Saturday, June 23, 2007

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.


Quivering P. Landmass said...

The Spice Girl ad didn't bug me. At least it's simple and gets a coherent product message across ("this sauce is perfectly spiced.")

The "Man named Basil" one is god awful. Especially because, in Britain, wouldn't it be pronounced "BAH-SIL" and not "BAY-SIL"?

Windier E. Megatons said...

I'm not sure how you can like one and not the other; it's the exact same message and exact same joke (I'll grant that the Basil one is stupider, but not immeasurably so).

Another thing that bugs me about these ads: should Prego really get to presume that they speak for everyone's taste? I mean, say you like a lot of garlic in your pasta sauce. Wouldn't you add some to Prego? (The real answer is probably that you just wouldn't buy Prego in the first place, which I guess is why they don't even want to think about that demo.)

Quivering P. Landmass said...

Well, the first commercial uses an actual personality (Baby Spice), while the second commercial really reaches and uses a sillier pun. It's like they blew their budget on Emma Bunton and didn't have any left over to make the second commercial interesting.

Windier E. Megatons said...

Well, clearly they also blew their writing budget on her.

Tyler said...

Here's what bothers me about this ad: it's not like there's only one version of Prego. There are, by my count, 23 versions. So, in theory, if Basil was interested in a sauce that reflected his name, he might add some basil to make the Traditional Prego taste more like Prego's Tomato, Basil, and Garlic sauce.