Thursday, December 18, 2008

Abandon hope all ye who use Verizon

Every ad gimmick eventually runs its course. AT&T has been running with this "Beep! So-and-so's phone" thing for quite a while now; it was marginally funny at first, then eventually tiresome. And apparently it's not having the same effect that it used to, because AT&T has moved from "not having a signal will cause you to miss out on something cool" to, well, something a lot more threatening.

That's right! Use AT&T or you're fucking dead, pal! There's plenty of unrealistic, stupid ad bullshit about this spot, of course - the idea that a blast zone wasn't cleared of people before demolition went ahead; the idea that the blast zone was changed at the last possible minute such that a TV news crew couldn't have learned about it before leaving their office what, half an hour earlier at the most; the idea that "the outskirts of town" is some gaping cellular black hole anywhere in America at this point. But the simple fact that AT&T has moved from "I can't believe I didn't get to see Michael Phelps because of my cell phone" to "I'm about to die because I'm a stupid fucker who doesn't have AT&T" is more than a little disturbing, don't you think?

What's that, AT&T? You have an even more ludicrous way to portray this issue?

"Snowball's phone?" Are you fucking kidding me?

There must have been some magic in that old cell phone they found
For when they placed it to his ear he began to talk real loud
Snowball the snowman
Was a fairy tale they say
And who the fuck was trying to call him
It's not like snowmen have friends
And he's never shown trying to move around so I don't believe he could have escaped this heat wave regardless of whether or not he'd received that call
Also cell phones probably won't work too well if you leave them outside in the cold which maybe was a bigger problem than the number of bars

Just like you remember the tune, right?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

What's a five-letter word for "Maker of obnoxious ads?"

A certain jewelry store's catchphrase is starting to become synonymous with everything that's annoying about the diamond industry. Unless you're that jewelry store, in which you'd like us to think people drop it regularly in conversations.

Woman 1: "So, how was last night?"
Woman 2: "Just a sec. What's a thirteen-letter phrase for 'marriage proposal?'"

"Hang on while, rather than answer your question, I do something stupid and gimmicky." Although doesn't she kind of ruin the surprise by actually saying "marriage proposal" here? Wouldn't virtually any person on the planet be tipped off by that? Not her friend, apparently.

Woman 1: [sounding bored, and rightfully so] "I have absolutely no idea."

You sure don't.

Woman 2: "Ooh, wait, I've got it! He went... to... Jared!" [holds up ring]
Woman 1: "He went to..." [sees ring] "He went to Jared!"
[wild celebration ensues]

The important thing is not that he proposed, or how he did it, or how romantic it was. It's the name of the jewelry store he went to. This is not how anyone actually behaves in real life, is it? Do you know people who are more excited by the provenance of a ring than its method of delivery?

This is a bad commercial (series of commercials) for one of two reasons, although I'm not entirely sure which. Reason one is that Jared is suggesting that this is how women actually behave, that they are more concerned with a ring's quality than anything else about the proposal. In other words, that women as a gender are money-grubbing whores. More to the point, it wants men to see the ad and think, "See, look how excited your girlfriend will be if you buy the ring at Jared!" Never mind that that's total bullshit in real life and that any woman who does flip the box over to see where the ring came from should immediately be dumped.

Reason two is the idea that Jared is actually trying to make "He went to Jared!" happen as an alternate for "He asked me to marry him!" Like, they want women to start telling their friends about their engagement by announcing that "He went to Jared!" That's terrible. I mean, it's not going to happen, but ew. The very fact that they're going for it repulses me. The "I take it you told her" line does a lot to sell this one, since I have to assume the guy is talking about their engagement and not that he went to Jared specifically.

I think it's probably a mixture. As we've seen in previous Jared ads, their thesis is basically that marriage proposals mean jack squat unless "he went to Jared." So it's not like it's all about how much the ring cost per se (he didn't go to Tiffany, after all), but it's certainly not about the proposal itself. How much do you think they would love it if the following happened?

Woman 1: Oh my God, Jeff is the sweetest. He met me yesterday after work and we went for a stroll in the park before sunset.
Woman 2: Yawn.
Woman 1: Then, we went out for a romantic dinner at my favorite restaurant in the city.
Woman 2: Big deal.
Woman 1: And then, it turned out he had brought the car downtown, and we took a moonlit drive up the coast with the top down!
Woman 2: What has two thumbs and is super bored by this story? This girl.
Woman 1: Then finally he pulled off at this scenic view, with the moon reflecting on the ocean, and he asked me to marry him! It was the best night of my life.
Woman 2: Snooze.
Woman 1: Oh, and uh... he went to Jared.
Woman 2: ZOMG [series of high-pitched squeals almost inaudible to the human ear]
Woman 1: I'm really lucky, aren't I?
Woman 2: Oh my God, you totally are. I mean, Jared.
Woman 1: The rest of it was pretty good t-
Woman 2: JARED.

That should probably be their next ad, come to think of it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dear Customers, You are retarded. Love, Wendy's

You're an idiot. Did you know that? You don't understand polysyllabic words or subtlety or anything outside of beef and beer. You're an undereducated, blue collar Joe Sixpack with just enough brains to navigate the local fast food drive-thru. Here, just check out this Wendy's commercial:

On-screen: "The reviews are in:", classical music plays in the background

Welder: Garlic sauteed portobello mushroom caress the taste buds.

On-screen: I love a good mushroom. - Rick, welder

See? This is why you're stupid. Because Wendy's has to translate things for you. You can't comprehend words like "sautee" or "portobello" or "caress" -- just one-, maybe two-syllable words is all your can wrap your tiny heads around. Especially if you're some shit-for-brains welder.

Security Guard: Punctuated by the boundless possibility of hickory-smoked bacon

On-screen: Bacon tastes good. - Stanley, parking security

Oh man, security guards are so stupid! Just like you. Doesn't the phrase "punctuated by the boundless possibility of" just sound awesome? Like Shakespeare wrote it or something? Don't you wish you could understand it? Ah, that's okay, Wendy's translated it again for you. "BACON=GOOD" -- can you at least grasp that? Maybe it would have been better if Wendy's had just shown a 30-second shot of sizzling bacon, then cut to a fat guy giving the camera a "thumbs up," then, boom, Wendy's logo. You know, in case you're completely illiterate.

Office Admin: Fresh beef is the canvas on which this hot and juicy masterpiece is painted.

On-screen: I like fresh beef. - Sonya, administrator

Hahaha. See, it's funny! Just the idea of a secretary being able to talk like that is hilarious. Of course, this woman isn't actually a secretary. She's an actress with two Rhodes Scholarship and eight Fields Medals. Wendy's paid her a lot of money to dress up like a stupid secretary and deliver that line of sheer fucking poetry.

Voiceover: There's a little gourmet in all of us.

Haha. This is another joke, actually. There's not really a gourmet in all of you. Wendy's just wants you to pretend like you have a brain because maybe that would make it easier to buy this burger. Anyway, stop being offended already, and get your fat, stupid ass down to your local Wendy's! Or, as you would say, "ME LIKEY BACON!" Haha. Moron!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Arby's: I'm thinking boner

As we've elucidated on this blog previously, Arby's seems to have a problem connecting their food with anything that's appetizing. Their latest effort has gone down the unfortunate path of food sexualization, which we have covered ad nauseum here at Ad Wizards. So, prepare yourself for ickiness:

Man (on bed, candles lit): Honey, almost ready?

Woman: You know I'm only doing this for your birthday.

Man: I know, and I appreciate it.

In case you paused the video at the 10 second mark, let me just remind you that, yes, this is a fast food commercial. Not, like, lingerie, or anything that's supposed to be sexy.

Woman: (walks into bedroom dressed as an Arby's crew member, holding a tray with a meal)

Man (showing pronounced double chin): Wow.

Sex appeal --the advertising weapon of last resort. Only when you truly have nothing to say about your product do you go for all-out innuendo. What is sexy about a chicken sandwich, fries and a drink? It's food. It should be treated as food, and reacted to as food. It is not sexually exciting. Hunger and sexual desire are just two separate human appetites.

And yes, I get that this is comedically overblown. But It doesn't change the fact that they're linking Arby's sandwiches with sexual attraction. That's not funny, it's just creepy.

Woman: Ta da!

Man: (Arby's sign pops up with cheesy "boing!" noise) Meeeeee likey!

Really? "Me likey?" That is wildly out of date and unoriginal. Why not just have him say "Tubular!"

Also, Arby's gets the award for Least Subtle Boner Reference in a Commercial. Congratulations, Arby's, you had some stiff competition (pun intended.)

Voiceover: It really is a special occasion with Arby's Chicken Cordon Bleu.

I guess if you have some kind of Arby's uniform fetish, then, sure. Otherwise, I think when 99% of people get the Arby's Chicken Cordon Bleu, the occasion is "Tuesday's lunch" or maybe "late night food run with roommate."

Voiceover: They'll have you saying, "I'm thinking Arby's."

Actually, I'm thinking, "hire a new ad agency."

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Whopper Virgins: More Pain from Crispin Porter & BK

About a year ago, Burger King launched themselves into the reality TV landscape with a commercial that utilized a classic marketing "deprivation exercise." The central premise of the ad was, "Hey, what if we stopped selling the one thing people come here to buy?" and the result ended up being, "It turns out people don't like it when they can't buy the one thing they came here for!" Because of this daring commercial experiment, the entire theory of human psychology was thrown into chaos, textbooks were rewritten, and legions of top research professors resigned in disgrace. Almost. Actually what happened was the exact thing that anyone with a brain would have predicted: people get angry when they can't buy a Whopper at a Burger King.

Funny thing: BK, and their stalwart marketing partner Crispin Porter + Bo-fucking-Gusky, aren't quite finished exploring the realm of ill thought-out reality advertising:

What happens when you take remote Chiang Mai villagers...

Man, BK. You've gone pretty low before -- low humor, low class, low accountability -- but now you're forcing destitute people in developing countries (and Thailand is, right now, wildly unstable and dangerous) to do your advertising? What, are they there for your amusement? How much does a Thai villager get paid to eat a burger?

Who've never seen a burger, who don't even have a word for "burger"...

Gee, people who don't know what good burgers are? Sounds like an excellent audience to judge burgers.

"You've never had blood cake before? Okay, try this pig blood cake. Now try this yak blood cake. Which was less disgusting? Oh dude! Yak blood cake totally beats the shit out of pig blood cake!!"

And ask them to compare Whopper versus Big Mac in the world's purest taste test...

Define "purest." This is beginning to sound like BK wants to take up the white man's burden here.

The Whopper is America's favorite, but what will these people choose

"These people"!!

"Yeah, I know you don't know what they are. They're burgers. Burgers. Just eat them. Okay, now pick one. No, pick the other one. Great, thanks. Now get back to your hut, or wherever you people live."

The Whopper Virgins will decide.

And when you go to the site you will find out they they will air a "documentary" in a week or so and reveal what the disenfranchised, burger-less peoples of the third world decided regarding Whoppers and Big Macs. Now what do you suppose they chose? It would be pretty embarrassing if Burger King spent all this money to advertise this, and it turned out that the Virgins picked Big Mac!

In his most recent post, Windier posited some criteria regarding the "worst commercial ever made." Let's evaluate the "Whopper Virgins" spot here: (a) being incredibly unfunny? Check. (b) featuring things that no human would ever say? In a way, yes -- certainly eating a Whopper is not something a Thai villager would ever do. (c) being really creepy. Oh yes. (d) Racist. Big check mark. And then I might also add (e) saying absolutely nothing useful or differentiating about the product. When you're asking people who lack the experience and interest to effectively evaluate your product to compare it against a competitor's, you're essentially admitting that you just have nothing worthwhile to talk about. I mean, you don't see NetJets asking me if I prefer owning a share of a private jet or owning my own jet outright. You know why? Because I have no way of judging between those two. I am not in their target audience.

Once again I ask: When will Burger King and Crispin Porter stop? Hey, why not call BK's customer relations (1-305-378-3535) and let them know how you feel?

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Possibly the worst commercial ever made

It's hard to define the "worst commercial ever made." But I think I would suggest that some good qualifications for the title would be (a) being incredibly unfunny; (b) featuring things that no human would ever say; and (c) being really creepy. Congratulations, AT&T: the only way this ad could have been worse is if it were also racist.

Black guy's thumbs: "Funny is knocking at the door, and he wants to partay!"

This is not funny. It is not something anyone would ever say to indicate that they found something funny. And good God, those thumbs with the faces on them are creepy as fuck.

Nerdy white guy's thumbs: "That's insanium in the cranium, dawg!"

Kill me.

Goth girl's thumbs: "I'm laughing on the dark, abysmal inside. Heh heh."

Ugh. Hey, goths like dark things! You knew that, right? Please let this end.

Guy with a hat's thumbs: "Shake your funny-maker. Shake it. Shake it hard."

I would like to shake the person who wrote this ad hard. And slap them across the face a few times.

Blonde woman's thumbs: "If they bottled that kind of funny, I'd buy it! Hilarity, by Daryl."

The bottled version of this ad: "Crippling Head Pain, by AT&T."

Announcer: "How would you say LOL?"

Not any of those ways, not in a million years. And neither would anyone else. Ever.

Announcer: "With a full keyboard, it's easier to text it how you say it."

Oh God. That's the point of this ad? That is all you were using this ridiculous bullshit to sell? Guess what - even with a full keyboard on a computer, when I indicate that something is funny, I might type the onomatopoeia of a laugh. I would not, in a jillion fucking years, write that something funny my friend said was "insanium in the cranium," and anyone who would should immediately be euthanized for the good of humanity.

More importantly, why did they have to use the horrible, creepy talking thumbs? God, they're awful. This ad was written, produced, looked at by probably dozens of people, and apparently not one of them said "This is really awful" or "This isn't funny at all" or "Those thumbs look like garbage and they're terrifying" or anything. Or, which would be worse, these things were said and AT&T just figured that the public at large will laugh at anything. Based on the YouTube comments, it seems like that might be true. Gag.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cars > Ponies

Maybe I'm just a cynic, but... well, okay, I'm a cynic. But television starts to give me a really queasy feeling in my stomach around the holidays. I mean more than usual. One yearly offender is the ads run by that purveyor of expensive automobiles, always an easy sell in a slow economic climate, Lexus.

Yeah! Fuck you, pony!

So, if I get this right, Lexus is claiming that getting a car is more exciting/meaningful to an adult woman than getting a pony is to a seven-year-old (or whatever) girl. I call bullshit. Did you not see how jealous Annemarie was? You can't buy that kind of reaction.

I almost feel like Lexus runs these ads every year just to piss me off. Are there really more than a few hundred people in the entire world who actually make purchases like this? Especially in the current economic situation? Why, what could be more perfect than a $40,000 car, just for me! You saw the big bow, right? We'd better run right out and get one. Very financially sound.

Monday, November 17, 2008

What happens in Levi's stays in Levi's

Levi's is running with the slogan "Live unbuttoned." This apparently translates to "Live unencumbered by laws or prudence."

Don't get me wrong, people. I like sex as much as the next person. I'm pretty sure I don't like it in this configuration, however. I'm also not sure how this sells jeans. Or anything besides morning-after pills.

Zane: "My name's not really Zane."
Lucia: "My name's not really Lucia."

Pff. Big deal. I've seen worse in Vegas ads. Well, no I haven't, because I've yet to see a Vegas ad that features actual undressing (this ad can't air before 10 pm anywhere, can it?). Still, anonymity, that's, um, spicy? Continue.

Not-Zane: "I'm not really in a band."
Not-Lucia: "I don't really work for a label."

Not-Zane seems a little disappointed that he's not the only one who's spent the entire night bullshitting. I'd say there was a commentary on the nature of gender relations here, but give me a fucking break. Levi's is about to sell you jeans by showing you people's underwear.

Zain't: "I live in Detroit, not LA."
Whocia: "Well, I've never been to Manhattan."

Ooh, fucking one-upped again, dude! Zain't is not going to be able to take much more of this.

Zain't: "Truth is, I've been sleeping in my car."

Homeless people: fucking sexy.

Whocia: "That's okay. This isn't my apartment."

And this is where I go from being just mildly skeeved to realllly having issues with whatever Levi's thinks they're doing here. Zain't briefly turns on the light to reveal that a black family lives there (they had to be black so it was easy to tell from pictures, of course), then turns it back off so the commercial, for jeans, I should stress, can end with dirty, dirty fucking on the floor of a stranger's apartment. And just for good measure, here's your slogan: "Live unbuttoned."

Now that is living. Anonymous, likely unprotected sex with someone you'll never see again ("Live unbagged") with a B&E thrown in for good measure? I'll obey the law when I'm dead, dude! And on the bright side, if he catches a gross enough STI, the other inmates might actually leave him alone. For the first week.

I was kidding before, but this might as well be an ad for RU-486. It certainly sells that a hell of a lot better than it sells jeans - I mean, who is paying any attention to the jeans? 99% of this ad's viewership is either being outraged or masturbating, and the last 1% is actually doing both. The plot has nothing to do with jeans (unless you count taking them off, which I do not) and the end of the ad goes so far as to imply that Levi's are at their best lying on the floor while you have sex five feet away. Which I guess would be fine if the slogan were befitting the ad, like "Levi's: Put 'em on to take 'em off" or some shit. Instead, we get the faux-profound "Live unbuttoned," which doesn't just rationalize the ridiculous behavior on display, it actively endorses it. If people want to break into apartments to have anonymous sex, I guess that's their business (aside from the property crime part), and it's not like adults can't parse this ad. But there's always a risk that kids might be watching, I don't care what timeslots were bought. Isn't it just a bit much to make this seem like "the cool thing to do?" Especially considering that kids and teenagers are the most impressionable viewers of ads. Your dad isn't watching this and thinking "I gotta get me a pair of those jeans."

It's a bad ad because it doesn't sell its product well enough, but more importantly I just don't see why they went the direction they did. There was certainly no need to do so. Even the sex on its own would have been one thing - it probably still would have bugged me, but to go the extra mile and throw in petty crime (if not worse) for no necessary reason and then celebrate it? Come on, Levi's. I'd say "You're better than this," but historically I'm not sure you have been much better than this, so instead I'll just say "You really ought to consider being better than this."

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Take our word for it -- our product is good for you!

Forget everything you know about high fructose corn syrup. Now watch this ad and see if you think it's safe:

Now, I'm not a nutritionist (summary: corn syrup has stronger links to obesity and various diseases than sugar), and I'm not an environmental expert (summary: along with ethanol, corn syrup discourages crop diversity and requires more use of pesticides) -- so let's just look at the commercial itself to see if it really serves to sway opinion.

Mom #1: (looking at the unlabeled jug of red juice being poured at kids birthday party) Wow, you don't care what the kids eat, huh?

Mom #2: Excuse me?

Mom #1: That has high fructose corn syrup in it.

Mom #2: And?

AND it's murdering your children, lady! That liquid just bubbled up from Hell!! You're serving your children sweet, syrupy death juice!!!

I mean come on -- just blithely dismissing the notion that a chemical might, might, be dangerous to your child's health? I think the public deserves a little bit more information than a character in a commercial just being like "So? There's a weird chemical in my kid's food? Who gives a shit? He ain't dead yet, okay?"

Mom #1: You know what they say about it.

Mom #2: (still smugly pouring sweetened juice) Like what?

Mom #1: I mea-- uh....

Apparently corn syrup critics are also the stupidest, least informed people in the universe.... according to the Corn Refiner's Association.

Mom #2: (arrogantly and profusely patronizing) That's it's made from corn?

And the potent narcotic opium is made from poppies. Your point?

Mom #2: Doesn't have artificial ingredients....

Nothing from nature has ever killed anybody, right?

Mom #2: ... and like sugar, it's fine in moderation?

Mom #1: (picks up glass of corn syrup liquid, takes swig)

Apparently corn syrup critics are also the most easily persuaded people in the universe... according to the Corn Refiner's Assocation.

So, did you think corn syrup was somehow bad for you before you saw this ad? Yeah? Well I bet you feel like a complete asshole now! If you want to be talked down to some more, and see more complete dummies like you suggest that corn syrup isn't the single greatest ingredient on Planet fucking Earth, then check out Sweet here. Because there are two more ads that follow this exact template, each more patronizing and insulting than the next!

Here's the thing about this commercial -- besides being a misleading, information-less vamp, does it really do anything to quell people's misgivings about corn syrup? Say you knew nothing about corn syrup when you saw the ad -- wouldn't this obvious snow job make you awfully suspicious? Wouldn't you want to do some digging to find out more (and by digging around I mean going to places other than

"High Fructose Corn Syrup: What do you mean you've heard it's unhealthy and environmentally destructive? Haven't you seen our ad?!?"

Credit where credit is due

A lot of people who have visited this site recently have done so by searching for the ad which I talked about a few weeks ago. It was one of our most heavily-read and heavily-commented-upon posts, and, to put it mildly, not everyone who read it agreed with my assessment of it. So, to show you that I don't just have a bias against Southerners, here is the latest ad in Overstock's Joey and Rory series, which I thought was much better and which I will not be snarky about.

This is a significant improvement over the other ad, for any number of reasons.

1. Joey and Rory are not allowed to talk.
Whoops, already broke my vow of non-snarkiness. But seriously, though - by avoiding things like the awkward phone conversation at the beginning of the other ad, this one stays much more on message.

2. The premise is much better integrated with the Overstock brand.
In the other ad, as I noted, the Overstock branding really doesn't have a lot to do with the plot. By comparison, the plot of this ad involves buying presents for friends, and suggests that is a good place to do that. That's a lot better than just the purchase of a single guitar (which, by the way, Rory is not playing in this ad, proving that he already owned a guitar and rendering the other ad even stupider in hindsight).

3. takes credit for something they can realistically take credit for.
In the other ad, Overstock basically implies that they have something to do with Joey and Rory being in love, which is clearly a ridiculous reach. In this ad, the only thing Overstock is really taking credit for is facilitating Joey's generosity, which strikes me as a perfectly reasonable thing to claim.

4. The song is much, much more appealing.
Possibly because Joey and Rory did not write it. (Oops. Sorry again. It's hard to just turn off.)

So, there you have it. A solid ad that I did not have problems with, that features Joey and Rory in their down-home milieu. Everyone who suggested that I have something against the South is hereby instructed to get off my case. I do have one complaint about this ad, though - where the hell is Rufus? How could we not get a scene where someone unwraps a chew toy and gives it to him? Maybe it's in a 60-second version somewhere. Rufus' fans demand it.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Pepto-Bismol: Good for treating diarrhea, and also maybe diarrhea

Pepto-Bismol, as you probably know by now, treats the following symptoms: nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea. In the following ad, they seem to be focusing on just one of those five. Guess which one before you watch. Hint: it's the one that is hilarious.

I'm pretty sure this is web-only, which isn't surprising - if the FCC wouldn't let Bud Light's "Cut the Cheese" ad past, there's no way this would get through.

Pepto Guy [answering phone]: "Pepto-Bismol! Nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea! Oh, yes sir, how are you today? Well, what have you ingested, sir? Okay, chimichanga... okay, salsa... all right, General Tso's chicken... I've never heard of a Chinese-Mexican restaurant. I think I see the problem here, sir, yeah."

That, my friends, is tedious. Tedious, not at all funny, and it takes up nearly half the ad on just this one dude's boring problem. Can we please get to the diarrhea? (Oh, spoiler alert: the thing they think is funny is diarrhea.)

Pepto Guy: "Oh... a what? An oopsie shart? What is a- oh, gosh!"

And right here is a big reason why this ad did not make it to air. On the off chance that you're not familiar with "shart" and somehow can't guess, it's a combination of "shit" and "fart." That's right! The hilarity! The shitting hilarity!

Pepto Guy: "Yeah, hello sir, I can hear you. Mm-hmm. You're up to your what in what?"

"You're up to your knees in shit? This is about shit, right? I mean, you're not up to your trachea in stomach acid."

Pepto Guy [put off his onion rings]: "Yeah. Oh dear."

We all know that upset stomachs are really, really disgusting. I guess maybe this guy could be calling about puking his guts out, but that's not funny, so I think we can feel free to assume it's also about diarrhea. Riotous!

Pepto Guy: "Loudly? Yeah. My wife does that in her sleep. Yeah, it's funny, yeah. Well, I can see why it would not be funny for you."

But it is funny for us. Farting is so hilarious that even awkward allusions to it crack me up!

Pepto Guy: "Really? Well, why w- why would you do that in your pants?"

One guess as to which of Pepto's target ailments you can do in your pants! See below for answer.

(Answer: Diarrhea!!!!!)

This is really the best use of the "Pepto Hotline" gimmick they could think of, apparently - people calling all day to complain about how they've just shit their pants. Really, why are they even calling? If they know Pepto cures diarrhea, maybe they should go out and buy some rather than calling this guy, who, by the way, is not shown providing one iota of help to any of these people. It's all just hilarious, hilarious jokes in the "I've got to repeat what Chewbacca just said back to him so the viewers know what he said" mold - and of the five jokes in the ad, fully three are definitively about either farting or diarrhea, and a fourth is almost certainly about diarrhea as well. Was this spot written by Peter Griffin?

On the bright side, this ad is so funny that I'm going to use its technique on this blog from now on. Welcome to "Who Are The Ad Wizards Who Came Up With This Diarrhea?" And stay tuned for future posts like "This Hyundai ad was so bad it gave me diarrhea!" and "McDonald's: I'm loving shitting my pants!" I predict a million hits by Wednesday.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

It's a crazy world -- with stupid commercials

Some companies subscribe to the idea that if you create a commercial that's weird enough, then people will remember it and, by association, your product. The data to support this theory is inconclusive at best, and oftentimes what you see is people remembering a particular commercial but not the product. We've even seen examples of people reaching this site by searching for a particular ad with the wrong company (i.e. a description of a Toyota ad with "Honda" in the search string.)

That "memorability factor" is the only reason I can think of for the creation of this Sierra Mist ad:

(A man walks into a bar where everyone is drinking Sierra Mist. The bartender slides a plastic bottle of pop down the bar.)

Must be one of those wild cowboy saloons in Salt Lake City.

Man: It's a crazy world.

Apropos of absolutely nothing.

Man: I knew this girl who would do anything to get married.

Everyone else in the bar is paying rapt attention. And, why, exactly? Is this such an audacious statement?

Man: I call her, "the Wedding Girl."

Oh man, okay. Now I'm interested. Now that you've given her a self-evident identifier? I am putty in your able storytelling hands! Go on....

Scenes of the Wedding Girl at a reception where the narrator was apparently a bassist. She's beating up the other girls in the bridal party to be able to catch the bouquet -- doing anything to get married.

I guess if you find this particularly hilarious -- if you're a big Three Stooges fan, say -- then maybe you're going to remember this ad. But is there anything that make beating up girls at a wedding unique to Sierra Mist-brand lemon-lime soda pop? Anything?

Man: It's a crazy world. Drink Sierra Mist. It helps to refresh your mind.

Not until the end of the commercial does any of this ad make sense. Apparently Sierra Mist will help you cope with the craziness of phenomena like the Wedding Girl.

The big question is -- will Sierra Mist refresh my mind after seeing its own horseshit commercials?

Friday, October 31, 2008

I'll take "Tortured Premises" for $200, Alex

This ad doesn't seriously offend me or anything, but it just strikes me as yet one more example of how little most ad writers think about what they're writing.

You can see the basic idea of the ad there - "Guy who works at sub shop prefers Domino's oven-baked subs to his own employer's product" - and you can also see where it totally went off the rails. There's humor, and then there's this, where in taking the easiest possible path to the "joke" the writer(s) conveniently ignored that the path makes no sense.

Why did this guy order the sandwich to be sent to the sub shop at which he works? Why did he order it during business hours? Why did he give his real name? Why did he talk so loudly about it in front of his co-workers, making it thoroughly clear that he did in fact order it? "Why would I order a DOMINO'S OVEN-BAKED SANDWICH?" He even looks back into the shop as he says it! This makes no sense at all. No one would ever do this. The only reason to do something so incredibly nonsensical in your ad is if it's hilariously awesome. This is not hilariously awesome. This is what happens when your script for the ad is so lame that the director of the spot doesn't know to tell his lead actor that his delivery is totally off-base. Either that or Domino's wants you to think that only complete morons who are incapable of even the most basic subterfuge like their product.

Here is a better premise, which it took me ten seconds to think of: the Submart guy gets caught at Domino's by his manager and claims to be "scoping out the competition." Or, you know, anything else that might come close to happening in real life. I guess maybe that's not as side-splittingly hilarious a punchline as "Poor guy was lost!", though. Right? I mean, that's such a hilarious joke that we had to absolutely torture our basic premise just to get to it, right?

Unrelated note: Why are "Mike & Mike" doing the voice-over at the end? What the hell is the point of that?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The American Dream Pasta

The folks at Ronzoni have come up with a new 90-second instant pasta, and they want you to buy it. So they've cobbled together a commercial that combines the element of hilarious overstatement with the fun of inane non-sequitur. Take it away, Ronzoni:

Man: New Ronzoni Bistro.

Woman: Yeah! Delicious pasta meals in 90 seconds.

Man: (in awe) Bistro pasta in 90 seconds...

Why is this man shocked? He apparently knew what the product was, and that it was new, before he even asked. This is the most easily amazed man in the world.

Man: Whoa, will my other dream come true? (shot of him on the White House lawn)

So, wait -- you had two dreams: one was to become President of the United States. And the other was for someone to create 90-second instant pasta from a bag? Are you sure there wasn't a third dream -- to one day eat a bag lunch in an office breakroom by yourself?

Secret Service Agent: He's not the President! (Man is tackled)

Even in this man's Presidential fantasy -- one of only two dreams he's ever had -- he fails. Someone get this man an imagination!

Also, what does this have to do with selling pasta?

Voiceover: At least you can have your dream lunch.

Thankfully, most humans aren't like the aspiration-less man in this commercial. And that means that our dream lunch isn't instant pasta from a dry bag. I guess when I think about my dream lunch, I picture something hot and fresh, and not a bag of dehydrated crap I picked off the grocery store shelf for 99 cents a week before.

So, remember everybody: Ronzoni Bistro Pasta -- it's the dream lunch -- for people who are dead inside. 90 seconds to personal failure!

Monday, October 27, 2008

You'll love us because other people hate us!

I'm thinking back to my Marketing 101 class in college -- there were the 4 P's, brand positioning demographics, target markets, etc, etc.  We covered a lot of theoretical and practical ground.  I just can't seem to recall the day we talked about selling a product by showing how much people hate that product.  It's a maverick technique, as shown in this commercial for a local steakhouse:

(15 second shot of a piece of a gristly steak being grilled)

This is why good food photographers make a killing.  Because when amateurs try to film food, this is what you get: a greasy, rubbery piece of meat bouncing up and down on a grill.  My favorite part is when the camera pans completely away from the meat and over to an empty, blurry background.  Just makes me chuckle.  Was that supposed to be arty in some way? Did a high school photography student direct this?  "It's the rule of thirds, man!"

Vegetarians hate us.

"You!  Over there!  Queer guy who doesn't eat meat!  Hey, check out this huge hunk of animal!  Hungry yet?  Oh yeah, get a whiff of that greasy, bubbling flesh....  Want some?  Oh, guess what, you can't have it! Because you choose not to eat meat!  Hah -- suck on it!"

There are some kind of weird, good ol' boy undertones to a line like this.  I wonder if the meatatarians were behind this one, too.  But, yes, I suppose it is true that a group of people who don't eat meat wouldn't be fond of a steak place. What I fail to see, however, is the connection between illustrating that fact about vegetarians and attracting people who do eat meat to your steakhouse.

I mean, is this all they got?  Nothing about how they only serve the choicest cuts of meat?  Or how they were voted best steakhouse by a local magazine (if that were true)?  Or anything unique about the restaurant?  No?  You just wanted to lash out at a small percentage of the population that doesn't like your product.  Got it.


No, you're not sorry!  That one lazy copy line was the entire reason for this commercial!  Own up to it, dick.

"A Cut Above the Rest"

Just a pet peeve of mine.  You don't need fucking quotation marks there!  It's your slogan, you're not quoting somebody.  

This reminds me of another local ad, a billboard for a conservative radio talk show on WIND 560 AM which read, "Liberals Hate It!"  So automatically you've already lost 50% of the population who lean democratic.  Now granted you weren't going to get them to listen anyway, but you're trying to woo the other 50% by saying "there's a group of people who think we're assholes!" -- you think that's going to work?  Like someone will think to himself, "Well if Al Gore wouldn't listen to it, maybe I should tune in..."  

If you're considering running an ad campaign that tries to reach people by saying "Group X hates us" -- then I would suggest you put the kibosh on the whole deal -- the advertising, the product, your business -- everything.  You're admitting to everyone that there's so little that's new and great and unique about your product that you can't come up with a single noteworthy thing to say about it.  And that, for the record, is a business problem, not just an marketing problem.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Super Innuendo

This commercial is a little old, and local. Neither is an excuse.

Quick Ad Quiz

1. What is she referring to with "Isn't this a little fast?"
(a) Comcast's awesome high-speed connection
(b) Fucking on the first date

2. When she says, "Ooh! That popped up quick!" she is referring to:
(a) Comcast's awesome high-speed connection
(b) An erect penis

3. When she says "Oh my!" she is:
(a) Reacting to Comcast's awesome high-speed connection
(b) Enjoying a pleasurable sexual experience

4. When the guy with the mike says "She likey!" he is referring to:
(a) Comcast's awesome high-speed connection
(b) Fucking

If you answered (a) to all questions, you are either my grandmother or a nun. If you answered (b) to all questions, you are a frat boy; please report to the Sig Ep house for freshman hazing. If you answered "It can be both (a) and (b) and that's why it's hilarious," congratulations: you are the idiot who wrote this stupid, stupid ad.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

In which the blogger continues his campaign against Crispin Porter

Here at the Ad Wizards, we think most of the commercials we see on television could be a lot better. But then there's the work of one agency in particular that just makes our typin' fingers all red and itchy -- that would be the unwatchable oeuvre of Crispin Porter & Bogusky. Here we take a look at their latest effort to market the Volkswagen Routan:

Talking VW Beetle: Ahh, velcome Brooke Shields! Vat's on your mind?

Brooke Shields: Well, there's an epidemic sweeping the nation. Women everywhere are having babies just to get the new Volkswagen Routan.

The talking car isn't new -- they've used that in some recent work. Brooke Shields, however, is new. You know, it's hard to sell cars in a recession -- aren't we making it harder on the few consumers who do want to buy cars, by making them sift through peripheral weirdness like Beetles with German accents and B-Listers talking about some made-up, car-related baby boom?

Brooke Shields: Christine here is so seduced by German engineering, she's having a baby just to get it.

"And as soon as that baby is born, Christine is going to ship it off to an Engineering Boarding school in Hamburg, never to see her child again."

So I guess Crispin Porter's clever idea here is that "couples love the Routan minivan so much, they're going to get pregnant to justify buying one." That's such a bizarre, stupid idea, you have to wonder how they got there. Maybe they got an email from Volkswagen Marketing that looked like this:

Develop a new commercial for the Routan

Weird people out. Also, decrease sales of Routan by 50%

Pregnant couples, ages 25-40

German engineering is awesome. Everybody wants it. That's the number one thing people look for in automobiles -- "Was this made by Germans? Because the Japanese, Americans and Koreans all suck at making cars"

Talking car, German accent, random 3-piece band, use slogan that translates to "The Car"

Brooke Shields: Don't be like Christine -- have a baby for love, not for German engineering.

How is this funny? Or informational? Or memorable, even? Here's a test -- watch this ad twice, then come back to this site in 3 days and see if you remember the name of the car. I bet you won't. What you will remember? Brooke Shields annoying you.

Brooke Shields: Learn what I'm doing to help -- at

Hey, do you want to see about five more minutes of this same commercial? Then you should really check out

This car just launched -- a joint venture with Chrysler -- so no sales news yet. But with commercials like this one, you just have to wonder why companies continue to let Crispin Porter + Bogusky reshape their brands into creepy piles of shit.

SIDE NOTE: And by the way, here's an example of the way Volkswagen commercials used to be. Arnold Communications handled the account back then, before Crispin Porter could take a huge dump on it.

Anyone like this Pink Moon spot just a little bit more than the nonsensical zaniness of Brooke Shields railing against procreation?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

My arteries are clogged with yellow gold!

During this year's Olympics, the ads were actually surprisingly palatable... for the most part. Then there was this one.

Many people have noted the silliness of having the world's best-conditioned athletes shilling for products like McDonald's and Coca-Cola, but if you remember what Michael Phelps' daily diet looked like, it might not be the most ridiculous thing in the world. And I get the joke that we're supposed to think they're talking about a gold medal when they're actually talking about a chicken sandwich. But here's the part that really bugged me:

Weightlifter: "I've been dreaming about it..."
Boxer: "...since I was a kid."
Soccer player: "The perfect chicken sandwich."

They've been dreaming about it since they were kids? What? Were you dreaming about this exact combination of herbs and spices in the breading? Really?

Announcer: "Introducing McDonald's new Southern-Style Chicken Sandwich."
Boxer: "It's perfectly seasoned."
Gymnast: "It's juicy."
Fencer: "It's just how I like it!"

What? It's just how you like it? How the fuck is that possible? Did your mom used to make chicken sandwiches just like this? This makes no sense, at least until you consider that the Southern-Style Chicken Sandwich is basically an enormous ripoff of Chick-Fil-A's basic chicken sandwich. So maybe if you grew up in the South and went to Chick-Fil-A all the time, this sandwich actually would be "perfectly seasoned" and "just how you like it."

Announcer: "All-white meat chicken served warm with pickles on a steamed, buttery-tasting bun."

Served warm? Well, thank God. There's nothing I hate more than ice-cold chicken sandwiches. Also, the bun is "buttery-tasting"? So, I assume there isn't actually any butter on it?

Track athlete: "Why settle for silver..."
Gymnast: "...when you can get gold?"

I'm starting to wonder just how tongue-in-cheek the medal comparison is really meant to be. Also, what is "silver" in this case? Did Burger King introduce a Nevada Prospector Melt while I wasn't looking? Maybe we should be looking forward to Crispin Porter's next offering, in which the King, dressed as William Jennings Bryan, gives a speech about how McDonald's is not going to crucify mankind on a cross of Southern-style chicken.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Clap your hands! You must believe in firefighters!

Before we get into this, I just want to say that I have nothing but respect for firefighters. It's one of the toughest, most dangerous jobs out there, and I wouldn't have the guts to do it in a million years. But when you plug firefighters into the following commercial? It kind of makes me hate them.

Really, there's no reason this had to be firefighters at all, except that I guess they're a key demographic for Nextel's Direct Connect service. And, of course, they're blue-collar Joe types. If this commercial wasn't paid for by the Republican Party, it might as well have been.

Onscreen Graphic: "What if firefighters ran the world?"

I don't know. Who'd be fighting all the fires? Volunteer fire departments, I guess.

Fire chief: "How about the budget?"
Firefighters: "Balance it!"

Any ideas for balancing it? No? Okay. Meetings with our economic advisors? No? Meetings with a genie who will magically balance the budget as our first wish? Sold.

Fire chief: "And the taxes?"
Firefighters: "One page or less."

I assume here that they're talking about the number of forms they have to fill out come tax time. I'm not an accountant, but if you work one job and aren't itemizing your deductions, you're probably not dealing with much more than one page. And even if you are, there's probably a reason you are. The United States tax code is notoriously complicated, but I'm not sure paring it down to nothing would be terribly effective either.

Fire chief: "Anyone want better roads?"
Firefighters: "We do!"

Wish #2: Better roads! Kind of vague, so hopefully the genie isn't secretly evil and just buffs up one block of Main Street.

Fire chief: "All in favor?"
Firefighters: "Aye!"
Fire chief: "Opposed?"
Fire chief [bangs gavel]: "Done."

What? What is done? What, exactly, have you accomplished?

Fire chief: "A lot of paper to tell us we need clean water. We need clean water, guys?"
Firefighters: "Aye!"

Final wish: clean water. For the record, the reason there's a lot of paper is because maybe having clean water is about more than just wanting it. Maybe it's about having laws against water pollution, tax credits to businesses that reduce their pollution, environmental legislation, whatever. It's certainly about more than going, "Yeah! I want that thing you just said! Let's do it!" Look, I know this ad is just supposed to be cute, but in an election year it strikes me as irresponsibly reductive. And really it's just stupid. Does anyone believe politics could ever work this way? Does anyone really believe that having better roads is just a matter of going "Hey, let's get some better roads," and doesn't involve tax hikes, construction proposals, and various expenditures?

On top of all that, how is this really that good of an ad for Direct Connect? Everyone in it is in the same room.

Fire chief: "This is the easiest job I've ever had. We're outta here."

"After being voted out of office in a landslide in the following election, the firefighters were confused. 'I don't understand,' said the chief. 'We had a 30-second meeting in which we all agreed that the budget should be balanced and the water should be clean. What more do people want?'"

This ad makes no sense even from a firefighters' standpoint, unless this is what usually happens:

Woman: My baby! My baby!
Fire chief: Hey guys, there's a fire. We want this fire out?
Firefighters: Aye!
Fire chief: Good work. We're outta here.
Woman: What? Wait! My baby!
Fire chief: Oh, some broad is screaming about her baby. We gonna save her baby, guys?
Firefighters: Aye!
Fire chief: Done. This is the easiest job I've ever had.
Woman: You haven't actually done anything! You just said what you were going to do and then started to leave!
Fire chief: [chuckles] Look, lady. Why don't you leave the problem-solving to the professionals? Come on, guys, ten-cent wings at Murphy's starts in 20 minutes.
[house burns down]

Really portrays firefighters as hard-working heroes, doesn't it?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Pepto Abysmal

Even in the world of advertising, where maybe one joke in a thousand is actually funny, sometimes you run across a truly epic failure of comedy.

Could there possibly be a more strained, obnoxiously contrived setup for this "joke"? Misdirection is one thing. This is outright "forced to use words no human would ever speak in this context" idiocy, and in service of what?

Pepto Operator: "Pepto-Bismol! Nausea, heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, diar-rhea!"

Pepto really relishes the last part of that, don't they? Also, this makes it appear that these are all products they sell. "Yeah, can you guys track that package of diarrhea I ordered? It was supposed to be here on Wednesday."

Woman: "Yes, I want to know if we're covered."

Pepto-Bismol: not insurance. As far as I can tell, it hasn't been trying to position itself as insurance in its ads (feel free to correct me if I've missed one). Therefore, this? Stupid.

Woman: "Last night, Rex got into everything."

At this point, the camera pans down to the dog in her lap. She looks at the dog as she says it. Rex is the dog.

Pepto Operator: "What did Rex ingest, Ma'am?"

And here's where things really start to make no sense. So, I think it's pretty clear from his tone of voice that the guy thinks Rex is a dog, right? And he should. Because the phrase "got into everything" is not one that any human being would ever use to describe another, and because he probably hears the dog whines on the other end of the line.

Woman: "Chips, tapioca, ice cream, leftover moo shu and, of course, dog treats."

Of course! Because Rex is a dog.

Pepto Operator: "I'm sorry, Miss, we don't cover dogs."

Ooh, the old "Ma'am-to-Miss" slap-down! That's what you get for calling about a dog, lady! Even though it was obvious that this guy thought Rex was a dog. Why did you even let her keep talking after she said Rex? Anyway, this is classic bad-joke setup - like a guy walking into a bar with his supposed talking dog, and the bartender wants to kick them out unless the guy can prove that the dog talks. But wait! This is no ordinary dog! Get ready for the biggest shocker ending since Seven's head in the box:

Woman: "Oh... no, Charlie is my dog. Rex is my husband."

"I just talk about him like he's a dog! And seem to think nothing of the fact that he eats dog treats, apparently with some regularity!" Come on, what? Could that setup possibly have been any more forced? This is like the joke I mentioned above, only if it went like this:

"A man walks into a bar with his dog. 'Hey, two beers, one for me and one for my furry friend here.'
'We don't allow dogs in this bar,' says the bartender.
'What? This isn't a dog, it's just my friend Jeff,' says the man.
'Hi,' says Jeff."

My sides!

Voice-Over: "Whatever your stomach problem, Pepto keeps you covered. Pepto-Bismol: Yup, you're covered!"

Thanks for saying functionally the same thing twice in four seconds.

Here's how this ad goes if the people in it talk like humans:

Woman: Last night my husband ate everything in sight. He even ate dog treats!
Operator: Sorry to hear that, Ma'am. Some Pepto should clear him right up.
Woman: Say, why the fuck am I calling the Pepto hotline when everyone knows what symptoms your product works on?

When the punchline to your joke is so lame that you have to mask it in a layer of subterfuge just to get to a point where it could even conceivably seem like a form of humor, you have failed. Still, I'm sure we can all be thankful that the guy just ate dog treats, and not brownies laced with horse laxative.

Monday, October 13, 2008

It's all about the no

Remember One of like five companies that survived the dot-com bust of the early 2000s? Sells surplus stuff? Well, if you haven't heard of them recently, surely this commercial starring two people you've never heard of will jog your memory.

On-Screen Title: "A Love Story"


Rory: "Hey Joey, I wrote a song about you!"

Actually what he says is "I wrote a song aboutcha," but I'll be damned if I'm going to type all the dialogue that way.

Rory: [unfortunately, singing] "Her hair is yellow like a bale of hay, blue eyes like a sky on a summer day..."
Joey: "Yellow hair? Blue eyes? Sounds just like me." [hangs up phone, returns to surfing]

"Let's see here... books... ah, here we go: Chicken Soup for the Soul's Divorce and Recovery. Ooh, and it's in paperback!"

What she actually does is buy him a guitar. Because the problem with the song was the music and not the lyrics. (Okay, it was also the music, but I don't think the guitar is going to help matters.)

Rory: [singing again, sadly] "Her eyes are brown... her legs are long..."


Joey: [cutting him off] "His hair is red, and his love is strong."

So strong that he didn't know what color your hair was until you bought him something? What is the point of this ad?

On-Screen Title: "In Hardison Mill, Tennessee, it's Joey and Rory"

Who else is there? Who else? I demand to know their dog's name!

"and Rufus"


"At home with the 'O'"

What the fuck? No, seriously, what the fuck? Is Overstock taking credit for saving their marriage by magically allowing Rory to figure out what color Joey's hair is through the power of instrumental music? (Fuck that a cappella shit.)

If you haven't heard of Joey and Rory, you're not alone. Apparently they're some sort of country duo who placed third (all of third!) on Country Music Television's show Can You Duet?, which I'm forced to assume is some sort of half-assed American Idol substitute. I hope didn't break their advertising budget signing up these two when any two people who were capable of carrying a tune would have worked exactly as well. (Of course, when you hire Joey and Rory, Rufus will actually waive his usual appearance fee, and I mean, if you can get Rufus in your commercial, you might as well start printing money.)

" Touchingly low prices."

Apparently this ad was supposed to be touching. And I'm guessing they don't mean index finger touching uvula.

Rory: "My hair's not red!"

Oh, shit, y'all! Better buy Joey her own guitar, dude. Because Overstock guitars will give you the power of color vision, or so I've been led to believe.

So, the only real explanation I can come up with is that Rory is supposed to be a songwriting incompetent - to the extent that he has no idea what his own wife looks like - until he receives a magical Overstock guitar? Or, I guess, the guitar proves that she loves him, which thus enables him to realize what she looks like, having forgotten during the like two hours he didn't see her after she left the house that morning. (Absence makes the heart grow dumber.) Or this is a really stupid commercial.

You know what doesn't make for a good commercial? One that has nothing to do with the product it's advertising. I don't care that she's shown ordering a guitar from Overstock, this ad says basically nothing about that a five-second title card reading " We sell everything" couldn't. Other ways this ad could have gone:

* Show Rufus chewing on a dog treat; Milk-Bone graphic

* Show Joey and Rory sitting outside in bathtubs; Cialis logo (on a related note, those two are married? Really? Either Rory's hung like a stallion or Joey is so crazy no other man would go near her)

* Show Joey slapping Rory when she gets home; title card for Hardison + Mill, divorce specialists

* Just have the Kool-Aid Man jump into frame at the end; it makes as much sense as anything else

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I've been really trying, baby / To hold back this Swiffing for so long

You've probably seen other ads in this series, wherein the brooms and mops try to win the women back (only women do housework, by the way) with flowers and candy. The woman in this ad, however, apparently used to use that broom for more than just sweeping up dust.

Voiceover: "Once you switch to Swiffer Sweeper Vac, you'll never go back to your old broom again."

Next on Maury: "You're no good (at picking up dirt), so I'm leaving you (for a Swiffer Sweeper Vac)!"

[the woman sees a trail of rose petals leading outside]

It was kind of stupid of the broom to make a mess on the floor that would demonstrate how much better the Swiffer Sweeper Vac was, right? What a fool for love.

[the woman looks outside; the broom is sitting in a candle-ringed hot tub; "Baby Come Back" starts playing]

God, this is so gross. It's one thing to have a broom sending flowers; you can just write that off as "the broom is trying to win back her attention by doing something nice." But there is no way to interpret this ad other than "the broom wants her to hop into that hot tub for a nice, bristly makeout session."

[the woman gives a "Really? I don't think so" look, then closes the door]

How did the broom manage to set all that stuff up, given his lack of hands? Also, how did he light all those candles, considering that his head is extremely flammable?

Voiceover: "Swiffer Sweeper Vac does it all. Its powerful vacuum picks up the big stuff, and Swiffer dry cloths trap and lock dirt and dust better than a broom, or your money back! Guaranteed."

Right on. Last chance, broom.

[the woman stands by the sliding door; the broom is outside in a towel; in the last second of the ad, the towel drops to the floor]

How can they get away with showing this filthy broom nudity to our children during prime time?

Historically, broom handles have had some association with female masturbation. (In his book The Botany of Desire, Michael Pollan suggests that the association between witches and flight on broomsticks comes from witches using the end of a broomstick to vaginally apply a special hallucinogenic plant mixture that enabled them to "fly" metaphorically.) So, really, what is the fucking deal with this ad? Implying a past sexual relationship between a woman and her broom is creepy territory for an ad, but perhaps the biggest problem is that it's not quite as farfetched as all that. Does the broom want her to "remember the good times" (when they used to get it on in the hot tub) or is he trying to "win her back" (by getting it on in the hot tub)? Either way, even the most cursory amount of analysis leads to nothing good. This honestly didn't occur to anyone at the agency?

Also, if an actual ex-boyfriend did anything like what this broom is doing, how fast would the cops be called? Five seconds after she looked out the door the first time?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Square one

Oh, Wendy's. When you mercifully abandoned the red wig campaign, I was right there with you. And when you introduced your new ad campaign and some people didn't like it, I backed you up. But here you are, backsliding into the realm of lazy comedy. If you can even call what follows "comedy."

[Wendy sticks an "I *heart* BACON" button on the screen]

Is anyone else sensing the crushing irony here?

Woman: "This salad is really good, you want a bite?"

All right! Score a point for Wendy's. They have salads, which are actually pretty decent alternatives from a health standpoint if you find yourself with little more than fast food options for lunch. In fact, the healthy-living site SparkPeople recently posted an article about healthy choices at the major fast-food joints and specifically cited Wendy's Mandarin Chicken Salad. But I'm confused - why the bacon button to lead a commercial about healthy salads? Uh oh.

Man: "No, no, thank you, I'm a meatatarian."

This isn't The OED Wizards, so I'm going to ignore the improper etymological construction of that fake word (except to note it here so everyone can see how smart I am) and focus more on the fact that Wendy's thinks this is funny. What a concept! A guy who - I'm going to presume before even transcribing any more of the ad - only eats meat, and consequently rejects vegetables. Wendy's: We may have really good salads... if you're some kind of girl. By the way, if this concept seems a bit familiar, that's because it kind of is.

Woman: [extremely long pause, during which she isn't sure whether to be incredulous or disgusted and opts instead for near-total blankness]: "A what?"
Man: "A meatatarian? I only eat meat - beef, bacon? You know, meatatarian?"

I hate you. What is it with Wendy's and these horrible smug pitchmen? Really, I hate the entire trope - recognizable from those appalling Comcast ads - of pretending that a word you just made up is actually a common English word and that the person in the ad who doesn't recognize it is a moron. It's a lazy joke and insults the intelligence of the audience. Plus the dialogue here isn't tremendously logical - the guy clearly eats cheese and wheat, two things that are not meat products. And when he says "I only eat meat - beef, bacon," is it because those are the only two meats he eats, because he thinks those are the only two meats in existence, or because he thinks the woman is so stupid that she needs examples of meat listed off for her? For that matter, why don't they just have the guy say he's a Baconatarian if they're going to do it this way? For that matter, this guy is a fucking jerkoff.

Woman: "...oh."
Man: "It's a personal choice. You have to commit to it, you know?"

Yeah, by all means, commit to eating 830 calories in sandwich form at every meal. We can also see that he has fries and a drink on the table (two other things that are not meat). Assuming that's a medium fries and a medium Sprite, he has 1450 calories in front of him, 71 grams of fat (26 saturated), 142 grams of carbohydrates and 2,290 milligrams of sodium. Recommended intakes vary, but that's around 100% of your fat (and saturated fat) and sodium, and between 60 and 70 percent of your calories. In one sitting. Then, of course, you have to have dinner. The meatatarian's dinner? Another Baconator, presumably. I guess this is all right if you're Don Gorske, but that's 2900 calories from two square-burger meals (haw!), far too much for the average adult.

Other things that this guy should commit to:

* An exercise program
* Saving up for quintuple-bypass surgery
* Making out his will

Wendy: "The Wendy's Baconator. Six strips of hickory smoked bacon, on two quarter-pound patties of fresh, never frozen beef. It's waaaay better than fast food. It's Wendy's."

I guess if you're going to be eating this horribly, you might as well do it at Wendy's. That's not exactly an endorsement.

Wendy: "Have a way better shake way later. Enjoy a hand-spun Frosty shake late at night."

Top off that Baconator with a chocolate shake! Even the small is another 410 calories. I know that railing against how bad fast food is for you is pretty old at this point, and not exactly the mission of this site, but even the stupidest ads that are just stupid aren't as offensive as the kind that pitch 1500-calorie meals as a "lifestyle choice," even if it's intended as humor. (It's not like Wendy's doesn't want you eating at Wendy's all the time. "What are you, here for another Baconator? I don't think so, pal. Go home and have some fresh fruit." And given that they effectively mocked their own healthier choices within this ad... well, it makes you wonder, doesn't it?)

To get back to straight ad criticism, the animated Wendy's hand reaching for the for-real shake really creeps me the fuck out, especially because she's wearing an outfit that today is only seen on circus clowns.

An ad campaign about nothing: Microsoft spends $300 million on "jokes"

So Microsoft wants to be cool. Call it "Apple envy." We've seen it before -- companies trying to make hip commericals that look like they were produced by Apple's longtime agency, Chiat/Day. But where does a giant like Microsoft find their creative inspiration? They open up their pocketbooks, grab a $300 million wad, and go begging to the advertising agency most responsible for the existence of this site, Crispin Porter + Bo-fucking-gusky. Ahh, Crispin. Creator of the BK "King," panderer of lazy humor, mover of offices from Miami to Boulder (I guess -- needed to spend all that money?)

But wow, $300 million dollar account.... access to the world's second richest man.... seemingly limitless marketing opportunities. What would Crispin Porter do with all that? Oh, of course! Take ten of that three hundred million and hire a comedian a decade past his prime! Then put him in ads next to laugh-a-minute comedy master Bill Gates! So, hey, how'd that turn out?

Seinfeld: "Shoe Circus. Quality shoes at discount prices. Why pay more?" Bill Gates?

My thoughts exactly. If you're thinking "what the hell am I watching," like I am, you're probably hoping there's a big, tidy pay-off at the end that makes some sense of this situation. Spoiler alert!! There isn't.

Gates: Jerry Seinfeld?

Seinfeld: Churro?

Hmm. Almost a joke. So close here, Jerry. What is it about Jerry Seinfeld in commercials that just drains the humor out of him?

With $10 million spent on Seinfeld alone, I wonder what the cost of this campaign is per joke. Let's keep a tally. This is joke #1.

Seinfeld (helping Gates try on shoes): Is that your toe?

Gates: No.

Seinfeld: What is it?

Gates: Leather.

Joke Count: 2. Granted, Jerry plays straight man here, but we'll give it to him. Also, this is probably the funniest part of the commercial right here.

Seinfeld: You know what I do? I wear (the Conquistador shoes) in the shower. You ever wear clothes in the shower, Bill?

Gates: No.

Seinfeld: You're dressed, and you're clean. Open the door, go about your business.

Joke Count: 4. I'm counting the word "Conquistador" as a kind of throwback "Seinfeld" word joke. I guess kind of like "Festivus" or something. I dunno. Also I'm counting the showering in your clothes bit as a joke. Although, isn't that really odd? Did Seinfeld write this, or a crack-addled Crispin Porter copywriter?

Seinfeld: Guess what Bill, you're a ten (referring to his shoe size).

And we're up to 5 now, with a pun. Yay. If the commercial stopped now (if only!), it'd be just $2 million per joke. And sure, that may seem excessive, but think about this: Don Rickles used to charge $50,000 per insult at the old Friar's Club Roasts. And if it got a big laugh? That was extra. And that's before inflation, folks. (Note: I'm almost certain this is true.) Comedy ain't cheap.

Seinfeld: What do you get with that card (the Clown Club membership card)?

Gates: Big Top points.

Seinfeld sets the pick, and Gates drains the three! We're at 6. Six funny, funny jokes. Oh, and we've learned a lot about Microsoft. Like about the brand, what their products do, Vista. All that important selling stuff -- it's all covered.

Also, I'm not counting the fact that Bill Gates, a bazillionaire, is shopping at a discount shoe shop as a joke. You have to try harder than that to be funny.

Seinfeld: You know, I imagine over the years you've mind-melded your magnum Jupiter brain to those other Saturn-ringed brains at Microsoft.

That's negative one. That is so forced and awkward that, if there's a joke somewhere in there (Jerry's a zombie and wants to eat Bill's delicious brain?), I can't find it in that turgid, tortured sentence. Just abominable. We're back to 5.

Seinfeld: Just wondering, are they ever gonna come out with something that will make our computers moist and chewy like cake so we can just eat 'em while we're working.

"Jerry Seinfeld on Salvia," ladies and gentlemen! Listen as he riffs on tasting colors in airplane food... identify with him as he discusses the annoying coworker who always flies inside the refrigerator just as you were going to hear it bleed purple! This Thursday through Saturday at the Orpheum. Tickets going fast!

Joke Count: 6. Just because I kind of pity him now.

Seinfeld: If it's yes, give me a signal -- adjust your shorts.

Gates: (moves ass uncomfortably)

Joke Count: 100,000,000,000,000. I take it all back -- that bit alone is like a hundred trillion jokes. Jerry Seinfeld was worth every penny! I actually just came to after passing out from over-laughing. I'm typing this from an ambulance where I'm being treated for a fractured rib cage -- from laughing way too hard at the inherent comedy in blending observational Jewish humor with PC-based operating system marketing! Wooooooo!

The Future. Delicious. (Windows logo)

So, to recap, here's what I take away from this ad:

1. Microsoft is a shoe company.
2. Even rich people like discounts.
3. Jerry Seinfeld stopped being funny, somehow.
4. Hey, those Mac vs. PC ads are pretty funny, huh?
5. Oh, guess I was wrong on point #1 - Microsoft has something to do with computers, not shoes.
6. The future is delicious.
7. Okay, figured it out -- Microsoft sells churros.
8. I am going to buy a Mac immediately.

One would have to think that Crispin Porter + Bogusky's reign atop the advertising world is coming to an end very soon.