Saturday, August 30, 2008

There will be a test later.

Pop quiz. How many of you can name at least one of the jackass things this woman was doing as she was walking down the street? Would you ever aspire to be like, hang around with, or smell like this woman?

Now, Question #2. Given that the ad is ostensibly all about the five reasons that make this product so unique and effective, how many of you can name at least one of them? I can't. That's because they were all in moderately-sized print at the top, away from the center of the screen, where our eyes are being drawn by (again) the jackass things this woman was doing as she was walking down the street. And the reasons are not recapped or summarized at the end- there's just a large graphic reminding you that the five reasons exist. As good as any of those characteristics of the deodorant might be, all I can take away from the commercial is how much I hate it and the character in it and, by association, the product.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Bust in translation - Taiwan edition

I've been on some long plane rides again, and rather than post about easily lampoonable SkyMall copy, this time I'm taking on easily lampoonable mistranslations. The following signage I found along my recent visit to the country of Taiwan, or the Republic of China (not to be confused with the People's Republic of China.) Taipei, the capital of Taiwan, is a beautiful place -- a bustling international city nestled in the middle of lush sub-tropical hills. The people are friendly, the city is clean, accessible and easily navigated, but, as happens in most places in Asia, they have a little trouble with the English.

How hard can it be to run something through a translation service? You have to wonder how people just settle on using Babel Fish or whatever to translate lines that are going to appear across a city of millions of people. So, here are a few examples that caught my eye as I was walking around:

These personal care stores were everywhere in Taipei....

Only curious women need makeup and deodorant, apparently.


Here's a sign I kept seeing on the subway (MRT) for the Chinese Christian Relief Association:

Why, exactly, is love power? I can't read Mandarin, but it's hard to imagine that statement being explained here. Also, why do the mother and daughter have books over the heads? Because love... is.... power?


This was outside an Italian restaurant...

Possibility #1: They mean "Midnight 12:00" but the "1" fell off.
Possibility #2: They mean "Midnight to 2:00," and they have really weird hours.
Possibility #3: They think "Midnight" means "2:00am," and they were misinformed.
Possibility: #4: They are crazy.


A clothing store was having a sale. This is how they advertised it:

"I *heart* final" and "I *heart* sale"?! That's the best anyone could come up with? Here's the crazy thing, originally I had thought this was your run-of-the-mill silly translation error. Then I looked this store up, it's in the US, too, and they have the same damn ads. I'd love to see someone walking around with a button that says "I *heart* final." Because, why not? That makes sense out of context, right?


And finally, straight from the Taipei 101 subway station....
The only English you see on this entire thing, which was a huge poster, is "Castrated Chicken." It may spoil it slightly to learn that's the English title of a Taiwanese play, but it's still pretty excellent. I really wanted it to be a restaurant, not a play. Or maybe a clinic.

So, Taiwan certainly has better English signage than, say, mainland China. And, in their defense, they recently switched to a different form of Romanization (Hanyu Pinyin instead of Wade-Giles), so there are about 8 different ways to spell everything. All things considered, not too bad. But, still enough craziness to amuse an American traveler/meta-critical ad blogger abroad.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Money well spent

Oh, Hyundai. Why didn't you just hire Maria Sharapova, tennis champion?

(Skip ahead to 0:17, since the first part of the video is just some bumper that precedes the ad.)

Salesman: [yammers about features on the car, then says] "Plus, right now you can get $2000 cash back!"
Customer: [sounding utterly unimpressed] "Pretty impressive."

This should have been followed by a massive, cartoonish yawn take. Am I right?

Larry Winget, Best-Selling Author of You're Broke Because You Want to Be, Who Is Creepily Hiding in the Back Seat: "Pretty impressive?"
Customer: "Larry Winget? Best-selling author of You're Broke Because You Want to Be?"

First of all, bullshit. No one outside of the Winget family knows Larry Winget on sight. Second of all, if Larry Winget were famous enough to justify an appearance in this ad, you wouldn't need to mention both his name and the book he's "known" for having written. I also love how the customer still sounds totally underwhelmed. Did they spend too much money getting Larry Winget, Best-Selling Author of You're Broke Because You Want to Be for the ad and not have enough left over to hire an actor who could modulate his voice?

LW, B-SAOYBBYWTB, WICHITBS: "Take the money you'll save and pay down your credit card debt."

I love that this is what passes for sage financial advice. It's not Larry Winget's fault that the American public is so stupid with credit, I guess, but really? "Hey, maybe pay off some of your credit card debt?" Good call, financial guru. Also, if you're that serious about needing to pay off your debt, maybe don't buy a new car, much less a gas-guzzling SUV (17 mpg city, 24 mpg highway). Larry? Maybe? I bet if you asked him when Hyundai wasn't paying him, he'd tell you the same thing.

Customer: "Probably should."
LW, B-SAOYBBYWTB, WICHITBS: "Did he just say probably?"
Customer: "Definitely. [sotto voce] Probably." [flatlines]

God, you are so boring. This is what passes for a joke in this clunker of an ad, by the way.

I kind of feel like if Larry Winget gave financial advice to large corporations, he would take Hyundai to task for wasting their money on a pitchman who is so not famous that he has to be addressed by his full name and what he's (not actually) famous for doing. "Hell, what are you guys thinking? Is my appearance in this ad really any more convincing than any random actor saying the same lines? You could have taken the money you saved by not hiring me and bought a pool table for the company break room to boost morale!"

Sunday, August 3, 2008

The F team

There's a famous story about Brandon Tartikoff, an executive at NBC in the 80s. Apparently he was pitching an idea that turned out to be The A-Team, and the last part of the pitch was simply, "Did you ever see Rocky III, with that guy Mr. T? Well, Mr. T drives the car." I'm guessing that was most of the pitch for this Snickers ad.

As I understand it, this was made for British television, but it's already been pulled over complaints about it that rolled in when it hit the internet. Not hard to see why, is it?

[A speedwalker walks speedily down the street. Mr. T, driving an enormous truck, bursts from a house and pulls up alongside him.]

Mr. T: "Speedwalking? I pity you, fool!"

I'm sure Mr. T doesn't mind saying this line because of all the money it's made him, but doesn't he have to feel like "The 'I Didn't Do It' Boy" at this point? "I pity the fool" was just another line in Rocky III - his calling card could just as easily be "Prediction: pain" or "I'm the baddest man in the world" or "I'm gonna crucify him" or "Hey, woman!" Most of those lines would work in this ad's context, wouldn't they?

Mr. T: "You a disgrace to the man race!"

Man: not a race. Of course, Mr. T isn't an ethnologist.

Mr. T: "It's time to run like a real man!"

Well, why would anyone complain about this ad? It's just a delightful, old-fashioned, queer-harassin' romp! Snickers really has a problem with being even remotely effeminate; remember their Super Bowl ad from a couple years ago where the guys rip out their chest hair to prove their masculinity after accidentally kissing? What's next, a flamboyant guy gets curb-stomped by a Snickers-eating mob?

[Mr. T fires Snickers bars at the speedwalker's legs in order to make him run]
Mr. T: "Take that, speedwalker! Do it again, sucker, and there's gonna be trouble! With a capital Mr. T!"

I'm thinking this curb-stomping ad I mentioned isn't too far off the mark of what would happen if this spot had a sequel. I mean, what's Mr. T going to do to this guy that's worse than firing at him with a giant candy bar machine gun? It's really down to "beat the shit out of him" or "kill him," isn't it?

Mr. T: "Snickers! Get some nuts!"

He's just talking about peanuts, right? I mean, I don't see any other way to interpret that slogan.

You're a candy bar, Snickers. Chocolate, beloved of women everywhere, is a main ingredient of your product. Is there really something so hyper-masculine about peanuts that you have to make "You'd better eat Snickers, you fucking pussy" ads all the time? Also, isn't it sort of odd that an ad so disdainful of men with insufficient masculinity would actually focus the camera on the speedwalker's gyrating ass in the opening seconds?