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.


Windier E. Megatons said...

For the record, that diarrhea joke might be the most low-brow in this site's history.

Quivering P. Landmass said...

Here's what I can't wait for -- the people who absolutely love this ad and just happened to find your post by googling "diarrhea+covered+husband+moo."

Tyler said...

The nonchalant "of course, dog treats" portion is what gets me. It's the cherry on top of a tortured premise sundae.

Anonymous said...

You hit it right on the nail, tyler. I get really frustrated when she says, "and, of course, dog treats" because why the hell would we assume that it's normal for her husband to eat dog treats?!?!?!?!?