Thursday, October 15, 2015

Drink this almond milk, it is my blood

The straw man is a rather popular device in advertising.  For one good example, consider that TeleFlora ad from some years back which critiqued the practice of sending flowers in a box that no other flower company actually seemed to use.  Silk went with kind of a strange variation on that.

Almond: "So... you won't taste Silk because you don't know what it tastes like."
Guy: "Right."

This is insane from the start.  First of all, it's kind of goofy that Silk has chosen as its mascot, or whatever, this bit of slapdash animation that looks like a full part of the almond plant, which most people watching this will have never seen.  I know enough about almonds to know that I'm supposed to be looking at one, but my only actual experience with the almond involves just the nut itself, not the leaves.  I guess it would be tough to have a pile of nuts on the table talking to this guy, but why did you have to go with an almond at all?  Why couldn't this be one of those ads where Jane Krakowski is weirdly invested in having her friends drink one specific beverage?

Almond: "But that's why you taste it.  To find out."
Guy: "I don't want to."

I'm really curious to know who this guy is supposed to represent, other than the patron saint of commercial actors who are utterly uncommitted to their lines.  Realistically this ad probably was written in five minutes after viewing a focus group where people expressed an ambivalence towards almond milk but then shockingly found it palatable.  But the market for almond milk seems mostly limited to people with dairy issues, and I find it very difficult to believe that those people really need to be cajoled into trying an alternative by a talking almond.  (Also: almond milk is basically pureed almonds mixed with water.  So it's at least a little weird having an almond pitching it, right?  "Drink this, for God's sake.  Do not let the genocide of my people have been in vain!")

Almond: "Why?"
Guy: "Because I don't know what it's gonna taste like."

Well this is just classic Abbott and Costello stuff, right here.  Third base!

Almond: "That's insane!  It's Silk Vanilla almond milk.  It obviously tastes like almonds."

And vanilla, I guess because maybe people aren't that interested in the taste of plain-ass ground-up almonds?  Which kind of undermines the whole point here.  But this gets at what bothers me about the argument, such as it is.  I think we all understand that almond milk is likely to taste like almonds.  So again, who is this pitch aimed at?  Other than people who can be bullied into buying a product if its spokesman calls them insane for not buying it?

Guy: "All right.  Fine."

Worn down by a talking almond in less than 15 seconds.   You're a chump.

Almond: "Thank you."

The adversarial, sarcastic nature of this commercial is sure to get people all over the country excited about the prospect of drinking liquid nuts!

Guy: "That's really good."
Almond: "No."

That is some deliciously editorial sarcasm for you right there.  "It's good?  Of course it's good, you fucking shithead.  It's SILK VANILLA ALMOND MILK, WHICH OBVIOUSLY TASTES LIKE ALMONDS."  Ads exist to sell their products and talk them up, naturally, but I can barely remember another ad where they went with "No shit our product is amazing!"

Guy: "A lot better than dairy milk."
Almond: "Mm-hmm."

They actually have fine print for this claim, which is surprisingly respectable for an ad of this nature, but I was amused to see that the taste test compared "dairy milk" (no specifics on fat percentage or anything) against, specifically, Silk's vanilla flavor.  I mean... I know there are a lot of people out there who really like the taste of plain milk, but is it that surprising that plain cow's milk would lose a taste test to something that has added sugar and flavoring?  "Yes, I will have more of the one that already tastes like a milkshake, please."  To quote the Silk almond, "No."

Guy: "I didn't know it would taste like that."
Almond: "Funny how that works."

"Buy Silk or this dickbag almond will stare you down from the adjoining refrigerator case!"

I mean, if you're concerned that the biggest problem with marketing almond milk is that people aren't willing to try it, there are like 500 different ways to make a pitch for them to try it.  I don't have a full list, but I'm pretty sure "Sarcastically calling your intended customers insane" would not rank in my top 450.  But I suppose this is better than "And I'm Super Creepy Rob Lowe, and I drink dairy milk."

Thursday, February 26, 2015


Many, many years ago, back in the deep time of this blog, my old compatriot Quivering P. Landmass wrote a post about a dumbass Beck's commercial where they talk about how their beer doesn't have helium. Quivering referenced an old saying from David Ogilvy about avoiding the use of negatives in ads. Slim Jim apparently hasn't heard this saying.

(That's two 15-second ads, of which we're only dealing with the first, though the second is, I assure you, nearly as idiotic.)

Think about this commercial for a second. I'm not going to go through it with a stopwatch, but given that it's only fifteen seconds long I'd say it spends CLOSE TO as much time on the horrifying male guts as it does on the attractive female midriffs. And that is an ENORMOUS problem. In another post from way back when, we discussed the most nauseating ads we've ever seen on TV. The embedded Starburst ad has gone missing, but don't worry: it's right here. (Note: do not watch that.) I really can't think of a worse thing to include in your ad than something intended to gross out the audience. Are you hoping I change the channel before I have a chance to get your product name drilled into my head?

The issue with the Slim Jim ad in particular is this: aside from the packaging, Slim Jims look EXACTLY THE SAME as whatever other meat stick serves as their competition. And since they don't name that competition in the ad, the only name you're getting from the ad - the ad in which meat sticks are seen being directly correlated with images we are INTENDED to find disgusting - is Slim Jim. Good work, fellas! You've successfully ensured that whenever I see Slim Jims, I will think of this ad, which uses half its allotted time showing me images of bloated male torsos that I am SUPPOSED to be grossed out by. And I definitely will not think of a "tummy party" with two attractive women, because no one in their right mind could possibly believe that Slim Jim will do anything to get them laid.

Honestly. I never liked the "Eat me" Slim Jim ads either - the one at that link, which suggests that eating a Slim Jim will cause you to drown, is particularly moronic - but they're masterpieces of the craft next to this pile of shit.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

When you're Geico, you beat jokes into the ground. It's what you do.

Geico has always been somewhat unusual among advertisers in that they tend to run multiple campaigns at once. Even today, you can see Geico spots that still feature the gecko, the "everybody knows that" spots, the weirdly earnest animated ones that seem aimed at the Esurance crowd, and the "it's what you do" ads. Like this one:

Even by the standards of marketers whose idea of brilliance is "We thought of four things you can push, and Salt-N-Pepa are on line two," this is stupendously lazy. I don't really know who was the chicken and who was the egg here, but remember the Super Bowl? Remember how there were not one but TWO spots featuring beloved (?) Internet sensation (??) "goats that scream like humans?" Yeah. There were TWO. Sprint did one that might not even feature a goat (looks more like a sheep). And then Discover also did one. It's like every time two movie studios release nearly identical movies within six months of each other and you're like "Did we even need ONE movie about Steve Prefontaine?"

In some ways, Geico's ad is the best of these three, since the other two really have no jokes other than the screams themselves, which I hasten to add are not jokes. Geico, God bless 'em, actually kind of tried. But come on. All that setup, this complicated factory set, for a joke about how the word "scapegoat" has the word "goat" in it? Hey, what if a scapegoat were a REAL goat? I mean, there's literally no actual joke there, because that's where the word scapegoat FUCKING COMES FROM. I don't expect the Geico ad people to be Biblical scholars - or scholars of anything, really, up to and including ads - but Googling "scapegoat" and finding out that it's not a coincidence takes two seconds. The alternative is that they knew that "scapegoat" had something to do with actual goats in the first place and didn't care because it was such a "great" setup to get that goat scream in there. In which case, fuck them.

It doesn't help matters that this is at least the fourth ad in the "it's what you do" series. Geico is known for draining every last drop of life and humor from their campaigns, and this is no exception. I think the horror movie spot was the first in this series, and it wasn't terrible, as these things go. The Salt-N-Pepa one is okay, I guess. Then you got the camel one, which...

I mean, holy shit, right? It's bad enough that Geico can't stop reusing concepts - now they have to (a) reference their own old ads and (b) editorialize that everyone remembers and loves them? (I suppose I might buy that a few yahoos have screamed "Guess what day it is" at zoo camels in the years since that ad first aired, but literally everyone at the zoo? Also, no one is so intimately familiar with that ad that they're referencing throwaway lines like "Mike Mike Mike!") But then, when most of the purpose behind running five hundred different ads at one time is to see what sticks with people, and then reusing that over and over again, I guess I can't be surprised that anything that had any kind of legs was ridden to death. Like this:

I'm glad for Ickey Woods that he's getting a few paychecks after playing his last NFL game in 1991, but it's kind of amazing that Geico went with this reference at all. I guess when you run as many ads as Geico, you can afford to have one of your five simultaneous campaigns focus on a 25-year-old athletic footnote. And then make all your ads in that campaign about his legendary (???) love of cold cuts. (Woods' Wikipedia page claims that he has been a sales representative for a meat company during his post-NFL career, so maybe this is the weirdest kind of cross-promotion?) I mean, the initial Woods ad, like many initial Geico ads, was mildly amusing. But seriously, go on YouTube and look at all the shit they've got him in. There are literally four different "What's Cooking" videos like the one above, ALL OF WHICH ARE JUST COLD CUTS JOKES. For real. Or there are EIGHT "Ickey Reflections" videos. The main 30-second one, again, isn't awful. I would probably have chuckled to see it on TV:

That's a reasonable follow-up to the initial Ickey ad. This, however, is not:


Geico has had some funny ads over the years. But given how many they put out, it tends to make them look more like a blind squirrel than a squad of hilarious jokesters. I'm sure we're all excited to see what quarter-century-old reference they can exhume next, though! Here are some suggestions:

"When you're Wilson Phillips, you tell people to hold on. It's what you do."

"When you're Dan Quayle, you add letters to the end of words. It's what you do."

"When you're Macaulay Culkin, you booby-trap your house against burglars. It's what you do."

"When you're the Berlin Wall, you get torn down. It's what you do."

Monday, February 16, 2015

Never-ending Mazda troll

This ad is a little old, but Mazda is still running ads in the same style, so we may as well revisit it.

Realistically, I don't know what I should have expected from the people who brought us this complete mess, but man, this is some seriously self-absorbed shit right here, isn't it?

Announcer: "They called his inventions novelties, even risky. But when Thomas Edison threw the switch, it changed everything."

I'd like to know who "they" are supposed to be, but whatever. Mazda - an utterly unremarkable car company in most respects - is comparing itself to someone broadly considered to be the greatest inventor of the modern age. And they're not being ironic. All these ads talk about someone changing their field, or even the world, with a remarkable new invention. And that's like Mazda, apparently.

Announcer: "Courage. Creativity. Conviction."

Courage. Courage! Just let that sink in for a second. Mazda is sucking its own dick about how brave it is as a car company. The courage to create... a CUV! The exact same fucking model that every car company has been putting out over the last five years. Give these guys the fucking Medal of Honor, because they are just so courageous.

Announcer: "SkyActiv technology makes the Mazda CX-5 lighter yet stronger, earning a top safety pick."

Well, that's very... creative? What the fuck is SkyActiv technology? There's a brief graphic on the screen which, if you freeze it, appears to be talking about the engine - "13.0:1 compression ratio," "advanced direct injection" - which may be great, but does that actually have anything to do with safety? You'd think this is the spot where you should be talking about crumple zones or what have you.

Announcer: "And more fuel-efficient than any hybrid SUV, without compromising performance."

Think about the sheer balls-out conviction it must have taken to decide that people might like their cars to be more fuel-efficient.

Announcer: "This is the Mazda way."

At this point I just picture Mazda like Mark Wahlberg in the last scene of Boogie Nights. That's right, Mazda. You're a star. You're a bright shining star.

That's a more recent spot, and guess what? Same shit. For a company that spends so much time touting its own boldness, Mazda has no problem whatsoever trotting out the exact same spot a year later, only with the inventor of the digital camera subbed in. What's particularly ridiculous here is that (a) it's clearly not the case that the camera was "virtually unchanged" between 1900 and the invention of the digital camera and (b) once again Mazda is comparing "making a slightly more fuel-efficient crossover SUV" to a massive technological leap. Uh, it's not. The CX-5 does get pretty good reviews, but there are a lot of compact SUVs and crossovers out there and at least a couple others also do well with the critics. Don't act like nobody else makes anything remotely like your product when literally everyone does. Is it the best model in its class? I mean, it might be, right? But if so, tell me why! And I mean, tell me why legitimately, without making flowery comparisons to invention pioneers or dropping impenetrable jargon like "SkyActiv technology," which almost no one watching this ad knows anything about. (It sounds cool, though, right? Better get a Mazda to get you some of that sweet, sweet SkyActiv technology, whatever it is!)

Do us all a favor, Mazda - stop acting like you fucking invented cars. If you want to sell me a car, tell me a few things about your car. Don't jerk yourselves off on television and call that an ad. I'm not saying this ad doesn't say anything about the car - we at least hear about the fuel efficiency and something vague about a safety award - but I get so turned off by the bullshit comparisons that I've tuned out before you even start talking about the CX-5 itself. Can't you guys just make a normal ad for once?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Get bready, 'cause here I come

This is technically a public service announcement, so I feel a little bad talking shit about it. But come on, what the HELL is this thing.


Obviously, the message - folic acid in your diet can help prevent certain kinds of birth defects - is important. The particulars, though, are just awkward. I mean, white bread? Okay, enriched white bread is probably a perfectly fine source of folic acid, but how about eating some green vegetables or citrus fruits, which are good natural sources of folic acid? White bread is, literally, one of the least inherently nutritive foods on the planet. This is like one of those ads that talks about how Lucky Charms or whatever are a source of vitamins and minerals. I'm glad that producers of what is otherwise pretty much utter junk - seriously, sugar-frosted oat bits and marshmallow pieces, for BREAKFAST - have managed to artificially cram some important nutrients into their product, but don't be fooled into thinking that this is somehow equivalent to "eating healthy."

Even beyond the issues with the pitch, this is a weird ad. For one thing, it spends FOREVER getting to the point. Did this really need to be a minute long? Did we need to spend FORTY SECONDS of that minute just watching this woman follow the "bread trail?" (Also, how many loaves of bread did this guy waste setting this dumb shit up? Two? Three?) Then there's the implication of what's going to happen next - "Eat this sandwich so we can fuck!" Who says romance is dead?

I have to give them SOME credit: next to the sandwich on the plate is what looks like a spinach salad with some orange segments - in other words, green leafy vegetables and citrus fruits. (Though it did take me at least three viewings of the ad to notice they were there, and you see that plate for only a couple of seconds whereas bread appears in virtually every shot.) And they do mention leafy greens in the final narration. Given that the PSA was co-produced by the Grain Foods Foundation, it's a little impressive that they bothered to mention other sources of folic acid at all.

Still, there were about 500 different ways you could have made a pitch for people to get more folic acid in their diet. This has to be one of the weirdest options. "Substitute bread for rose petals to woo your lover! Make her eat a sandwich before you have sex, JUST IN CASE!" And it's one thing when actual ads drag their plots out to make you wonder what product is being sold - shouldn't a public service announcement be a lot clearer and up front about its message? Wouldn't that be way more helpful than spending 40 seconds on something so tedious that half the audience is probably ready to change the channel before they have any idea what you're trying to talk about?

Thursday, February 12, 2015

I'm Insulting The Viewer Rob Lowe, and I have DirecTV

I expect that most of the issues with the Rob Lowe DirecTV campaign have been hashed out in various places over the last few months, but I don't think we could start posting here again and not talk about these ads.

That's the first in a series that has now extended to seven different spots, which is some Geico-level shit.

Rob Lowe: "Hi. I'm Rob Lowe, and I have DirecTV."
Super Creepy Rob Lowe: "And I'm Super Creepy Rob Lowe, and I have cable."

Right from the outset, this is kind of a weird pitch. Because... what is the pitch? People who have cable are creeps? Someone who is creepy definitely would have cable?

RL: "With DirecTV, you get 99% signal reliability."

The fine print here says "Based on a nationwide study of representative cities." Which seems kind of vague and evasive, but I don't know. Maybe it's true.

RL: "Now that's reliable."

Thanks for interpreting that figure for me. As the kind of creep who has cable, I'm far too busy taking upskirt photos to do math.

SCRL: "My cable's out, so I'm down at the rec center, watching folks swim."

Wow, I guess cable must be terrible. Oh, wait, this part of the ad is based on absolutely nothing. I mean, is there some figure you could be quoting about how cable is out way more of the time? As it stands, it could easily be the case that cable's signal reliability is actually 99.9%. I always get suspicious when advertisers hide figures like this. Why doesn't DirecTV want to talk numbers all of a sudden? Doesn't matter, right? The guy with cable is a creep! That's the important point. I guess.

RL: "I love that I can watch my shows and be worry-free."

Couldn't even squeeze in a second actual claim, huh?

SCRL: "And I love the smell of other people's hair!"

Well, I guess they had to set up that "I love" parallel somehow. Had to.

RL: "Don't be like this me. Get rid of cable and upgrade to DirecTV."

Of course, there are a lot of ways not to be like "Super Creepy Rob Lowe." Having cable would be about nine thousandth in terms of importance on the list of "Things that this fake person does that you should really not do." But implicitly insulting your potential customers for their current purchasing habits is always a really good way to move product. Like, if you were walking into a McDonald's, and some guy in a Burger King uniform started yelling at you from the sidewalk that you should eat at Burger King because only jerks and losers eat at McDonald's... is your next move to go to Burger King? I will answer that for you: it is not. (Side note: I would not have put it past Crispin Porter + Bogusky to try that when they were in charge of BK's marketing campaigns.)

So anyway, either this ad was somehow "popular" or DirecTV already had a bunch in the pipeline, because then they brought out several more. The second one was... problematic. Okay, more problematic.

It's funny, because he has terrible social anxiety! Oh wait, that's not really funny at all. That's a diagnosable psychiatric condition.

RL: "DirecTV is number one in customer satisfaction over all cable TV providers."

Okay, actual claim. Not bad so far?

PARL: "With cable, you wait forever for them to show up! I hope it's not a girl."

"And I'm Super-Lazy-Joke-Making Rob Lowe. I have cable."

PARL: "...or a guy."

Social Anxiety Disorder, per the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association: "A persistent fear of one or more social or performance situations in which the person is exposed to unfamiliar people or to possible scrutiny by others. ... The feared situations are avoided or else are endured with intense anxiety and distress." Sounds like a laff riot! Suck it up and get DirecTV, you pussy!

RL: "Fact: DirecTV has been ranked higher than cable for over ten years."
PARL: "Fact: I can't go with other people in the room."

Paruresis. A relatively common phobia. Also, a PHOBIA. Like, a legit psychological issue. Not just something that only happens to weird fey losers like Painfully Awkward and Probably Not Coincidentally Kind of Effeminate Rob Lowe.

Anyway, it goes on like this. The remaining list of Fake Alternate Rob Lowes not to be like: Crazy Hairy Rob Lowe, Scrawny Arms Rob Lowe, Meathead Rob Lowe (so apparently you suck if you have no muscle but also if you have too MUCH muscle?), Overly Paranoid Rob Lowe, and Peaked in High School Rob Lowe. Laugh-a-minute jokefests all.

So let's try and figure it out. What is the pitch? What is it? If we take it seriously, the pitch is, "These weirdos have cable. Which means everyone who has cable is a weirdo! Do you wanna be a weirdo? No? Then you'd better get DirecTV, weirdo!" If it's more of a joke, then all you really have is DirecTV going, "We're better than cable! Also, have a look at these at best mildly amusing alternate Rob Lowes we came up with to tell you that."

You know what these ads remind me of? Apple's "I'm a Mac" ads. There are quite a few similarities: you've got one company treating a bunch of different companies as a single monolithic entity ("cable" means different things depending on where you live, much like how there are various manufacturers who produce "PCs"); you have the company not just claiming to be better than its competition but also depicting that competition in the form of someone intended to be less appealing; you have usually pretty vague descriptions of what the differences actually are; and, of course, you have the advertising company with a substantially smaller percentage of the market share.

I understand that whoever's behind tends to feel the need to go on the attack. It's why Pepsi goes after Coke but not the other way around; it's why Taco Bell couldn't just say "Hey, we've got breakfast food now," but felt the need to go after McDonald's in the process; it's why the political races in which the most mud-slinging goes on are the close ones. It makes sense in principle - if most people are going with your competitor already, you feel like you can't just say "Here's what I've got." You have to say "Here's what I've got and HERE'S WHY IT'S BETTER. You should change what you're doing." Again, in principle, this works. In practice, however, it comes off as insulting far too often. Taco Bell's ad attempts to suggest that Egg McMuffins are old and tired. But if you're the sort of person who eats Egg McMuffins all the time, it's probably because you like Egg McMuffins. And hey, maybe you're not going to appreciate being called old and tired for your taste preferences!

DirecTV doesn't have that same kind of problem - no one uses cable because they just fucking love cable so much - but nevertheless, this campaign implies that people who use cable are somehow inferior. Which is just sort of weirdly insulting, and hardly the thing that's going to get people beating a path to your door, especially given how strong the pull of inertia is. DirecTV may indeed be more reliable than cable, but as long as your cable is pretty reliable, I can't imagine that being compared to Super Creepy Rob Lowe is doing much to convince you to switch. There may be a subset of people who are so unhappy with cable that literally any pitch will sway them, but I'm guessing it's not huge. Oh, and I hope everyone in that subset has a clear view of the southern sky.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Karma police, arrest this ad

Sometimes you see an ad and really wonder how that company can afford to advertise. In the case of Credit Karma, I think the answer is pretty obvious.

Because it almost seems unfair to pick on an ad that clearly had no budget at all, let me start with what I actually like about this ad: the messaging. It does get a little obscured by the delivery, but there's a decent point in there about how a person's credit score can change and that just because you knew it once doesn't mean you're set for life. That's fine.

Then there's what I don't like about the ad, which is almost everything else.

Woman 1: "Oh, cool! I can check my credit score on Credit Karma!"

A+ on getting right out there with the name and what the product is, I guess. Sadly, that's the ad peaking in the first three seconds.

Woman 2: "Checking your credit score is for chumps! I have great credit!"
Woman 1: "How do you know?"
Woman 2: "Duh!" [displays tattoo reading "721"]

Not that I expected them to give this woman a real tattoo, but that could look a little less like it was done with a Sharpie.

Woman 1: "You know those change, right?"
Woman 2: "Tattoos don't change!"

Swish! Nailed that joke. What is the deal with this woman's delivery? Trying to make sure they can hear her in the back row of the Palace Theatre? Victim of a recent head injury? Under the impression this is an ad for Totino's Pizza Rolls?

Woman 1: "Try Credit Karma. It's free, and you can see what your score is, right now."

Could they not have used a take where this woman wasn't clearly reading her lines off the laptop screen? Of course, maybe it's presumptuous of me to assume that there was actually a second take. They probably had ten minutes to shoot this before the director's kids got back from soccer practice.

Woman 1: "Aren't you a little bit curious?"

The really weird thing is that this exact same line appears in Naughty Housewives 94, which was shot in the same kitchen just two hours earlier. With the same music. And the same caliber of acting.

Woman 2 [manically]: "I just got my free credit score!!!"

Woman 1 only appears from the back after this point because the volume at which that line was delivered caused her eyeballs to explode.

Announcer: "Credit Karma. Really free credit scores. Really! Free!"

I suppose I would believe that Credit Karma has absolutely zero income given this ad's budget of "one of those chocolate chip cookie party trays," but I have to think that "we give you your credit score for free" is probably not the whole story here. If you can afford ad space, you're making money somehow, and if it's not from charging for your primary service, that means one of three things: (1) your page is loaded with ads; (2) you force people to sign up to get their free score, then sell their info to third parties; or (3) you push paid services on your customers, and as long as a small but reasonable percentage of them sign up for these additional services, you've made enough to get by. Based on this Forbes page, it seems like a version of #2, although it appears that Credit Karma only gets money for a successful referral which at least incentivizes them not to just send you the way of whatever junk comes rolling in. Good for them, if so. This is still a terrible ad.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Irony thick enough to clog your arteries

They do know... right?

True story: as I was watching this ad for the first time, not knowing what it was for, I began thinking, "I wonder how ironic the punchline to this setup is going to be." And then it was. It's possible, of course, that Taco Bell is in on the joke here. But I'm not sure you can make this joke AND be in on it.

Announcer: "If you need to be told how to be a man, Taco Bell's Triple Steak Stack isn't for you."

It's winking, obviously. But behind the wink it's the exact same pitch! You can dress it up and claim you're poking fun at the male-targeting advertising industry - which I'd be fine with - but it doesn't really work when your ad ends up in the exact same place. I mean, take it logically:

Real men don't need to be told how to be a man.
If you need to be told how to be a man, Taco Bell's Triple Steak Stack isn't for you.
THEREFORE, Taco Bell's Triple Steak Stack is for real men.

So maybe it's not a perfect syllogism, and the first premise is implicit rather than stated outright (but it's pretty clear in the implication), but it's easy enough to follow the line Taco Bell wants you to draw mentally. Even as they poke fun at ads telling you how to be a man, they are TELLING YOU HOW TO BE A MAN. Eat the Taco Bell Steak Stack and prove your manliness. Better yet, prove that you're not affected by ads telling you what manliness is! Other ads, that is. Not this one. Let this one tell you. (Hint: it involves a shit-ton of steak.)

If you want to sell your Enormous Steak Flatbread (protip: "Stack" is not the most appealing description of food) to a male audience, that's fine. But what's the point in being all fucking arch about it? "Selling things based on questioning your masculinity? We would never do that. PS real men eat Cheesy Steak Logs from Taco Bell." Just make a regular pitch, assholes. (By comparison, here is another current Taco Bell ad that is completely straightforward, gets its point across, and gets out. It would have been so hard to do something like that again?)

Monday, February 9, 2015

If your dick joke lasts longer than 60 seconds, consult a physician

Remember: this cost Fiat nine million dollars.

It's sort of an interesting counterpoint to Chevy's "drive a truck or never get laid ever" pitch that small car makers often seem to go in a similar direction, especially when marketing their slightly larger models. During the 2011 Super Bowl, for instance, Mini ran an ad that winkingly compared the trunk space in its four-door Countryman model to anal sex. A year later, Fiat explicitly cast its Fiat 500 Abarth model as a sexy Italian woman. And here we have Fiat again, inviting you to think of its four-door 500X as the product of an erection pill falling into a smaller model. (Less obliquely, of course, it also shows you several women purring over it.) The pitch, it seems, is this: really tiny cars aren't sexy. But we also make SLIGHTLY larger cars! And those are TOTALLY sexy.

Per the Chicago Tribune, subcompact crossovers - the vehicle subsegment in which the 500X is classed - are the hot thing in the automobile world. With that in mind, an ad that pushes them as sexy - when "practical" seems more their speed - feels like an odd play. I understand that "practical" is usually reserved for cars that are being sold to parents, and this type of car is apparently chasing younger urban dwellers... but still. Sexy? The whole point is a car that's small but not TOO small. Easy to drive and park but you don't hear this in your head every time you see one go by. Useful. Not sexy.

Here's a five-year-old ad for the Nissan Juke, one of the first subcompact crossovers to hit the market (here sold as a "sport-cross"):

It's true that that ad also felt the need to have multiple women act impressed by our hero. But it does at least show a few things that the car, you know, can do - the turbo boost, the fact that it can fit into small parking spaces while still having some power (a concern that a lot of people have with small cars, clearly), Bluetooth and pop-up navigation. Even as the ad has plenty of... well, if not jokes per se, at least bits that are intended to be amusing, it still gets across the key points about the Juke.

Meanwhile, what do we know about the 500X after watching that Fiat ad? For one thing, the car doesn't show up for 40 seconds of a 60-second spot; by comparison, the Juke is literally the first thing we see in the Nissan ad. And in fact, the car that shows up at the 40-second mark ISN'T the 500X - we don't see that in full until the 49-second mark, after the smaller Fiat has had a chance to, uh, become engorged with... look, forget this. The point is, I count fewer than three seconds of seeing the car driving in the Fiat ad, and none of them are in an American city, which is a little odd considering that this car is presumably being marketed to urban Americans. (On the bright side, I'm very confident I'll be able to maneuver the 500X should I ever find myself driving one in Tuscany.)

I've never been a big fan of car ads that don't show the car driving (like the middle ad from that Dodge post, which is far too busy calling you gay to show you what you'd actually be getting if you succumbed to their sales pitch). Unless what you're really desperate to sell me on does not involve the driving experience itself - like that Mini ad, which really is just focused on the trunk space - you should probably try to show the car in motion for more than a couple seconds. I mean, this ad features an ersatz Viagra pinging around some Italian town for fully twenty seconds. It spends twenty more seconds just on horny old people. The car itself? Eh, who cares.

This isn't a really terrible ad by any means, but Fiat could easily have saved themselves $4.5 million and cut it down to 30 seconds by trimming the fat from the opening 45. Maybe they would have had room for a few more shots of the car actually driving? Or, I don't know, a second joke?

Friday, February 6, 2015

The trouble with Triscuits

Triscuits are okay, I guess. And these ads aren't super offensive or anything. But I mean, come on.

It's always funny seeing "recipe suggestions" on the side of a box of crackers, but this is some next-level shit right here. Imagine, if you will, taking out an avocado, peeling and slicing it, grilling a chicken breast, slicing that, and then taking out a handful of Triscuits and carefully arranging small amounts of the avocado and chicken on top (in the space of what, maybe four square inches?). And then drizzling some sriracha sauce on there, just for good measure. I suppose if you were trying to make the world's most depressing hors d'oeuvres, this is kind of okay? But Triscuit is trying to position this as some sort of anytime snack, right? Negative bonus points for trying to make the barely-pronounceable portmanteau "avochickirachascuit" happen.

Same deal here, except probably even worse. Spend all that time shredding a cucumber, tearing up mint leaves, crumbling feta... just to fit a tiny spoonful onto a little cracker?

The slogan Triscuit is rolling with here, "Made for more," is really the problem. The implication is that Triscuits basically only exist to be used as little edible plates. But why do I need a Triscuit at all? If the only real point behind the Triscuit is providing a way for the cucumber-mint-feta salad I just created to get into my mouth, I might as well just eat it with a spoon and save myself the Triscuit calories, right? Failing that, there are like eight million other food items I could use to help transport tiny amounts of legitimate food up to my mouth besides Triscuits, which apparently have almost no taste if you believe these ads since they're suggesting they're only made TO be topped with something that contains actual flavor.

Triscuit is absolutely 100% serious about trying to get super-fancy with Triscuits, by the way. They've even recruited Martha Stewart:

I love how she really just says "crackers" the whole time except when she's clearly reading off cue cards. (There's also something slightly weird about how the box looks - I think it may just be that the bright yellow stands out among the otherwise muted colors of the kitchen, but it almost looks like it was CGIed in, or at the very least given its own key light.) Regardless, listen to the times she gives, in minutes, for how long it will take to cook the peas and salmon. Can you imagine spending upwards of twenty minutes - probably closer to half an hour when all cook and prep is factored in - just to ready a snack for yourself? She does seem to be pushing them as hors d'oeuvres, to be fair, but then there's this:

Martha: "Triscuit crackers are substantial enough to hold lots of your favorite toppings, whether you serve them when you entertain, or as an afternoon snack."

Yeah, look: I'm not spending 20-30 minutes cooking up a salmon recipe to put on a TRISCUIT, no matter how delicious it might be, for a quick snack. If I'm eating Triscuits as a snack, I'm pulling the box out and using them as a delivery system for the least complex foods you can think of - slices of cheese or a dip of some sort. I'm not sautéeing swiss chard or letting berries macerate for FORTY-FIVE FUCKING MINUTES.

If you want to see Triscuit really go crazy, head on over to their Pinterest page, as mentioned in the ads. They keep trying to pull off the clunky portmanteaus (portmanteaux?) and ludicrously complex recipes while positioning many of them as "anytime snacking." Sure, any time! Just roast some squash and beets and jam those on a tiny cracker to make the "Squarrobeetscuit" whenever the mood strikes. Not weird at all! There's also a section for pretty much every holiday or general occasion. Involve Triscuits in every aspect of your life! Never eat or do anything unless it involves Triscuits! Thanksgiving leftovers? Slap 'em on a Triscuit and go to town. Super Bowl party? Impress your football fan friends with dainty little cracker-based hors d'oeuvres, I guess! Valentine's Day? Smear some red berries on a Triscuit cracker and watch your significant other be impressed! Later that night, don't forget a box of Triscuits on the bedside table for the perfect post-coital snack! Munch on Triscuits at the hospital while watching your wife give birth! Name your first-born child "Triscuit" - works for a boy or a girl! And be sure to have yourself buried with a box of Triscuits for amazing snacking in the next life!