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.