Thursday, February 28, 2008

Free junk mail!

Some people out there don't understand how the internet works. Witness this web banner ad:

Okay, so maybe just old white people don't understand how the internet works. Who would be genuinely intrigued by a "free" weekly email? "You mean to tell me I can get conservative claptrap delivered to my inbox at no charge at all? Can I also opt in to receive free spam from partner businesses?!"

Regardless of how you feel about Newt Gingrich's views, you have to acknowledge that there's clearly some demand for it out there. But when has anyone ever had to pay cash to hear what he has to say? Newt Gingrich's opinions are unavoidable. Even if you didn't get the free weekly email, there's plenty of opportunity to catch him blabbing on talk radio or Fox News or whatever.

I also like the headline "Free Newt!" Not exactly the clearest. At first I thought it meant, "Free Newt from jail!" or maybe, "Free Newt from the prejudiced censorship of the liberal media!" It could also be read, if you were scrolling down and didn't yet see Gingrich's sunny grin, as, "Free Salamander!"

Now, I'm going to go see if I can sign up for some free blogs somewhere...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Just a very brief note to say...

You're next, SkyMall.

The only sad part will be the loss of printed ads to mock.

Give 'em a real Bronx cheer!

Normally I don't much care for the FCC's censorship tactics, but I think we need to thank them for preventing Bud Light from inflicting the following ad on us during the Super Bowl.

Oh my God. Do you guys get it? It's about farting! Ha ha ha! Cut the cheese! Pull my finger! Girls don't do it! Hi-larious! I can't stop laughing! Let's all congratulate the marketing execs at Bud Light who pitched this one:

I almost wonder if the FCC banned this ad because of its really-not-veiled-at-all fart/poop jokes, or because based on the level of the humor they assumed that Bud Light was trying to sell beer to fourth-graders. Do people above the age of 14 still say "cutting the cheese," anyway?

Also, someone please explain to me why this ad needed to be a minute long. A minute long? Really? It's the same one joke over and over again! "'Cutting the cheese' refers to farting! But it can also, in unrelated scenarios, refer to actually slicing a blade through cheese, thereby cutting it! Did you catch that? No? By 'it' I meant the actual dairy product, cheese, there. Now? Still not sure? Well, here, let's do the exact same joke fifteen more times. Maybe you'll figure it out eventually. For good measure, we'll throw in 'pinch a loaf,' which I don't think anyone under the age of 80 says anymore and which doesn't really make sense as something one would do at work, even if bread is shown. Riotous!"

Bud Light: Either we're total morons or we think you are. I'm looking forward to whoopee cushions featuring prominently in their next spot.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Forget about make sense

In the spirit of Windier's write-up yesterday, I'd like to add on to the list of advertisers who value "cuteness" and "presentation" over "being clear" and "grammar." Behold a print ad from Quaker Oats that will confound the ages:

"Forget about use your words.
I know he likes it."

First of all, what the fuck are you trying to say. This is the opposite of a "quick read," which is what you'd want if you're trying to grab the attention of someone thumbing through ads in Real Simple magazine. I'm thinking maybe this ad was originally made in Finnish, and the Quaker US team just Babelfished the copy into English and ran with it. Is this ad truly comprehensible without someone walking you through it?

Let me take a shot at rewriting this ad to what I think Quaker was trying to say:

Forget about "use your words."
I know he likes it.

Here's a free lesson on quotation marks: they don't go around every headline. It's so much clearer when you just use them around a colloquialism or phrase, like "use your words." Now, you can argue whether or not "use your words" is still a common phrase. I know my mother never said it to me. I guess the concept here is that this oatmeal is so good, a child can communicate his preference with the elegant gesture of holding up an empty bowl. It's a weak, tired idea as is, but when it's veiled in an ungrammatical clusterfuck of quoted words, it's damn near impossible to understand.

The visuals aren't stimulating, either. What is appetizing, I ask you, about an empty, dirty cereal bowl that takes up half the page? What about that makes me want to buy oatmeal? And, is that little boy wearing eye shadow?

Quaker, you get an "F" on this one-- "F" as in, "Forget about make ads. I know you're ignorant clods."

There's a reason it's not called SenseGenie

SalesGenie's spots have been, at various times, stupid, manipulative and even borderline racist. But until now, at least they generally worked around the product they were selling and, you know, kind of made sense.

What in the hell does this have to do with anything SalesGenie does? Who is this military guy and why on earth would he give a shit about SalesGenie? Apparently he's supposed to be a competitor... right? I mean, that's the only way it makes sense. But I don't think SalesGenie competes with the military. Does SalesGenie even have competitors who might "mess" with them?

Other SalesGenie ads, while hideously low-budget and usually poorly thought out, at least show salesmen becoming successful after using the service. This one invents a bizarre competitor, brings in an actual genie character - which would make way more sense if they'd ever used one before - and has SalesGenie "win" by draping its logo over this random competitor. All that and it looks like it cost about twelve bucks to make. Do you think that SalesGenie would get more bang for their buck if they hired an actual ad agency and just stopped running ads during the Super Bowl and the Oscars? There's something to be said for having the biggest audience possible, sure, but there's also something to be said for not embarrassing yourself in front of said audience.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Bad things come in threes

So, you're "the new AT&T" (i.e. the old AT&T plus Cingular). You've made two really, really stupid commercials that encourage purchasing an unlimited text messaging plan by pointing out that kids text message a whole hell of a lot and often make no sense as a result. What's your next move? If you said "Making an ad that basically calls people who text a bunch of illiterate morons," you're right!

This concept was stupid the first time out; the second time, it was just painful. But this? I don't even know what to say about this one. First of all, everyone knows what "ROTFL" stands for at this point. It's not 2002 anymore. Second of all, thanks for translating "8 points," in case we weren't sure if that was more "crazy talk!" Also, among the other words on that board is something ending in -YL. Really? Basically the only common English word ending in -YL is "vinyl," but that doesn't look like an N above the Y. In fact, it sort of looks like someone already played "TTYL." Which, if so, the mom has some nerve getting upset about ROTFL when she's apparently been willing to let whatever shit springs to her daughter's head make it to the board up until this point.

At least in this ad, AT&T restricted themselves to terms in common use - as stupid as ONUD sounds, a Google search will confirm that it's actually in use in places other than the heads of the people at AT&T's agency. But the kicker for the ad is when the mother says to the daughter, "I have completely failed you as a parent." What? That's kind of an odd thing to go out on, isn't it? Especially when followed by the daughter's shit-eating grin - "Hooray, Mom can't understand us and thinks we're borderline retarded - isn't this great?" The exaggeration of the generation gap in these ads is so huge I'm surprised they don't show the grandmother screaming about pictures coming to life when someone turns on the TV.

But what's the point behind this ad, anyway? The initial ones were a family where the kids texted all the time, which frustrated the mother because the cell phone bill was huge. So now, I guess, everyone has the unlimited texting plan... which has just encouraged their English to fall even further into a shambles and oddly distanced them from any family gathering. (Would you play Scrabble with three people who were just sitting there texting their friends during the whole game?) I'm confused. Is this a good thing? Is this something I want to strive for? This ad doesn't make me want to get unlimited texting, it makes me want to curl up into the fetal position and cry for the future of humanity, then go get a vasectomy. There's only two ways this ad can go - either AT&T sides with the daughter and it's just making fun of how out of touch the mother is, or (more likely) they side with the mother. Which means the message of this ad is, "We think people who need this plan are drooling imbeciles, but we'd still like their money, or at least the money of whoever makes the household's communication decisions." Nice.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Please not this guy again...

Some guys just get all the national TV work -- like this doofball, who I talked about in a post last year. Here are shots of the same terrible, talent-less actor in two concurrent spots:

Same guy, right? Well, I happened upon Holiday Inn Express's new commercial offering, and he's once again made his slack-jawed mark on another piece of advertising. Here's a screen grab:

Um, can we vary it up a little, advertisers? Wouldn't some idiot off the street be better than this chump, not to mention cheaper? I'm really tired of seeing this guy continue to pop up. Let's all just give America like a year off from this dude, and if we need to dip back into the "vacant look of astonishment" talent pool after that, we can.

By the way, the new Holilday Inn Express commercial isn't anywhere on YouTube, but if you're desperate to watch it you can go here and download a version. It's a fairly confounding piece of advertising. Basically, there's a "hot breakfast bar" at the Holiday Inn Express, and this actor starts scooping scrambled eggs onto his plate. His friends remind him that he's the "designated driver" that morning, and he puts down the foods and says "I don't have to have a hot breakfast to have a good time." So there's your concept -- breakfast food is like booze, and you shouldn't drive after you've eaten it. Hey, do lawyers ever watch ads before they hit the air?

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Our unnecessary product is better than your unnecessary product

Flavored, vitamin-enhanced waters are all the rage, in spite of the fact that it's pretty easy to argue they have no compelling reason to exist. You may not want to hint at this, even as a part of a knock on your competition.

So, Vitamin Water has 125 calories and Propel only has 25. Advantage Propel, I suppose. But guess what has zero calories? Normal water, which can frequently be obtained without even having to pay for it! I know, I know - shocking. And if you have to do 500 sit-ups to burn off a bottle of Vitamin Water, you're still stuck doing 100 sit-ups to burn off Propel. Burning off actual water? Zero sit-ups!

Of course, actual water doesn't have vitamins - not that you couldn't take a supplement which would also add no calories to your diet - nor does it have a kind of gross, artificial fruit flavor to it like Propel does. So there's that, I guess. But this ad just plays like a luxury car ad where some $40,000 model talks about how their $50,000 competitor is too expensive. "Propel: When you want unnecessary calories, but just not too many."

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Kia knows their history

Have you ever heard the name "Millard Fillmore"? Perhaps in a high school American History class where you were browsing the names of various presidents, his name might have caught your eye. He was the president sandwiched between Zachary Taylor and Franklin Pierce -- an unremarkable trio of minor American leaders, to be sure, but I really thought I knew the identity of Millard Fillmore -- that was, of course, until Kia had the good sense to tell me otherwise:

President Millard Fillmore...

Right! I knew it. He was president.

... best remembered as the first president to have a running water bathtub...

Wrong. Kia -- listen to me, you have to know this is fucking apocryphal. A tiny iota of research will prove this to be true. I mean, aren't there factcheckers you can hire to take a look at your shitty ads? Or maybe this is a "joke"? But, you just look stupid if it's a joke because you make this myth sound real.

The funny thing is, there's a large amount of comedic material about Millard Fillmore that isn't fake. For starters, he was a Whig. Just that very word is funny. Also, he was born in a log cabin. His first job was as a clothmaker. He started the White House library (he was a nerd! That's funny!) He had a third nipple and named it "Professor Milkington" (I just made this up, but it's funnier than the bath tub joke, and that's just a joke stolen from H.L. Mencken.)

The other stupid part about this concept is that there are plenty of more obscure presidents out there they could have used -- presidents that don't have well-known comic strips named after them. William Henry Harrison was president for 31 days. John Tyler didn't do a whole lot, and he was a "Democrat-Republican" (make up your mind for Pete's sake! Am I right?). Zachary Taylor wasn't in office for much more than a year, being the guy who died right before the ever-unheard-of Fillmore.

... he's unheard-of....

See, you say that, but I distinctly recall his name, and something about his being a goddam American president. We're anonymous here at the Ad Wizards, but I will go on record now as saying that my profession is not that of Presidential Historian. And yet, somehow, I'd heard of this guy. I'll grant you that he's an order of magnitude less famous than, say, George Washington, but can we agree that he's not exactly some small town Vermont Alderman from the early 19th century who died of typhus at age 58?

So we're honoring him during Kia's Unheard Of Presidents' Day Sale

Look, it's not that I'm some huge Millard Fillmore fan. Dude signed the Fugitive Slave Act -- that's bad juju. It's just that I think the people who made these ads are really, really stupid, and they've made the terrible assumption, like many advertisers sadly do, that Americans are as dumb as they are. Hey Kia? We're just not that retarded. Sorry.

To commemorate Millard's bathtime, we've created this Millard Fillmore soap-on-a-rope.

Can someone explain to me why this is funny? This simply appears to be more stupid pandering. We're not dumb enough to believe that an American President can truly be "unheard of," and we're not dumb enough to find that kind of goofy, punny humor funny. I can't wait for this to go off the air next week.

So, who wants to go buy a car on Monday?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

HDpus Rex

Inventing new words doesn't appear to have worked for Comcast, so they're on to the next tactic: borrowing old ideas.

Setting aside the fact that people opening their mouths and having song lyrics come out is not nearly as hilarious as Comcast thinks it is, we've seen this before. (Warning: the volume on the following ad is much higher than on the Comcast ad.)

Keep in mind: it wasn't funny when Avis did it, either.

One thing Avis didn't do was use a song recorded by a porn star, one that's pretty clearly about sexual activity, and have a mother sing it to her son. Way to gross me the fuck out, Comcast. It's not like they tried very hard to make it fit within the commercial - they even have the son seem confused as to why these particular lyrics make sense in context. So why, exactly, did we think this was a good idea?

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Sanity makes a comeback

Here at The Ad Wizards, we're not usually about reasoned, objective critique of every major ad campaign that comes down the pike. We find ads we think suck, and we dick on them to expected degrees. (Occasionally, just to mix it up, we do praise ads we like, but that's accounted for roughly three percent of our posting output so far.) But we're not exactly, I don't know, Ad Age or anything.

Well, recently, I posted about Wendy's finally admitting that their "red wig" campaign was just not doing it. In that post, I mentioned the new Wendy's campaign and wished them luck on it being an improvement. The campaign just hit YouTube and I have to say, it's definitely an improvement.

It's a little slow-moving, and I find it odd that it seems like the cartoon Wendy is supposed to be talking to us but we never see her mouth move. But other than that, I like this ad - it focuses on good things, has nice folksy music and mannerisms, has a slogan that's fairly distinguishing if a little dopey, and, most importantly, it doesn't try to blast your face off with its "coolness." Wendy's senior VP of marketing strategy admitted in a conference call - as reported by AdAge - that trying to be cool was not really working for Wendy's.

Wendy's has decided that it shouldn't base its strategy on cool, and said food-buying decisions are based more on taste than the hip factor. "People don't go to Wendy's because it's a cool place," said Paul Kershisnik, senior VP-marketing strategy and innovation. "They'll never go to Wendy's because it's a cool place."

Bra-fucking-vo. Seriously. Usually that indicates sarcasm, but I am dead serious here. Given that a lot of advertising aimed at the coveted 18-to-34 set has devolved into a contest to see who can do the most random "funny" shit, it is incredibly refreshing to see a company of Wendy's stature decide that it should get back to basics, and then do so with a classy ad that gets its point across and actually advertises its product without being incredibly obnoxious.

Here's what I don't get: people who get paid to analyze ads - in particular, Teressa Iezzi over on AdAge - seem to have liked the "red wig" series and hate this new series.

Love it or hate it, the red-wig campaign was a step forward for forgettable Wendy's. The new spots? It feels wrong to blame the agency for this silliness, as it's clear that the ads are the sole responsibility of the client. But the effort is so spectacularly terrible that it warrants some discussion. Where to begin? The anodyne tone; the insipid voice-over uttering lines such as "If hamburgers were meant to be frozen, wouldn't cows come from Antarctica?"; the empty chatter about "authenticity" and "honesty" surrounding the campaign. The food shots aren't even that great.

I close with an earnest question for the marketers out there: Does this kind of advertising work?

Um, didn't we already see that the red wig ads didn't work? The voice-over for this one could probably be better and yes, the "Antarctica" line (in the other ad I didn't post) is cringe-inducingly homespun. But I liked the food shots and overall tone and, while I don't get paid for this, I think I'm probably closer to the average consumer than someone who actually works in advertising is. I suppose if your only concern is people recognizing the commercials, then the red wig ads worked like a charm. By virtue of their stripped-down nature, the new ads are never going to do that. But where's the proof that ads like the red wig campaign actually get people in the door? Weren't Wendy's sales down under that campaign?

In the earliest days of television advertising, it was pretty much just a bald-faced pitch - frequently the host of a show would step aside in the middle of a program, hold a product up to the camera, and give a little spiel about it. While this may not be the ideal scenario, it seems to me like we've gone to pretty much the exact opposite end of the spectrum - many commercials these days are just 30-second movies with product placement, and what the product is isn't always even important. Take a look at virtually any Bud Light ad - you could replace the Bud Light with any other beer, or in a few cases just about any other object in creation, and the commercials would run exactly the same. Sure, Bud Light doesn't really need to sell itself at this point, but that's merely one example. This blog is littered with ads whose first concerns are "Do something funny or potentially memorable" and whose product pitches lag way behind in terms of importance; the Sobe Life Water Super Bowl ad that we lambasted is a good recent example. Does it have anything to do with Life Water? Does it tell you anything about Life Water? Of course not. It's 60 seconds of insane dancing lizards designed to do nothing more than get people to notice the dancing lizards. I wonder how many people could even tell you exactly what product that ad was for, two days after it aired.

The thing is, McDonald's makes friendly, folksy commercials all the time. When are they ever criticized for doing so? Is Wendy's somehow obligated to make distinctively annoying ads just because they're running third in the burger race? Since when does that make a difference? Just look at the cola wars. Pepsi has spent significant chunks of its time attacking Coke in the last 25 years or so; in 1987, Pepsi had gained 32% of the overall beverage market, while Coke was barely a point ahead. In 20 years since then, Pepsi has made it all the way to... 31.2% in 2006, with Coke now almost 12 points ahead. How did 20 years of negative advertising work out for you, Pepsi? And Pepsi's commercials haven't exactly been unrecognizable - everyone knew who Hallie Kate Eisenberg was back in 1999-2000, and the "Joy of Cola" jingle was quite familiar. On the other hand, if you're like me, you hated ads like this one. As I often say on here, is that kind of smug-ass pitch really selling anyone on your product? The answer, according to market share, is: no. (And yes, I know that encompasses all brands. So here: in 1996, Pepsi-Cola trailed Coca-Cola by about six points in market share, 20.8 to 14.9; in 2006, it was 15.9 to 10.2, a difference of 5.7 instead of 5.9. Clearly all those "Joy of Cola" ads really moved the ol' needle.)

I should probably wrap this up, so let me close with this: I don't run focus groups, but I see little evidence from my perusal of articles on the subject that "hilarious" ads like the red wig campaign do much for sales. Brand recognition is all well and good, but there's positive recognition and negative recognition, and it sure seems to me like Wendy's felt it was getting way too much of the latter. So why are we - by which I mean a lot of people who aren't me - firing on Wendy's for trying to fix the problem? They've had marketing issues ever since Dave Thomas died; in lieu of ghoulishly propping him up like Orville Redenbacher, maybe it makes sense for Wendy's to return to the homey style he brought to the proceedings, rather than new-school junk like Mr. Wendy and the red wigs. I say, good thinking.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Super Bored Awards 2008

Hi, folks. If you're anything like us, you were disappointed by the crop of ads that ran during Super Bowl XLII. There weren't any that were all that great, but more importantly for our purposes, even most of the bad ones were bad in more nondescript ways, as opposed to being truly horrifying like the infamous Snickers kiss and GM robot suicide ads from Super Bowl XLI. That said, there was still plenty of garbage to go around. So without further ado, we present The Ad Wizards' Super Bored Awards for 2008.

The Apple 1984 Memorial Award for Least Shitty Ad
Winner: Gatorade

Quivering: We called this one in the predictions, mostly because these guys are always good for a visually appealing spot. You can't beat the grass leaping along with Derek Jeter's footsteps as he walks through Manhattan. Even if you despise the Yankees, as we at Ad Wizards most certainly do, you have to appreciate the art direction in this ad and details like the little swinging batsman in the "Walk" sign on the streetpost. The payoff at the end with Peyton Manning and Bill Parcells is a little unnecessary, but I guess when you're Gatorade and your marketing budget is 10^94 dollars, you can afford to throw in some extra star power just for shits.

Honorable Mention: Bud Light

This ad gets listed on here for actually making us laugh. Will Ferrell, unlike Carlos Mencia, is a for-real comedian, and he has managed to help create a true rarity - a good beer commercial. There's also some interesting risk-taking in the humor - calling out the alcohol content and using the word "suck." This ad is reminiscent of Bud Light's Axe Murderer spot from last year's Super Bowl, where Anheuser Busch managed to make one of their, like, fourteen ads watchable.

Cheapest Budget/Clumsiest Execution Award

Windier: I could spend all day talking about the sketchiness of the service that SalesGenie presumes to offer, but really I've already done that, and anyway the problems with this ad go so far beyond the product being sold. Why are they pandas? Why do the pandas have to talk with stereotypical Chinese accents? Why is the animation so mediocre? (Actually, I can guess the answer to that one.) Why is "Sofaz" misspelled? Is it some sort of inside joke? Panda psychic? (Note also that the psychic doesn't speak with the accent, meaning it was hardly necessary.) The whole thing is clumsy, nonsensical and vaguely racist. I expect low-budget hackery from the company that used the same actor in two completely different spots, but the Asian stereotypes (including font and music) really take the whole affair to another level. Why not just have the pandas running a laundry while you're at it?

SalesGenie clearly can't afford more than a 30-second spot on the Super Bowl, and I'm pretty sure they're more interested in having people talk about them - even if it is almost uniformly "Can you believe how fucking terrible these ads are?" - than they are in getting a product message out. But wow, does this ad not get its product message out. "Our business is in trouble! Oh, let's use SalesGenie! Wow, 100 free sales leads! Now we're rolling in it!" Bit of a cause-and-effect lapse there, no? I suppose SalesGenie needed the space to work in their patented "your life will be worse if you don't use us" pitch. I'm not sure how many human beings are worried about the prospect of ending up in the zoo, but I guess you can pick your own human stand-in for that, like "meth lab" or something.

Most Overproduced Ad
Winner: Sobe Life Water

Quivering: Here we were, innocently watching the Super Bowl to look for bad advertising, when a thunderous shockwave of awfulness struck us like a dull knife. Out of nowhere, there was Naomi Campbell, with way too much bangs, and lizards - lots of 'em, and poorly animated, too. "Did we just die?" we thought to ourselves, as we saw the lizards jerking back and forth to the 80's hit "Thriller." Maybe this was some kind of karmic payback for all the mean things we've said about advertising over the past months. At about the 45 second mark, when the lizards flashed their jewel-encrusted teeth, we were sure we had died. This was how we were going to spend eternity in advertising hell - our heads fixed on the television, "Clockwork Orange"-style, staring at the most odious computer animation, our pathetic sobs drowned out by Michael Jackson. And then, after 59 seconds, in which we lived 1,000 agonizing lifetimes, it ended. It was over, and it was real. We had a winner for "Most Overproduced Ad," but it came at a high cost. Tiny animated lizards will never be the same. We, as a nation, will never be the same. And most of all, Naomi Campbell will never, ever be the same.

By the way, we had predicted Pepsi for this category - and Sobe Life Water is a Pepsi brand. We'll call that partial credit. As it turns out, the Justin Timberlake spot just wasn't over-produced enough.

Worst Use of "Humor" Award
Winner: Bud Light

Windier: I shudder to think from what adult-education program Carlos Mencia would be drawing a check. Bud Light goes a little bit gutsy with this one, as they're counting on the viewer to remember last year's awful ad so that this year's is just awful, instead of awful and totally random. The stereotypes, if anything, are even thicker this time - hilarious foreign accents! African guys who carry chickens everywhere! Listen to this dude say "Bood Light!" Fucking hysterical! - and make even less sense. Is Mencia teaching a class for social retards? Just because someone isn't a native speaker of English doesn't mean their idea of complimenting a woman is holding up a live chicken and suggesting she has the same eyes. And really, Mencia's idea of hitting on a woman is, "Hello! You are so very sexy!" You lothario, you.

There's not much that can even be said about an ad like this. Like most Bud Light ads, it isn't funny. But at least the other awful Bud Light ads that aired during the Super Bowl focused on Bud Light. This ad focuses on how funny it is when Indian dudes say Bud Light. Way to sell your product.

Flimsiest Pretense Award

Quivering: There wasn't a lot to choose from in the way of sex appeal this year, so once again the favorite wins. The main reason is the winner here (and not, say, Victoria's Secret) is the product that they sell - domain names. Why do you need to show exposed skin to sell internet domains? And why do you need to show the exposed skin of Danica Patrick who, we're sorry, isn't even that hot?

The concept of the ad is to drive people online to watch the many Super Bowl ads that were rejected by Fox. The prospect of watching Danica Patrick not get naked on the internet causes mass havoc in the commercial, with even the women making a run to the computer to watch the rejected ads. This seems likely - young women start running when they hear they can see a female race car driver unzip her jacket, right?

SkyMall Championship Trophy
Winner: Planters

Windier: As I've often noted on this site, certain ads don't just annoy me, they make me wonder what on earth the companies responsible for them were thinking. Such is the case with the winner of the SkyMall Championship Trophy which, as stated in our preview, goes to the ad featuring the worst overall attempt to sell a product. There are certainly a lot of contenders for so "prestigious" an award, but let's face it - of all the commercials that aired during the Super Bowl, there can be no doubt that Planters' spot stands out above the rest, for several reasons.

Reason #1: The pitch itself. The premise behind this ad is that Planters cashews are so good, men will be drawn to women who smell like them no matter how otherwise unappealing the women are. That's not inherently offensive, but it seems just a trifle counterintuitive to make the centerpiece of your commercial a comically ugly woman, doesn't it? "Man, these Planters nuts are great... they remind me of unibrows and unsightly moles. Mmmm." I won't even get into how silly the concept of cashew-as-perfume is, since I'm sure Planters was at least trying to be funny on this point.

Reason #2: The shoehorned-in sex appeal. Yeah, dab that cashew onto your cleavage. That's what we're all looking for. Oh wait, this woman is hideous. No one wants to see her cleavage. Smart move.

Reason #3: "Manstincts." Apparently Planters has decided it wants to focus on the male nut-consuming demographic, as the "Instinctively good" tagline from the ad ties into this website. That's right. Planters is now marketing peanuts as though they were... well, beer. This is basically a Miller Lite ad adapted to deal with nuts. It's trying to be funny, but it's really just kind of sad. The worst part is that the actual spot that aired doesn't seem crafted to appeal to men in the way that it should have been as the launch point of this campaign. If a man comes out of your ad thinking, "Planters thinks I should be fucking a bridge troll because she smells like cashews," is he rushing to the store for some cashews? I know I'm not.

I'm a little impressed that Planters bought into the Super Bowl at all, and at least we're not getting Mr. Peanut crotch shots anymore, but was this really the best they could do? It's a marketing strategy that seems unlikely to appeal to anyone. Good job.

The Carlos Mencia Book Prize for Most Egregious Use of B-List Celebrities
Winner: Bridgestone

Quivering: For the first year in a row, the Carlos Mencia Book Prize is NOT awarded to Carlos Mencia. Remarkably, someone found a B-Lister even more irrelevant - Richard Simmons. Why are there an aging rock star (Alice Cooper) and an aging fitness video host in the middle of a dark, woodsy road? And why did someone think this would be funny? The title of the ad, as listed online, seems to be "Unexpected Obstacles." And maybe if that were in the actual copy - "Avoid unexpected obstacles with Bridgestone tires" - it would make a lot more sense. As it is, it's just crazy.

Isn't buying tires supposed to be a manly thing? It's hard to imagine a middle-aged man walking into a Sears saying, "Hey, caught your Super Bowl ad last night. I love Richard Simmons! Hilarious shit. Made me feel like buying tires."

And at the ad agency, what do you tell your producer once the client greenlights your concept? "Hey, finally sold in that Super Bowl spot. We're going to need your help right away - we need to book Alice Cooper and Richard Simmons. Don't worry, it'll make sense once you see it. There's going to be wildlife to tie it all together!"

Worst Super Bowl Ad of 2008
Winner: Sobe Life Water

Windier: Like the game itself, this one ended in an upset, but both Quivering and I agreed - this was not just the most overproduced, it was unquestionably the worst ad to air during the Super Bowl. It begins with the fact that the ad makes basically no sense. Naomi Campbell? Poorly-animated CGI lizards drinking Sobe Life Water and turning into Thriller dancers (in about the most awkward cut imaginable)? Unpleasant slurping sounds and what appears to be a gratuitous fart sound effect? Here's what this ad says to me: "We had five million bucks to blow and figured, 'People think the Thriller dance is hilarious.'" I know it's made a comeback in the last year or so because of all the hilariously ironic people using it at their weddings and crap, but let's get something straight - the Thriller dance is not something you want to be building your minute-long commercial around, especially when your commercial stars lizards and Naomi Campbell. (Naomi Campbell? Seriously? Was she just available, or what?) All told, this ad must have cost millions upon millions of dollars. And yet it barely even has a point. Previous Sobe Life Water ads, while bad in their own way, positioned it as a healthy beverage alternative. This ad... apparently claims that if you drink it you'll turn into a zombie. Rich in antioxidants? Fuck that. Rich in dancing lizards? Shit yes. I'm guessing that when you're marketing something to high school and college kids, "good for you" isn't exactly setting them off. But "thrillicious?" That video came out 25 years ago. Also, please stop trying to make "thrillicious" into a word. What are you, Comcast?

The ad itself was bad enough, but the Florida in Sobe's election as Worst Super Bowl Ad of 2008 was its online component, which, well...

Yeah. You actually just watched that. Let's check off all the revolting things about this one. Reference to interspecies lovin'? Check. Reference to lizard nudity? Check. Disgusting consumption of insects? Check. Attempt to use "thrillicious" as a legitimate adjective? Check. Not even a slight attempt to have the lizards look like the CGI lizards in the actual ad? Check. This might top GE for "worst online peripheral content to an already shitty ad," and that's saying something. Congratulations, Sobe Life Water: easily the worst ad of the 2008 Super Bowl.