move past what we’re seeing and shifts
our attention onto the dialogue.”

Perhaps. I think it more likely, though, that the novelty of this type of animation in an ad is simply a way to accomplish a television ad’s biggest obstacle: Gaining the initial attention of the viewer.

In that it succeeds but by looking so much like the art style of Grand Theft Auto, I believe these spots are deliberately targeted on the 24 to 45 male demographic which is getting increasingly harder to reach for the very reason that they spend more and more of their time playing video games at the expense of television viewing.

Charles Schwab Commercials

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