Sunday, September 23, 2007

Rolling on the floor ranting my ass off

Say you brought Dane Cook, Jay Mohr and Sinbad into a room together, gave them all the weed and booze they wanted, and told them to make jokes for 12 straight hours. You'd probably wind up with a good amount of mediocre-to-dismal comedy. Even their least funny utterance, however, would be a laugh riot compared to this unspeakably rancid ad:

Mother: Beth Ann, 3,000 texts last month?

Beth Ann is kind of a strange name to pick for a :30 spot. Aren't the names supposed to be commonplace, simple and unobtrusive? Anyway, apparently the daughter text messages a lot on her phone. Continue with this premise - I like where it's headed!

Beth Ann: (in mid-text message) NWRUS?

Ahh, people talking as though they were texting! Yes, this was necessary. Someone needed to use this idea on national television. This kind of hilarity was just begging for air time.

Also, "NWRUS" returns just over 1,000 hits on Google. This is not internet slang. This is annoying tripe a copywriter just shat out.

Mother: (to Beth Ann) That wasn't a compliment. (to son) Sean, 1,000 texts?!
Sean: U-G-H.

What? "Ugh" is a motherfreaking word! Sean isn't using text message shorthand, he's just spelling out a regular word. Not that I endorse showcasing obnoxious internet slang as your ad concept, but was there nothing else you could think of that would make sense? Why not just make up something like you did with Beth Ann's line? "Mother: Sean, 1,000 texts?! Sean: HSTASAB (Holy Shit This Ad Sucks Ape Balls)."

Also, is it not doubly offensive that they thought they needed to show "Ugh" in subtitles?

Mother: (to grandma) And you, you're old enough to know better.
Grandma: MYOB, will ya?

Again, thank you for spelling out "will ya" on-screen.

Father: (admonishing) Grandma...
Mother: Mom, who could you be texting?
Grandma: IDK, my BFF Rose?

Now, this line, aside from being the most odious one in the entire spot, is a reference to this other brain-punishing commercial. But take a look at grandma's line there. Read it aloud. Stare at the abbreviations on the screen. Let it fester in your head for a few minutes until you start getting twitchy. Now realize that someone had to find that funny. Someone had to say, "Yep, go ahead and make that commercial." Someone thought, "This is the best possible way to represent our family text plan - by annoying the sweet, living motherfuck out of every human who sees our ad."

On the upside, I believe Cingular is the first company ever to make an ad that utilizes the inherent comedy in "old people humorously doing something normally only young people do."

EDIT: After doing some research, it turns out I was wrong. Cingular is, in fact, the 17,615th brand to use this comedic device in an ad. They were just behind Chicken In A Biskit, but, strangely, beat out PoliGrip.

Announcer: Now get a texting plan the whole family can NJOY.

Again, this is not even a thing! "NJOY"?!? You cannot mix comedic devices like that! You cannot use both real abbreviations and ones-you-just-made-up interchangeably! I hope the hacks who banged this one out could finally retire after this aired.

Announcer: Cingular's name is now AT&T.

Then why do we keep having to suffer Cingular commercials?

Overall, we deserve better than this. America deserves better. I feel bad for my television that it had to show me this ad. I feel bad for myself that I had to sit here and transcribe it. The thing is -- no one enjoys having to text. I think we'd all prefer, if we could, to communicate in a real way. If not in person then at least over the phone. Texting sucks. Texting is something you do when you'd rather be speaking, or you'd rather not be communicating at all with someone. Along with PowerPoint, text messaging has set back the English language to Newspeak levels. This commercial, aside from being shamefully unfunny, only encourages the further acceptance of ludicrous abbreviations and moronic-sounding slang into our language and our culture. We need to fight back! Speak in complete sentences! Read Strunk & White! Google words you don't understand! Mute hacky commercials that try to talk to you like you're stupid!

One day, these poor souls who have commented on this ad on YouTube with crap like "lo lol lol lol lol lol!!!!!!!!" and "'MYOB will ya.' lol so funny!" will watch or read or listen to something that's actually funny. It almost certainly will not be a television commercial. But it will improve their brains to the point where they might think about ads like Cingular's and wonder how they ever humored that kind of garbage at all.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Good grades are overrated!

On a very basic level, I guess I can appreciate what the Foundation for a Better Life is trying to do. Their mission statement, according to their website, is "to encourage adherence to a set of quality values through personal accountability and by raising the level of expectations of performance of all individuals regardless of religion or race." Nothing wrong with that, right?

Here's the problem I have with this: the reason it's not a big deal that Einstein didn't have good grades in grammar school is that he turned out to be Albert Fucking Einstein. I know what they're trying to do with this billboard, but it ends up being counterintuitive - the unintentional message is that there's nothing wrong with getting bad grades, which is of course total horseshit. There is nothing wrong with getting bad grades, I suppose, if you're so much of a genius that you're capable of writing equations that sum up grand, sweeping laws of the universe. To how many people does this actually apply?

Also, "As a student, he was no Einstein" is dumb because of course he was. The reason Einstein didn't always do well in school is because he was far too smart for the teaching methods being used at the schools he attended. It's important to remember that this is almost certainly not true of your kid. Moreover, the amorphous notion of "confidence" has fuck-all to do with it, as I think Einstein himself would probably tell you.

This one just annoys me. "Believe in yourself?" Look, I don't care how many movies they made, Shrek is not a real person. He is a movie character, and everything that happens to him was scripted that way. This isn't like, "Queen Elizabeth was once a lowly maid until she saved a prince's life and he decided to marry her!" Some screenwriter said, "Hey, Shrek is the main character in our kids' movie; do you think, as the hero, he should succeed?" And then the others said, "Of course!" And now it's on a billboard. Sure, it's important to believe in yourself. But we really couldn't find anyone who actually exists in real life to illustrate this point? I'm actually kind of offended that the Foundation thinks a cartoon character is a better illustration of the human spirit than a genuine human being is.

For example, wouldn't "Believe in Yourself" have worked pretty well on this one? Instead they went with the one that makes me laugh in that "going straight to hell" sort of way. "Vision! Pass it on! Seriously, pass it to this guy. Clearly he could use some."

Advertising from 40,000 feet, Part the Second

More travel recently, which means more time spent thumbing through my favorite source of utter nonsense -- SkyMall. I know this is basically fish in a barrel, but I can't resist delving into some of the more unforgivably stupid offerings in this catalog.

What matter of man are you if you don't own a Chair Valet?

Every gentleman deserves a personal Valet at his service...this one even offers a Chair!

Offers a chair? It is a chair. In fact, that's basically all it is.

Unique valet includes a 16.5" x 16" padded leather chair you can sit on while putting socks and shoes on!

Finally! Someone invents a chair I can sit on. I've been doing hand-stands on my chairs for far too long. And are you telling me I no longer need to put socks and shoes on while levitating? Sold!

Tie, belt or suspenders hang at the sides on two extendable posts.

Sweet. I do enjoy transferring accessories that are already hanging in my closet somewhere else where I can rehang them.

Includes a 4.5"-deep drawer beneath the seat for additional storage.

Can I puke into the drawer, too, when I realize how insane this chair is that I just bought?

Please specify light walnut or dark mahogany finish.

There is no way anyone buying this could possibly care about matching wood shades.


Hahahaha. Good Lord.

Under most circumstances, I would respect a product called the Hot Diggity Dogger. Shows a sense of humor. This, however, is going a bit too far...

Pop-up Hot Dog Cooker

Hey, sometimes a pop-up hot dog cooker is just a pop-up hot dog cooker.

Simply drop hot dogs in the center basket, and the buns in the two warming chambers

Gee, that does sound simple. Also, delicious.

on either side: the 660-watt heating coil has time settings so you can heat to your taste preference.

My taste prefernce is usually "cooked." I know there are roughly 14,560 wrong things with this "unique kitchen appliance" (appliance!?), but is anyone else completely skeeved by the fact that a toaster is cooking both a meat tube and a bread product together? Also, you better be a ballpark concessionaire or be some kind of teenage hot dog-hoarding ogre in order to make this product worth the $50.

Somewhere, Auguste Rodin is weeping...

Thinking Out of the Box

Isn't the phrase "thinking outside the box"?

Only those who see the invisible can do the impossible.

You know what makes me brainstorm my best ideas? Hackneyed, fortune cookie-quality aphorisms. The only reason I called this product out specifically is -- look at that thing! That is one of the most poorly-rendered ... anything... I've ever seen. I could have created a better likeness of The Thinker with a coat hanger and a refrigerator magnet.

Finally, let's bring it on home with some myopic motivational bullshit...

Determination (Grand Slam)

Ahh yeah... a picture of a hitter putting some serious wood on that ball. "Outta here!" Hah ha -- yes! Just one thing, though -- what if you're a pitcher?

Next post I promise to take an especially bad, big budget television commercial to task.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Like Rainn on your wedding day

Rainn Wilson, you're better than this.

This is just one of a series of commercials, each as stupid as the other, assumedly designed to tie in with the Women's World Cup, going on right now. I have several problems with this ad, as you might guess, since that is why we do this site.

For starters, what kind of a joke is "Jim Mike"? The fact that his last name is also a first name has to be a joke of some kind, right? Yet there is nothing at all funny about it. I suppose it could be an oblique reference to the clueless boss character on "The Office," who has two first names in both versions (David Brent in the UK and Michael Scott in the US), and on the American version of which Wilson gained his present fame. But that only makes it a stupid joke with a point.

For that matter, why did this character need a name at all? And why is he the focal point of the commercial, and of all the ads in this series? It's pretty ironic that a series of ads suggesting you pay more attention to the US women's soccer team does nothing so much as draw all your attention away from the US women's soccer team. You know why they're the best team we've never heard of? Because Rainn Wilson just keeps yelling and you don't let them talk. Here's how the pitch meeting probably went:

Exec 1: So, we're thinking Rainn Wilson. You know, Dwight from "The Office."
US Team's Agent: Oh, cool, I love "The Office!" What would he be doing?
Exec 2: He'd be like, running around, being all crazy. And the team would be kind of staring at him, like, "Who's this dork?"
Agent: Okay...
Exec 1: Then, at the end, they'd all be kind of glaring at the camera.
Agent: Would they say anything?
Exec 2: I feel like "talking" would kind of ruin the mystique.
Agent: But this is an ad about how bad it is that no one's heard of the team...
Exec 1: Yeah.
Agent: And the team is just going to be standing around.
Exec 2: If it helps, think of them as the "straight man" - like the Stan Laurel of this ad.
Agent: Is that even remotely accurate?
Exec 2: Well, no.
Exec 1: Okay, six words: "Rainn Wilson in a sports bra."
Agent: Oh wow, is that the time?

The further irony of this commercial is that the US women's soccer team really isn't that invisible, or at least hasn't been in recent memory. The ad even makes indirect reference to Brandi Chastain's infamous shirt removal at the 1999 World Cup, which everyone and their mother has seen by this point and which helped make the women's national team a household name, if only for a few weeks.

I also hate this ad because it uses one of my least favorite devices - the "here's a guy doing something stupid and/or wacky, and it's not really funny, but the joke is that everyone else in the ad thinks it's not funny, too" ploy. It's like a cheap trick to build common ground. "Hey, you thought the guy in a sports bra was stupid, right? Well, so did the US women's soccer team! Look, they kicked a ball at him! Don't you love them now?"

More historical hatred.

I think it's the mark of a good commercial that, after I saw this ad, I refused to purchase a pair of gel insoles even though I thought it'd be a great idea and I really wanted one, and this was because the ads were so stupid and it was the principle of the thing not to reward them for their stupidity. Oh, hold on. No, that's not the mark of a good commercial at all.

Potentially my most hated professionally designed ad campaign of all time.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


This isn't a political blog, so I'm not going to touch the possibility that this commercial is intended to reinforce the "Republicans = strong while Democrats = soft" agenda with a ten-foot pole. Fortunately I don't have to, because that's not really why it sucks.

Truly, Charmin's obsession with bears - specifically, with bears shitting - has hit an all-time low. At least in previous ads it sort of made sense - first of all, the bears were depicted in the woods, and second of all, the slogan used to be "Best for Bear Bottoms." Sure, the bears could communicate telepathically, which is kind of creepy, but at least it all fit together.

Now, however, the bears are pulled completely out of their element. They're running down the beach in a clear Chariots of Fire homage, although Handel's Messiah is playing since that's in the public domain while Vangelis' score for Chariots is not, and if you were Vangelis, would you allow the licensing rights to your most enduring work to be sold for an ad that was going to play it over bear asses?

Also, they're running down the beach, kind of heavily lumbering and looking uncomfortable. If you have to shit as much as these bears evidently do, why would you attempt to run, especially on an uneven surface like sand? And wouldn't it make way more sense for the "Hallelujah" chorus to kick in after they see the outhouses? Instead you've got the choir rolling over the inexplicable gyrating-cartoon-bear-asses shot that made me profoundly uncomfortable. I know Charmin makes toilet paper and there's got to be some reference to how one uses their product in their ads, but given how the copy itself always tippy-toes around its specific function - kind of Metamucil-esque - I'm routinely confounded by the insistence on making direct visual references to pre-shit (and sometimes mid-shit) bears.

Speaking of copy:

Announcer: "Introducing a new world of Charmin!"

A new world? Aren't we overstating it just a bit? If they were playing Dvořák's Ninth Symphony I might accept this as just the most erudite reference in advertising history, but they're not.

Announcer: "New Charmin Ultra Strong, for those who want a little more strength, and Charmin Ultra Soft, for those who want a little more softness."

They couldn't have diversified their word choices even a little more than that? "Strong for strength! Soft for softness! For those who want a little more!" I'm glad you were able to work so much information on the product in there.

Announcer: "Rediscover Charmin. Choose the one that's best for you!"

Frankly, I'm a little worried by someone who wants to use something "stronger" on their most sensitive areas while in the bathroom. "Say, Mabel, hand me that sandpaper, will ya? Yeah, I really need something with a little more strength when I'm wiping... OH GOD! SWEET MOTHER OF FUCK! WHY AM I DOING THIS??? Ah, all clean."

[cartoon bears pound fists]

Wait a minute - was that Charmin actually trying to work some street cred in there? Good try, but it might work better if the chamber music and outhouses didn't peg the rest of the commercial at somewhere around the year 1750.

You really have to love the combination of the Messiah oratorio with the heavenly beam of light when the bears near the portable toilets, though. Two new types of toilet paper, one slightly stronger and one slightly softer. That's about on par with the return of Christ in glory, isn't it?

Friday, September 7, 2007

Chewable aphrodisiac

Some "historical hate" here in the form of a several year-old Dentyne gum ad:

Let me list off what's deeply concerning about this commercial:
1. The idea that cinnamon gum (something you put in your mouth) makes you want to have spontaneous sex
2. Having spontaneous sex (no matter how gum-inspired) in front of your parents
3. Acting nonchalant when your daughter is ripping off her boyfriend's clothes in your living room
4. Getting turned on by the sight of your daughter furiously making out with her boyfriend
5. Having spontaneous sex (no matter how gum-inspired) in front of your kids
6. Patently orgasmic "Oh, Kevin!!" scream at end of commercial

I think if you take those 6 things away, you've got yourself a pretty good commercial. Or at least you have a commercial that isn't fundamentally disturbing.

I did a little digging around on the internets, and I found a proprietary document from the former Dentyne Brand Manager. I probably shouldn't be posting this, and I can't reveal how exactly I found it, but I think this helps explain the commercial for those of us who were left a little confused. Here's the info, from a Word file titled "HowToMakeGoodAdsLikeDentyne's.doc":

9 Steps to Great, Hysterical Commercials
Step 1: Fire ad agency
Step 2: Assemble focus group of 13 year-old boys (suggestion: use beer as payment)
Step 3: Ask boys what they think is funny and/or cool
Step 4: Select very first idea as your "ad concept"
Step 5: Take idea home, drink fifth of whiskey, write commercial script, pass out
Step 6: Wake up on bathroom floor, fish script out of trash
Step 7: Without editing script, drive to shoot, make ad
Step 8: Wait for ad to be uploaded on YouTube, laugh at "hilarious" comments posted by other 13 year-olds who don't necessarily buy your product
Step 9: Once sales have plummeted, find new job, repeat steps 1-8

Illuminating, no? Really helps put my mind at ease. Makes you wonder if the guy(s) who made this Dentyne commercial didn't have a hand in some other ads featured on this site...

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Advertising from 40,000 feet

I've been doing some traveling recently, and I've spent a good amount of time bored on planes. Air travel brings out the best (e.g. Southwest "Wanna get away?" ads) and worst (e.g. entire SkyMall catalog) in advertising, so here is an example of one thing the airlines got right, and one thing that went horribly, horribly wrong.

This is a simple package of peanuts on the low cost carrier AirTran:

The front of the package says, "How to Eat Gourmet Pretzels on a Low-Fare Airline." Kind of an odd message on a bag of in-flight snacks, and it made me turn the package over to read the "Complete Details." I couldn't get a good photo or scan of the back of the package, so here's what it says:

1. Think about our wonderful low fares at as you open packet.
2. Place a pretzel in mouth. With each crunch, be reminded of our low fares.
3. As you swallow, remember again just how low the fares are.
4. Repeat until pretzel packet is empty.
5. Keep empty packet to remind yourself to book at for our lowest fares and no booking fees.

Pretty clever. I like the idea of giving pretzel-eating instructions. The copy is intentionally hard-hitting, but if you do take the time to read the packet, you are indeed reminded that AirTran is a low-cost airline. That's the whole point: getting one message (i.e. "Our flights are cheap at") across to the consumer in a simple, direct way. It's free advertising, too -- AirTran is guaranteed that every one of its customers sees this pretzel package, and they made sure it carried their message. The light-hearted delivery even makes it enjoyable to read.

Now, for the bad. This is an ad in the in-flight magazine on the same AirTran flight:

Who doesn't want to place a slab of meat on something called the Big Green EGG? And if the idea of grilling up the family Fourth-of-July meal on an EGG appeals to you, I hope you like the color green. Because that's apparently what you're getting.

The supporting copy is hard to read on this photo, so here are some highlights:

What's Different About The EGG? Space-Age Ceramics Make It EGGstraordinary
Okay, you totally called it "Big Green EGG" just so you could use that "EGGstraordinary" bit. I have to give it up, that's a good one! I'm sold. May I also add that this Big Green EGG is made "EGGspecially for you"? Or that it grills "EGGceedingly well"? Incidentally, do puns in headlines ever sell products? EGGsactly.

Also, "Space-Age" ceramics? If anyone believes this, I've got a Space-Aged bridge to sell you.

Natural lump charcoal gives food terrific taste
What does this have to do with the EGG, exactly? Excuse me, EGGsactly? Natural lump charcoal is something you'd buy separately and put into this grill, or smoker, or whatever it is. This would be like an ad for a typewriter claiming that writing the great American novel would be terrific.

Double-wall high-tech ceramics make it durable and fuel efficient (sic on the lack of hyphenation)
There we go again with this new-fangled ceramics. Did an alien infuse the ceramic shell with invisible grilling rays? Is there a force-field around the EGG that reconstitutes the material if it falls over and breaks? This is ceramics we're talking about, not an iPhone.

Bakes better than a brick oven - pizza, bread, even dessert
"Honey, the steaks and scones are ready out here on the grill!"

Turkey, ribs, chicken, burgers, fish & veggies - the EGG does them all effortlessly
Ostrich, alpaca, turtle giblets, carrier pigeon, dolphin shanks & Dippin' Dots - the EGG does them all. Whatever "does" means.

Ahh, poorly-written ads just make in-flight magazines EGGstra special.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Fantasy Rule #1: Be as obnoxious as possible

Lately I've found myself getting more and more annoyed with the omnipresence of football in this country. I like football, but there are entire three-hour radio shows devoted to talking about it in the middle of the offseason. That's overkill. Also overkill? The growth of fantasy football, which has itself led to radio and TV shows devoted entirely to which player you should take, as well as commercials like this:

I am going to go on record here: yes, there is an excuse for missing your fantasy football draft. In fact, I can think of an awful lot of things more important than fantasy football. Besides, I'm going to assume that the couple getting married had their wedding planned out pretty far in advance. Did none of this guy's draft buddies get his "save the date" card? Oh, what am I thinking - they're sports-loving men! The card probably came in a pink envelope, which means that just looking at it gave them hives.

Truth be told, though, this commercial probably doesn't go far enough. By being funny, the NFL is hedging a little bit; we know they sincerely believe that this guy should have made time for his draft, since that's the product they're selling, but they're hiding it just a little behind the joke. So here are some other concepts I think they could use in future commercials just so no one is unclear on the NFL's stance:

* The guy being called is in a hospital room, about to be handed his newborn child

* The guy being called is at his mother's funeral

* The guy being called is in a hospital room in a full body cast

* The guy being called is in the middle of a marriage counseling session with his fed-up wife

* The guy being called is lying dead on the floor as the phone rings in the background

Pierce uses everybody.

This is so blatantly manipulative that I'm surprised that it isn't an SNL parody commercial.

If the kid is savvy enough to know that she should whisper the line "He's making a lot more money," I don't for a second believe that she's simperingly naïve enough to refer to the website as "this thing called" (which her mommy "gave" to her father) rather than saying "my mommy told my daddy about a website called" She's gonna be a sleazy snake oil peddler when she grows up, just like dad!

Does the salesman look familiar to you? Remember this?

Say, little lady, does your mommy know that your daddy is running around on her? Did she see the generic blonde getting out of your daddy's sports car in the last three seconds of the commercial? And to add insult to injury, does your mommy know that your daddy is passing off SalesGenie as his own "work smarter" idea, instead of telling his young protegé that his wife bailed his ass out of the ignominious hell of low-tier salesmanship?

Also, he's just rolled up in a burgundy SUV. Did he sell the sports car to cover his ass? Wait a minute, that white gabled house isn't even the same McMansion we saw in the last commercial! He's got a whole other secret life.

Sorry, I got distracted by the details. Psst, kid, the audience might not have heard how excited you are about the puppies, and that's the money shot. Say it again! "Puppy! Puppy!" Then again, there *are* two of them. Maybe I'm being too cynical and she's just showing off her puppy counting abilities.