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