Friday, March 30, 2007

We've got conjecture and hearsay. Those are kinds of evidence.

I wish I could find a video for the latest Comcast commercial that unexpectedly made me go "ha!", but it's far too mundane for someone to have posted it on YouTube (which makes it quite mundane indeed). Basically, Comcast wants you to know that "all kinds of people" are signing up for its triple play of services. And it tells you that over images of a white woman on the phone-then a white man on the phone- then a black woman on the phone. The variety of "all kinds" is just staggering! I can't even count that high, Comcast!

If their budget had been just $20 higher, perhaps we would have seen a fisherman on his cell phone, then a king in an ermine cape using the internet, and a doctor watching When Surgery Goes Wrong on the Discovery Health Channel.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Commercials that don't suck: Gatorade AM

I'm not sure I buy the idea behind Gatorade AM: the flavors didn't really seem all that much more "morning"-like to me, and I'm moderately suspicious of the implication that your body might need a different kind of replenishment at 7 am as opposed to 2 pm. I guess it's possible, but until someone rolls out a research paper for me, I'm going to go ahead and assume they're just hoping this will sell more Gatorade (perhaps their research has shown that people are less likely to drink Gatorade in the early hours and they figure some re-branding is the way to go?).

That said, I like the ad:

I'm a fan of pretty much anything showing celebrities (including athletes) in nontraditional milieus. In this case, we've got Peyton Manning, Kristine Lilly and Abby Wambach playing "schoolchildren," Mia Hamm as a soccer mom, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as a retiree, and Kevin Garnett as the classic postwar milkman, the latter of which is particularly entertaining to me. The music gives the whole thing a cheery, bright feeling, and the idea of having the Gatorade man replace your old bottle with a fresh one is simultaneously insanely incongruous but also both amusing and oddly quaint. It's one of those pictures of a world that doesn't exist - even if you replaced all the famous faces with regular people and the Gatorade with milk, there's no suburb in America that actually functions as pictured, at least not anymore - but is still capable of putting a smile on your face. Or mine, anyway. Gatorade, you get a gold star.

Did I eat it or rub it on my face?

Ads for the kind of food that college students eat have reached the point where they are aimed at college students mostly by going for the style of humor where you don't really need a joke, you just need to be weird.

But this is pretty terrible, even by those admittedly low standards. First of all, there are gaps in this commercial you could steer the QE2 through - the first ten seconds are silent, and then there's a further 7-8 seconds of staring after the Hot Pockets enter the frame. It's pretty brutal to watch. And that's before you get around to discussing the Asian caricature (I didn't realize we were suddenly back in 1985), the fact that the ad makes no real sense of any kind, and the fact that Hot Pockets are actually pretty disgusting and anyone who would choose them over making out probably needs professional help.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A campaign dimly

Another campaign that seems to run a lot during the sporting events I watch - possibly because the main demographic is working males - is Charles Schwab's "Why the Hell is this Rotoscoped" series of ads. Below, one of many examples, although it's far from the worst, mostly because this guy doesn't move around too much:

Other, and worse, examples can be found here.

So, the big question: why is this rotoscoped? Schwab's VP of advertising claims that the cartoons force people to focus on what's being said. Does anyone agree with that? Because it seems to me to have the exact opposite effect - the animation makes motion look jerky and unnatural, people's mouths look weird as they talk, and the Uncanny Valley effect - the more realistic something that isn't real gets, the more turned off we are - is in full force. The animation is too close to reality to be escapist, yet not realistic enough to be familiar. Instead it's just creepy. How is distracting me with freakish-looking, oddly-moving people supposed to let me concentrate on your message? When I see one of these ads, I don't think, "You know, that guy is making a lot of sense." I think, "OH MY GOD WHAT IS WRONG WITH HIS FACE??"

Yet this explanation doesn't seem like a put-on, as it shouldn't - it's not like rotoscoping is just a switch on a camera. You really have to want to do it. (Maybe someone at Schwab is just a big Richard Linklater fan - Waking Life and A Scanner Darkly in particular, of course.) I'm still left wondering how anyone at Schwab actually believes what they're saying, though. If I was watching a regular ad with a bald, middle-aged guy sitting there talking about investment, what exactly is distracting me from his message that weird-looking animation isn't going to repeat?

The real answer, I would guess, is that the rotoscoping serves no purpose whatsoever - other than to get people talking about the rotoscoping. If it were a guy sitting there, you probably would forget all about it as soon as it ended. But if it's a creepily-animated guy sitting there... well. And there are articles about the campaign all over the web, the gist of most of them being "Have you seen these Schwab ads? Craaaaaazy!" So let's not pretend it "focuses the message." Schwab doesn't care if you remember anything the guy was saying as long as you remember the name Schwab and know that they're connected with investing. Which is about all I do remember. That, and that I will leave the room whenever one of these freaky ads comes on. Seriously, what the hell.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Remember, the name is ironic

Miller High Life has a long history of running terrible commercials. I'm guessing most of you can recall the series from the late-90s or thereabouts featuring such awful lines as "That last deviled egg's looking pretty good" and "That's just flavor... to a High Life man." High Life's marketing campaign has long dwelled on the irony of its name - no one who drinks High Life is actually living the high life, and considering how the beer revels in its own cheapness I can't imagine how they'd be fooled, either.

According to the YouTube page, Errol Morris directed that series of ads. It sort of makes sense and sort of scares the hell out of me, although I sense that Morris was well aware of the irony. The thing that I hated about those ads, though, was that they didn't seem to be pitching themselves at the ironic crowd, but rather people who would buy the irony at face value. Behold the kind of man who drinks Miller High Life - he's willing to eat a donut while his hands are covered in grease (and for that matter, he's washing down a donut with a Miller High Life). This is one of the stupider iterations of the campaign, although it's far from the most offensive:

If you don't drink High Life... YOU'RE A PUSSY! Again, I get the feeling there's some irony, but at the same time, it's difficult to believe that the ad isn't pitched at people exactly like the guy in it, and that makes it the exact opposite of ironic. Errol Morris, is that really you?

A recent series of billboards touts the cost of High Life - lower than a grande latte at Starbucks or a six-pack of bottled water - as "proof that the world hasn't gone completely crazy." That's right, a dirt-cheap, shitty beer is still dirt-cheap and shitty! Whew! The TV version of that is what brings me to this post today:

Oh, you have got to be kidding me. First of all, this is at least the second High Life ad that rags on the French. (I was sadly unable to find Morris' "Good work, Pierre" ad, which is the worst of that entire series by a mile and a half.) I know they're an easy target, but come on. Second of all, the premise is preposterous. A place that charges $11.50 for a hamburger is NOT going to be offering Miller High Life! You're not allowed to set yourselves up like that, High Life.

Third of all, does High Life want to be known as "the beer where, if you're poor, it's the cheapest way to get drunk?" Because that's the unspoken message behind all of these commercials. "Hey! Are you selling this beer to rich people? I don't think so!" Miller High Life: the beer for blue-collar types who just want a cheap buzz. Frankly, that's just kind of depressing.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Lowering the bar

Cingular may have the fewest dropped calls, but they seem to have made it a point over the past couple years to annoy the crap out of the viewing public by blanketing the March Madness airwaves with ads featuring two guys. If you follow college basketball at all, I'm sure you know the ones I mean. Apparently they were popular enough for a return engagement this year, although the ad below is from last year:

Okay. You know what these ads remind me of? The "Mac vs. PC" ads that also bring the bile up in my throat. The problem isn't even that Cingular (and Mac) are painting the competition as a bunch of embarrassing doofuses. It's that they compound that by making their pitchman insufferably smug. How is this good business? As dorky as the guy with the "other" phone may look, the guy with the Cingular phone is by and large an obnoxious asshole. It isn't selling me a Mac and it's not selling me a phone either. Maybe I just don't understand something about appealing to the public, but you'd think "If you don't have this phone, you are a MORON" isn't the shrewdest technique.

Separate from that problem is something that annoys me in general about Cingular ads. An entire segment of their campaign - I dare say the bulk of it - revolves around having "the fewest dropped calls."

They're both at home! Hey, you know what really never has a dropped call? A FREAKING LAND LINE!!!! It may be nice that Cingular has the fewest dropped calls when I get lost on my nature hike, but if you're in your house and you can't get a cell phone to work, maybe you should consider OWNING A REAL PHONE.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Ad nausea

If you're like me, you probably spend a fair amount of time watching television. And, if you're like me, that means you see a lot of ads. (I'm lucky enough to have TiVo, which allows me to spare myself on occasion, but not nearly often enough.) And if you are, once more, like me, you probably hate the vast majority of these ads.

Here, then, is a place to rant. Because despite all the money that goes into advertising each year, the vast majority of companies, and the Madison Avenue stalwarts they employ, can't seem to avoid putting total garbage over the airwaves. It's Sturgeon's Law writ large, and that's on a good day. I'll be sure to cite examples of ads that actually do their jobs - being good, or funny - but let's face it, it's a lot more cathartic to rail at the crap. And there's plenty of that to go around.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

"Frequently" "Asked" "Questions"

What's with the name?

"Who Are The Ad Wizards Who Came Up With That One?" is taken from a Saturday Night Live sketch about a game show for comedians called "Stand-Up & Win." The contestant Barry, played by Adam Sandler, keeps ringing in to ask, "Who are the ad wizards who came up with this one?" He does so for the Clapper, Chicken McNuggets, and beef jerky, being buzzed as wrong each time. For the "Final Jeopardy" equivalent, the question is "What is the deal with Oprah?" Barry writes, "Who are the ad wizards who came up with that one?"

So you guys don't think you're "the ad wizards?"

That's just shorthand. We probably could do a better job considering how much crap makes it onto the air, but we're not angling to get jobs in advertising. This is just a fun way for us to take out our annoyance on the ads that bother us the most.

How did this start?

Quivering P. Landmass saw a particularly annoying ad and complained about it to Windier E. Megatons, but Windier hadn't seen it. We thought it would make sense to have a blog where we could post the actual videos of ads, write something about them to get our aggression out, and then we could all go there and read what the others had posted. It was meant to make us laugh at the ads we hated, and really no more or less.

Quivering P. Landmass? Windier E. Megatons? Knitwear M. Groundhog?

These are taken from some of our favorite spam e-mailer names, allowing us to remain anonymous. It's not that we don't stand behind our opinions, but remaining anonymous allows us to post pretty much whenever and whatever. If we used our real names we might feel more of an obligation to self-censor, lest some future potential employer Google us and find out what we've been writing (and what times of day we've been posting). It's just better for our content, we think. If you think it's cowardly, well, sorry.

I hate [x ad]! Make fun of it!

We don't really do requests per se, but feel free to make recommendations in the comments. If we hate it too, and decide to write it up, we'll give you credit for introducing us to it.