Friday, June 29, 2007

It's craptastic

If the Comcast Triple Play is such a great deal, how is it possible that Spider-Dork never thought of it? "Oh, I've just been paying twice as much for subpar service... Comcast, you say? Brilliant!" I guess he doesn't have the proportionate financial sense of a spider. Who picks a roommate on the basis of their choice of cable company anyway? "So... according to this police file, you have a severe heroin addiction and you're wanted for questioning in three murders. I don't really think that... wait, did you say the Comcast Triple Play? Why did I waste money on a background check? You've got the apartment!"

Here's the weird part of this commercial: this is supposed to be promoting the Spider-Man movie? Who sees the weirdo in the suit with the homemade webbing and thinks, "Now that's the movie for me!" I mean, it's not like you're tying in with Shrek or something inherently goofy. This is like one of those Arby's ads that are cross-promoting the new Die Hard movie, except if they all featured a guy with a shaved head going, "Look at me, I'm John McClane! Yippee-ki-yay, bad guys! I just saved the day - that means you get this popcorn chicken!"

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

You're stupid AND you can't write

If you've ever watched television in America, you've probably seen commercials for consumer products. If you've ever listened to one of these commercials, you probably know that you're supposed to be a total moron. Sharpie, makers of writing implements designed for professional athletes, has appealed once again to your idiocy:

Voiceover: My infatuation for you over the preceding months has been exponentially increased with each passing of the

No one writes likes this. No one. Not even the worst writer in the world. Not even a computer you programmed to produce the worst writing in the world. This kind of writing does not require a Sharpie to rewrite itself -- it requires remedial, elementary-school writing instruction.

Voiceover: (grunts) (writes "Love ya babe!")

"UGH!... GAH!... (burps)... OOGAH!" This is how a real American talks. We don't have time for messages that take more than 2 seconds to read. In fact, we don't know how to read messages that are longer than three words. Don't you realize that if it takes me 20 seconds to a read a note from my significant other, then I'd only get to see 10 seconds of the next commercial on television? That's simply unacceptable.

Voiceover: Dear Mr. Swinkley, Much as I have enjoyed working a 70-hour week for you over the last two years, the time has -

You're starting a sentence with "much"? Can't you at least properly mock people who write in polysyllabic clauses, Sharpie?

Voiceover: (grunts) (writes "I QUIT!")


Graphic: Sharpie. WRITE OUT LOUD!

"Sharpie. Double plus good."

Graphic: TM

Damn! They trademarked that slogan! I was totally going to copy it and use it in an ad for my new invention: CAVEMAN MAMMOTH BLOOD PAINT - WRITE OUT LOUD!

For the record, I actually liked the art direction on this one -- the animation with the pencil is cool and kind of minimalist. It's well-executed from a visual standpoint. But, hell, you can dress a hog up in a prom dress -- you'll still have a really ugly date.

Monday, June 25, 2007

I'm bringing sexy back / Them other donuts don't know how to act

Krispy Kreme, to me, embodies a kind of innocence in the American landscape in a way few places can nowadays. The classic color scheme, the way the stores are so spotless - everything seems trapped in the 1950s. You walk inside and get to watch the donut-making process as it unfolds, with the golden rings passing under a cascade of hot glaze in front of your eyes. It almost makes you feel like a kid, walking in there with a wide-eyed enthusiasm and a little money in your pocket, the allowance you'd saved up to get a couple donuts hot off the line. And when they give you that free sample, still warm, soft, and gooey with liquid sugar - well, who doesn't love that?

Which is why it makes me so sad to see them doing ads like the one linked below.
(Again, apologies for a lack of embedded video. If you don't see the ad I describe below first, click the top left circle, for "Hottie.")

Woman #1: "Ooh."
Woman #3: "Ooh."
Woman #2: [gasp] "Oh, now there's a hottie."

First of all, if I was out with my friends, and one of them grabbed my arm while indicating arousal like Woman #1 is doing to Woman #2, I would be profoundly uncomfortable. But then Woman #2 is too busy being way, way too firm about the "hottie" she's seeing. I suppose "You're sexually attracted to this donut, and, action!" is tough direction to work with.

Woman #1: "Tear me off a piece of that!"

This dialogue, in addition to being really gross once you realize that they're talking about donuts, is kind of pathetic for how hackneyed it is. You just know the writer of this commercial is some 60-year-old ad man who caught half an episode of "Sex and the City" on TBS the night before the big pitch. "Let's see... group of lusty women, reference to man/donut as 'hottie,' request to have a piece torn off... this has all the factors necessary to get 25-to-40-year-old women in the door!" I mean, seriously: "Tear me off a piece of that?" Does anyone even say that anymore?

Announcer: "Don't let life get stale. Keep it fresh! Think Krispy Kreme."

I won't say much about the pauses between this guy's lines (except to note that they suck) or how this is a pretty bland tagline that has no inherent relation to the rest of the ad. It's kind of hilarious how quickly this commercial switches from "trendy, sexy ladies" mode to "1940s celibacy" mode, though. How do you start with three women purring over donuts and cut so quickly to a milquetoast voiceover, completely desexed shots of donut purchasing, and a bizarrely anachronistic John Philip Sousa march under the voiceover? (You may recognize it as "The Liberty Bell March," better known to most people nowadays as the theme to "Monty Python's Flying Circus." I'm not saying that no one is ever allowed to use it again because of that, but it seems like an odd choice given how many people will instantly make the connection. Would you advertise McDonald's with "Tubular Bells," knowing it's going to make everyone think of The Exorcist?)

I can't really complain about the non-sexual nature of the second half of the commercial, since that's what I want to see out of a Krispy Kreme commercial. But if you're going to end up there, why start the way you did? Why start that way at all? You've ended up counterintuitively showing how out of touch you are by starting with such a desperate ploy to seem hip and/or sexy, and the worst part is that this was completely unnecessary. Krispy Kreme donuts basically sell themselves. I don't need three women wetting themselves over one to convince me that they might be tasty.

Also, given the shape of the donut, wouldn't it have made more sense to have three guys drooling over it?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

I'm thinking vomitorium

The question you have to ask yourself whenever you see an ad for a food product is, "Did that ad really make me want to eat that product?" The answer, for me, is surprisingly often "No freaking way." Right now, for instance, you have hairy half-apes selling beef jerky, a creepy dude in a plastic mask selling flame-broiled burgers, and my personal favorite, huge ugly animals advocating the slaughter of other ugly animals. In keeping with the trend of using unappetizing images to advertise food, Arby's gives us this offering:

Pop quiz. Which of the following images most makes you want to eat Arby's sandwiches:

A. Ostrich and pigeons eating off the street.
B. Car nearly colliding with herd of zebra.
C. Elephant preparing to impale young girl in bathing suit on tusks.
D. Two pasty zookeepers double-fisting meaty sandwiches.

The correct answer is: This commercial sucks.
Imagine eating TWO Arby's "BBQ Bacon & Jack Melts." And then imagine being such a complete hog that you have to unwrap both sandwiches, pick up one with each hand, and eat them simultaneously. I mean, this sandwich has "classic roast beef," "chopped pepper bacon," some kind of liquefied "Monterey jack cheese" or primer paint (I can't tell), and barbeque sauce. Do you really need two?

Getting back to the concept of the commercial, is there any way this sandwich is good enough to distract zookeepers from locking up animal cages? Why does this zoo apparently only have two zookeepers? Who is amused by the halo-like Arby's hat logos floating atop their heads (again, kind of disturbing and unappetizing)?

Furthermore, are we supposed to believe this dialogue:

Zookeeper 1: Mmm.
Zookeeper 2: Mmm.
Zookeeper 1: Mmm.

Slow down there, I can't keep up with such an informative interchange!

Zookeeper 1: Two BBQ Bacon & Jack Melts.
Zookeeper 2: For three dollars?
Zookeeper 1: Incredible!

Don't editorialize your own shitty commercial, Arby's. Won't the shot of the Elmer's glue globbing onto the sandwich convince the viewer of your deliciousness? Also, wouldn't these guys have had the conversation about what a good deal this is while they were paying, or shortly thereafter?

The lesson is: cheap food isn't always something to celebrate. These zookeepers have more to worry about than their impending pink slips -- their impending coronaries.

Life takes carelessness with your finances

Perhaps the worst of bad commercials are the ones that promote a product to the potential detriment of consumers. Mix in some unrelenting smugness and, well, this is just one of the worst ones ever.

It's a shame, because the first 30-40 seconds of this ad are pretty good. Sure, they mean nothing without the "punchline," which sucks, but the choreography is decent. Unfortunately, then we have the end of the ad, which makes Apple's ad campaigns look like an ad for Paxil.

Oh no! Cash! Not cash! Not actual bank notes! Paper money is the currency of the dinosaur! Only jerks and poor people still carry cash. And I mean, keeping track of your expenses? That's for losers. Receipts are for assholes who want to slow down the rest of the world. Here's a conversation between the annoyed old guy behind our cash-carrying friend and the cashier, once Mr. Cash has moved on:

Old Guy: Jesus, can you believe that asshole? Carrying cash. He just wasted at least three seconds of my day. This food isn't going to wolf itself down so I have time to smoke a cigarette before my break's over.
Cashier: Ugh, I know. I mean, the nerve of that guy to make me actually do my job. If only everyone used the Visa Check Card, I could be rendered totally obsolete and have to find another thankless, low-paying job to supplement my writing income. But that's okay - I almost sold an article to Harper's last week!
Old Guy: Wait a minute - why are we even having this conversation? I don't have time for human interaction, let alone five seconds of actual financial accountability!
Cashier: Good point. So, your total is -
Old Guy: Doesn't matter. [swipes card] Bye!

It's bad enough that we live in a society that hands out credit cards to college students willy-nilly, encouraging them to run up sizable debts that they'll be paying down for years. Or one where customers are pressured to sign up for credit cards to get discounts at department stores. Remember, credit card companies aren't giving you huge lines of credit out of the goodness of their hearts; they're doing it in the hope that you get stuck paying exorbitant interest fees for years, lining their pockets. To be fair, this isn't the same problem with check cards; the money is withdrawn directly from the purchaser's bank account, taking away the middleman issues that create such problems with credit for many people. But check cards (and other debit cards) have an entirely different problem: because there is often a delay in posting, someone using their check card a lot and with a relatively low bank balance on the linked account might not realize that they've overdrawn their checking account until it's too late - and overdrawing can be an even bigger problem than maxing out one's credit card.

All this is what makes ads like this one so dangerous. Most debit cards still require a PIN if not a signature, but Visa is promoting their check card as "swipe it and you're done," because what the world needs is "faster money." Because there's so much fucking difference between a two-second transaction and a seven-second transaction. And what's with the look the cashier gives the guy? Is she afraid her dark secret - that she doesn't actually know how to count - will be exposed now that someone is actually paying with cash?

It's a super-smug commercial, to be sure - which is weird, because it's not like Visa is some upstart company taking aim at the conglomerate Big Dollar - but the real crime lies in its social irresponsibility. People should not be encouraged to be freewheeling spenders who don't keep track of their finances. (Okay, they're buying lunch, not plasma-screen TVs, but it's the principle of the thing.) And I just don't get the idea behind "people who carry cash are outdated fools." It's cash! What is the big fucking deal?

Yes, there are people out there perfectly capable of having a Visa Check Card and keeping track of their finances. I'm not worried about them. I'm worried about the millions of people who can't handle it. And believe me, they're out there - if this country weren't full of people who were careless with money, the credit card companies wouldn't even still be in business. The idea of encouraging the entire country to switch to fully digital money just scares me - a world with no hard currency is a world where people have shakier and shakier handles on their day-to-day financial situations. And the more careless people are with their money, the better things are for companies like Visa.

So, well done, Visa. Not only is your ad insufferably smug, it's also reprehensibly dangerous. Couldn't you just have endorsed your product in a reasonable manner? Something like, "When you can't get to an ATM, the Visa Check Card is as good as cash?" Or, "Some places don't take checks, but since you may not want to use a credit card, the Visa Check Card is as good as a check?" Oh, yeah, you did that second one. (And I'm pretty sure the first one too, I just can't find an example on YouTube.) Can I safely presume, since you've moved on to making commercial about the shitty, stupid people who use checks and cash, that you haven't made the inroads you've wanted with the check card? Maybe, in spite of what you want to happen, people are willing to just use cash, keeping their spending in better check? Is that possible? I guess the next series of ads will just have to feature someone getting shot in a robbery because they were slowed down by their cash. "Visa Check Card: You do want to live, don't you?"

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Brief commercial break...

If this were a blog about good ads, we'd probably need a separate section just for Nike. I don't know of another brand that continually produces such watchable advertising. And aside from "the most famous brand in world", there's really no other company that can represent itself with so little effort -- in this case, with just a casual, curvaceous graphic.

This spot from '04 is probably my favorite of Nike's oeuvre:

Arresting visuals, dramatic cinematography, a moving soundtrack (created by agency Wieden+Kennedy for the commercial), heartwarming images of triumph (when he's passing the sick children.) The 30-second version may have lost a bit of the original's luster, but it still had the main scenes and the music. How can you not love the shots at the end where the camera is a block away from Lance and the other bikers, following the action in breaks between buildings?

And the very end?

Just do it. (Swoosh)

When you spend decades buying ad space and use the same slogan and same logo, over and over, this is your reward -- paying off a commercial with a three-word sentence and a little half-moon drawing.

The spot, directed by Jake Scott (son of Ridley Scott), was much lauded during its time, and particularly beloved by sportswriters. I won't bother mentioning the accolades here, but just Google "Nike Magnet Commercial," and you'll see what I'm talking about. How many shoes did it sell? Is that even the point of this commercial? Nike, like Coke, needs to keep up awareness and maintain a positive brand image in the consumer's mind. So the next time they're at the shoe store, they'll see Nike shoes and think they're looking at a good product.

This commercial entertains, inspires, and generally makes you feel good. When you see it's Nike, you might even think "Maybe they actually care." They don't, but we can pretend!
For an amusing, and thorough, compilation of some of Nike's best work, go here.

Even the pilot of a commercial plane can't think of a dumber joke

I understand that Prego probably does not have the world's biggest advertising budget. So rather than doing something creative, well, they're stuck doing this:

Prego, this is not funny. It's not clever. It's a shitty pun used to deliver a message that barely even makes sense. Do you know anyone who gets store-bought spaghetti sauce and then adds spices to it? And am I really supposed to believe that Emma Bunton's palate is so sophisticated that she can systematically rule out every additional spice she might want to add just by tasting the sauce? This is ridiculous. I won't even get into the fact that "the Spice Girls" haven't been a timely reference in nearly a decade. (Their last album, the ironically-named Forever, was released in 2000, but that was three years after Spiceworld, which contained their last real hit.) I know Prego doesn't think the Spice Girls are actually popular, but they recognize that people will at least know the name. Which is true. This still doesn't excuse the fact that one of two things is happening here: either Prego actually thinks this joke is funny (horribly, horribly wrong) or they know it's not funny but are playing its unfunniness as the joke. I've been over what I think of this tactic - it's lazy and obnoxious. It says, "I was totally incapable of thinking of something that was actually funny, but maybe if I do something totally unfunny and wink, it will be hilarious!" Sorry.

But as bad as that one is, wait until you see this one:

A man named Basil! A man named Basil. Say what you will about the awful joke in the first ad, at least it had a "celebrity" endorsement attached to it. This has the same terrible joke, except now they're just inventing people. He has the same name as an herb, yet he can't think of anything to add to Prego? How bizarre! Prego must be perfect! Seeing a commercial like this is like seeing a quote from Larry King in a movie trailer. The guy isn't a film critic; why do I care how much he liked it? And this actor isn't a chef, no matter what name you made up for him. Also, what did the director say to these people before they went on camera? "Just overact like crazy?"

Store-bought spaghetti sauce shouldn't make me want to add things to it. That's why I'm buying it at the store instead of making my own from scratch like someone's Italian grandmother. Congratulations, Prego, for meeting baseline expectations for your product. Even if you only met them by your own standards, which are "people with names that sound like spices don't want to add spices." Brilliant.

Berries 'n' crap

And the award for "Most Obnoxious Screeching in an Ad" (previously held by Jon Lovitz in that Subway Dinner Theatre one) goes to...

...that douche.

Here is a rule that ought to be in place for all commercials: if you are having someone say or do something stupid, you are not allowed to have the other people in your commercial react as though it is strange or unfunny, as though this were someone who wandered onto the set. You made them do that. It does not count as a funny joke to have someone tell an unfunny joke and have everyone else go, "Oh, that's not funny!" And it does not count as entertaining to have someone do something incredibly tiresome and have everyone else just stare at them. This is not how the world works.

Guy #1: "You tried these new Berries and Cream Starbursts?"
Freak: "Pardon me. What kind of Starburst did you just say?"

What the fuck is going on here anyway? Some English dandy from, like, the 1600s, but he knows what Starbursts are? No. I refuse to allow this.

Guy #1: "Berries-"
Freak: "Berries? Berries and what else?"

I get it, Starburst. You want to get your product name out there. This is the best way you could come up with to do it? I'd like to see other companies take the "annoying guy interrupts you to repeat what you said three times" tactic; I see it paying off big-time.

Guy #1: "And cream."
Freak: [some sort of odd crying/excitement fit]

No. This is not okay. This is horrendous.

Freak: "Berries and cream, berries and cream, I'm a little lad who loves berries and cream!"

I don't know if this is some real song or not, not that it matters. (I would have Googled it but I was too afraid of finding 5,000 websites all quoting this commercial because they thought it was so hilarious. This is the kind of idiocy we're intent on stamping out here at The Ad Wizards.)

Freak: [exact same line, but way screechier]

I mean, I don't even understand why you would do this. What person in their right mind would want to align themselves with this insane, anachronistic spaz? There is nothing appealing about this commercial at all. I guess the idea is that people will laugh at how fucking insane it is. But is that really a good premise to build a commercial on? What about something that actually delivers a real product message (besides manic drilling of the name wrapped in insanity, which I've already established in previous posts as being completely stupid)? Maybe? I don't know, would that take too much time to come up with? As opposed to this, which was clearly devised in about nine seconds by a deranged orangutan.

The problem is that people tend to vindicate this laziness. Why else would shit like this exist:

I dare anyone who likes this ad to explain why there is anything even remotely funny about it (much less the above "how-to" video). It is lazy and annoying. When the guy starts screeching, it feels like needles are being stuck directly into my eardrums. It doesn't even have a claim about the product! We couldn't have worked in a line where Freak asks if they're good, so that Guy #1 has an excuse to say, "Yeah," or something? Really? I guess too much money had been spent inventing a horrible, shitty character to worry much about the people he was interacting with (hell, Guy #2 doesn't even speak - he's only there so that Guy #1 has a reason to say his line out loud!). So the commercial just breaks down, in its simplest form, like this:

Guy: Hey, there's a new Starburst.
Freak: Did you say there was a new Starburst?
Guy: Yeah.
Freak: [obnoxious screaming]

I mean, good work letting us know there's a new Starburst. Better work telling us nothing about it besides the name and instantly pissing us off. Incidentally, if you really liked berries and cream enough to fucking dance for it, would Starburst really satisfy that craving? I mean, it's synthesized flavor in a tiny square chew. Not really worth losing your shit over, I don't think.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Computers? No thanks, I have my slide rule

Isn't it enough that a pathetic majority of advertisers are talking to us like we're dumb? Now we have Century 21 just flat out telling us we're dumb:

Graphic: Can a computer do it all?

This sounds like one of those pamphlets weirdo fundamentalists pass out on the street, "Humans... descended from monkeys?"

Oh, no! The "Com-put-er"! Demon machine! Boxy, noisy plaything of Satan! Don't let it eat your tiny brain, American television viewer! It's not even helpful, anyway.

Realtor (smugly): Some people think they can do it all on the computer

"Some people. People who think they're smart. People who went to college, or something gay like that. But don't worry, they're just as stupid and helpless as you. Thankfully, there's help -- in the form of a realtor taking a 6% commission."

Realtor (almost indignantly): Find a home, sell a home.

Find a home. Sell a home. Well, there's two things that can be done on a computer, and there's more, believe it or not. Maybe Century 21 is talking about a computer that isn't hooked up to the internet.

Realtor: Except the computer can't do what I do at Century 21.

If finding a home and selling a home are what you do at Century 21, then you're wrong here. That can be done on a computer. It can be done easily. It could be done by someone with a middle school education. It could be done by someone who is barely literate. It could be done by an immigrant from a developing nation who took a computer class through a junior college at night while he worked for $5 an hour for ten hours during the day. In short, it could be done by an American, commonly known to you and other advertisers as a chimpanzee.

Realtor: Understand your needs

My computer doesn't need to understand my needs because I understand my needs, and I'm the one sitting in front of my computer. The computer is not a Turing machine or something where I ask it to complete a task and it gives me one answer. I have the ability to use my own intelligence and judgment while I'm operating the computer to enhance its computational functionality. For instance, when I'm looking for properties I might want to buy, I can tell my computer to ignore anything listed by a Century 21 agent.

Realtor (choppily, as though completely bullshitting): The subtleties of the market, the neighborhood

"Subtleties of the market"! Nice one, girl! You pulled that one out of where the sun don't shine. Sadly, once again, the computer's got that one covered.

The neighborhood? Hmm, you may have stumped me there. Unless it were a Jetsons-style computer that unbundled, expanded, grew wheels and drove you around the neighborhood.... oh wait, what? We don't need that? You mean we have web sites, map tools, detailed map tools, and even more, detaileder map tools that border on violating the right to privacy?

Realtor: The schools, the process

Schools? Wrong. The process? Whatever, you'll need a lawyer anyway, and s/he will know the process cold. Alternatively, there are web sites that can walk you through how to make an offer, or a counter-offer, sign a mortgage, or whatever.

Realtor: To watch your eyes when you walk into a home and know right away that you're in love with it.

(Walking up to a listed house with a Century 21 agent)
Agent: So, this next house I really think you're going to like. Especially since, as a Century 21 realtor, I understand your needs.
Buyer: Hmm, thanks. Strangely, I also understand my needs. And do all Century 21 realtors talk like that?
Agent: I would describe the market as riddled with subtleties right now.
Buyer: Not really, it's just a down market while we're coming out of a massive, unchecked housing bo-
Agent: The neighborhood here is really nice, too.
Buyer: I know. I looked it up at home on my compu-
Agent: The schools here are great. Take my word for it.
Buyer: Actually, I checked out the district on the internet, and the ISAT test scores were below state aver-
Agent: Let me talk to you about the process...
(Entering home.)
Buyer (looks at home for first time): Hmm, this is kind of nic-
Agent: You're in love with it! I knew that right away! I can do this thing? Where I watch your eyes, and I can tell right away when you're in love with a house!
Buyer: Why are you even here?

Realtor: No computer can do that.

Man, the luddites at Century 21 better have their baseball bats ready this fall when IBM introduces the new InstaProperty-Approval Retinal Scantron DX. They're gonna be pissed.

The untruth-cola

This 7up ad is not, on its face, inherently problematic. It doesn't really try to be funny, it's pretty basic and inoffensive, etc. But something about the imagery really bugs me.
(Sorry about the lack of embedding.)

7up: it's just like fresh-picked fruit! 7up is like, totally healthy for you! You should probably have 4-5 servings of 7up a day, because that's what the food pyramid says for fruit and drinking 7up is basically like eating a lemon and/or lime!

One 12 oz. can of 7up: 150 calories, 38 grams of sugar (high fructose corn syrup), not a significant source of vitamins.

One six-ounce lemon and one six-ounce lime: 83 calories, 17 grams of sugar (unrefined fructose), 136% of your RDA of vitamin C.

I mean, basically the same thing, right, guys? Right?

I guess I appreciate the effort by 7up to add incrementally fewer chemicals to our diets, but let's not act like it's anything other than sugar water. Deal?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The right one, maybe

Poor Diet Pepsi, the nerdy kid brother of Diet Coke, the forgotten middle sibling of America's beloved soft drink industry, the Jan Brady of the marketing world. Diet Pepsi just can't buy a break. Maybe something that would boost its popularity would be an ultra-effective commercial that appeals to wide range of soft drink consumers while communicating cogently-presented differentiating information. Let's see what you came up with:

Voiceover (and written on-screen at the same time for some reason): Here's something to think about

Pepsi's mistake here is assuming that Americans think. Jeez, Pepsi, get with the program. Go watch a Hillshire Farm commercial for God's sake. Americans can't "think about" things with their puny, dinosaur-sized brains, remember? Here are a couple different opening lines that are more in line with what you're going for, and they don't make the consumer feel like she's in chemistry class:

GO PEPSI! (simple, brand-forward, exclamatory)
HAVE SEX, DRINK PEPSI! (intriguing call-to-action, sex appeal, exclamatory)
GO, SEX, PEPSI! (simple, sex appeal, exclamatory)
GO, SEX, DRINK, BUY! (entirely monosyllabic, avoids brand name that American brains will forget anyway, exclamatory)

Now those are some attention-grabbers that are going to set you apart. Let's continue...

Voiceover: 56% of diet cola drinkers think Diet Pepsi has more cola taste than Diet Coke.

Whoa, whoa, whoa - "percent"? What am I, some kind of freaky, genetically-modified super-genius? I'm an American. Get it straight. NO... HAVE... BRAIN... try to wrap your head around that, Pepsi.

Anyway, what is this claim really saying? Basically, a slim majority of people think Diet Pepsi has more cola taste than its rival. They didn't say it's better, they said it tastes more like real cola. Pepsi doesn't care, though, and now that they're past the meaty, mathy part of the commercial, they can get to the entertainin'...

Voiceover: That means, if the show 90210 were real

FINALLY - numbers Americans can understand! 90210! You're cashing in on that really popular, current television show, Beverly Hills, 90210. This commerial is so awesome, I almost forgot that the last episode aired on May 17, 2000. I knew I didn't need a brain to get this commercial.

Voiceover: Dylan, Kelly and Steve would drink Diet Pepsi

Three people are representing 56%? I don't like where this is headed.

Voiceover: While Andrea and Brenda would drink Diet Coke

Wow, it's a good things Americans are stupid, because this is patently wrong. Andrea, Brenda AND BRANDON would be drinking Diet Coke! Because Diet Coke represents 44%, not 40%! Why does Diet Pepsi get to absorb the extra 4%?

Voiceover: But Brenda is just drinking it because Dylan is drinking Diet Pepsi, and this week, Brenda hates Dylan.

Coca-Cola lawyers, take a deep breath. Take a swig of Caffeine-Free Coke and just breathe. Pepsi's just trying to be funny here. And aside from not being funny, they're also being wrong. They know they can't stretch a claim that far, and they're just assuming that the American public is moronic enough to take their word for it. Thankfully, Coke, you and I both know that Americans really aren't that dumb. Right, Coke? We agree on that?

Graphics: (Heart shatters, Diet Pepsi bottle glory shot, "More Cola Taste")

More Cola Taste, baby! Not necessarily a better-tasting soft drink, just more like cola. And you can take it from all those young hipsters watching 90210 -- 3 out of 5 fictional characters choose Diet Pepsi (rounded up), and really it's actually 4 out of 5 because Diet Pepsi says so. So really if you drink Coke, you're Andrea, and she's lame because she was played by the oldest "teen" actor on the show. And old is uncool and unsexy. So if you still drink Coke, you are old, unsexy and uncool and should drink Pepsi instead.


Where's the non-crap?

The fact that this commercial is a minute long offends my sensibilities.

I assume that most iterations of this ad airing on TV are only 30 seconds, but even so. This is a full minute that no one is getting back. Let's break it down:

0:00 - 0:08: Tree kicking

No wonder this isn't a 30-second ad; it would already be more than a quarter over and all we've seen so far is... well, whatever this is supposed to be. Certainly the tree-kicking is supposed to be a metaphor for "routine" or something like that, but... tree-kicking? Really? We couldn't think of anything even slightly less inane to fill this time?

Guy with Wendy's Hair: "Wait a minute... this feels all wrong."

Okay, this guy has Wendy's hair. The accidental implication here is that Wendy's used to use frozen beef and now doesn't, even though that's not the case. But if the guy represents someone who is "thinking Wendy's," to co-opt a competitor's slogan, why is he kicking trees in the first place? Even aside from the "fresh, never frozen" deal, I think Wendy's already has a pretty good claim to being the fast food chain with the best overall quality. Given the ubiquity of McDonald's, of course, they're going to want to talk up their differences. But I have to think there was a better way to do it than what follows.

[fully fifteen fucking seconds of voice-over that add about three seconds of information to the ad]

That's how you pad a commercial out, kids. Learn from the best. The only salient point in there: "Why eat a hamburger made from frozen beef? It'll be all dry." Everything else in that bit is either said or shown elsewhere in the ad.

Guy: "I deserve a hot juicy burger! That's right, you heard me!"

I don't know, dude. I don't think we heard you. Could you say it, like, a hundred more times?

Guy: "I deserve a hot juicy burger!"

There's one.

Guy: "And not because I can tear a phone book with my bare hands, no!"

Yeah, uh, what? Did that have anything to do with anything, or was it just two more seconds you had to fill? Jesus, why is this ad a minute long???

Guy: "I deserve a hot juicy burger..."


Guy: "...because I have a mouth. And it wants one."

Well, I guess you can't attack the message any more simply than that. Wendy's: Cram one in your face!

Guy: "And so do you. And so do you!"

Is there anything this guy won't repeat?

Guy: "Hot juicy burger! Hot juicy burger! Hot juicy burger!" et fucking cetera

Well, maybe it wasn't a hundred. But it might as well have been. Have we really been reduced to this point as a culture, where the most effective method of advertising is just to scream some buzzwords over and over again?

Guy: "That's right!"

And here we are, dumbing it down even more. The previous Wendy's slogan, you may recall, was "Do what tastes right." This is like that slogan for three-year-olds. It's not quite "Yay!", but it's right up there. Wendy's apparently went to the new slogan because recent ad campaigns failed to connect: everyone hated Mr. Wendy (try and guess why) and "Do what tastes right" was not "emotional" enough. So is that why this guy practically chokes up while stating how badly he wants a hamburger? If this is the direction things are going, allow me to suggest the next Wendy's ad campaign:

[Quick fade up on the dining room of a Wendy's restaurant. A man is sitting at a table, holding a Wendy's hamburger. He takes a bite, chews, swallows, and begins to cry.]

Man: [sobbing]

[Other people in the restaurant begin to look at him. He takes another bite and sobs even harder.]

Man: [continued sobbing]

[The above two paragraphs repeat approximately nineteen times. Finally, a Wendy's employee approaches.]

Employee: Is everything okay, sir?
Man [through tears, of course]: This burger... [sniffles] ...was it made with fresh, not frozen, beef?
Employee: Of course, sir. That's how we do it at Wendy's.
Man [starts to cry even harder, but chokes out the following]: So great.

[Wendy's logo slaps on the screen, followed by the slogan as it is spoken.]

Commanding Male Voice-over: Wendy's! So great!

Ah, feel the emotion. That one's for free, Wendy's.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Glengenie Glen Ross

Ah, the time-honored method of advertising: using our product will make you more successful and attractive to the opposite sex.

Generic Blonde: "Pierce, what's with the new sports car? How 'bout a ride?"

What's with the new sports car? It's going to be revealed momentarily that Pierce is phenomenally successful at his sales job. I wonder how he affords cars like that? Maybe it's all those commissions he gets from selling things, which he does frequently? Does this woman even work at this company?

Pierce: "Maybe!"

"Lindsey in Finance offered a quickie in the supply closet, but I'll give you the chance to top that!"

Note the obvious implication here that Pierce is single. So the commercial is pitched at men in their late-40s (at least; this guy clearly dyes his hair and looks old enough to be that woman's dad), by promising them extravagant wealth plus the advances of their younger, sluttier coworkers. Who could resist? (Also, pay attention to the emphasis the woman puts on "ride." Total skank.)

Pierce: "Walter! Let's play some golf this afternoon!"
Walter: "Sorry, I haven't sold anything all month."

The trustiest subliminal message in any commercial: the guy who doesn't use your product is less attractive than the one who does. Of course, since the star of this ad is Leathery Grandpa Pierce, his foil has to be Bald Schlumpy Walter, the overworked loser whose failure to exploit a sales lead service has the wolf at his door. What'll it be, salesmen? Chestnut hair dye and a tee time, or outstanding water bills and a cueball? That's what I thought.

Boss: "Pierce, come in here. Hey - you're doing great. Wanna come to my house for dinner tonight?"
Pierce [much too loudly]: "Absolutely!"

"Rub elbows with the bigwigs! Earn your way into upper management!" Or brown-nose your way there. You know, whatever. Perhaps Pierce has been selling so well that the boss is preparing to offer his first-born son to him, and the dinner is just where the formal handover will take place. Either way, Pierce seems almost cartoonishly excited. Maybe it's all the cocaine that's been keeping him in peak sales form.

Generic Slacker Guy: "Dude, how do you do it? You've sold three million dollars this quarter already!"

Give the brains at whatever back-alley ad agency foisted this steamer on the public SalesGenie some credit: they've managed to work a lot of character development into these two sentences. For example, we know that this guy is probably lazy and/or bad at his job, because he starts questions with "Dude." But more importantly, the guy is the office expositor. It's his job to state facts that are obvious to the person he's talking to, just in case some unseen audience happens to be listening in. "Dude, how do you do it? You're beating gold diggers off with a stick, unintentionally driving Walter closer to suicide, and you're going to receive a surprising sexual proposition from Mr. Henderson in four hours. All that and your tie has diagonal stripes!"

Pierce: "Motley (?), only fools work hard. I work smart. I use I get just the right sales leads."

I guess my question here is, how much less hard does a person really have to work if they use SalesGenie? Sure, it's probably more reliable a database of names than, say, the phone book, but on the other hand, the phone book doesn't cost anything. In fact, the SalesGenie website even states things like:

If you mail 100 pieces using our lists, it’s not unusual for 8-10 pieces to come back undeliverable. If you are making phone calls, you can expect 10% of the calls will not be completed. ... We suggest that you verify the list you get from us and build a more valuable prospecting database for yourself. ... Our lists are only one factor in the success of any promotion. You must also have a good product, competitive pricing, quality service, attractive marketing pieces, and an effective marketing plan.

I especially like the middle one. "Save time by buying leads from SalesGenie! (Note: Please spend time verifying all leads; also, get your own.)" I imagine that most of this disclaimer is only there because SalesGenie is legally required to point out that they aren't exactly selling 100% foolproof money makers here. Remember, you must also be selling something worthwhile! So don't blame SalesGenie when your homemade trash sculptures fail to find an audience. Seriously, though - I don't have access to SalesGenie's database, but I imagine that the biggest difference between it and the phone book is that the people in the database have way more magazine subscriptions.

Announcer: "For 100 free sales leads, go to"

Check out who's getting out of the car in the last shot - that's right, it's the slutty coworker from the opening scene! Pierce's success has driven her wild with passion! The passion to be his cocktail-swilling trophy wife.

EDIT: Unbeknownst to me when I wrote this post, this ad was named the worst ad of the 2007 Super Bowl during a viewer poll. Nevertheless, its message - use us and be successful and/or sexually active - apparently worked. Proof once more that companies are going to keep running stupid, shitty ads as long as consumers keep falling for them.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

No ice cream for the weak

You wouldn't think children would need to be pressured into eating ice cream, but here's the proof.

Announcer: "A young lad approaches a Cold Stone Creamery."

"Young lad?" Yeah, there's some terminology that'll resonate with the youth market. "A smart-mouthed whippersnapper approaches a soda fountain and slaps a nickel on the counter! 'One egg cream, please,' the young lad says!"

Announcer: "Inside, he sees the bogeyman; the monster in his closet; the monster under his bed; and broccoli."

Ha ha! Kids hate vegetables! It's funny because it's true!

Ignoring the broccoli for a minute, what were all those monsters doing hanging out in the Cold Stone Creamery anyway?

Bed Monster: Yeah, my favorite is the Cookie Mintster. It's pretty great. Plus the name is kind of a nice coincidence, you know?
Closet Monster: Gotta agree with you there, Bill. Mint has to be one of the most underrated ice cream flavors.
Bogeyman: So what are you guys thinking for tonight?
Closet Monster: I was thinking, I start creeping out, and then as he's trying to look away and pretend I don't exist, Bogeyman pops up at the window and Bed Monster, you come out so he can see you in the mirror on the closet door. It's like an attack on all fronts, he'll be scared shitless!
Bogeyman: Why do you always get to do the creeping out?
Closet Monster: Look, I didn't ask to be born a closet monster. It's just what happened. We're natural creepers, Larry!
Bogeyman: Selfish asshole.
Bed Monster: Hey, you guys, look outside... that's not him, is it?
Closet Monster: Shit, it is! We can't run into him outside of work! I thought you said this place was safe!
Bed Monster: I assumed it was! Where is he getting the money for five dollars' worth of ice cream?
Bogeyman: Oh, damn, here he comes... just act casual.

Announcer: "Will the insatiable draw of Birthday Cake Remix give him the strength to open the door?"

Cold Stone Creamery: It's not for pussies!

Friday, June 15, 2007

You can use sex to sell anything, right? Right?


See "Chocolate Sauce" and "Trail."

My first question: That's frigging nasty. Okay, that wasn't really a question. My next question: How come the waffle bowl is a person, and the ice cream is a person, but the chocolate sauce is really chocolate sauce and the whipped cream is really whipped cream? So it's too far to have a threesome, but it's totally okay to eat two things that just had sex with each other. Just so we know we've got our priorities straight.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

You dream it, I rag on it

I know, I know -- regular folks need to advertise, too. But why can't they just hire an agency once in a while? This example of local advertising comes to us from some Chicago-area brothers who had a dream one day of selling furniture to all of Chicagoland. The other part of that dream was annoying the shit out of anyone who watches television.

Smithe Brother 1: The Chicago Cubs have hired Walter E. Smithe Furniture to do an extreme makeover. Come on inside.

Cubs... furniture... Extreme Makeover... wait, which part of American culture are you trying to co-opt -- baseball, or the concept of "extreme makeovers?" Oh, both? In 30 seconds? And you're going to try to advertise furniture? This ought to be clean and elegant.

Smithe Brother 2 (through megaphone): Play ball!

Or... run onto the field in business suits not playing ball.

Smithe Brother 3: Tim, I'm really thinking of plaid on second base.
Smithe Brother 1: Brilliant.

Laying a piece of fabric on top of something? Man, this makeover really is extreme.

Woman: Should we update the seat colors to a sage?
Other Woman: Or a taupe?

They're already green, so "sage" wouldn't be much of an update. Also, this is stupid.

Some Other Woman: Mark, I've chosen this great red fabric for the visitor's bullpen.

Red would totally clash with taupe seats. I mean, come on.

Yet Another Woman: For the Cubs dugout, I want the players to feel comfortable, so we're going to do this great baseball leather and a red baseball stitching.

Ok, now I'm getting into the concept. Baseball+extreme makeover+furniture+pandering to local audience? How can this lose? Wait a second, I remember reading somewhere (I think it was Reader's Digest) that men aren't the only people who see commercials. In fact, women might be watching television, too. And they might account for 94% of all home furnishing purchase decisions. Well, I'm sure old white guys out on a baseball field advertising furniture works for everyone.

Also, Note the "SMITHE" ad in the bullpen. I'm sure this is there regularly.

God, Still Another Character In This Commercial: Based on the shape of the field, I think a diamond would look best.

Did you catch the pun there? That's a little bonus for the careful viewer. Does anyone else think these women are these guys' daughters and/or wives?

I'm Going To Stop Differentiating Between Characters: Tim, the bushes have to go.

Are you talking about the IVY? It's IVY, not bushes.

Did We Get Everybody Related To The Smithes In This Ad Yet?: I'm thinking this sporty red leather for the locker room and, does the ivy really have to be green?

Good call. The ivy could look a little too "Christmas-y" next to that sporty red. Can we get someone on this green ivy problem stat? Can't it be a nice coral instead?

Hey, before you guys wrap up the commercial, did you want to talk about a particular product, or a sale you have going on, or make a promise about the quality of your wares? Or mention where your store is? No? Suit yourself.

Fight for the snackers' love!

You have to enjoy - where of course by enjoy I mean "revile" - ads that insist on giving their characters dialogue that no human being would say, ever. This gives the viewer a real sense of connection. And then you also have to enjoy the fattening of America.

Guy: "What are you eating?"

Right off the bat. They've clearly been sitting out there for a while, and she's eating ice cream. Unless she's been carrying around a portable cooler, there's no way he doesn't already know what she's eating. But fine, I guess we had to set up the ensuing crap-ass dialogue somehow.

Girl: "Dibs! Bite-size ice cream snacks."

No one would ever say it like that. But I guess this is an ad. The weirder thing is the inflection she puts on "Dibs," which has a whiff of "Dibs, of course." Though we all know that the real answer is "This carton of ice cream soup, since you made me walk for an hour to get here."

Guy: [enormous pause] "Can I try some?"

This is unacceptable. You are a fucking TV commercial. There is no excuse for you to have holes like this, where the guy has time to slowly change his facial expression and then ask his stupid question.

Guy [four seconds pass in silence while he receives and eats Dibs]: "Those are good!"

Wow. Just wow. We are now 11 seconds into your boring, slow-moving commercial, and you just had four seconds of silence. Have you been watching Hot Pockets ads lately? Out of 11 seconds so far, something like seven of them have been silent but for ambient car noise. This is ridiculous. Get your act together. Also: this is the best testimonial you can invent for your product? "Those are good?" Did this ad even have writers?

Clearly there is only about 15 seconds' worth of material here, but given all the time-wasting, we're obviously going 30. Let's pad this sucker out!

Guy [after three more seconds, for fuck's sake]: "Kinda makes you wonder what's going to happen to all the giant soft pretzels of the world."

Uh... no. I am going on the record here. It distinctly does not make you wonder that. I know this is supposed to be funny, but (a) it's not and (b) this commercial's farting around for 15 seconds has not earned it the right to be cute.

[An idiotic scene featuring two rural folks playing horseshoes with a pretzel]

I'm not going to claim there are no ideas in this ad, even if none of them are good. But it's padded out so dramatically that the whole thing is just a waste. If this were basketball, this ad would be called a "tweener," since it couldn't be 15 or 30 seconds effectively. But instead of an okay 20-second ad no one saw, we wound up with this half-minute piece of shit that actually got aired.

Announcer: "Dibs, bite-size ice cream snacks."

Oh, hey, is that what they are? Thank you for clearing that up, since you didn't already have a character in your ad awkwardly work those exact words into her dialogue or anything. Very good. But at least this is on message. I also like how the Dibs carton is emphatically placed in front of the pretzel. "Fuck you, pretzel! It's Dibs time!"

Announcer: "Do Dibs instead."

Do Dibs instead! Try Dibs instead of the following:

* Pretzels
* Potato chips
* Doritos
* Gummi bears
* S'mores
* Jogging
* Seeing your feet
* Living past 65

Seriously, take a quick look at the nutrition facts and tell me you want to be "doing Dibs" instead of anything. This shit makes Cheetos look healthy. But no, it's a snack. "It's just a snack, you guys! This pint of vanilla ice cream and two Nestle Crunch bars just needs to hold me over until dinner!"

Livin' la vida local

Local ads are almost too easy a target. Low budgets and cable TV ad space are a recipe for low-quality conceptual thinking, art direction, execution and, of course, acting. But occasionally you see a local ad where the owner has clearly spent a good amount of money yet still ended up with something so self-indulgent, so uninteresting that they probably would have had better luck if they had used a camcorder and high school students.

Unfortunately, this ad for mid-western electronics/appliance chain ABC Warehouse isn't posted on YouTube, but the company was proud enough of it to make the spot available on their site:

Go here to view ad.

Owner: ABC Warehouse is always the closest thing to wholesale.

Gotta love it when owners star in their own commercials.

Owner: Although, we're still a long drive from Florida.

Ah, this is one of those "jokes." We're supposed to chuckle here. Because it's the closest thing to wholesale, but not necessarily in a geographic sense. I get it. Well it's an even longer drive from Anchorage. It would be even longer by dog sled. And it's a super long space shuttle ride from the earth-like planet that orbits the red dwarf Gliese 581.

Owner: If you see an advertised sale price lower than ours

"We'll beat it! Bring in the ad, and we'll not only match it, we'll BEAT it! ABC Warehouse - the closest thing to Wholesale!"

I'm sure this it going to be some radical claim that's going to blow all their competitors out of the water. Wait for it...

Owner: it's probably for milk or eggs or something.

KA-BOO- wait. Or.... you could go that direction. Where there should be an awesome retailer claim like "Nobody beats ABC Warehouse!" we have this fetid carcass of a joke. ABC Warehouse apparently thinks they're pretty funny, though - they even have this "milk or eggs" line on their website under its own tab called "Gordyisms."

Oh, what's that? You want more Gordyisms? You got it:

"I couldn't carry all the brands we carry!"

But, you do carry them, because they're like, in your store. Oh, no wait, you're making a pun. Joking about physically carrying things that do not exist in physical space. Hah. Hah ha. Ha - oh god.

"I make the kind of deals that even I can't beat!"

The Gordian Knot of retail claims. Try running this one by your Legal department. On the plus side, they certainly avoided talking about the competition's deals. Why would anyone want to beat the competition?

Owner: You know, I have to have sales

How often do wholesale stores have sales? Isn't the whole point of bargain basement joints that they don't need sales because their products are already so cheap?

Owner: because let's face it, me and Mrs. Gordy, we got enough stuff.

Setting: Lower Detroit Area Community College. Economics 102: Microeconomics.

Professor Gordy: All right, take your seats, kids. Welcome to our first day here in Econ class. Let's get started. Can anyone tell me why stores have sales?

Student #1: To move merchandise that the manufacturer has discounted or discontinued?

Professor Gordy: Good guess, but a little bit off. Anyone else?

Student #2: They have sales to drive awareness of their store and stay ahead of the competition?

Professor Gordy: Again, not quite there. Basically, when a store owner and his wife have accumulated enough stuff, like in their basement, they come to a point where they can't realistically store all of it. At this point, the owner has a "sale" so they give some of their stuff away.

Let me boil this ad down to its essence -- "ABC Warehouse: We're basically a flea market. If you see cheaper prices elsewhere, go to that store to buy things, because we won't do anything about it. We do have sales, but we have them because Mrs. Gordy doesn't like clutter."

Message to ABC Warehouse: You know The Home Depots and Best Buys of the world are cheaper. So, you have to actually differentiate yourself if you expect anyone to buy things at your store. Ill-conceived, medium production value ads aren't going to convince Bob Nascar to get his HDTV from ABC Warehouse when a big box is across the street. Time to rethink your strategy.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

It's like there's a party in my colon and everyone's invited

Metamucil, you disgust me.

Female announcer: "Primp... coif... gussy up... your insides."

"Dump... drop a load... take a steamer... in your bathroom." But remember, girls don't poop, so we have to use makeup terminology to make it sound like a very delicate process. Meanwhile, it's just giving me horrible mental images of villi getting raked with a mascara brush. Ick.

Female announcer: "With Metamucil! It's 100% psyllium-infused to do more than just cleanse your body..."

I love commercials for health products that cite things the average person knows nothing about. "Wow, 100% psyllium-infused? You don't say! That sure is a lot of... whatever that is."

Female announcer: "...Metamucil actually helps lower cholesterol."

I'm calling shenanigans on this one, because it's misleading as shit. (Heh.) The construction of this sentence would lead one to believe that psyllium is included to lower cholesterol, except that psyllium's primary use is and always has been its laxative properties. The Metamucil website includes a note that the FDA has "approved a health claim for foods and dietary supplements that recognizes that diets containing soluble fiber from psyllium husk, as in Metamucil, may reduce the risk of heart disease by lowering cholesterol when included as part of a low-fat diet."

It's not clear to me, however, that psyllium does this any better than any other soluble fiber. And again, psyllium? Not exactly a household word. This is Metamucil trying to impress people by using big words.

Female announcer: "Making your heart look 'ooh-la-la.'"

Women only like things that are "ooh-la-la." Remember this when making future ads: if they're aimed at women, you need to phrase things in the most feminine way possible. For example, are you marketing a car towards women? I recommend something like, "This car is like wearing hotpants to the baseball game - all the boys will want to sit next to you."

Female announcer: "Metamucil. Beautify your inside."

"Squeeze one out. Pinch a loaf. Drop the kids off at the pool. Go BM. Roll a log."

I appreciate the effort, Metamucil, but everyone knows what you're talking about. You're not going to trick 30-somethings into accidentally taking Metamucil by acting like it's some sort of cosmetic product.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Oh, the spontaneity!

Kraft's verbosely-named "Honey Bunches of Oats" is the kind of brand that's spontaneous, fun, and totally unscripted. You can go ahead and take it from them:

Oh, my, that's fun. You can tell they're real factory workers and not paid talent because they're wearing those hard hats. That's the giveaway. That, and the fact that they're toodling around in some kind of branded RV/mobile taste tour - that's how you know this is the real deal and not actors and actresses serving other actors and actresses fake cereal.

Hard Hat Guy #1: Morning! Care to try some Honey Bunches of Oats?

Morning! Care to dig into this ceramic bowl of questionable origin that I'm holding?

Then, after a series of hearty affirmations from paid actors and actresses of how good Honey Bunches of Oats is:

Man in suit: I might take this with me.

Hard Hat Gal #2: Okay.

Man in suit: All right?

Hard Hat Gal #2: All right!

Hey, wait! Where is that paid actor running off to with one of our ceramic bowls of glue and cereal-shaped plastic?

It's not that Americans don't know that commercials are scripted and hackneyed, but why even bother pretending you're using factory workers and people off the street when you're not? Who are you fooling? Also, if you did want to use people off the street and your own factory workers, wouldn't that be considerably cheaper? And wouldn't the quality of the acting be about the same if not better?

All Hard Hat workers: One spoonful is all it takes!

Man, you guys over at Honey Bunches of Oats are really busy! Is there anyone left at the factory to, you know, make cereal?

Not encouraging me to buy HD

As everyone and their mother now knows, HD-TV is the future of television. It has an amazing, crystal-clear picture, and it lets you see things like they were right in the room with you.

So why would you use a close-up shot of this guy's face to sell it?

Is there anyone you would less like to see a flawless, high-definition close-up of than this guy? Good God! Sure, he's not the ugliest man alive or anything, but he's definitely scary-looking, and his severe facial expression is doing him no favors. The entire tone of the commercial is something along the lines of "scare people into getting DirecTV HD," which I don't even understand as a concept. Why would you need to take this kind of approach? "Look, it doesn't matter if we're better than cable or not - just buy DirecTV and we promise you'll never have Ugly McFreakish flying at you again!"

Using a close-up shot of someone scary-looking to sell HDTV is like a McDonald's ad that shows a fat guy having a heart attack while shoving a hamburger into his face. "If you use our product, this is your worst-case scenario!" I thought only cigarette companies were required to run ads like that.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

I'm cool, I'm hip....

Big box retailers just need to stop advertising...

Son (carrying blue and yellow wrapped present): Happy Mother's Day mom.

Mom: (gasps) Wow! Oh, honey, I love it! It's exactly what I wanted! (ferociously hugs son)

That is a wrapped goddam present. You can't see what is inside. It could be anything. It could be Daryl Hall's "Can't Stop Dreaming" on cassette tape.

Son: Huh. I didn't know she'd like it that much. I wonder what else I don't know about her.

That's some hug they got going on.

imagination sequence: (Mom breakdances to 80's-style music.) (raising eyebrows) Hmm!

Is this hug seriously still going on!?

Ok, this kid looks like he's about 10-12. There's no way he was alive in the 80's. He thinks the 80's and anything that happened in it are about as cool as his mother's penchant for oddly phallic white vases (see end table in beginning of spot.) This kid wouldn't think about his mother breakdancing! And if he did, he wouldn't think it was cool OR interesting! If you're appealing to kids, you're way off. If you're appealing to adults, be funnier.

Best Buy Woman: There's a lot you might not know about your mom.

And 10-year olds are dying to know!

Best Buy Woman: But know this, she's into electronics.

Loves electronics. Any of it, really. iPod? Absolutely. Does she already have one? iPod Nano time. How about a Nintendo DS? How about two? Dude, it's your mom. She loves any and all electronics. Really, anything purchased and wrapped at a Best Buy retail location. It's going to be exactly what she wants. Won't even need to open it.

Best Buy Woman: Blah blah blah Kodak blah blah blah digital camera blah blah blah limited time.

Ohh, Best Buy... if you're advertising a sale, maybe you should have spent the previous 25 seconds talking about what you're selling. Instead, you weirded me out and made me hate you. You and The Home Depot should hang out sometime.

Kids do love yelling

As with most commercials almost undoubtedly conceived and written by fortysomething ad executives, this Dunkin Donuts ad plays like something that was thought up by someone who didn't know any teenagers, but did watch a couple minutes of MTV for research purposes.

Unfortunately for our hypothetical ad exec - let's call him "Fred Harris" - he happened to turn on MTV during their "Run Old Limp Bizkit Videos" hour. Thus, he was left with the following list of things that he thought kids liked:

* Screaming
* Listening to loud music
* Destruction of property

That night at dinner, Fred discussed his commercial idea with his family:

Fred:, based on the ideas I gleaned from that "MTV" channel, I decided that the commercial should center around destroying things by ripping them in half. It's going to be things that humans couldn't normally rip in half, either. That'll show the awesome energy provided by the Sobe Coolatta.
Mary (Fred's wife): I don't know, dear. It seems awfully aggressive. And is that really going to sustain an entire 45-second commercial, just showing things that have been ripped in half?
Fred: Mary, you don't understand the ad business. It's going to be a bunch of different things that have been ripped in half. Mattresses, basketball hoops, cars...
Billy (Fred's 15-year-old son): Dad, that sounds stupid. Me and my friends don't even like Dunkin Donuts.
Fred: Don't you call my job stupid, you little punk. You ever wonder what's putting that food on your plate?
Mary: Fred, calm down.
Billy: I'm just saying, Dad! Limp Bizkit hasn't been popular for like, six years.
Fred: No, you listen to me! This Durst kid is tapping into the spirit of the American teenager, okay? I've seen the future, and its soundtrack is "Break Stuff!" Except that we're going to write a song that's similar to that, called "Rip Things in Half," and use that. A lot cheaper that way.
Billy: Dad, no one even listens to music like that anymore! And speaking of a lot cheaper, why would I shell out for a whole Coolatta when I can just get a bottle of Mountain Dew?
Fred: Because Dew isn't going to help you RIP STUFF IN HALF! That's what kids like! Ripping things in half! Destruction! Yelling!
Billy: God, you're so embarrassing.
Mary: Fred, how many free coolattas did Dunkin Donuts give you at the meeting?
Fred: I don't know, I think I had four or five. Why do you ask?

Saturday, June 9, 2007

My God... it's full of mirrors

I kind of get the feeling that DLP is talking down to me.

Girl: [gasps] "How is it possible?"

You mean the beam of light shooting into the air that has nothing to do with television? Or the appearance of the elephant behind you that also has nothing to do with television?

Girl: "Millions of tiny mirrors on something so small?"

Perhaps you'll tell me. What's that? You're going to do the opposite of telling me?

Girl: "I've never seen anything so colorful... so clear... so real."

"But you don't have to take my word for it! Actually, you do have to take my word for it, because I'll be damned if this commercial is going to show you something besides a kid in a field with an elephant."

Girl: [turning to elephant] "Have you?"

The elephant is not going to answer your question, sweetheart.

Girl: "It's amazing! It's the mirrors. We have to show everyone!"

Perhaps you should, since up to now all we've seen is a girl looking into a box. And as impressive as "millions of tiny mirrors" sounds, it's not like it means anything to the casual viewer. Frankly, it just sounds like I'm going to look at my new TV and see a big picture of myself.

Announcer: "HDTV powered by DLP. See how millions of tiny mirrors make the picture amazing."

For those of you scoring at home, that's two "amazing"s (excellent adjective variation) and three "mirrors." It's also zero explanations of how these mirrors might work at making the picture so good, in favor of one long patronizing "awestruck eight-year-old" speech. Call me crazy, but I'm not really impressed by a $5,000 TV whose main selling point is that it can distract a third-grader. Sure, the DLP's colors are great now, but in eight hours when she's wrapping Ken dolls in aluminum foil to play "Barbie in Space," I think Dad's going to wish he hadn't pulled out the credit card at Circuit City just because Mackenzie and her elephant had never seen anything so real before.

Just a bit of a stretch

Pharmaceutical advertising is a dismal scene, particularly where prescription drugs are concerned. Procter & Gamble's over-the-counter heartburn relief product, Prilosec OTC, has the benefit of avoiding the channel-changing boredom of the Patient PI (the litany of side-effects and risks required by the FDA in any advertisement that mentions the indication of the drug.) So, Prilosec OTC, there's very little hindering your creative freedom in making your commercial. All you need is a nice hook - take it away, P&G:

Woman: For NASCAR drivers, blocking is a way to stay ahead of the pack. For me, blocking is how I stay ahead of frequent heartburn.

Interesting, the old auto-racing/heartburn medication tie-in trick. Well played, P&G. I was thinking you might go another route.

"For NASCAR drivers, pumps are a way to get gas quickly into their race cars. For me, pumps are where protons are inhibited during my frequent heartburn treatment."

Or maybe...

"For NASCAR drivers, burning is what their tires do while accelerating. For me, burning is what my throat does when my stomach contents back up and enter my esophagus during my frequent heartburn."

Then, after some more information about how she can enjoy her day, her evening and spasmodically dancing with Prilosec OTC...

Woman (wearing an "I *heart* Burton" t-shirt) and Jeff Burton: (preparing food at some kind of cook-out)

Not just NASCAR but Jeff Burton! Wow! You mean the Jeff Burton who won 7th place in the 2006 NEXTEL Cup? "Wow", again! Household name Jeff Burton. Hey, did this ad air exclusively in South Boston, Virginia?

Zero heartburn for twenty-four hours with one pill a day. That's my Prilosec OTC.

Nice slogan. "Hey! That's MY Prilosec OTC! Get your own damn over-the-counter delicious heartburn medication!"

Such a flimsy pretense. Sometimes sponsorship tie-ins just aren't worth it. It's like the VP of Marketing for Prilosec is a huge NASCAR fan and decided, "We're doing NASCAR for the next TV spot. Sign the cheapest driver you can get." Then some agency was forced to make heartburn medication fit with auto racing. If that indeed was the case, then this commercial was about the best you could hope for. But for Pete's sake, next time, just tell us about your product and leave the stream-of-consciousness product linking to the viewers. Besides, everyone knows Prilosec OTC is WAY more like rugby.

The dumbest ad campaign in the world

Well, maybe not. But Dos Equis' new campaign, which runs concurrently on both TV and radio, is remarkably idiotic.

Few things grate on me more than ads that promote their products using things they just made up themselves as proof. The funny thing is that Dos Equis doesn't even do it well.

Narrator: "The police often question him, just because they find him interesting."

Okay. Sure they do.

Narrator: "His beard alone has experienced more than a lesser man's entire body."

Is it Chuck Norris? It's Chuck Norris, right?

Narrator: "His blood smells like cologne."

That's... actually kind of gross.

Narrator: "He is... the most interesting man in the world."

Has this commercial made a compelling case for their subject being interesting? No. They've basically just ripped off the style of internet meme extraordinaire the Chuck Norris Facts, thrown in a handful of stupid visuals, and called it a day. But wait! Our imaginarily interesting pitchman has something to say!

Man of Questionable Interest: "I don't always drink beer..."

Come on, Dos Equis. Even your pitchman only uses your product sporadically?

MoQI: "...but when I do [inexplicably dramatic pause] I prefer Dos Equis."

Well, that's some testimonial! I'm definitely going to trust the opinion of the most interesting man in the world! Oh, I forgot. This is a guy you completely made up and have failed to prove is even remotely interesting. Other than that, I'm totally sold.

MoQI: "Stay thirsty, my friends."

Make up your fucking mind, Dos Equis. Between the pitchman admitting to only sometimes drinking beer and the exhortation to "stay thirsty" (by drinking less Dos Equis?), I'm not convinced that these guys want me to use their product at all! It just rings of bad technique, like they built around the "most interesting man" idea but forgot to follow standard ad rules that actually involve promotion of the product. The only way I could see this being worse is if MoQI said "I prefer Dos Equis, and also the occasional Michelob."

Friday, June 8, 2007

In Soviet Russia, beer uses YOU to get laid!

There is something seriously wrong with this Heineken ad.

"Don't you wish your girlfriend was hot like me... a bottle of beer!" Well, unlike the makers of Heineken, I prefer my beer not to be hot. And I mean that both in a temperature sense and a sexual attractiveness sense. Really, did the people who made this ad even listen to the lyrics of the song, or did they just think it had a good beat? (Incidentally, the song itself is one of the worst in history, and that's before we even get into its implicit message, which is "I'm the one skank in town who'll let you put it in her butt.")

It's not just the words, either. How about the "main stage at Deja Vu" light show, and the insane security camera view? This is the best way they could think of to suggest that a beer is appealing, by anthropomorphizing it just so they can sexualize it? It frightens me to think that somewhere out there is an ad agency where this idea was pitched, and the guy who did it was neither fired on the spot nor at least laughed out of the room.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Tip for choosing a spokesperson

If you have to awkwardly work into the dialogue both the full name of your star and a description of who she is, maybe you should go with someone a little more recognizable.

They're not all bad

I don't want to talk exclusively about bad commercials, so I do feel the need to throw in the occasional gem. The tough part about qualifying a commercial as "good" or "effective" is the fact that you have to notice it's good. Technically the best possible ad wouldn't be one where you'd think "Hey, good ad," rather, it would be one where you'd see it, and there wouldn't be time to think about how great the ad was because you'd already be driving to the store.

That said, sometimes the stars align and you get a commercial that you notice, love, and feel sold on something. In this case, it comes from the unlikeliest of places - automobile advertising:

Where's the corny exchange between husband and wife? Where's the full-throated announcer ready with clotted boilerplate about how anti-locking, all-wheel driving and streamlining this Cabrio is? How about the leasing info? And the indecipherable half-jokes, where did those go? This ad is stripped of the templated borefest that plagues the sad majority of car commercials. It's just arresting visuals, a beautiful soundtrack, and a simple, intuitive message ("Who wants to go to a party when driving in this car is so much fun?")

When this ad ran in 2000, everyone benefited. Young people were introduced to Nick Drake, Volkswagen saw its Cabrio product (now called Golf) continue to grow into the world's third best-selling car model, and automobile marketers got to see how it's done.

You don't hammer it home with slogans and taglines, you don't overwhelm with leasing information or yawn-inducing product attributes, and you don't make us cringe with hamfisted humor. You simply concentrate on one message, and you offer it in an engaging, artful way. Remember, marketers, we have brains - let us use them.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

That'll do, pig

Tom the Dancing Bug, a consistently amusing weekly comic, had a joke once about a comic strip called "Comics that follow the formal structure of a joke, but are so wholly and unambiguously unfunny, they defy classification as 'humor.'" Watching the commercial below made me think of that:

Ha ha! It's funny because the dog doesn't understand idioms! Stupid dog!

I'm pretty sure that Bush's used to just feature a voice-over for Duke, so I'm a little sad to see them go the "freakish CGI-animated mouth" route. Maybe they needed that to make Jay Bush seem a little less crazy, though. He never acknowledges the camera, and presumably he and Duke both know that (a) these are Bush's Baked Beans and (b) they use a special blend of spices, so who the fuck is he talking to at the start of the ad?

I must admit, though, that I'm amused by what I assume is the intentionally funny suggestion that Jay Bush makes all the Bush's Baked Beans in a crockpot on his home stove.

Year's Worst, 1st Entry - Hillshire Farm

I firmly believe in arbitrary rankings, so I'd like to nominate this Hillshire Farm ad for the Worst Commercial of 2007.

This commercial is the advertising equivalent of Gwen Stefani's rock hop anthem "Hollaback Girl." Sometimes commercials try to show a consumer in their target audience being sold on their product. In this case, someone's already eating an Entrée Salad - so, no selling necessary. And yet, when she innocently begins using the product, people start annoying her with a cheer that would make a 5th grade pom squad blush. Some advertisers assume the consumer has a brain; others, including Hillshire Farm, think they speak in monosyllabic grunts:

That salad rocks, the best,
Make it easy at your desk

"Best" and "desk" do not rhyme. They barely near-rhyme. Can a copywriter please spend more than 5 seconds on a script occasionally?

It's second to none,
Just add lettuce and you're done

You know what I have lying around the office? Lettuce. Just bags of the stuff with my name on them in the fridge. If only there were a plastic package of cubed meat I could buy to mix it with....

You hungry, you hungry, yo mama says you hungry

There's nothing ol' Johnny Lunchbox thinks is funnier than white people saying "yo mama," right? This is classic material. Totally not dated, and totally inoffensive to general taste.

When I say Hillshire, you say Farm!
Hillshire! Farm! Go Meat!

When I say BRAND NAME, you say BRAND NAME!

It's catchy. Or something.

"Go Meat" is the central campaign for Hillshire Farm, and it's so bereft of any subtlety or art that it may very well have set back advertising several years. Why can't you portray your delicious meat products in an appealing way? Why can't you talk about your delicious meat products like an adult with a sense of taste and a high school-level vocabulary? Remember, you're (apparently) selling this to the 9-5 office worker - you're probably going to have to say more than just "Hillshire Farm -- MEAT! MEATY MEAT! BIG OL' MEAT! YO MAMA! LOL!"

But I do like to represent alternative opinions. For instance, what might the meat industry think of this campaign? Here's Hillshire Farm's VP Tim Roush:

There is no escaping the fact that Americans have an unabashed love of meat, and the poll results just reinforce that fact. We developed our 'GO MEAT!' campaign to celebrate and, in some instances, unleash the meat enthusiast in all of us.

Americans. Unabashed love of meat. Leashed meat enthusiasts. Fat, meat-gorging half-wits who love yo mama jokes and cheerleaders. The poll he's talking about? It said that 85% of Americans could not live without meat. Who conducted the poll? Who wrote that clearly misleading paid survey question? Hillshire Farm.

This is why this blog exists. Not only to point out when ads are bad, or when ads aren't doing their jobs, but also when ads operate under the pretense that we're all a huge lot of morons waiting for companies to drill false and sophomoric messages into our heads about shitty products. This is a campaign against bad ad campaigns. Let's send "GO MEAT!" and its like-minded marketing brethren back to the stone age where they belong.