Friday, August 31, 2007

Don't do what Donny Don't does

This commercial isn't that bad, really. But something about it just bugs me a little bit, and if you hadn't posted for two weeks and were having a hard time finding truly odious ads online, you'd start getting picky too.

One thing I don't like: it's a Volkswagen. The guy isn't driving an ice cream truck. People don't just stop and wave because you're driving around in a regular car. Also, does it really count as the Volkswagen "getting into" the car thief? Seems to me he was affected by things out of the Volkswagen's immediate control - the sun, people waving, etc. This could have been any convertible. And what if he'd driven through a rough neighborhood and gotten robbed at a street light? This commercial could have been so much more deliciously ironic.

The other thing I don't like: this ad is implying to Volkswagen owners that if they leave their car unlocked and the keys inside, it won't get stolen, because any car thief taking it will be overwhelmed by the good vibes and drive right on back. I would pay money if they would add one of those "Do not attempt" disclaimers under the woman as she returns to the car at the end of the ad. Or maybe one that reads "You got lucky this time, lady."

Friday, August 17, 2007

Girl (?) happy

The problem with being a dead musical artist is there's really nothing to stop your estate from selling your works to the highest commercial bidder. Exhibit A: Jimi Hendrix. Now, I give you Exhibit B:

Did the folks at Pfizer - or, more accurately, at Pfizer's ad agency - think about how homoerotic this ad is? Let's see - you've got a bunch of guys in a roadhouse, singing to each other, praising Viagra, and then shaking hands and driving off. I know what you're supposed to think - they're all going home to their wives/girlfriends/prostitutes - but it sort of plays like this sausage fest is actually an illicit circle jerk. "My buddies and I love getting together to re-enact our old fraternity days, but now that we're middle-aged, it's becoming more difficult to get it up... good thing Viagra came along to let us do our totally not gay thing!"

Also, did you notice what this commercial is missing? It's kind of odd to see a pharmaceutical ad that makes absolutely no mention of its product's side effects, or an ED ad that doesn't say something like "Ask your doctor if your heart is healthy enough for sex." As pointed out here, it's almost as if this spot is aimed more at recreational users of Viagra, which seems like a hideously inappropriate thing to do, especially for a prescription medication - it's basically like running ads for methamphetamines. But then nobody ever accused drug companies of being particularly ethical.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Stereotypes that won't fill you up and always let you down

I know this commercial aired during the Super Bowl, but it ran again tonight during the baseball game and I was struck by just how awful it is. It's one thing to not be funny - and Carlos Mencia is definitely not funny - but, well, then there's this shit.

I can't even begin to count all the ways in which this commercial offends my sensibilities. But let's try.

1. It co-opts the form of the already worn-out "white guys talk like this, but black guys talk like this" late-80s schtick as a way of using stereotypes to sell beer.

2. It does so in a way that is thoroughly unfunny, by taking Carlos Mencia's already unfunny act and watering it down even further by distilling it to, "Hispanics say 'holmes,' but New Yorkers ask if you have a problem with that."

3. It attempts to mine cheap laughs out of the fact that people from other countries sometimes pronounce vowel sounds differently than we do. Okay, I lied, this is one of the best things about it. The whole "oo instead of uh" thing that the ad ends with? Comedy fucking gold. The only reason they don't end every commercial with a funny-talkin' Indian guy is that doctors cautioned about a national epidemic of pants-wetting.

4. It unironically tries to use the phrase "no speak English" as a joke, as though no one had ever heard that one before.

5-1,783. It stars Carlos Mencia. I suppose in some ways he's the perfect beer pitchman - he's abrasive, unfunny, and no one is better suited to make awful jokes about thin stereotypes. Sounds like most beer ads, doesn't it?

Sunday, August 12, 2007


The full-length Covet by Sarah Jessica Parker commercial has finally popped up on YouTube:

Friday, August 10, 2007

Me - advertiser! You - stupid moron consumer!

The Sara Lee Corporation just called your mom ugly. And they said your brother's gay. Oh, and they also think you're a fucking moron. How else can you explain this commercial for their Ballpark Frank line:

New low, everybody. New low. Do I even need to break this one down? A teenage boy has a construction worker's forearm Alien its way out of his chest, grabs what could only be an old, stale hot dog (with mustard artfully squiggled on top), and tries to cram it into the boy's mouth. Then it smacks the kid on the face with a tennis racket (that the boy naturally keeps next to his bed, like every teenage boy does.) This is funny? This is appetizing? This is how you sell food?

Then Sara Lee brings it on home with a little touch of class:

Hunger get what hunger want - big, tasty Ballpark Frank

First off, I like how the tagline is written properly on-screen, "Hunger gets what hunger wants," but then the voiceover delivers it like a caveman would talk, or, presumably, like the people who wrote this ad. Secondly, "Hunger get what hunger want"? Mothers who shop for their families are supposed to respond to this and think "Oh, let me add that to the grocery list"?

They also chose "big" and "tasty" as the only modifiers to describe their product. This is somehow informative? This is differentiating? Here's a shortlist of some other things that are "big" and "tasty":

McDonald's "Big n' Tasty"
Wendy's Biggie Fries
A Large Tasty D-Lite
Wendy's Baconator
Wendy's Biggie Frostie
Pretty much anything from Wendy's except, maybe, like a small salad without dressing
Big Daddy's Tasty BBQ Sauce
Pretty much anything from Burger King except, maybe, a napkin
Sara Lee CMO Kim Feil (hey, she had to green-light this shit, right?)

I wish I could say this commercial was the worst of this series. But then Sara Lee came through in a bigger, tastier way:

Hungry yet? Again, I don't need to explain this one, do I. We can all see why 7-year olds might get a kick out of this (hence the reason for the YouTube comments), but anyone with a adult-sized brain? Why would this sell someone on a food product? A huge man's arm just came out of a boy's stomach, grabbed a spittle-coated ort from a girl's mouth, and fed it to the boy. Then he unblushingly accepts the bit of gnawed meat. Mmmmmm! "Big, juicy, pre-chewed Ballpark Franks!"

I love that the girl reacts to the hot dog morsel being removed from her mouth, but doesn't care that a third arm just sigourneyed out of her boyfriend's stomach. But, hey, at least it's hysterical, right? Just some really, really funny stuff there from Sara Lee. In fact, after all that laughing about how inimitably humorous the Ballpark Frank and Hillshire Farm commercials are, I'm getting a bit peckish. Sometimes I wish a disembodied appendage would just shove some cured hog cheek right up my face.

When it does work, it's magic.

Here's a Starbucks commercial that I do find quite winning:

It's just so damn silly, but wouldn't we all appreciate bleachers full of chanting fans and a self-styled mascot cheering us on when our self-esteem needs a little boost? The fact that the mascot can do the worm is just icing on the cake.

Don't guzzle the product! You'll make the audience think it's good!

No YouTube available for this one: Starbucks Iced Coffee (Click "Iced Coffee Italian Roast," then the television.)

By and large, I like Starbucks' iced coffee (the in-store version, at least) a lot. I don't, however, understand why people in this commercial are so exasperated.

Crew member: Speed!

Director: Action!

Voiceover: Starbucks iced coffee, premium Italian roast coffee drink-

Director: Cut! Reset logo.

[A gloved production assistant comes by and turns the can, then spritzes it.]

Crew member: Let's do it again.

Voiceover: A premium Italian roast coffee drink with a hint of nonfat milk and sugar, available now.

Director: Cut! Cut, please!

Look how incredulous the director is, and the PA could not be any more disgusted as she stomps away.

Actor: Wow, that's great coffee! Let's do another take!

This is all in response to the actor demonstrating how great the product is (and maybe holding the can incorrectly, which we saw was easily rectified). It's even in-character for the commercial-within-the-commercial, which takes place on a desert island. If this behavior is worthy of so much disdain, more context is required. A sea of empty cans littering the floor. A digital clock showing that it's 4:00AM. Have an extra mutter "Uh oh, here comes 'Ten Takes Thompson,'" or exposit that the actor failed the bite-and-smile portion of Commercial Acting 101. OR, if the product shot at the end is the prop table, show me empty glasses, suggesting many, many, many takes instead of just "another."

Maybe the crew is dreading the numerous pee breaks that the "actor"'s going to need. Or, more likely, perhaps the "director" and "PA" are just hamming it up in the hopes that TBS will come calling to make a sitcom based on the wacky antics of the coffee commercial crew. Stupider things have happened.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

A confederacy of duh-nces

There are a lot of smug commercials out there, desperate to get you to switch to their product by insinuating that it's the cool or smart thing to do. Very few of them, however, are quite this in-your-face about the viewer's need to clue in.

The "Big Duh" sales event. Someone actually came up with this name, and someone else - indeed, surely an entire room full of people - agreed that it was a great idea and that Hyundai should get started on insulting car buyers by saying that getting a Hyundai is the "duh" thing to do.

The TV ads aren't nearly as bad as the radio ones I've heard, featuring the "World's Smartest Person," an insufferable prick with a British accent whose three claims to fame are his head for not-terribly-obscure trivia, his overwhelming attitude of superiority, and his belief that buying a Hyundai constitutes a "big duh." Fuck that guy right in the ear.

But in the absence of that, the TV versions are plenty bad. First, there's the painful a cappella replacing every note with "duh," as though it's actually easy to distinguish that from any other a cappella note. Fortunately, we have a smarmy voiceover ready to show up at the 12-second mark.

Some self-satisfied dickbag in a recording booth: "The word 'duh.' As in, it's obvious. It's a no-brainer."

This commercial underestimates the viewing public so much that it thinks we need not one but two synonyms for the word "duh," a word (if you can even call it that) of which anyone over the age of five already knows the definition. The guy even sounds like he's talking down to you as he's saying it. And this is Hyundai, for fuck's sake. I would expect this from, I don't know, that guy in the Lexus ads? That guy is a douche.

Dickbag who might, actually, be Kelsey Grammer now that I think about it: "Like a great deal. On a great car."

In J.D. Power and Associates' Initial Quality Study for 2007, Hyundai rated, across the board, "about average." I'm guessing that among the 25 other manufacturers that rated about as good as or better than Hyundai, there are occasionally other great deals to be had. But hell, what do I know?

Dickbag, in somehow even more dickish fashion than before: "Hit the duh switch. The Hyundai Big Duh Sales Event."

Incidentally, are we going to see some proof that Hyundai's cars actually are great, or that their deals are actually good? Most car commercials are endless parades of terms and legalese, and yet Hyundai really just wants you to remember the supposed "Duh"-ness of their deals. Not what they, you know, actually are. But wait, some might actually be coming:

For some reason, a totally different announcer: "Get up to $2000 cash back on a 2007 Hyundai Tucson V6, rated Best in Class vehicle satisfaction by AutoPacific."

I love the term "cash back" because it strikes me as seriously disingenuous. It's a rebate; all that means in the end is that you're being charged a little less. Why not just say "Save $2,000 on a 2007 Hyundai Tucson?" Because people like the idea of "here's some cash!" Also, it makes your cars sound less cheap if you pretend they cost more and then just turn around and hand the money over. It's win-win!

And just why is the Duh Tabernacle Choir singing the Mission: Impossible theme? The cars in this ad are SUVs and compact SUVs. Am I supposed to think that these reliably average cars are somehow sexy or appealing? Come on, Hyundai, everyone knows your niche. Like, duh.

Monday, August 6, 2007


This commercial makes me ill.

No, what makes me ill is not the opening twelve seconds, featuring middle-aged men's heads pasted onto young women's bodies, shrieking at an unseen celebrity. That's pretty awful, don't get me wrong, but it's where things go from there.

Announcer: "Obsessing over celebrity, that's wrong. Unless that celebrity is bacon."

First of all, bacon is not a person, therefore it's not a "celebrity." Second of all, while there are many people with unhealthy obsessions with celebrities, few of them are so literally unhealthly as an obsession with bacon would be. But do continue.

Announcer: "Introducing the Baconator from Wendy's! Six strips of bacon-"

All right, just stop right there. Six strips of bacon. Six motherfucking strips of greasy fried pork, dumped on top of what is already a two-patty hamburger with cheese. I can't believe there's a place that has the nerve to sell this. Ready for some nutrition facts?

Baconator: 276 g weight; 830 calories; 51 g fat; 170 mg cholesterol; 1920 mg sodium.

Sweet Jesus. Well, who can compete with that? The worst burger on McDonalds' standard menu, the double Quarter Pounder with cheese, has nearly 100 fewer calories, 9 fewer grams of fat, less cholesterol, and more than 500 fewer mg of sodium. Burger King has Wendy's beat if you get a Triple Whopper, but the Triple Whopper also weighs almost 200 grams more than the Baconator. In other words, there's really no other way to get something so horrible in such a small package.

Obsess over bacon? That's really how they're going to promote this? Obsess. Obsess over a horrible, fat-laden, salted meat product that will fucking kill you if you eat it like a pig. Why is this okay? They can't run cigarette ads on TV, and even alcohol ads have to pay lip service to personal responsibility by encouraging the viewer to "drink responsibly." So how do fast food chains keep getting away with stuff like this? Haven't we reached a point yet where people should be forcing Wendy's to stick a graphic on the screen saying how many calories their Fibrillator - sorry, Baconator - contains?

I'm all for personal responsibility, but a commercial like this is the food equivalent of a commercial showing a guy chugging four cans of beer and then going, "Ahh, Budweiser!" You'd never see that on television, so what's Wendys' excuse? I'm getting a tiny tongue-in-cheek vibe, but it's not nearly evident enough. And anyway, they're selling this monstrosity, so it's not like they don't want you to consume hideous amounts of bacon. They want you to cram bacon and beef and cheese into your face, and they would love it if you did so on a daily basis, or even more frequently. They know how bad this shit is for you, but they don't care. They've posted the nutrition facts, so they've done their job - never mind that merely offering such a product is completely disgusting. The "this is why Americans are fat" tag has never been so aptly deployed.

Is it supposed to be a spoof or not?

The commercial for Covet by Sarah Jessica Parker can't decide.

Unfortunately, the only version available on YouTube was a truncated version. Toward the conclusion of the full-length version, she pleads with the policeman in the car for "just a little spritz, s'il vous plaƮt." And you know, it's cool if she wants to poke a little fun at the super-serious Calvin Klein fragrance ads of the 1990s, but you have to commit to the whole concept. You can't start out with "check out this spoof!" and then end with "but seriously now, look how quasi-noir I am."

In conclusion, WTF.

Sunday, August 5, 2007


I'm pretty sure this is supposed to be tongue-in-cheek; William Shatner does almost no unironic acting these days. But even so:

Ew. Sexualizing hotel prices isn't as creepy as sexualizing food, but it's still just awful, no matter how funny it was supposed to be. William Shatner cracking out his bedroom voice? His wizened hand sliding over the woman's as smooth jazz plays? I guess Priceline's secret price-lowering tactic is just to creep hotel staff out until they cave in.

Shatner: So... I got a guy who needs a hotel room.
Clerk: It's $200 a night.
Shatner: You seem a little tense. What if I were to give you a relaxing shoulder massage? Hmm? I brought my own oil...
Clerk: Jesus, okay, $99 a night. Just don't touch me.