Wednesday, November 28, 2007

O Come All Ye Faithful, Come and Buy a Hyundai

Hyundai's "Duh" ads, you may recall from this very site some months ago, suck. They're supremely annoying, curiously vague, and obnoxiously smug. But at least they didn't used to look like this:

Here is how the conversation went when this ad first came on:

Knitwear M. Groundhog: At least they picked secular songs. Oh wait, here comes a lamb. Where's God?
Windier E. Megatons: Maybe God's the car.

I mean, way to go, Hyundai. Take the worst of your own ads - the stupid faux-scat-singing, the awful smugness of your announcer - and then combine that with the worst of Mazda's ads! The choir, the positioning of the car as a religious icon being worshipped... seriously, nice job. Utterly savvy marketing sense. As usual, nothing says Christmas like crass commercialism.

Of course, you'll note that Hyundai pointedly uses only secular songs - other ads I've seen in this series have used "O Tannenbaum" and "Carol of the Bells," neither of which is overtly religious in the way that, say, the otherwise mainstream "Joy to the World" is. "Winter Wonderland" is particularly secular in that it doesn't even mention Christmas by name (nor does the ad itself), and for that matter it's not even set in a specific month; the lyrical happenings could well be taking place in February (ironically, that link calls it a Christmas song several times despite the fact that it's nowhere in the lyrics).

The question becomes this: is it more sacrilegious or less sacrilegious if you use a totally secular Christmas song and then put a traditional representation of Jesus - the lamb - into the middle of your ad? I think it's pretty bad either way. There are only two explanations here. One is that Hyundai didn't know that the lamb is a common representation of Jesus (unlikely); the other is that they actively wanted that association. If they wanted it, are they really trying to suggest that Jesus would want you to buy a Hyundai? Even in the Mazda tradition, that seems awfully blasphemous. So let's give Hyundai the benefit of the doubt; maybe we should be seeing the lamb being brought forward as part of a presentation scene. Perhaps the car is for the lamb - i.e., Jesus.

[Setting: Nazareth, 16 AD]
Balthasar: Happy birthday, Jesus.
Jesus: Oh man, a car! This rules! Thanks, Balthasar, you're the greatest!
Melchior: Hey, uh, Balthasar, can we talk to you for a minute?
Balthasar: What's up, guys?
Caspar: I thought we went over this, dude. You were supposed to get him myrrh, just like I got the frankincense, and Melchior got the gold... same thing we do every year.
Balthasar: Okay, you know what, you guys got the useful gifts. Myrrh? Fucking myrrh? That's like the shittiest gift ever. "Here you go, Jesus, something that's only useful if you want to work in a funeral home." And you guys won't ever let me give him the gold once and say it's from me. So yeah, I saved up and got him a car. He's 16, he's got his license now, whatever!
Melchior: Just... you know, we're gonna seem like cheapskates now.
Caspar: Whatever, man, you get him gold every year! How do you think I feel?
Melchior: You see, Balthasar? Now Caspar's crying. I hope you're feeling really good about yourself.

I hope Hyundai is feeling really good about themselves as well. It's bad enough you're going to insult the intelligence of the viewer - now you're trying to imply that Jesus himself approves of your cars? Next time maybe stick with that first secular impulse and display your Motor Trend award like Mazda did. Oh, I guess you didn't win one. Duh.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Non-linear narrative.

I get that this woman is enjoying her whirlwind of holiday cheer:

But what in God's name is going on with the child's makeup in the very first shot? For the entire rest of the commercial I was distracted from all of the other products Kohl's seems to be promoting because I didn't understand why the five year old's face was tarted up like a Vegas showgirl. In addition, why the one poor little boy whose parents dressed him as a toy soldier while the other children seem to be wearing normal (if a bit festive) clothes? Why the oversized chalkboard in the dining room, which is, for some reason, a giant skating rink?

I like to think that this is a dream sequence from a woman who's really in a nuthouse somewhere, twirling around in an empty cell.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Dressing up is hard to do

Wendy's is really starting to piss me off.

I don't think it's even worth addressing how fucking stupid the Wendy's hair is at this point. It's stupid, we all know it's stupid, I'm sure even Wendy's knows it's stupid but is willing to stay the course for branding purposes. Whatever. What annoys me about this one is it's a classic example of that brilliant logical fallacy, the false dichotomy. Wendy's presents two options - their burger, and this ridiculous, nonexistent other burger. Because the other burger is ridiculous, Wendy's must be great, right? Right?

This actually goes beyond the false dichotomy, because it starts from a stupid premise. A burger that sings Air Supply songs is retarded and an obvious ploy ("Hey, remember Air Supply? They sucked, right? Burger King fucking loves Air Supply!"), but it's not what's stupid here, since we can all recognize it as a joke, if a terrible one. (Surprise.) What's stupid is that Wendy's is making fun of other chains for "dressing up" their burgers. Two questions:

(1) What does that even mean? Pickles?
(2) What could it possibly mean that wouldn't encompass the act of "dressing up" a burger with bacon and jalapeƱos as well? Answer: nothing. Note to Wendy's: if you're going to set up your commercial as an attack on your competitors, do us all a favor and attack in a way that makes a lick of sense.

One last thing: why does Wendy's have to make their spokesperson such a douchebag? First he names the burger (smugly), then describes all the ingredients - in that way no one does - and then puts the cherry on top by sticking the burger into his friend/coworker's face in apparent gloating fashion. If someone did that to me with their lunch I'd fucking spit on it. They'd probably be mad now, but later, when they're not dying of a heart attack, they'd thank me.

Thursday, November 22, 2007


Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I know that SkyMall posts are kind of Quivering's thing, but he's not the only one who gets on a plane from time to time. And SkyMall posts are so easy - there's fish in a barrel, and then there's frozen fish fillets that you get at the supermarket, take into your backyard, allow to defrost, then drop on the ground and blast with a shotgun. That's SkyMall.

Jesus, finally. You know how many times I've been setting up a puppet show and thinking, "This bulky wooden theater requires too large a dedicated space and definitely too extensive a setup?" Put it this way: if I had a nickel for every time that happened, I'd have something on the order of zero nickels. But those days are history thanks to this incredibly useful product, which in no way appeals to only ten people on the entire planet. I love how they open with "This is the puppet theater that fits into a doorway as small as 28" in seconds." The puppet theater. "Oh yeah, I heard about that! It was the lead story on the news last week - someone finally invented a puppet theater that fits into a doorway as small as 28" in seconds! And this is the puppet theater they were talking about! I can't believe SkyMall got the rights to it!"

I guess I would believe that children will find a way to spill onto just about anything, but the placement of this forkful of spaghetti and meatballs really has me wondering. Wasn't the kid sitting on the chair? How on earth did that food end up in a location that should have been, I don't know, directly underneath the kid's butt?

Mom: Gosh, it only just occurred to me, Paul - we could probably save a lot of messes if we actually allowed the kids to sit on the chairs, rather than eating their dinner while standing over them.
Dad: No need, Diane. I got these 12-dollar pieces of plastic from SkyMall. We're eating just how we always eat.
Mom: Oh, Paul! I love you!

I'm pretty sure that "no need to leave your case of wine behind when traveling" refers to people who buy wine while on trips and have a hard time getting it home, but I think it's a lot funnier - since it's not especially clear - to read it the other way.

Businessman 1: If you think I'm going on this business trip without my twelve bottles of wine, you're crazy.
Businessman 2: Wait, Jim! Check out this SkyMall catalog!
Businessman 1: Well, it's about time someone met my embarrassing, drunken needs! San Diego Airport Hilton, here we come!

There is a serious problem with the scale in this picture. If the machine is actually next to the pile of what I'm taking to be regular-sized donuts at the left, then the mini-donuts at the right are probably about the size of a fingernail. You're going to sell these?

Kid: Mister! Mister! Want to support my basketball team by buying this Ziploc bag full of donuts?
Man: You mean those twelve tiny donuts that are each about the size of a dime? Uh, okay, how much?
Kid: Four dollars. ... Hey, where are you going?

This one kills me, because it's been in the SkyMall catalog for years and either no one has noticed the mistake or they just refuse to admit it's wrong.

Jackson apostrophe S. That's right. Apostrophe S. No! That is not how it works! Multiple Jacksons live at 1735 Highland Blvd, clearly. Either you want just The Jacksons, or to indicate possession you want The Jacksons'. The Jackson's doesn't mean anything unless one person lives there and his name is The Jackson. Which I really doubt. And it's not like SkyMall just hasn't changed the picture - I saw one of these signs in real life a few weeks ago and it had the misplaced apostrophe just like in the picture. Ye gods. Spellcheck is sending this country's grammar to hell in a handbasket.

Infomercial Straight Man: I love cats, but they're so much work. Can't I get all the benefits of owning a cat - food and veterinary expenses, nasty litterbox smells, hair all over the furniture - without any of the hassle of playing with one?
Infomercial Pitch Man: Now you can, with the revolutionary Safe Laser Beam Toy! It'll keep your cat busy playing for hours, freeing you to do other things until the next time you have to bend over and scoop his shit into a bag.
Infomercial Straight Man: Finally, a product that works for me! [gives camera a thumbs-up]

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

I can't legally tell you that I'm handsome and this post is hilarious

Most ads run with a list of claims about the product being advertised, and don't really think twice about necessarily having to prove those claims within that 30 seconds. This one from Panasonic goes about it a bit differently.

Here's the issue I have: if Panasonic can legally say those things - and I'm not well-versed in commercial law, but I'm not sure I know a good reason why they can't - then they should just say them, rather than using this odd framing device. If they can't legally say those things, then how on earth are they getting away with running an ad like this?

Scene: A California courtroom, 1995
Johnnie Cochran: Mr. Fuhrman, is it true that you once used the N-word to describe black people?
Mark Fuhrman: I can't legally answer that question by saying that O.J. Simpson is guilty as sin.
Johnnie Cochran: Um, move to strike.

I mean, really? There are laws against making mildly hyperbolic but basically accurate claims about your product that are so weak they can be circumvented simply by running an ad that says "This thing I'm telling you? Technically I can't tell you that. But here I am, doing it anyway"?

Voice-over: "Legally, we cannot say Toughbook laptops will withstand fire, take a bullet, or secure classified material."

If Toughbook laptops can actually withstand fire and/or take bullets, I'm pretty sure you're okay to tell us that. Hell, run an ad that shows a Toughbook laptop taking a bullet and being fine; that'd be pretty memorable, a lot more so than this one is. Now, if they can't do those things, you probably shouldn't be implying that they can, don't you think? That might present a legal problem no matter how you're couching it. But at least these are fairly specific things. Now it's time to move into the "broad, unverifiable" range of things they can't say Toughbooks do.

Voice-over: "We can't say they save lives, build cities, or tune cars that finish first."

"We can't legally tell you that Toughbook laptops can pick winning lottery numbers, balance your checkbook, or get you a date with Jessica Biel. We can't say they won the last six Super Bowls, developed a viable plan to end our reliance on foreign oil within a decade, or are the only things besides cockroaches that will survive a nuclear strike. And we definitely can't say they have a robot arm that will come out and give you a handjob."

You know why they can't say Toughbooks save lives or build cities? Because they don't. Humans who use Toughbooks - maybe - do those things. It's not quite on the same level as a yes-or-no question about whether or not the Toughbook's casing can withstand a bullet. Still, would it have been that much of a legal problem simply to run a normal ad showing a doctor using a Toughbook and saying that Toughbooks help save lives? I mean, the other Toughbook ad I've seen is far less equivocal than this one, even going so far as to state that you can work anywhere and risk nothing by using a Toughbook. So what the fuck is Panasonic doing in this ad?

Voice-over: "Legally, we can't say we are the king of all laptops."

Actually, last year a Toughbook became the first laptop to ascend to the Danish throne. So I'm pretty sure they're in the clear here. (Nice shift from third person plural to first person plural, by the way. Did this copy get proofread before production?)

Voice-over: "Our lawyers are just doing their jobs."

Too bad you can't say the same for the people at your ad agency.

Monday, November 19, 2007

From the Dept. of Faint Praise...

I saw this banner ad on today...

Makes you wonder what the other guys were saying, doesn't it?

"A wholly passable automobile manufacturer."
- Car and Driver

"Buick has become the Bette Midler of the car industry."
- Automobile

- Popular Mechanics

"While everyone else was taking risks and reimagining the automotive landscape, Buick has been making their same slightly above-average cars."
- Auto World Magazine

"Yeah, no."
- Lowrider

"This just in -- Buick has revolutionized the car world. Move over, Ferrari! Take a seat, BMW! Buick is the new gold standard, and the car company against which all other car companies ever will be judged."
- Effusive Hyperbole Monthly

"Not as good as 'GO ZOOM ZOOM!'"
- Crazy Mazda Fan Digest

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Ingmar Bergman's "Skittles" (1958)

I know that theoretically there is no such thing as bad publicity. Still, I can't help but wonder what Skittles was thinking here.

Aside from that awful GM robot one that ran during the Super Bowl, this might be the most depressing ad I've ever seen. Ads for Skittles and Starburst have tended to be exceedingly random, but this is five steps beyond simply "silly/goofy" and well into "bleak/terrifying." My question is, how smart is it to depict your product as the cause of someone's suffering? Shouldn't you want your brand associated only with good things? Sure, we all know that the idea of someone with this affliction is pure fancy, but a lot of existentialist fiction starts from somewhat fanciful premises, using them as allegories to discuss the human condition. Skittles tells a story in which its product generates serious human misery and doesn't seem to think anything of that. I think that's a little weird.

It kind of reminds me of the promotional short story that the National Licorice Company published in 1952, where the first line was, "Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams and found he had transformed into a giant Twizzler." That story is fucking dark.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Which came first, the stupid commercial, or the really stupid commercial?

It's possible that two people, completely separate from one another geographically, demographically, etc., could simultaneously dream up the same idea. People in ancient China and pharaonic Egypt, for example, both invented paper thousands of miles apart from each other. It's also possible, however, to completely rip someone off. One of these two scenarios occurred with these two similarly-themed commercials. The problem is, they both suck:

Burger King's Offering

Visa's Offering

Synopsis of both ads: Everyone engaged in fake juggling. Pointless, unbranded scenes of people juggling different crap -- heavy use of Power Rangers-grade CGI. All of a sudden, one person in ad does something totally normal (i.e. writing a check, being a klutz) -- everyone drops what they're juggling. Branded product to the rescue! Obnoxious juggling resumes.

Note to Burger King: Office professionals who are that busy probably don't eat at a grease trap like Burger King. They'd be bringing their own lunches and microwaving them to save time. Why don't you just stick with your usual pandering to the 18-25 fat American guy demographic?

Note to Visa Check Card: You've already been written up once before here in this blog for this very campaign. You have learned nothing. Now you're at it again, making what is, frankly, a creepy commercial. Look at the costumes for the clerks at this store! And the nightmarish robot? Which Russian Futurist did you hire to direct this ad?

Two ads, same concept, same plot, equally shitty execution -- each done by different agencies representing different companies. I can't really say which is worse. I'll probably go with whichever one came first (I think it's Burger King's), since that seems to have spawned this whole trend. I just hope we don't have to suffer another juggling commercial after these two.

Friday, November 16, 2007

You mean the fender didn't come off a Datsun?

There are good slogans, there are bad slogans, and then there are slogans that, God help them, just don't make a lick of sense. See if you can figure out which one of these the following ad uses.

Technically, the slogan is "Have fun out there," which is fine if wholly uninspiring. But of course what I'm referring to is "the new all Jeep Liberty." Hey, it's like "all new," but backwards! Ha ha ha! That's so awesome! Hey, Jeep, guess what? Every model you make is "all Jeep." That's the fucking name of your brand. It's not like the Wrangler was cobbled together from spare parts found in a junkyard. It's just nonsense, with the added bonus that it's nowhere near as clever as Jeep clearly thinks it is.

The ad itself isn't much better. What is the one thing everyone knows about Jeeps? That they have good off-road capability. So what are you getting out of intentionally interrupting your discussion of the other features (pretending it was an accident, wakka wakka!) to just show that it can go off-road? Also, commercial voice-overs aren't done live. Also, I think I'm pretty well-established as hating ads that time-waste like this in lieu of saying much of anything about the product. Hey, how about ten seconds of empty road while the voice-over guy stutters? That'll get the word out!

[Jeep exits the road again]
Voice-over: *sigh* "You gotta be kidding."

Yeah, what are the odds that a Jeep - known for going off-road! - would drive off the road? Especially in an ad for a Jeep! Maybe it's just me, but I fail to see how it's good marketing to act surprised when your product works like it's supposed to. I'll buy "Check out how Jeep goes off-road," but you're really testing my patience when you run with "Wait, Jeeps go off-road? How did we, the makers of Jeep, not realize that?" We all know that's what they do. Maybe instead of jokily cutting off the description of the car's interior, you might actually want to use that, given that that is what would actually distinguish your product from competing brands like Land Rover and Hummer. Crazy, I know.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

So, you want me to do your job for you, at home, for free.

If there's anything worse than a bad ad campaign, it's one that desperately wants to enlist you, the viewer, to do the legwork. And better yet, to do the legwork and pay for the privilege.

AT&T has set up a site where you can now - get this! - make three-place-name stupid mashups of your very own, and then get those put on a t-shirt, which you can then wear, for the low low price of $17.95 plus shipping (which adds an astonishing six bucks to the total, meaning you're actually paying nearly $25). And won't you be proud when someone asks about your shirt and you have to explain to them not only that you're an embarrassing corporate shill but that you actually paid money to be an embarrassing corporate shill?

It took a lot of chutzpah on AT&T's part to push something like this, especially since the name generator isn't even very good. Would it really have been that difficult to, say, write into the code something that would keep letters from repeating if they were ones that didn't look good doubled up? I tried inputting Philadelphia, Delaware and Prague like in the ad, but instead of getting Philawareprague, I ended up with "Philaawue." Terrific. You couldn't even set it up to make the ones you used in your ads? Putting in Virginia, Colorado and Sacramento - which I assume are the constituent parts of "Virgicolomento" - gives me "Virorento."

The bad, albeit unsurprising, news is that you can't just type in swear words; AT&T recognizes them and tells you that you "owe the swear jar 25 cents" - at least it's not 25 dollars - and requests you try again, without even letting you see your creation in lights. The good news? It can still be tricked. See if you can figure out how I feel about this "viral" campaign from the following screenshot, which was not doctored in any way:

The last two aren't close to being real place names, of course, and I get the feeling they wouldn't print this even if I were willing to buy it, but I think I made my point. Population: 1, indeed.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Real men hate lettuce!

The abject horror of the Bacon Double Homestyle Melt from yesterday reminded me of another Burger King ad and product, rolled out in 2006, that made my hair stand on end.

It's hard to know where to begin with this one, isn't it? Personally, I'm pretty repulsed by the product itself - just look at the BK Quad Stacker, the burger on the right at the end of the ad. First of all, how do you even get your mouth around that thing? And my God, just look at it. Sauce, bacon, cheese, beef, cheese, beef, cheese, beef, cheese, beef. No one needs a burger this size. Burger King claims it's 1000 calories - and frankly I'm a little doubtful of that math since included in that is the claim that eight strips of bacon are a mere 110 calories - which is already getting up near the halfway mark for recommended calorie intake, and that's before you tack on fries (let's say large, another 500 calories) and a large soda. You're at 1800 calories and it's not even 1 pm. This is definitely the kind of eating behavior we want to encourage in this country.

Of course, the sandwich is bad enough. But it's the attitude behind the sandwich - No Vegetables Allowed, like it's some sort of hamburger clubhouse - that really irks me. It's a fucking tomato, which, to get pedantic for a second, isn't even a damn vegetable. But never mind. It's a tomato. Oh, a tomato? You mean, something that's like 95% water? Hey, how about a few strands of iceberg lettuce? It's not like you're holding the broccoli here. The American use of vegetables in children's diets is so minimal it led the USDA to classify ketchup as a vegetable in the early 1980s, and now you're actively promoting removing all vegetables from adult-oriented food as well? Brilliant. And not just removing them. Vegetables are for wimps. Huge stacks of beef are for "tough guys."

As for why the ad itself is bad, well, how about the casual sexism of "early bun delivery," though at least we didn't get a gratuitous BK employee ass shot. The foreman does get his comeuppance for having said that, but if you're not endorsing the sexism, then you've just made your main pitchman a cretin. Sometimes I wonder if any of the people at whatever agency foists these things upon us even took a marketing class in college.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Mascot tortures don't upset us

Perhaps this is Burger King's cheeky way of acknowledging the fact that most people are creeped out by the Burger King mascot, but I think even those people were not rooting for him to be murdered.

Long before you get to the point where Burger King is using the contract killing of its corporate mascot for comedy purposes, there are a lot of reasons to despise this ad. Although that's a pretty good one, really.

The graphic "HITMOMS" flashes on the screen

While I will admit to not being sure, I was under the impression that this was the first ad in the series. If that's the case, trying to create a catchy name for these characters is ridiculous. Even if it's not, though, doesn't it seem a little odd to be giving them a cutesy name? "Tee hee! It's funny because seeing 40-something women order a hit is so incongruous! Laffs galore!"

Sally: "You Rick?"
Rick: "Let's not use names."
Sally: "I'm Sally... Jenny... Maggie."

I think she's supposed to be making up pseudonyms. Again, is this something we were supposed to know? I'm forced to assume at this point that this is not in fact the first ad in this series, but it's the first one I've seen, which means Burger King took a risk with this joke; it only makes sense if you've seen previous ads in which names were stated, though I'm now assuming they exist when they might not. Maybe the mom is just supposed to be a dumb broad. Ha ha! She gave their names! Don't send a woman to do a man's job, am I right, fellas?

Rick: "So you wanna whack the King, huh?"
Maggie: "He's got a new Homestyle Melt, on soft buttery bread."

Oh no! Not soft buttery bread! I'm sure it's going to be genuinely soft, and pleasantly buttery - as opposed to "soaked in butter, then left to harden" - because that's how food usually comes off the fast food assembly line, right? How can a homemade sandwich compare with something slapped together by a high school kid making minimum wage that costs three bucks and forces me to drive to get it? Mmmm. Then again, who makes fast-food-style sandwiches at home? Have you ever, in your life, eaten something resembling an Egg McMuffin that wasn't an Egg McMuffin? My mom doesn't have anything in her repertoire that would even begin to resemble the monstrosity advertised here, although there are a lot of different reasons for that.

Rick: "You want it quick and clean, or slow and painful?"

Rick is awfully nonchalant considering how famous his target is, don't you think? Maybe he's secretly an FBI informant. "Yeah, Chief, something about soft buttery bread. I don't know, these bitches are crazy."

Sally: "Take your time."

Score! Aw yeah! The King is going to have his toenails pulled out, you guys!

I mean, why is this funny? Why did Burger King give the green light when their ad agency suggested a campaign based around women who want to see the Burger King get tortured and killed? It seems just a little excessive - not to mention a wee bit distasteful in the current political climate, not to get all Crossfire on you. Although come to think of it, wouldn't a great follow-up ad be one where the King gets waterboarded? Or maybe Sally could slice off the King's ear while "Stuck in the Middle with You" plays in the background. You know, stuff that's funny!

And say there, what exactly is on that sandwich? Oh, it's garlic cheese sauce, bacon, cheese, beef, cheese, beef again, and then yet more cheese at the bottom. Well, I can see why the moms are so angry - they wanted to be the ones to kill their husbands with an 810-calorie sandwich. "It should have been my 58 grams of fat lining his arteries! The King must pay!" That's all in a 221-gram package, by the way. That's right - 26% of this sandwich's weight is fat. Hell, the Baconator is only 18.5% fat! Did Burger King think Wendy's was issuing some kind of "just how fucking disgusting of a sandwich can you make" challenge? Because if so, I think they won. Congratulations, Burger King: you've invented the suitcase nuke of food. I think I might actually want to see the King get tortured now, just for inflicting this thing on the public. Probably not what BK was going for when they ran with the concept.

Monday, November 12, 2007

What the hell are you selling?

You may have seen the HP commercials where they show some famous person's hands displaying the features of their laptops. They've used Serena Williams, Vera Wang, Jay-Z and others in the past, and their newest iteration features comedian Jerry Seinfeld. For those of you familiar with his stand up routines and eponymously named television show, you probably remember Seinfeld as being funny -- hilarious, even. Prepare to be surprised:

Seinfeld: Well If I'm going to do one of those HP computer hand commercial things, I gotta be impressive.

Very "meta" here right at the beginning -- referencing the ad campaign you're currently extending. I guess that's one way to go. Perhaps rather than attempting to be "impressive," Seinfeld should have tried to be "funny."

Seinfeld: Here's my newly-designed basketball stadium. Wait, that's not me.

This is the "funny" part. Don't get it? Why, didn't you see and somehow remember every detail in this other HP commercial a few years ago? Now do you understand the hilarity? If you didn't guffaw the first time you heard his joke, I urge you to write a note of apology and send it to Mr. Seinfeld.

Seinfeld: I did a TV show about New York, and now I've made a movie that takes place in New York, except in this, I'm a bee!

Man, can't a guy just watch a 1-minute commercial for a computer company without a million interruptions? Not only do we get a plug for the '90's hit sit-com "Seinfeld," but we also get one for the long-hyped, heroically-publicized "Bee Movie."

Incidentally, "Bee Movie" currently has a 51% positive review rating on Rotten Tomatoes. That = not good.

Seinfeld: Hang on, message from the wife - oh, it's a manuscript for her new cookbook that gets kids eatin' better without them knowing it. There's carrots in there, ya know.

Another non-HP product: Jessica Seinfeld's book, "Deceptively Delicious." Now, this one I'm pretty sure they don't want to be associated with. Turns out the publisher of Seinfeld's book turned down the manuscript for a nearly-identical cookbook called "The Sneaky Chef" half a year before "Deceptively Delicious" came out.

In defending his wife against claims of plagiarism, Seinfeld took the high road -- calling "The Sneaky Chef"'s author a "wacko" and would-be assassin. Comedy gold.

Seinfeld: She's a genius.

Top 5 Smartest Things in History
1. Theory of Relativity
2. "Principia Mathematica"
3. Mapping the Human Genome
4. Baking spinach into brownies, making them incrementally healthier
5. Theory of Natural Selection

Seinfeld: Oh, message from DreamWorks - don't forget, two "Bee Movie" mentions in HP spot.

Another third party mention with the studio name drop. What's worse, plugging your movie in a commercial for an unrelated product, or calling attention to the fact that you mandated that very same plug?

For the record, it's actually three mentions ("Bee Movie" logo appears on-screen at the end.)

Seinfeld: You know what? This is a business lunch.

Oh, don't worry -- we picked up on that. Whatever you're doing, Seinfeld, it's definitely unrelated to comedy.

Announcer: The HP Pavilion Entertainment notebook with Windows Vista Home Premium.

Final non-HP product tally in this HP commercial: "Bee Movie," "Deceptively Delicious," DreamWorks, "Bee Movie" again, Windows, Vista, "Bee Movie" a-fucking-gain.

7 other product mentions in your commercial. And what was it, exactly, that you wanted me to buy, HP?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

La la la I'm not listening

The old adage is that sex sells. That may be true, but I think most people would draw the line when it came to thinking about the sex lives of their parents. Don't tell that to the makers of Canadian Club, who ran this ad in a recent issue of Sports Illustrated:

Man, what sells booze like the knowledge that it fueled your dad to pick up women in bars 40 years ago? I mean, isn't that what everyone wants to think about when they're out at the bar? "Say, if my dad could get ass thanks to Canadian Club, what's stopping me?"

Also, nice attempt at being cool by punctuating the slogan with a "Damn right." I'm sorry, Canadian Club, but you are not a bad-ass brand of liquor and you're never going to be. You're a fairly inexpensive blended whiskey, not the choice of kings. You know who drank Canadian Club? My grandmother. Now there's someone I'm looking to emulate at the bar.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Crash all you want!

Theoretically, car insurance should encourage you to be a better driver, right? Getting tickets or into accidents will drive your rates sky-high to the point that you probably wouldn't be able to afford to drive, so you need to be more careful. Or, you could pay a premium and not have to worry about it. Cool?

Let me first say that while I will freely admit to paying almost no attention to NASCAR and caring about it even less, I am nonetheless skeptical of the idea that even people who do would recognize Kasey Kahne driving down the street. And even if they did recognize him, the odds that it would be a car full of Kahne fangirls drops to about zero. I suppose if you drive cars for a living, you need to be bribed into appearing in an ad that suggests you're not the best driver.

Allstate: So, Kasey. We're thinking that in this campaign we show you crashing into things. Like, even the best drivers get into accidents.
Kahne: Um, you know that race car drivers aren't big fans of crashes, right?
Allstate: How about we let you dictate the circumstances of the crash, then?
Kahne: Okay, I crash accidentally while trying to comically avoid all my rabid female fans.
Allstate: ...whatever.

So Kahne sees these fans of his and flashes back to moments when other crazy female fans chasing him caused him to crash. Naturally, he proceeds to immediately crash. The idea behind the ad is that "even the best drivers sometimes get into accidents," but "Accident Forgiveness," the product being pitched, isn't so much about that as it is a premium being paid that allows people to get away with being careless drivers. If you're legitimately a good driver, you're not that likely to get into an accident that's your fault, right? So why would you pay a premium of maybe 15% - which is what Allstate charges for this coverage - just on the chance you might? Seems like an expensive gamble. Allstate suggests that this coverage is good for parents of teen drivers - hey, I have an idea! Maybe you should spend more time teaching your kids to be good drivers, rather than paying higher insurance premiums so you don't have to worry about it. It's not like you aren't already paying out the nose if you have a teen driver on your insurance, as any parent of a 16-year-old will be well aware. And Allstate kind of has a vested interest in not encouraging responsible driving - the same kids whose accidents are forgiven now will grow up to be adults paying exorbitant premiums thanks to all the accidents they've gotten into.

On the bright side, this commercial wins the DiSaronno Memorial Award for "Most Thinly-Veiled Reference to Oral Sex at the End of an Ad."

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

You Can Do That on Television, You Just Shouldn't: The Most Disgusting Ads of All-Time

Hi, everyone. Windier E. Megatons here. Recently, I saw an ad that got me to thinking, "What are the most disgusting ads ever produced?" Below are the top three choices that Quivering P. Landmass and I came up with from our television watching and travels around YouTube. Without further ado:

#3 - All-Bran

W.E.M.: To start with, the notion of this being a "challenge" is a little strange. "I dare you to shit on a regular basis!" But of course the key component of this ad is the way they dance around the fact that it's about shitting, like with every ad for fiber products. For something that actually aired on television, though, it seems a little on-the-nose. Compare it to Metamucil's "gussy up your insides" euphemism, for example. They actually show barrels rolling like they're tumbling out of this guy's ass. I'm okay with the dump truck, but that part is just creepily graphic.

Q.P.L.: It's pretty clear this is intended to be tongue-in-cheek, but this ad crosses the line of good taste and good humor. What's most bothersome to me is the repeated jokes -- this construction worker has three metaphorical bowel movements within 25 seconds. I'm not so sure that's "regular" at that point. Also, we get the joke, guys -- stuff's coming out of his ass. Why do you keep coming to me with the same joke? Vary it up a little. And don't talk with your mouth full, either!

W.E.M.: Plus, as a construction worker, doesn't he need to be on his feet all day? I don't know if running off to the bathroom every few hours to extrude some bran by-product from your colon is going to be terribly beneficial in that line of work. And I'm sorry, the way the voice-over guy at the end says "Feel it" is just terrifying. He's really pushing all his energy into the word "feel." "You're gonna feel yourself taking a dump. I can't emphasize this enough. Here it comes, dude. Unggggh." Sickening.

#2 - Starburst

W.E.M.: When you combine this with that atrocious Berries and Cream ad, Starburst's commercials seem to follow the Family Guy method: take something that isn't funny (and that is, preferably, either gross or weird) and repeat it several times in rapid succession. Instant comedy! Say "wetsuits" again, dude!

Q.P.L.: Here's the thing about food -- it doesn't go with vomit. Or with feces, either. If you're selling candy or cereal or whatever, shouldn't you concentrate on the taste? Or the texture, or something other than toilet humor?

W.E.M.: I mean, I guess they pointed out that the Starburst was juicy, even if that's a gross exaggeration of the positive attributes of a Starburst. But they're basically tying in "juicy" with the image of a whale horking fish onto its handlers. When I'm perusing the impulse-purchase candy rack at the grocery store checkout, I doubt I'm going to reach for the candy that calls up the mental image of a beluga being sick, no matter how funny it was. Which it wasn't.

#1 - Marmite

Q.P.L.: The vomit scene lasts for more than 7 seconds in this commercial. A fifth of your commercial is taken up by an infant throwing up an impossible amount of liquid. The concept for this ad is "a child barfs after it ingests our product." Well, it's a good thing Marmite is a pharmaceutical product that induces vomiting! Oh, no, that's right -- it's a FOOD product. Everything is repulsive here: the color of the puke, the hideous sound of the vomiting, the length of the upchuck, and even the product "Squeezy Marmite" -- do you want to eat a Squeezy anything? And do you want to eat it after this?

W.E.M.: I mean, kudos to Marmite for having the stones to admit that some people find their product completely disgusting. It's certainly not a technique you could get away with in the States, I don't think. But this takes that concept way too far. It's one thing to show someone not caring for the taste; to show them throwing up as a result, even if it is just a baby, is insanity. You want people associating your product with vomit? Might as well just put the puking baby on the label and stamp every jar with "Marmite: You'll Probably Hate It." What's with the orgasmic look the mom has when she bites into the toast, by the way? I guarantee you there's no way anyone likes Marmite that fucking much, even if they can keep it down.

Q.P.L.: Yeah, I'll give them credit on the tagline. They took a risk on this ad, and I think they lost. Just one opinion. As for the mother's reaction to the Marmite itself -- I guess some people just really enjoy yeast extract created as by-products of beer brewing.

There they are, folks: the three most disgusting ads in the world, as selected by our "distinguished panel." I think these are hard to top, but if you've got an ad that made you sick, feel free to volunteer your disgust in the comments.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Advertising from 40,000 feet, Part the Thrice

More traveling..... reading SkyMall again.... fish in a barrel... blah, blah, blah.... let's get to work:

SkyMall.... solutions
This is on the upper right of every fourth page or so throughout the catalog. Are these offerings, in fact, "solutions"? And, if so, solutions to which everyday problems and/or needs? Email me your answers in essay form after you've read the post.

Reason #1 why Will Shortz should not go into interior design:

The World's Largest Crossword Puzzle. Holding a Guinness record for its size, this crossword hangs on a full 7' by 7' of wall space and has 28,000 clues for over 91,000 squares.

It looks like something Rain Man would make in quilting class.

It's a challenge that can take months, even up to a year, to complete.

Who doesn't enjoy a leisurely, year-long puzzle?

For the lone wordsmith, it folds for lap or tabletop solving.

Man #1: Hey dude, whatcha working on?

Man #2: 91,000-square crossword puzzle.

Man #1: (backs away slowly)

Crossword can be taped or tacked to the wall.

Crossword can also be crumpled, spat on, set fire to, and heaved into dumpster.

Remember how you always wanted your home to have that "dusty, decrepit old library" feel?

Wooden CD Cabinet reminiscent of your library's old card catalog. Remember those big wooden card catalogs in your local library, where you searched for books before computers came on the scene?

Yes! I totally remember that! Those were so awesome. I remember thumbing through old index cards, trying to navigate the Dewey decimal system and taking minutes and minutes to find what I was looking for. Now it takes milliseconds with the internet. What a fantastic memory you just brought back! And now I can have that same outmoded symbol of bureaucracy right in my own home.

This sturdy cabinet has that same high-quality appearance, but you'll find your CDs inside, not index cards!

Take that, card catalog! We've repurposed your homely design to store our modern technologies. Are you insulted yet? We've also added a "hand-rubbed espresso finish" - whatever that means. But it involves espresso! Which you probably never heard of because you're from the medieval ages!

Holds up to 88 VHSs

"Our new replica Ticker Tape Machine provides storage for up to 74 8-Tracks!"

This holiday season, get Junior the toy gun that best captures his favorite bodily function:

The Classic Ball-Shooting "Burp" Gun. This toy gun uses the same patented design as the classic toy that entertained children in the 1950s.

I have never heard my parents talking about this gun before. I guess it's classic. I love that they patented it. "Quick! Call the lawyers! Before someone else invents a burp gun!"

Because the air gun is powered by pump action instead of batteries, it provides uninterrupted play.

Parents, rejoice! Save money on batteries! Also, prepare for 4 hours of non-stop belching noises.

Wanted: Wire-haired dachshund for awkward, undignified photo shoot.

The Pet Ramp and Staircase.

Gee, Rover looks so relaxed in that picture. Looks like climbing up on the bed is about to become a breeze!

From the "Seriously, don't wear that in public" section of SkyMall:

The iWear AV920 is the newest mobile video eyewear from Vuzix - formerly Icuiti. Featuring a virtual 62" big-screen and weighing just 2.9 oz, iWear allows for a comforable viewing experience for up to 5 hours.

It's about time somebody capitalized on the hot fashion trend started 20 years ago by LeVar Burton. Those glasses are hip! So hip, in fact, that you can wear them just walking around, hair blown back, backpack casually slung over one shoulder, not a care in the world as to whatever you may be walking into. Hard to imagine 62" of screen being represented while wearing these glasses. Then again, it's hard to imagine anyone actually putting these on unironically.

Does anybody really know what time it is? Not in any house where this clock appears:

The Color Pattern Clock. ... Counting the colored squares in each of the four separate sections reveals the time (12:45 is shown.)

SkyMall Employee #1: Hey, what time is it?

SkyMall Employee #2: It's 5 red dots and 4 blue dots past the 2 green dots!

SkyMall Employee #1: Oh, thanks! (kills self)

Hey, I just had an idea for a new watch. As each minute elapses, a new calculus problem appears on the digital screen. You have 60 seconds to calculate the derivative of y by writing y as an explicit function of x. The result will give you a very near approximation of the correct time. Available in black, red and biscuit.

And finally..... I love that SkyMall says this is "Exclusive":

Improvements! Quick & Clever Problem Solvers!

Holy family Nativity scene

What, exactly, are you implying, SkyMall?!

No, it's Snickers that satisfies you.

Where, exactly, is Sally Kellerman planning to put that Milky Way? And do you take it out of the wrapper for something like that?

Monday, November 5, 2007


You know what's funny? Combining the names of places into one big unpronounceable mess. Tee hee. Take that ball and run with it, AT&T!

Guy: "I'm a student. I grew up in Philadelphia."
Mom: "What are you doing, sweetie?"
Guy: "I'm texting, Mom."

"You're probably not familiar with this method of communication, dinosaurs. It involves transmitting words over great distances? Ba-duh." What is this guy even a student of? He looks like he's 35.

Guy: "But I go to school in Delaware."

Wow, Delaware? Hold the phone. All the way from Philadelphia? Distance from Philadelphia to the University of Delaware: 40 miles. That is some coverage plan you've got there.

Guy: "My brother goes to school in Prague."

This is where the commercial gets confusing. Is this guy actually supposed to be spending time in Prague? Or is he just texting his brother? Because a phone that lets you call other places isn't exactly a revolution. I hope it's the former.

Guy: "I got a bunch of friends who study in Chicago!"

Wow. A major American city. Can you believe there's a cell phone that works in Philadelphia and Chicago? I feel like I should be picking it up from the store in my flying car and then letting my robot butler program it for me!

Guy: "So I need a network that works where I live."

I guess he was supposed to be in Prague. A couple points back. Although seriously, if you have relatives who are just studying abroad, how often are you really visiting them? Maybe a couple times a year?

Guy: "A place called 'Phila-ware-Prague-icago.'"

Sigh. AT&T, there is really nothing funny about this. It's just kind of lame. And the whole "other countries" thing is useful, but a phone that works across the US is a phone. I'm not aware of any major provider who has a problem with domestic coverage.

Voice-over: "The new AT&T. Works in more places."

More places than what? This is one of those totally empty statements that commercials are all too prone to using. Does it work in more places than it used to? Does it work in more places than the competitor? What are you saying? Oh, this was just an excuse to build an ad campaign around "funny" mashed-up place names? Well, all right.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

This is our parody

If you're anything like me - or just about anyone else who doesn't work for Chevrolet - you probably hate those John Mellencamp "This is Our Country" ads. Turns out the folks at Fruit of the Loom don't much care for them either.

Everyone recognizes those Chevy ads as annoying and incredibly full of themselves, so they were a pretty ripe target for parody - although it's a little odd to see Fruit of the Loom doing it, rather than another automaker. I guess one brand war at a time is enough.

A gold star for Fruit of the Loom, although I must say they run the risk of distracting people from the actual product message by virtue of the parody; when I first saw the ad, I spent most of the 30 seconds thinking, "Is this song a parody of those Chevy ads?" and almost none noticing the visual image of all the people wearing tagless t-shirts and sweatpants in lieu of "standard" clothing. Most people still probably associate the name "Fruit of the Loom" with underwear, so making sure to get the message across that Fruit of the Loom makes many other products was fairly important. It's not that they didn't do it, but they did it in such a way that you'd have to see the commercial at least a couple times for it to really sink in, and that can be a risky proposition. Still, I'd say this is one of the better ads I've seen recently.

Friday, November 2, 2007

One small step for Mazda, one giant leap for... well, Mazda

Seriously, Mazda, get a grip. So you won an award -- congratulations. Now have you ever heard the expression "act like you've been there before"?

Apparently not...

(Motor Trend trophy used as tuning fork)

Man: Come shine here with me

"Shine"? What does that mean in this context?

Chorus: Gotta make, gotta make it mine today

Woman: I'm finally free

You do realize this is a car you're singing about, and not the Bill of Rights?

Chorus: Gonna make, gonna make them stop and say... zoom, zoom, zoom! Yeah, zoom zoom zoom!

Shine on, man. You're free. Zoom zoom! This is nonsensical blather. How many seconds did this take somebody to write? And look at this scene: you have a gospel choir praising and clapping their hands around an SUV - is it some kind of weird cult? Are they about to sacrifice the car? It's eerily fake-looking and hopelessly overwrought.

Announcer: Designed, engineered and now celebrated... the "zoom zoom" way.

Yeah, the "zoom zoom" way. I'm guessing that means there's going to be a party at this guy's house?

I know Mazda's been doing this "zoom zoom" campaign for a while now. I think it makes more sense with the upbeat song and the little kid who says "zoom zoom." Call me crazy, but an 8-year old boy saying "zoom zoom" is more appropriate that a choir of adults doing the same. Recently, Mazda has taken this "zoom zoom" idea and let their imaginations run amok. Take, for example, this fetid, masturbatory "brand essence" video they put together:

(and please, for your sake, don't watch more than 30 seconds of this)

one day you're born.... the next big milestone.....

Crawling? Walking? First word?

you discover go zoom zoom

Get.... over.... yourselves. For fuck's sake, Mazda, the world does not revolve around your mid-level automobiles! This solipsism is inexcusable, even for a brand essence video that probably was never meant to be seen by the consumer.

Also the grammar in that above sentence is indescribably loathsome. Mazda, I think I hate you.

you grow up... acquire responsibilities.... (adults don't go zoom zoom).... but a lucky few never lost the spark.... you, perhaps?... guess what.... there's a car company... they love zoom zoom too

Yes, they do. They love zoom zoom a whole helluva lot. They love it like "pour millions and millions into using this moronic phrase in every piece of collateral we shit out for the next ten years" a lot.

The video continues in this fashion: cheesy, childish phrase, cornball lifestyle stock footage; another embarrassing line of copy, another painful slo-mo shot. I think it's funny that companies bother to define their advertising approach with these "setting-the-tone" presentations. It makes you realize that a large group of people actually put thought behind this. People with decades of experience, people with MBAs, people with art school training -- they all got together in a room and asked the question, "What does 'zoom zoom' really mean?" Then they talked about it as though it were a worthwhile discussion -- as though it would lead to some new way of selling more cars. As though the notion of a close-reading of "go zoom zoom" weren't just utterly absurd.

Mazda -- please go back to making boring, templated car commercials that talk about 0% APR and all-wheel-drive, or whatever. I know I said those kind of ads suck, but, dude, now that I've seen the alternative? Please just stop.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Suspension of disbelief required

Commercials don't always have to show situations exactly how they would play out in reality. Some advertisers, however, take this license too far. They appear to live in an alternate reality where the little bothers of daily life simply don't exist:

Anyone ever been to a bar? Ever ordered a drink? Ever been a regular male human trying to order a drink? You don't just make eye contact with the bartender from 50 feet away in a packed bar and use gestures to get yourself another beer. You saddle up next to the counter and you scream for about 5 minutes until you finally get his attention. Oh, yeah, and then you have to do this thing called paying. I guess maybe this dude has a tab open, but that bartender has somehow remembered his name among all those other people's?

Also, since when did popular bars become baseball stadium stands? This guy didn't order a dog and a Malt Cup at a Mets game, he got a Heineken at some semi-chic watering hole.

Tagline: It's all about the beer.

It's not the most pretentious ad I've seen, but it's pretty obnoxious. I guess Heineken people live in a special, rarefied world where everyone at any given bar conspires to facilitate your import beer drinking (except the guy who steals it, of course). This ad thinks its pretty clever, pretty hip. But the joke is played, and poorly thought-out. Also? You guys are hardly the first to use that "Tempted" song in an ad.