Thursday, December 31, 2009

She aches just like a woman, but she breaks just like a GPS

Guys, you can stop wondering. The mystery of what women want has been solved... by Jared.

That's right: women want diamonds. All women. In fact, even GPS devices, which lack a gender aside from the sex of the person who recorded their canned audio tracks, want diamonds, provided you've got the female voice setting on. I guess if this guy had the male voice switched on it would have demanded he go out for brewskis and presented directions to the nearest bar. Because in ad world, every member of a group is exactly the same, even when that member is not even a person and therefore not even actually a member of the group in question.

GPS: "Navigation system activated. Oh, look - he went to Jared."
Guy: "Ex... cuse me?"

That is also the reaction I would have if my GPS started talking in sentient fashion. Fair enough so far... I guess.

GPS: "What's in the bag, Dave?"

How did the GPS know his name? (I know, it's a reference to 2001, please don't tell me how I missed the joke in the comments.) Come to think of it, how does the GPS know what Jared is? How is the GPS capable of "seeing" objects in the car? Also, we can see in the next shot that the GPS's perspective is aimed at Dave's face. How did it even see the bag?

I know, I know - these are trifling questions, really. But I can't stand commercials that refuse to stand on even the smallest shred of believability. If I can't trust the agency to have thought of obvious things in the plot - such as why, for even one second, it would matter whether or not a reindeer had a "map" - why should I buy into what they're selling? Isn't the whole point of most television commercials to present a short story that in some way indicates why I would want a product?

Dave: "A diamond necklace?"
GPS: "May I see it?"

Women! Right? Even when it's not really a woman! It's a piece of machinery, but it has a woman's voice, and therefore it has the craven desire for expensive jewelry of which all women are possessed!

Dave: "Uh, can I just get directions, please?"

Okay, where is this guy going that he even needs the GPS? He's buying a diamond necklace at Jared, at - according to the GPS's screen - 12:23 pm. He's wearing a shirt and tie, which means it's probably a weekday and he came from work. So... he probably has to go back to work! Does he really need directions to retrace the exact path he already took to get to the Jared in the first place? Also, if he had to ask directions to get to the Jared, shouldn't the GPS already have known where he was going?

GPS: "I'm sorry, Dave. I'm afraid I can't do that."
[doors lock]

Because GPS systems are wired directly into a car's power locks, too. Also, does the GPS realize it can be turned off via a button on the front? This isn't exactly Dave Bowman floating around in HAL's core here. On the bright side, if you're this dude, looks like you just found yourself a way to get your GPS to give it up.

Voiceover: "The Hearts Desire collection at Jared uses only ideal-cut diamonds, to best see the diamonds' true inner fire."

Um, what? This is some grade-A diamond-merchant bullshit, right here. "True inner fire?" I know, that's a technical diamond term... which the diamond people conjured up in an attempt to ascribe passion and emotion to a fucking piece of rock. I hate everything about this. It's light reflecting. Since when is that worth thousands of dollars? How about we just go outside and I'll spray the garden hose in the direction of a light source? It's real purty.

Also, Hearts Desire! Diamonds aren't just "a girl's best friend," they're her "heart's desire" - literally what she truly loves, wants and needs. She doesn't love you - she loves the expensive diamond jewelry your masculine earning power can provide! Even if "she" is a normally inanimate piece of machinery.

Dave: "Now can we go?"
GPS [with the necklace draped over it]: "Oh, Dave. You shouldn't have."

Later, the GPS gave Dave the best blow job he'd ever had. The end.

"You shouldn't have?" He didn't! That necklace isn't for you, GPS. (Good thing he bought a necklace, too, since most other common types of jewelry wouldn't fit on a GPS.) What am I supposed to come out of this ad thinking? That when I walk out of a Jared holding a bag I will instantly be mauled by every woman in the vicinity, each desperate to be the recipient of the shiny, shiny rocks I just purchased? Will empty cars, steered by female-voiced GPS systems, follow me through the parking lot? Because hey - if it looks or sounds female, it's a woman, and if it's a woman, it wants diamonds. And how do we know that? Because companies trying to sell diamonds keep telling us. Makes sense to me!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

For the love of Carl's J

Things Kim Kardashian is famous for:

(1) Having an abnormally large ass
(2) Having a sex tape
(3) Having an unwatchable reality show about her annoying family
(4) Dating NFL "star" Reggie Bush

If you can think of how one of those connects to salad, I'm all ears.

This is, of course, the same company that figured Paris Hilton washing a car was a good way to sell a hamburger, or that professional mannequin Audrina Patridge was a good spokesperson. I'm not necessarily surprised that their latest pitch involves a more or less attractive woman who really should not be famous at all. That's apparently their thing. But that doesn't make it any less annoying.

Kim Kardashian: "I'm such a neat freak. Everything's gotta be clean, crisp and tasty."

What? This copy makes no sense. Also, what kind of neat freak fucking eats a salad in bed and/or with their fingers? Fuck you, Carl's Jr. ad writers.

Also, when your pitchwoman is most famous for having a sex tape, do you really want to go here:

Oh, you do? Okay. Mmm, jizzed-on apples. Delicious.

(To go off-topic for just a minute, here's an underrated fact about the whole sex tape thing: neither Kim Kardashian nor her sex-tape paramour Ray J were particularly famous. Usually people notice/care about sex tapes when they star people who are already famous, like Pamela Anderson or Rob Lowe. But Kardashian and Ray J were not really famous. If anything, they both had small amounts of fame, but only for having connections to much more famous people; Kardashian was a socialite friend of Paris Hilton's - someone else whose fame springs heavily from a sex tape - and Ray J is the brother of singer Brandy. Then they made a sex tape and somehow both of them got TV shows out of it. The math on that is a little weird, right? But I digress.)

Kim: "And while the best things in life are messy..."

Uh... I don't even know what to say about this. Let's just move on.

Kim: "It's fun to get clean." [gets into bathtub]

This is basically nudity-free pornography at this point, isn't it? How can the FCC even justify letting Carl's Jr. run this on television? On the one hand, okay, there's certainly no nudity or bad language, and you could argue that any children who are young enough such that this ad is "inappropriate" for them simply won't see the innuendo in things like a drop of glistening translucent salad dressing falling within inches of Kim Kardashian's cleavage.

On the other hand, the dialogue makes no sense and is completely inconsistent. As a result, the ad can't claim to be doing anything other than trying to sell a salad by introducing sex into the mix. Why, here comes the tagline:

Announcer: "Who said salads can't be hot?"

Well, I can't say I would recommend eating a fully-dressed salad (a) in bed, (b) in the bathtub, or (c) with your fingers. So if that's what it takes to make a salad "hot," I guess I'm saying salads can't be hot.

Announcer: "The new Cranberry Apple Walnut Grilled Chicken Salad... one of three new premium salads at Carl's Jr."

Wait a minute. You would have to assume that an ad like this is built to appeal to men (specifically heterosexual men). And what they're selling is a cranberry apple walnut salad? Not to stereotype, but come on, that is approximately the least manly salad imaginable. This ad, which implicitly compares a woman eating an apple slice to oral sex, cannot possibly be aimed at women, even though they are the clear market for such a salad. The burger commercials at least made sense from this standpoint - the guys watching can (theoretically) drool over the hot chick in the bikini while also getting excited for the enormous burger she's eating.

But this is a salad. The kind of guy who is watching an ad like this and thinking about going to Carl's Jr. because he likes big butts and cannot lie is probably not the kind of guy who is going to Carl's Jr. for a salad. And even if he were, making your salad dressing visually recall semen is not the way to get him in the door.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Damn that Biz Markie, he's so hot right now

Leave it to the advertising machine to unearth another one.

At the risk of making some readers of this blog (and for that matter some authors of this blog) feel old, "Just a Friend" is now twenty years old. Granted, it was a #1 hit, but is one completely out of context line from the end of the song really a sufficient building block for a commercial in 2009?

RadioShack Ad Exec: Okay, we need a popular song for our ad, but we don't want to pay that much. Someone name some one-hit wonders from 15 or 20 years ago.
Underling 1: Deep Blue Something!
Underling 2: Deee-Lite!
Underling 3: Bobby McFerrin!
Underling 4: You're all idiots. The right answer is Biz Markie.
Underlings 1, 2, and 3: Ohhh, of course, you're right, etc.
Exec: Do I know the song you're talking about?
Underling 1: You know, the one that goes "You, you got what I need..."
Exec: Oh, right. So we could use that, and be like, "The Shack has got what you need this Christmas."
Underling 4: No way. We should use the "Oh, snap, guess what I saw" line. It sells cameras without even changing the words!
Exec: There's a line that goes like that?
Underling 4: Uh, yeah. It's only the best line in the song. Why, I heard a group of teenagers quoting it to each other on the street just the other day.
Exec: I guess I'll take your word for it. Run with it, people!


Underling 2: Did you really hear a group of teenagers quoting the "Oh, snap" line to each other?
Underling 4: Of course not. But that's my dad's favorite line in the song. Every time he hears it he gives me a piece of candy. So when this thing runs, cha-ching!
Underling 2: Aren't you too old to be doing things based on the fact that you would get candy?
Underling 4: Hey, there's Kit Kats in this vending machine today!

Note that the things Biz sees in the ad are breakdancing penguins (breakdancing, also extremely timely!) and a rabbit acting as a DJ, because I guess if you use a rap song in your commercial then everything related to it also has to be "urban."

The most unfortunate fact about the Radio Shack ad, albeit something which they probably could not have known about when they decided to run it, is that there's currently another ad using the exact same song, and in much better fashion:

What the Heineken ad lacks in Biz Markie's actual presence it more than makes up for by playing the part of the song that everyone actually knows, rather than some random part that happens to sound a little bit like he's using a camera. Sure, it's at least as much a 30-second ad for the song as it is an ad for anything else - and frankly I could stand Heineken being a little clearer on the fact that this is an ad promoting not driving after drinking - but it's significantly more fun than the stupid Radio Shack ad and well-intentioned to boot.

Friday, December 25, 2009

There's a bunch of crap for that

I cannot stand commercials that simply refuse to make a lick of goddamn sense.

This means nothing. This is nothing. Why do the reindeer need "maps"? The maps are supposed to show Verizon's 3G coverage in the United States. (Santa Claus, if real, is not located in the United States.) The reindeer somehow need 3G coverage? And it somehow matters that all eight (nine?) of them have Verizon's network? Good luck getting a reindeer to work a phone, by the way. Shouldn't Santa just have a phone? The reindeer are all pulling the same sleigh - even if their 3G coverage was in any way relevant, I'm pretty sure seven out of eight would be sufficient.

Hey, here's a thought. Maybe instead of completely wasting the first ten seconds of the commercial on nothing at all, you could have spent some of that time doing anything to explain why Blitzen's "map" is a problem, other than having the smarmy-ass reindeer next to him just go "Uh, your map?" No, you'll stick with that? Okay.

The jabs in this war between AT&T and Verizon are really getting increasingly ridiculous. See, for particular example, this AT&T ad:

"Hey, you see this thing that has no connection to reality whatsoever? AT&T totally does it faster than Verizon!" Most of the AT&T commercials in response to Verizon's "there's a map for that" ads have really been oddly evasive (presumably out of necessity). Verizon's talking about our coverage? Better talk about download speeds! But be sure to make it really opaque by not giving any real examples and instead discussing how long it would take to download a complete human being. What? Or how about this one:

Really, you have to love the way both of them are pretending that the other's network is a total piece of shit when, if we take all the claims in these ads at more or less face value, there are perfectly legitimate reasons for each to be preferred by certain people. If you live somewhere where both have coverage, maybe you'd prefer AT&T and its better download speeds. But if you live in one of the many, many places that apparently don't get AT&T, maybe you'd prefer Verizon. Over nothing.

Ultimately, though, I think Verizon comes out on top, mostly because AT&T's biggest initial response was a classic example of selective omission:

You notice what he's not saying in there, of course - 3G. Verizon's ads talk about how their 3G coverage is better, so AT&T responds by saying, "Verizon's talking about coverage. Well, here's who AT&T covers!" Not who AT&T covers with 3G... just people who can use AT&T wireless phone service at all. Yeah, that's not deceptive. You'll notice that they don't mention the 97% of Americans thing in any of their ads talking about 3G speed and such. Also, in this ad they only mention ten cities, most of which are very large. Wow, you have coverage in major US cities, AT&T? No way! (Not the first time AT&T has felt it necessary to brag about having coverage in large American cities as though that were uncommon, it should be noted.)

For being somewhat less deceptive and not using a Luke Wilson in full smug as their spokesman, I give this round to Verizon. On the other hand, if this ad means that we've finally gotten rid of that awful family and their one-note joke about wanting to use new minutes, AT&T wins by default.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The unfunny valley

You guys know the cartoon dude on the Airborne package, right? What? You don't? You barely even know what Airborne is? Oh, inexcusable, friends. That is a famous cartoon spokesman, right there. So famous that he has to be used in a commercial, even when it's completely awkward and weird-looking.

Yes, that classic character, "Mediocre illustration of some guy in a suit on a plane." If you can come up with a single reason why they couldn't just have had him transform into a real guy for this ad, I'd love to hear it. I'm almost positive that would have been cheaper and taken much less time, and it would not have looked horribly creepy to see a human baby being handed to a human man. Unlike here, where it's completely weird to see the baby awkwardly loaded into the arms of some guy in a green Lycra bodysuit our "hero." Is the baby so upset because it's half-human, half-cartoon and is teething with garish, animated teeth that will sing and dance across its gums?

I do enjoy, on some level, how delightfully desperate this ad is. It's almost like it's a response to dwindling business travel as a result of the recession. "Wait, Airborne isn't just to help boost your immune system while traveling on planes, where diseases can run rampant! You can use it at literally any time! For example, when life gets 'out of control' or 'catches up to you!'" Come on, Airborne. Those aren't even really two different things, to say nothing of the fact that the situations involved are textbook examples of "this is structured like something that's supposed to be funny, but you could not point to a single thing that is actually funny about it." My teenage daughter brought a questionable boyfriend home? Oh no, my immune system! Maybe if she had an actual human father she wouldn't feel such a need to rebel. Or maybe she's lashing out because he's clearly never home - at the end of the ad, his wife kisses him and says "Night, dear," and what does he do? He gets right back onto the airplane on the box! "Well, that's my 15 seconds at home for the year. See you in 2010, kids!"

Also, isn't the whole point of Airborne that it's an "on the go" type of thing? Look at that little tube it comes in! I'm supposed to use this even at my own house, where I surely have orange juice and vitamin supplements already if I'm that concerned about my immune system? This reminds me of those Cookie Crisp ads from the mid-90s that tried to sell a children's breakfast cereal (albeit an inappropriate one in the first place) as a snack to adults. If your product already has a very clear role in the marketplace, trying to ridiculously reposition it is rarely a good move. "No, really, you can use Airborne anywhere! Please use Airborne anywhere!" Not happening.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Imitation is the sincerest form of fattery

Say this much for Burger King - very few companies would make a commercial in which they come right out and say, "We're ripping off the product of our closest competitor."

Of course, you also have to consider that Burger King is apparently so stupid that they can't figure out how to make a Sausage McMuffin with Egg without stealing "blueprints" for it, even though all the ingredients are in the name.

I'll give the ad this: it gets the point across. "Hey, you like the McDonald's breakfast? We've got the exact same thing - seriously, it's pretty much identical - but we'll sell it to you for a dollar." McDonald's typically sells the same item for $2.49, a fairly significant difference.

Still, it strikes me as odd. Doesn't this pitch sort of smack of giving up? BK will always be the little brother to McDonald's, but this really just feels like "I'll show you! I'll start my own lemonade stand and I'll only charge ten cents a glass!" Has Burger King just decided they can't win on the merits of their food and is resorting to "we'll sell you McDonald's food for less than McDonald's will"? What's next, standing outside McDonald's restaurants with free sample trays?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Look who's gawking

It's vital that we teach important messages to the youth of today. So if you have a daughter who's entering her teens, you should definitely show her this ad and have a long, serious talk about breast self-esteem.

Right Breast: "Hey, did you see? Nobody's staring at us anymore."
Left Breast: "Aren't we still hot?"
Right Breast: "Kuh-learly!"

Remember, guys: women's breasts want to be stared at. You might even say they were asking for it. In fact, here's how to handle it when, say, you're at work.

Manager: "Do you think you could have this done by the end of the day? The client will be expecting it."
You [staring directly at her chest]: "Uh huh. Oh yeah. Not a problem."
Manager: "Um, I'm up here."
You: "Yeah, but your boobs are down here."
[uncomfortable silence]
You: "You're welcome..."

Right Breast: "You know what? It's all because of that stupid butt down there."
Left Breast: "Yeah! Stupid butt, gets all the attention now."

Yeah! When we used to walk past construction sites, it was all "Nice tits, honey! Woo woo!" And now it's "Nice ass, babe! Yeah, shake it!" I want to be objectified on my terms, goddammit!

Right Breast: "She's so tight now, so round, so pretty..."
Left Breast: "And so... stupid!"
Announcer: "Make your boobs jealous."

Really think they should have gone for the female announcer here. Might have made things a little less creepy. I mean, there are other commercials in this series that are a bit more reasonable (mostly because they don't feature talking breasts). Although compare this ad - while it doesn't have talking breasts, it still dwells on the idea that the only real reason to improve your physique is to get all the boys staring at your ass.

You might also notice what neither of these ads features - the woman's face. Or anything that would give her a personality and make her something besides a pair of breasts and a writhing, topless figure on a bed. I guess the original ad concept was too on the nose.

Right Breast: "Hey, did you notice no one is staring at us?"
Left Breast: "Aren't we still hot?"
Brain: "Uh, being objectified constantly really makes me uncomfortable, so-"
Right Breast: "Shut up, brain! Did anyone ask you?"
Left Breast: "Stupid brain thinks she's so smart."
Right Breast: "Yeah, stupid brain! Thinks just because she got into Harvard she's better than us!"
Brain: "I just think it's important to be more than some piece of mea-"
Left Breast: "I think the quarterback just walked by! Quick, flaunt us!"
Butt: "Hey, I just wanted to point out that it's been 20 seconds since someone last showed appreciation for my tightness by slapping me."
Brain: "Um, yeah, that's because that's terrib-"
Butt: "Uh, hello? Why did we even wear Reebok EasyTone if I'm not going to be constantly ogled and pinched?"
Right Breast: "Hey, is that a camera? Pull our shirt up!"

So, congratulations, Reebok EasyTone. Thanks to you, women can - hopefully! - increase the number of creepy leers and unwanted advances they get, more easily than ever. What an age we live in.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Lord of the NuvaRings

You know what's never a stilted, completely implausible idea for a commercial? Having people sit around and discuss your product like the subject fascinates them. Take it away, NuvaRing:

Yeah, that happened ever.

Woman 1: "Ooh, I love this commercial!" [sings along with jingle from previous NuvaRing commercial]

Getting off to a great start with flagrant editorializing of their own ads. Obviously that's complete bullshit, but let's just give it to them for now... I'm more amused by the fact that the woman "love[s] this commercial" yet doesn't seem to have much idea what NuvaRing is and is singing along perkily even though the idea behind the song is that taking a birth control pill every day - the reason they're singing every day out loud - is something you don't want to be doing.

Woman 2: "Would you guys try NuvaRing?"
Woman 3: "I'm not even sure what it is!"

Ha ha! Good thing this is a NuvaRing commercial. Get ready for a face full of information.

Woman 2: "It is a monthly vaginal birth control ring that delivers a low dose of hormones."

I love the way she delivers this line, because it sounds like she's stumbling through remembering something the NuvaRing people coached her to say at the NuvaRing party she's secretly throwing for her friends. Oddly, no one blinked when she popped in the DVD and a NuvaRing ad came on instead of Bride Wars.

Woman 1: "Don't you have to... put it in..."

Yeah, hence the word "vaginal." See, she loves the song, but was paying no attention to the product itself; this probably serves as a dramatization of the reason for this new commercial's existence. Except that no one in the world loves that song for real.

Woman 2: "For me it's easy. You put NuvaRing in for three weeks, you take it out, and then you put a new one in seven days later."

I'm not a woman, but I don't know about this. Is sticking a piece of plastic into your vagina - where it will reside almost constantly - really easier than taking a tiny pill every day? Is there that much difference between the ring-less week and the pill's placebo period? Maybe the rest of the ad will explain things. (Spoiler: it won't.)

Woman 3: "I can handle that."

Good thing it's not any harder, for I am a woman and incapable of complex mechanical tasks!

Woman 2: "Small, and comfortable - plus you don't have to take it every day."

Yes you do! It is in your vagina every day. (Okay, except the week when it's not. Six of one, half a dozen of the other.) You are always taking it. But hey, at least you don't have to go through the strenuous exertion of peristalsis!

Woman 3: "But I'm already on the pi-"
Woman 2 [sarcastically]: "The pill!"
Woman 3: "I know, right?"
Woman 2: "So was I, until I talked to my doctor about switching."

I don't know how many female readers we have, but I'd really like to know how many find the pill to be/have been an unbearable hassle. Short of not taking birth control at all, you're still being dosed with hormones, yes? Is there an annoyance about having to remember to take the pill, and having problems if you miss? There must be some reason why having a goddamn piece of plastic resident in your genitals is being pitched as a vastly superior alternative. If you told men they could stop wearing condoms but they'd have to get an aglet shoved into their urethra once a month, I wonder how many would actually go for it.

Woman 2: "NuvaRing is just as effective."

Was that anyone's concern here?

Woman 3: "Really."
Woman 1: "Here are the risks."

Hey, did you forget you were watching a commercial? You probably did, because the dialogue is so conversational... natural... magical. So let's zoom into the TV and discuss your risk of stroke and heart attack. Once that's out of the way, it's back to our three fabulous friends.

Woman 3: "So you'd recommend it?"
Woman 2: "I would."

Hey, that's great, paid NuvaRing spokeswoman.

Woman 3: "Maybe it's time I asked my doctor about it."
Woman 2: "You should!"

Is it me or is Woman 2 really smug throughout this whole commercial? "Hey, glad you came to that brilliant decision after I spent the past 30 minutes explaining how the pill was designed by Nazi scientists. Let's all head down to the NuvaRing store!" (This being a commercial, I'm sure there's a special store that sells nothing but NuvaRings. Just be sure you have a prescription or the bouncer will throw your ass out.)

Also, Woman 1 really gets the short end of the stick in this ad. First she's made to look like a doofus who sings along with lame television commercials, then she's a horrible prude who can't even get out the word "vagina" in front of her two friends, then she's stuck with the thankless task of introducing the blood clot warnings. And then at the end she just nods and plays no role in the actual story! Plus for some reason they stuck her in the worst chair in the apartment. "No, that's cool, you guys watch TV, I'll just listen to it and watch your reactions. I'm thinking about going back for my master's in sociology, so..." She probably gets totally pushed to the back when they're out at the bar, too. With friends like those, who needs NuvaRing?