Thursday, July 26, 2007

Back to the stupid

If there's one thing DirecTV knows, it's how to sell television services. And that way is... clips of movies from the mid-80s.

This commercial is useless. It contains one legitimate piece of information in a 30-second span. Even worse, that piece of information is something that doesn't even exist yet!

Doc Brown: "Great Scott! I forgot to tell Marty when he gets back to the future, he needs to get DirecTV HD!"

The "future" in Back to the Future is 1985, so this would be a pretty impressive feat on Marty's part. I also like the way Doc works in the movie's title (just in case you're one of the five people who hasn't seen it), not to mention the way that Doc goes from 1985 Christopher Lloyd to 2007 Christopher Lloyd and DirecTV apparently thinks we won't notice. Hopefully they don't run this commercial on any HD channels, lest viewers get caught up in endless liver-spot counting games.

Doc: "They already have all the best channels..."

Does this mean anything? No. It means nothing. Are there cable systems that don't have "the best channels," even in HD? Also, I'm still not convinced we're at the point where there are enough HDTV channels to justify spending thousands on an actual set, unless you're one of those gotta-have-it early adopters.

Doc: "...and soon they'll have three times more HD capacity than cable!"

So, uh, when is that going to be exactly? Oh. Soon. Well, that clears it all up.

Would you like to know an advantage of cable? Everyone can get it. DirecTV, on the other hand, doesn't work in some places because of the satellite signal (although estimates vary rather widely on how many households are incapable of getting it). But when you have a 20 percent share of the multichannel market like DirecTV, I guess you have to resort to... um... ads that talk up something you will eventually have.

Doc: "It's impossible? Ha! That's what they said about my flux capacitor!"

I'm not sure, but I don't know if you want to be comparing your high-tech gadgetry to time travel. Maybe you could have worked in, I don't know, another actual claim about your product, rather than pointing out how claiming more HD channels is impossible is akin to claiming time machines are impossible. Especially since that second part? Totally accurate. Although who knows, we might have time machines soon.

Announcer who sounds oddly pleased with himself: "For a future of 150 HD channels, get DirecTV."

Awesome! Too bad we have no idea when DirecTV will have all those channels. Nor do I think DirecTV can be sure that cable won't also be increasing its HD capacity in the near future - am I really supposed to believe that there will be 100 DirecTV-only HD channels? DirecTV has 16.2 million subscribers, which is certainly a robust number but dwarfed by the 60 million households with regular cable. And yet, there will be 150 HD channels on DirecTV and 50 on cable? Who is going to be producing these 100 channels? The math makes no sense. Are 80 of the 100 going to be HD closeups of fish tanks?

The dumbest thing about this series of ads is that most of them feature scenes pulled out of movies; I think I've seen four movie-derived ones and two TV-derived ones - and even then, one of the TV-based spots featured a show that's been off the air for years (Baywatch). Because what's more awesome than watching 20-year-old movies on cable? Watching 20-year-old movies on satellite, bitches! DirecTV! More movies you already own on DVD anyway than cable!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Multimedia presentation

We focus primarily on television advertising here, and rightly so. However, print and radio ads (the latter in particular) can sometimes be even more abhorrent; they're just harder to reproduce. In this case, however, I happened to be driving through Ohio and noticed this sign outside the men's room at a rest area.

It may be hard to read that smaller text, but basically it's using the larger words to make full sentences, like "you JUST have to see it to believe it." Whatever. Kind of a lame device, but not what makes this stupid.

Let me reiterate: this was outside the men's room. "Can you just hold it for 30 more minutes?" Um, why is that necessary? I'm about to walk into the men's room. I'm pretty sure the family can wait 30 seconds before we decide to randomly interrupt our scheduled trip to stop off at a waterpark. Who is this ad marketing to? Are there people who drive around with their swim trunks on in case they should happen to find themselves in waterpark country? Don't you sort of have to want to go to one in the first place? Also, take very careful note of the message: "Hold your urine for 30 more minutes, until you arrive at our waterpark!" Can't spell "waterpark" without "p," can you?

I don't know. Am I expecting too much out of a waterpark that names itself after one of the world's largest deserts?

Periodic Fable

If you're going to make up something and pretend it's vaguely scientific, you might at least want to consult with someone who passed ninth-grade chemistry class:

The Human Element. Okay, I get the concept, the "human element" is something you should take into consideration when evaluating things, especially business. But the Human Element, in this commercial, is shown as the 8th element in the periodic table. Now, as any high schooler who's ever glanced up at the chalkboard during science class will tell you, the 8th element is oxygen. Not Humanium, or whatever. It's funny because they're obviously aware of the existence of oxygen, since they mention in the ad that water is "hydrogen bonding with oxygen." And yet they refuse to look at a periodic table. How sloppy is this concept?

The rest of this commercial is just a litany of elements, without saying anything about Dow or what it is or what it sells. Can I stop by my local Dow retailer on my way home from work? Could I pick up a couple of cans of Dow at the grocery store this weekend? What the hell is this company?

Dow Chemical is a company that manufactures plastics and performance chemicals and the like (by the way, shows the fictional element "Hu" as element 52 - this is also wrong, the 52nd element is Tellurium [Te].) Why do behind-the-scenes companies like Dow bother spending the money to advertise? And advertise so ineffectively? Do you see commercial spots for Procter & Gamble? No, you see commercials for the crap they make - Tide, Charmin, Pringles.

Show me a commercial for one of your products, Dow - maybe I would watch it. What I won't watch? Poorly-conceived, vaguely-smart-sounding-but-ultimately-stupid ads for a company a consumer has no relationship with.

By the way, Dow, element 119 (not yet actually discovered), needs a permanent name. You could have the first-ever corporate-sponsored element. And luckily, "Hu" isn't taken yet! Get on it!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Shopping Mall Cowboys

Your typical diamond commercial usually pressures men into buying jewelry for sexual benefit, best illustrated in cartoon form here. Zales' Valentine's Day spot from last year takes a different, more indirect approach:

Are these guys supposed to be men's men? Because that is the weakest, most delicate-sounding high five ever caught on tape. Consider this: these guys are high fiving each other because they saw the other one carrying a tiny black plastic bag. I guess the first guy was thinking, "Dude, that guy totally got his wife something at Zales, too! What should I do? Kiss him right on the face? Nah, a little too obvious. Maybe I'll give him just a vaguely homoerotic wave, then slap him some skin in front of a crowded mall for apparently no reason."

I also love when retailers make an ad that tries to sell just one particular product, in this case the relatively tacky Diamond Heart Pendant. Basically what this commercial is trying to say is:

"Have no idea what to get your lady friend for Valentine's Day? Want to spend a lot of money without having to think about stuff? Get something with a lot of shitty-quality diamonds that's shaped like a heart. Hearts mean you love her!"

I mean, yeah, it's diamonds, but it's $200 worth of diamonds. Who would buy something like that? A rugged, stubbly, high-fivin', mini-bag-carryin' manly man, that's who.

"Zales - Yee-haw."

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Having trouble sleeping?

Why don't you watch a non-profit/educational financial services ad?

This commercial is so unremittingly boring, it makes you wonder if TIAA-CREF forgot they were shooting a non-profit/educational financial services ad. That's some yawn-inducing subject matter -- spice it up a little! First order of business would be picking a song that isn't in a comatose tempo. Alternatively, use the same song ("Somewhere" by Bernstein/Sondheim), but pick a version of it that isn't mind-numbingly dull.

There isn't much else to interest the viewer. Visually, this is a wasteland. Here are the scenes depicted in the commercial:

Slow motion shot of a man clutching a sample of something in storage area
Slow motion shot of a woman painting stage scenery
Slow motion shot of a man tuning a piano
Slow motion shot of a man teaching students in a dimly-lit lecture hall

Why are all these filmed in slow motion? Is it supposed to be like "Check out these heroes"? These four people look like they're just praying for retirement, "Please make the piano tuning stop.... I can barely move my back, and my ears throb with poorly-done West Side Story covers every night." They all look sad and pained. Combined with the monotone, verbose voiceover, it really is a forgettable commercial.

But just when you were about to drift off, the tagline:

Financial Services for the Greater Good

Really? You're going with "the greater good"? TIAA-CREF is a massive company, with $406 billion in assets. That's "billion" as in "fucking billion." Does $406 billion sound "greater good"-y to you? Is the "greater good" really their mission? Or is it just their client base they use to make money? If they were truly about the "greater good," why were they picketed in 2005? Why would they pay their CEO a significant chunk of that $406 billion? Maybe it's not so much the general "greater good" as it is the company's "greater good."

It's bad enough TIAA-CREF had to run such a genuinely bad series of ads, but to make a bad and disingenuous series of ads? Well, that's just wrong. And that's why this site is here.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Dance, Dance Revulsion

So you want some crazy dancing in your commercial. Understandable. That concept worked out pretty well for Apple. But is there a limit to how crazy the dancing can get? That question is answered by Intel's ad for their new computer processors:

Yes. That dancing is too crazy. It borders on laughable. The first dancer looks like Eminem on meth -- why do you want a guy who looks like that in your commercial? But I'd like to give this guy the benefit of the doubt. Maybe in real life this guy doesn't totally suck. Maybe it's the fault of the commercial environment - the client, the director, the agency guys. Here's how I like to think the scene went down during the shooting of the commercial:

Director: Okay, cue the music. Dancer #1, let's go! Wait, fix your collar. Okay, now do some Hokey Pokey. Great! All right, now pull yourself through the picture. Yes! Just like that. Okay, give me a half Shoulder Shrug. Nice. Do something spazzy with your arms - perfect. Pull yourself through the pict - wait! No, you just did that. How about a Duck Tilt. Yes! Now bring it home with a Full Elvis. And cut.

Ok, bring out the K-Fed lookalike. Sweet hat, dude. Okay, let's see what you got. Cue the music again! Nice entrance. Okay, give me some Ray Charles. That's it, play that piano! Do some Thriller Dance, don't make it too obvious, though. Bingo. Okay, now finish it off with an extended Don Knotts. Nice... walk it, baby! Walk straight on through Mayberry! Annnnddd cut! We got it - wrap!!

Amazingly, Intel extended this concept into a full campaign. You can view the other components here and here. If you don't want to waste a minute of your life, I'll just describe them for you in one sentence fragment: Same eurotrash-style music, different freaky dance moves.

What's the lesson? Don't copy ideas from other ads unless you can execute a variation with the same level of excellence. Intel just comes off looking cheap, like they can't come up with their own advertising concepts. Oh, and Intel? Don't expect Apple to invite you to their next rave in Cupertino - they know how to move on a dance floor over there.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Look on my workout, ye mighty, and despair

Anyone who ever had to see this ad while innocently attempting to enjoy television, I'm sorry:

It would take a long time to point out everything that's infuriating about this commercial. I want to hit on some key points, though. Firstly, why is this guy my "bud"?

Workout Guy: Hey bud! I just got the new Fall Out Boy song on my VCast phone. It gets me pumped!

Dude, you are not my "bud." What if a girl is watching? Is she your bud? Also, look at this guy's shirt. This is a national ad, so why does he need to have streaky sweat stains all over himself? Sure, he's at a gym, but since when do commercials start showing reality?

Workout Guy: (puts headphones on camera so we can listen to song)

Oh, man, nasty! Those are so sweaty-ass headphones that have your ear wax all over them! Get those the hell away from me. And turn it the hell down!

The ad then plays "This ain't a scene, it's an arms race" by Fall Out Boy for less than 8 seconds. How is an 8 second clip from the middle of a random song going to sell me on anything? And is this an ad for the Fall Out Boy album, or for Verizon?

Informal poll: What's your favorite of this guy's white boy dance moves?

A. The Durst Arm Flap
B. The Finger Twirl (aka The Richard Simmons)
C. Emphatic Finger Point (world premiere of this move)
D. Baboon Bicep Strain

Workout Guy: (takes call, smirks) It's my lady.

Okay, hold it. Stop advertising, everybody. We all need to hold off for just a moment here and catch our breath. Listen up: first thing's first -- we need to find the copywriter who wrote this line. The punishment must be swift and merciless. Next, we need to learn our lesson. We need to take a stand. We need to tell the country that we won't let this kind of hacky, half-assed dialog on the airwaves ever again. Ever. You know it's awful. You know it makes people cringe. You know only 7-year old girls would giggle about it, and you know they aren't in the cell phone market. Just make sure this is the only time this ever happens. Now, you may resume making mediocre advertising.

The payoff joke is, apparently, the guy in the background dropping the weight because Workout Guy, who had been spotting him, leaves to take a call. This is unacceptably unfunny. When you create a massive choad like Workout Guy, you need to make fun of him more than this. You need to explain to people that you're displaying this kind of behavior as ironic, humorous, or whatever. You need to work much, much harder. You owe it to TV viewers, and you owe it to your marketing budget.

This commercial is a new low, Verizon. Go sit in the corner.

Side note: Workout Guy is played by Silas Gaither, of Survivor: Africa non-fame. He placed twelfth and is currently working as a bartender in LA, according to Survivor Wiki. In his spare time he enjoys spotting buds at the gym, looking sweaty, and making people reevaluate their perception of contemporary American media.

Silliness or Laziness?

SoBe is making some questionable commercials. This brief 15 second offering sadly fits right into their realm of the bizarre and silly:

Lunchlady: We got fried eggs, fried cheese, fried beans, fried potatoes, fried bacon...

Ok, we get it, there's some unhealthy food served out there. Particularly during school lunches. But I really don't think they're serving mozzarella sticks at school cafeterias. "Fried potatoes" are usually called fries, and "fried bacon" is a little bit redundant (unless you're baking it, or using the microwaveable variety.) But these are small quibbles, and this list is mostly reasonable.

Lunchlady: ... fried butter

Fried butter? Seriously? I mean, come on, Americans eat a lot of fatty shit, but not even the most backwoods sippy hole race has a "Fried Butter" concession stand.

This would be like PowerBar running an ad that went, "Sick of eating Crisco straight from the tub? Try a PowerBar!" Hey, SoBe Life Water - you're a fluid health product. You do not get to pretend like you're a substitute good for a greasy solid food product, much less one that you just made up and is completely disgusting.

Voiceover: Find your healthy place (girl jumps into giant bottle of tangerine Life Water.)

Good lord - I really hope that's amniotic fluid inside that bottle, or she is going to drown. I don't care how much she enjoys fluttering around in there, that image really claustrophobes me the hell out. Imagine, in your last seconds, gallons of undoubtedly fake-tasting tangerine death water rushing into your lungs, staring at the backside of a SoBe logo - what if the last thing that went through your mind was kids ripping mattresses in half?

Voiceover: SoBe Life Water. Rich in antioxidants.

What do antioxidants have to do with the rest of this commercial? Isn't it oddly specific considering how sloppy and disjointed the set-up is? Antioxidants are useful in helping to prevent cancer and heart disease. I think what you might need after chowing down on some state fair-grade fried butter is Tums, or something to settle your stomach. In fact, you don't even need to gorge on fried foods to feel queasy - just watching a SoBe commercial seems to do the trick.

Friday, July 13, 2007

I'm free, to do what my bank wants

The Rolling Stones make good music. Chase makes good music painful:

Okay, so that's Fatboy Slim's remix of the Stones song "I'm Free," but it's still a nauseatingly repetitive bore-fest. You know what sells me on a product? One musical lick, played over and over again, until I feel like I've just been brainwashed Clockwork Orange-style. That makes me want to do whatever the commercial tells me.

Then, there's the product message:

It's time to feel free. With the new Chase Freedom.

I'm free to do what I want, y'all! I'm free to choose "Cash Back", or, alternatively, I'm free to choose "travel." Man, you mean with this credit card I get to choose one thing or another thing? Next you're going to tell me I'm free to choose among three options, or, and this is really insane, four options. My god, imagine having to make a choice. Imagine having more than one option within a decision set. Where would I even begin? Is there anything else I'm free to do with this new Jeffersonian credit card?

Well, apparently I'm free to pay 14.24% variable APR for Elite Pricing on my balance. I'm also free to pay 28.24% variable APR on cash advances. Awesome. Those are the kinds of unalienable freedoms this country was built on. Someone put a call into the ACLU -- Chase deserves some kind of freedom medal.

That's freedom. That's Chase Freedom.

If "Chase Freedom" means "Channel Changing Freedom," I'm with you.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

The Internet is a series of YouTubes

Here's a fun fact: the Internet sometimes has silly videos on it. Capitalizing on this groundbreaking information is the new series of Geico ads:

I don't understand. Didn't Geico build its market share using the Internet? Why are they acting like they just discovered it yesterday? This is the kind of thing I would expect from a bunch of 60-year-old guys in a room. "Hey, you know what would be great for an ad? Internet videos! The kids seem to love 'em!" Naturally the premise is that there are better things you could do online than watch stupid videos, as though this was a piece of information that anyone was missing. "I know the Internet compiles virtually all the knowledge of the world and near-endless resources for obtaining insurance quotes... but no, I'm going to watch this guy make noises with his mouth for another five minutes."

The whole thing is pretty lame, but it is also unbelievably lazy. The kid pictured is, as best I can tell from YouTube, an actual guy who posts these stupid videos. Geico bought the rights, because I guess that's cheaper than paying an actor to do something similar? The other ad I saw in this series is the exact same case. This is like the reality TV of commercials - why pay actors when you can just dump something "unscripted" onto the airwaves, then sit back and reap the benefits? Given how many bad ideas the marketing geniuses at Geico have foisted on us, though, I guess I shouldn't complain when they just stop trying.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Come and get your smug

You can just smell the desperation in every Alltel ad:

Oh man, those other wireless companies are such dorks. How could I ever use one of them, when Alltel is represented by a cool guy with spiky blond hair?

Idiotic things about this ad include the following:

* Using the unbelievably cliché tactic of personifying your competitor(s) as less hip and/or attractive than your pitchman
* Suggesting that Verizon, Sprint, Cingular and T-Mobile would ever act in unison, when in fact they fight rather fiercely for market share
* Further suggesting that these four companies could give even half a shit about Alltel when they combine for 88% of the US wireless market and Alltel, despite recent growth, is still a pretty distant fifth

Obviously Alltel is going to want to talk up its advantages, but couldn't it just have run a commercial doing so? The ads in which it takes on the "Big Four" are just kind of pathetic when it isn't a close race at the moment, and Alltel doesn't exactly have the "hip" factor of something like Apple that could allow it to get away with this kind of campaign. Alltel's aiming at so many different targets that it can't even do more than mention a single benefit that it has, while no doubt intentionally glossing over things like network reliability and range of service (which I'm going to go ahead and say matter more to most wireless users than a list of ten people you can call for free). So much time is spent on the "ha ha, what dorks" angle that Campbell-Ewald needed to make, what, six of these things, one for each feature? What an absolute waste of everyone's time.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Al Qaeda runs on Starbucks

It's a rare treat to get a truly xenophobic ad. But fortunately, the good people at Dunkin' Donuts were able to fit one into their busy schedule of shitty ad making.

Nice to see the first 23 seconds of a 30-second ad taken up by this pathetic excuse for a song. It doesn't seem to have very many chords, but whatever the number, they've led to an embarrassingly monotone delivery by the singers. You could probably argue that this was intentional, but that just makes it a bad choice. If you're using a song to sell a product, even one that's really just trying to tear down a competitor, couldn't you make it a little more listenable than this? Never mind that some of the things in the song aren't even from other languages (half-caf is an English-language abbreviation, you stupid shits), or for that matter that the people singing are obviously able to pronounce each and every one of the words they suggest are unpronounceable.

Of course the song is far from the commercial's greatest offense. That would be John Goodman's ensuing voiceover:

"Delicious lattes from Dunkin' Donuts. You order them in English, not Fritalian."

(1) implying that using words borrowed from other languages is a bad thing, despite the fact that modern English makes heavy use of loan words
(2) suggesting that Americans have some kind of sacred responsibility to speak English and English alone
(3) forgetting that the word "latte" is itself a "Fritalian" word, even though they included it in their song 20 seconds earlier

Just let the irony of #3 sink in. Ordering lattes in English! Hate to ruin the party, Department of Homeland Donuts, but latte is a shortened version of caffè latte, which is Italian for coffee with milk. Read it and weep, bitches. You can't order a motherfucking latte in English. The person who wrote this ad has an IQ of 38.

Do you think if I go into Dunkin' Donuts and order a "large iced hazelnut milk," that they'll get confused? Because they shouldn't! I'm just ordering in English, like all right-thinking, non-pinko coffee-drinking Americans! If the terrorists want coffee, they can just go to CommieBucks and get their venti mocha half-caf whatevers with all the other beret-wearing, baguette-carrying traitors. America runs on Dunkin!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Pain is funny. Oh wait, that's right, it's the opposite of that

Beer commercials are supposed to make you laugh, not wince:

What was funny about that? The dude might have lost an eye. The only mildly amusing part is the physical comedy of the way the man on the left falls backward. The fact that he had a rock thrown at his head, however, sort of negates this humor. Then, another low point, the "joke":

Guy lying on ground: I threw paper

Hmm, curious verb to use. I smell a "joke" set-up...

Guy who just threw a rock at a man's head: I threw a rock

Yep. Wow. Irresponsible, violent physical comedy paid off by a corny pun (actual rock for figurative "rock, paper, scissors" rock.) Now, it's time for the "bonus joke":

Other guy at party: Low five!

Oh, I get it. It's "low" because he's writhing in pain on the ground, and no one has helped him up! Haha!! That's funny! That's super funny! That's homeless-guy-lying-dead-in-the-street funny!!

This was a Super Bowl Ad, folks. It aired during the most prized advertising event of the year. How proud was Bud Light of this commercial? $2.6 million worth of proud. This ad was the fault of Bud Light's agency, DDB Chicago, which is weird because they were also responsible for a Bud Light ad in the same Super Bowl that I did think was funny. I guess they can't all be winners.

Beer companies seem to grant themselves ultimate creative freedom when they run ads. And with budgets that size, there's no reason for companies like Anheuser-Busch to be running total half-joke crap like this. If you're going to run ads that are basically just 30 second video jokes with product placement, at least make them funny. Try to avoid promoting casual violence, too.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Two scoops of idiocy

I get the idea behind having wacky characters who say weird things in your commercials. Really, I do. If people laugh, maybe that helps them remember your brand; whatever gets people talking about a product is good. But for God's sake, do they have to be this stupid?

I mean, I guess there are things about this ad that are kind of funny. But there are way more that are incredibly annoying.

Tool #1: "I had this dream last night, there were no raisins. So I went to the store to buy Raisin Bran Crunch? Just Bran Crunch."
Tool #2: "Well, at least you still had the crunchy flakes and granola clusters. I mean, that's the money right there."
Tool #1: "Nightmare! No raisins!"
Tool #2: "As long as Mrs. Flake and Mr. Granola are coming to Crunch Town, it's a great time."

Okay. I realize that you want people to mention the attributes of your cereal and why they're enjoyable. This is the best you could do? Why don't people in commercials ever talk like actual people? "That's the money right there?" "It's a great time?" These sound like something that was shit out as a result of focus group over-testing, to say nothing of the fact that Mrs. Flake and Mr. Granola Are Coming to Crunch Town sounds like the title of some insane promotional children's story that Raisin Bran Crunch made up to sell more cereal.

Also, I'm pretty sure there are cereals out there that consist of crunchy flakes and granola clusters or at least very close facsimiles (Honey Bunches of Oats, anyone?). Why would you let one of the characters in your commercial suggest that your cereal has no need for one of its main constituents? "Man, Raisin Bran Crunch is pretty good. I sure wish it didn't have all these raisins, though."

Tool #3: "I had this dream where Sunny and I, we, uh, we went dancing at this club, we had a little [some noises that are apparently supposed to sound like the inside of a club]..."
[Tools #1 and #2 stare at Tool #3]

Ha ha ha! That guy has a homoerotic crush on the Raisin Bran mascot!

I like that when the guy says "Sunny," he has to point to the box and we have to cut to a closer shot so we can get a good look at Sunny himself. I know it's been a while since Raisin Bran actually made the sun the focus of their advertising, but did we need to go quite that far?

This ad epitomizes one of my biggest pet peeves, which is ads that have a character say something completely stupid or insane, and then other characters in the ad give him a "that was stupid or insane" look. You can't have it both ways. If you're going to create a character, and have him say something completely insane, you have to sort of run with that, not turn it into "Why would someone say something like that???" You told him to say it. You thought it would be funny. It's really not. If it's funny at all, it's only because it's not funny, and that just sucks. You couldn't have spent a little more money to get an actual joke in there?

Announcer: "There are plenty of reasons to love Kellogg's Raisin Bran Crunch. What's yours?"

Not the ads for it, that's for damn sure. Seriously - there are enough cereals out there that if you only like part of Raisin Bran Crunch, you can find another cereal that is just that part. "Bran Crunch" pretty much exists, albeit under a different name. This isn't some weird alternate universe where there's only one cereal, and dreams where parts of it are gone constitute a peek into a strange new world. There might be plenty of reasons to love Raisin Bran Crunch, but if you don't love all of them, you're probably not going to buy it. The implications behind this ad are completely counterproductive, Kellogg's. Try a little harder.

Seeing double

So I was watching the Dunkin' Donuts commercial that Windier aptly criticized here, and I replayed that first line a couple of times. As I listened to how poorly it was delivered, I thought, "Where have I heard that weird, full-throated voice before?" Then I remembered a fun little number that Maytag cooked up a while back. Same voice, same level of acting, hell, even the same hackneyed, deer-in-the-headlights gape:

Sure looks like the same dumbshit, doesn't it? Was it the same director for both ads? That would be kind of weird, since both companies have different agencies (Dunkin' Donuts=Hill, Holiday; Maytag=Publicis NY.)

Then it hit me, like Rachael Ray in a donut shop. That guy's only job at that office was fixing copiers! Once the Maytag Man came along and started replacing toner cartridges for free, they let him go. The first job he could land was as a janitor at a Dunkin' Donuts. Mm, what a shame. Hope that job works out for you, fella -- sure wouldn't want you popping up in a Century 21 commercial. There's no way that's a position with a lot of job security.

Play hard, booze hard

Some commercials are misleading. Some are just outright irresponsible. And then there's this, which somehow belongs in a class by itself:

Do the people at Michelob know how drinking and exercise go together? (Answer: not well.) Michelob Ultra may not have a lot of carbs, but it has 4.2% alcohol by volume, which puts it on par with most mass-market beer. In other words, I hope these people are getting ready for some serious dehydration. (Also, fun fact! Carbohydrates are useful in providing energy that can be burned during exercise, so that the body does not have to deplete itself of more essential nutrients!) At least volleyball is sort of recreational as far as getting exercise goes, I guess. Of course, Michelob Ultra has other ads showing people biking and running, so I'm not going to cut them any slack. If you're jogging three miles and then knocking back a few cold ones, you probably deserve whatever alcohol-related fatigue is coming your way.

The alternate explanation is that these women are vampires and they're planning to get the men drunk and tired before they drain them of life-giving blood.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

The wind cries Pepsi

This one is a couple years old, but I stumbled upon it again while looking for another Pepsi ad and, well...

Jimi Hendrix was rated the #1 guitarist of all time by Rolling Stone. "Purple Haze" was ranked #17 on their list of the top 500 songs. And here's Pepsi, taking credit for his talent! "Thank God for Pepsi, or Jimi Hendrix would never have been a famous guitarist!" Are you fucking kidding me? This is made even worse by the fact that Hendrix is dead, and had been for roughly 35 years when this spot aired. At least if Hendrix were alive and had signed off on it, we could get the idea that he liked Pepsi and was willing to allow them to use his name. I assume that Pepsi probably get permission from the current representatives of Hendrix's legacy to use the name and music, but that's a poor substitute. I guess it could have been worse, though. Take a look at this script that Pepsi ultimately rejected for this ad campaign:

[Setting: a village in 1770 Virginia. A young man in colonial dress approaches a tavern. On one side of the door is a Coke machine. The machine is surrounded by British soldiers in red uniforms that match Coke's colors. On the other side is a Pepsi machine, surrounded by colonists in blue, one of whom looks over at the young man. The man who looks over should be cast as a dead ringer for George Washington. The young man goes to the Pepsi machine and purchases one. After drinking, he looks up, clearly inspired.]

Young Man: We hold these truths to be self-evident... that all men are created equal!

[The other colonists chatter excitedly as the soldiers look over suspiciously. A subtitle appears on the screen identifying our young man as Thomas Jefferson.]

Voiceover: Declare the independence of a new generation... with Pepsi. It's the cola.

Sadly, the executives at Pepsi decided it was just a little too over the top.

Insects can sell anything!

The folks at Nasonex grew up eating a lot of Cheerios:

Because this isn't the worst ad I've ever seen, I want to call out the good and the bad.

Actually talks about product
Shows differentiating information (i.e. 6 million people claim)
Does not use following words, "Big, juicy, yo, mmm, mama, rocks, lad, rip, go, thinkin', heavy-duty, meat, Olive Garden"

The bee
Bad acting
Typical pharmaceutical ad boilerplate
The bee
Confusing a frisbee with a boomerang (frisbees do not change directions like that)
Questionable decor in the living room
The bee
Hmm... I'm sure there's a couple other small things about this commercial that suck...
Oh, and, the &*$#@% bee

There's one overarching flaw with this commercial, isn't there? I'll give you a hint: it's incredibly distracting, unforgivably annoying, and rhymes with "painfulLY."

I want to help Nasonex out here. So I've decided to write an FAQ that Nasonex can place up on in case any visitors have questions about these ads. Feel free to reprint this on your site, Nasonex -- I do not expect any payment or acknowledgment. I just want to pitch in and do my part.

Q: Why is there a bee in your ads?
A: The bee is a whimsical representation of a nasal allergy congestion sufferer. Bees are close to flowers and pollen all day, so who better to pitch our brand than mother nature's allergy expert? Also, our Marketing Director is an amateur apiarist and has kind of a weird, fetishy thing for bees.

Q: Why is the bee so poorly animated?
A: As it turns out, computer animation is on the pricier side. Our solution was to have our Marketing Director's 8-year old use Microsoft Paint to create the first round of animation. After that, we bid out the animation contract to many different studios to make sure we got the bee we wanted, with the most important factor in the decision being price. As I think you'll see, the bee has come a long way since that first round of animation.

Q: What's up with the bee's ridiculous accent? Isn't that unnecessary?
A: That accent is actually the work of Hollywood superstar Antonio Banderas! I'm surprised you couldn't tell that just by listening!

Q: Seriously? You went out and got Banderas for the voice of that bee?
A: Seriously! That is indeed Antonio, the Andalusian master himself.

Q: Why would you spend so much money on Antonio Banderas if no casual viewer would ever know it's him?
A: Well, we had a lot of money left over from the animation budget.

Q: How come the bee doesn't know how to emphasize words properly? Doesn't this make everyone want to turn the channel immediately?
A: We think that's just part of the bee's character and charm! He's a wacky, fun-loving Spanish bee, and he has a wacky, fun-loving delivery. Also, we could only afford one take with Antonio.

Let me put it plainly, Nasonex. If you took the bee out of this commercial, you would never have been written up in this blog in the first place. The bee was completely uncalled-for, and it's not helping your commercial. For instance, look at these real-life comments from viewers on your ad on YouTube:

My 18mth old daughter loves this bee!
My 20 month old daughter goes NUTS for this bee too!!! THANKS!!!
Thank you! My toddler goes apeshit over this 'Nasonex Bee'!

Now, Nasonex, I know you might be thinking, "Bitchin'! People love these ads!" But I want you to stop and think if there's anything fishy about those comments. Like, maybe they're all about kids? Like, kids under 2-years old? And are 2-year olds getting prescriptions for nasal allergy congestion medication? See where I'm going with this?

The bee is a cartoon character. Cartoon characters sell products to kids -- think: Tony the Tiger, the Trix rabbit, Joe Camel. Adults looking for nasal allergy symptom relief are probably not going to respond to a cartoon. Much less a poorly-executed, manically-voiced one.

Next time, cut out the bee, teach your actors how to sneeze convincingly, add in a personable spokesman, and fire your freaking computer graphics company.

Get behind me, donuts

Rachael Ray provides an interesting test for the average male. On the one hand, she's a relatively attractive woman; on the other hand, she's quite clearly Satan.

It's almost physically painful how lame this ad is.

Trainee: "What is that?" [brushes futilely at marks on floor]
Manager: "You'll see."

Oh man, I sense the setup to a hilarious joke. Let's all see together!

[hilariously, the marks are from Rachael Ray's skidding heels as she stops at the counter!]
Manager: "Hey, Rachael. The usual?"
Rachael Ray: "Yep, coffee and a bagel!"

Is it some surprise that Dunkin' Donuts has coffee and bagels? Why did she need to state what "the usual" was for a guy who clearly knows?

[Rachael turns around and sees the trainee]
Rachael Ray: "Hey!"
[close-up shot of a bagel being placed in a bag, in case you still didn't believe they carried bagels at Dunkin' Donuts]
Rachael Ray: "Who's that?"
Manager [in oddly condescending fashion]: "That's the new guy."

If I were the kid, I would probably quit immediately. Ohh, the new guy! The new guy. The new embarrassing guy who clearly has only worked here for 20 minutes since he has no idea about the Rachael Ray skidmarks. What a pathetic loser.

Rachael Ray: "Hey new guy!"

What a sunny, warm woman of the people! Does she have a talk show I could watch?

Announcer: "TV host and author Rachael Ray doesn't stop for much."

Rachael Ray got famous for hosting a cooking show. I don't know how many cooking shows you've watched, but the bulk of them feature the host standing behind a counter, rarely going more than a couple of feet from side to side. TV host Rachael Ray doesn't move for much.

Announcer: "But she always makes time to stop at Dunkin' Donuts!"

Yeah, I'm sure the host of a nationally syndicated talk show spends a lot of time fetching her own coffee and bagels. Heck, just last week I was standing behind Oprah Winfrey at Jamba Juice. (She got a Strawberry Surf Rider, if you must know.)

Rachael Ray: "Delish!"

I hate you. Dropping syllables from words does not make them cute. It's fucking annoying.

Rachael Ray: "Thanks!" [dashes out]
Trainee: "Whoa."

Thanks, Keanu Jr. How is it possible to have the two lines you had and deliver them both like crap?

What was this commercial even selling? I don't believe for a minute that coffee and a bagel need Rachael Ray to sell them, or anyone else for that matter. It's fucking coffee and a bagel. The commercial is as much an ad for Ray as it is for anything; the "new guy" represents people thus far unaware of Ray, who are then supposed to be in awe of her energy. There's as much mention of her accomplishments - as "TV host and author" - as there is of the actual product ("coffee and a bagel!"). Cross-promotion is usually painful (see just about every Transformers-related ad currently airing), but this is especially egregious. I sure hope Dunkin' Donuts got some sweet product placement on Ray's talk show in exchange for this shill job. Like she holds up an iced coffee at the beginning of the show and goes "Yum-o!" and gives her big Joker smile. And then she does three lines of coke right off the kitchen counter, because we all know that it's not coffee that keeps Rachael Ray going.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

Do *you* come with the body spray?

It's hard to believe that a world in which Axe and Tag exist has room for another body spray with an ad campaign worse than either of those, but here's the proof:

Axe has stupid ads, but at least they're tongue-in-cheek. The geniuses behind the RGX campaign have bought wholeheartedly into the hype. Rather than a slew of largely faceless women throwing themselves at the guy as in most Axe ads, the RGX ads feature a lone woman, posing seductively for the viewer, leaning on the idea that if he uses RGX, this is the class of woman he will be able to attract. One of the viewer comments on the YouTube page for this video about says it all: "If this body spray could get me one date with that woman I would probably buy a lifetime supply!" Of course that's what Right Guard is counting on. The whole premise reminds me of the Simpsons episode where they go to the auto show and the woman is posing on the "Win a free car!" car. First 15 seconds of this video:

Advertisers think men are troglodytes with poor handles on causality. That's why there are so many ads for male-oriented products - beer, snack foods, deodorant - that lean so heavily on the idea that use of this product means more sex.

Woman: "Don't act, don't assume, don't presume, don't fake. Just be yourself. You know how to do that. Don't you?"

Apparently by spraying on a mass-produced aerosol deodorant to cover up your nasty man-odor. There are four whole scents! So on average, you should only smell like 25% of the other bar patrons!

By the way, did the writer of this commercial look up "assume" and "presume" in the dictionary before he wrote it? Because they basically mean the exact same fucking thing. While we're at it, "don't act" and "don't fake" pretty much mean the same thing in this context too. Was it really that hard to come up with two other verbs that a guy shouldn't do on the date he's never going to have with this woman? (For that matter, what the crap is he "assuming?" This ad doesn't make a lick of sense.)

Woman: "Are you ready to step up?"

Yeah, nothing says stepping up like masking your horrible sweaty smell with a cheap, generic scent you picked up at the 7-11 on the way to your date! Man, this woman likes her some classy dates. I can't wait to get my RGX so I can nail her.

Monday, July 2, 2007

I'm sorry, sir, you'll need to put on this jacket before getting into the Cadillac

Okay, I guess that Cadillac is probably the best-known brand of American luxury car, and is sort of synonymous with high lifestyle. But was this really necessary?

Actually, now that I've watched it a couple of times, this commercial seems to be using its haughty attitude to cover up an air of desperation. See, it turns out that Cadillac sales are dropping, because Cadillac makes enormous luxury cars that also happen to be gas guzzlers - and I don't know if you've filled up lately, but gas kinda costs a lot these days. So, what would be the best way to market a Cadillac in this climate? Hey, how about as an ostentatious status symbol that declares anyone in the vehicle to be a classy individual? A "gentleman," if you will?

Never mind that I'm pretty sure Cadillac doesn't put any actual restrictions on ownership. If you've got the money, I imagine you can walk into a Cadillac dealership in a wife-beater and Zubaz and drive off in an Escalade. (In fact, many rappers have probably done exactly that. Minus the Zubaz, I guess.) Hell, I'll bet that even women are allowed to drive Cadillacs! Welcome to the world of ladies, ladies!

Cadillac had a reputation for a long time as being kind of an old-person car, so the commercial's other angle - "No! It's totally classy and cool no matter what age you are! And you should want validation of your classiness from the previous generation!" - is understandable if also kind of pathetic. And yes, it's random that these guys are pulling up to a diner (presumably the old guys are leaving, having gotten there in time for the early bird special), but given what it probably cost them to drive there in the Cadillac, I suppose they weren't going to be able to afford Spago.

Announcer: "The spacious Cadillac DTS. Room for four grown... gentlemen."

Wait a minute - a car that can seat four people? You are fucking shitting me! I take it all back, Cadillac - truly, you have cornered the market on seating! Sure, the gas mileage is appalling, but the idea of getting four people into one car is just... I mean, what an age we live in. Four people. Simply astonishing.

Slow clap.

I am totally okay with this commercial, although the shorter versions (about 30 seconds) are better because they get right to the gag, without as many "ooh, culture clash!" anvils falling on your head. First, it features a celebrity poking good-natured fun at himself; and secondly, In Da Club translates rather nicely to an orchestral arrangement.

Thank you, Vitamin Water. I probably won't drink your product, but I do enjoy this ad.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

If this doesn't annoy you...

... you're probably the guy who wrote the commercial:

Hungry for Italian food yet?

(Camera zooms in on restaurant through window)

Oh, it's a cozy joint, isn't it? Yes, the Olive Garden is like a little piece of Tuscany, nestled right into the middle of your local suburban strip mall.

Hostess: Hi! Can I help you?

Woman: Oh, hi, yes, I'm looking for my date. He's very handsome and his shoes are probably untied.

Ba-whaa?! How can he be both handsome and in possession of untied shoes? This commercial is confusing -- I can't seem to make heads or tails of it. Unless, perhaps, it were leading into some kind of incredibly lame joke.

Annoying kid: Mom!

Oh! It's her son! Ha ha. Adorable. Very cute. And sort of small towny and family-oriented. Mom and pop. Just like Olive Garden.

Also, kid, this is a public place - don't holler across the restaurant. And tie your damn shoes.

Voiceover: Introducing Olive Garden's new stuffed rigatonis, filled with five Italian cheese like mozzarella and Parmesan.

"Introducing"? You mean the saccharine scene with the mother and the hostess was somehow related to the stuffed rigatoni?

Voiceover: Try our Rigatoni with grilled chicken and a roasted garlic alfredo, or rigatoni with sausage and tomato alfredo

Pretty fancy dishes, Olive Garden. The boys over at the Culinary Institute of Tuscany must be busy. They're hard at work learning the "secrets of great Italian cooking." These dishes, however, do not look particularly authentic. In fact, the term "alfredo" is an American invention. Italians would never call pasta cooked in Parmesan, butter and cream "alfredo." Additionally, even in American cooking, there really isn't such a thing as "tomato alfredo." That'd be more like vodka sauce.

Voiceover: starting at $9.95.

Here's the thing. A $10 dinner is pretty cheap, but if you live anywhere near a city, you can easily find similarly-priced meals at an authentic Italian joint. Italian food just isn't that expensive -- it's noodles and sauce and maybe some meat! You do NOT have to settle for watered-down, corporate Italian -- you have the right to drive a little farther into the city and pay the same price for the real thing. And while you're eating the real thing, you can think about how happy you'll be next time you mute an Olive Garden commercial, because you didn't buy into the bullshit.

Voiceover: Plus, endless breadsticks and salads.

Oh yeah, I forgot about that. Endless breadsticks? Every Italian restaurant I've ever been to has had free bread and oil. Call it "endless" if you want. Salad may not be endless at a real Italian restaurant, but you'll almost certainly get a humongous portion size of whatever you order. You won't need free salad to fill you up.

Woman: I love date night.

And I love forced payoff lines.

Even if you LOVED Olive Garden (i.e. you'd never been to a real Italian restaurant, or you lived in Alaska), wouldn't this commercial just make you hate it? How could you watch this commercial and then think, "Mmm, sounds like a fun time!"? Going out to eat at Olive Garden is like wanting to cook dinner for your family by microwaving Lean Cuisines.

McDonald's: We're way better than this company we just made up

Companies that are second or third in market share often advertise their products from the angle of bashing their #1 competitor, hoping that that will drive sales. Pepsi does it to Coke, Macs do it to PCs, etc. But what do you do if you're McDonald's and you're already the #1 company in your corner of the market? Apparently, you invent other companies to bash.

If you were the founder of a website, why would you compare your company to the Big Mac? Wouldn't you say something like, "It's gonna be bigger than Yahoo" or "It's gonna be bigger than Google"? Wouldn't that just make a lot more sense? You also have to love the way in which this ad actually positions the founders as smug assholes - particularly in the split screen interview about halfway through - so that it will make McDonald's itself seem less smug when it tears down this company that it invented for this ad at the end.

Does McDonald's know how web counters work? What's with the numbers shuffling around like it's generating a random sequence? "Wait, did we get 67 million hits? Oh, only three? Well, those numbers are very close together, I can see how we got confused!" Also, the very idea of a website getting only three hits upon its launch - especially one that had been promoted in a national television interview - is fucking retarded. I'm amazed anyone at McDonald's knew enough about the internet to actually get the corresponding site up in real life.

So here's the voiceover at the end of the ad:

"With 100% beef, nothing tops the Big Mac."

Yeah! Take that, Gofbot! What were you thinking only using 87% beef? That's why you shouldn't try competing with a massive hamburger chain, you fake web company, you! I mean, why even invoke the name as an offhand comparison if you weren't going to back it up? You deserve to have this thrown back in your imaginary faces by having some douchebag walk up and confirm that it's not as big as the Big Mac, in this totally fake, impossible, didn't happen, will never happen scenario that we made up for you! Don't fuck with McDonald's!