Saturday, December 25, 2010

Mixed messages

In the time we've been doing this blog, Microsoft hasn't exactly been heavily on our radar, but they have had a couple of appearances thanks to ridiculous hyperbole and utter insanity. It's been more than two years since that last one, so we hoped that maybe they'd learned their lesson. Well... not entirely. Take a look at these two ads and tell me what Microsoft is actually trying to sell.

First things first: on its face, I actually like this ad a lot. It's funny (because it's true!), it's visually appealing, the music cue works perfectly. The message, however, is confusing if not entirely self-defeating. I'll turn things over for a minute to our own Knitwear M. Groundhog:

"It's based on a flawed premise. They're saying that the reason people waste time on their phones is because it takes too long to do things. In fact, people waste time on their phones because they enjoy doing things on their phone, so if you make it so that you can do that stuff faster, they're actually going to do MORE of it."

Indeed. As well-put-together as this commercial is, it can't hide the fact that its central conceit really does not make a lick of sense. The people shown in the commercial appear to be engrossed in their phones, not because they have slow download speeds or something but because they like going on Facebook, sending texts, playing games, whatever. "Saving people from their phones" hardly seems like a good marketing strategy when it's not clear that anyone is crying out to be saved from their phones. (Also, the guy on the phone while his wife - I assume - stands there in lingerie? That would never happen, ever.)

But wait! Does Microsoft want to get you off the phone and back to life? Or... don't they?

The basic concept of this ad is just idiotic. My girlfriend can't tell I'm playing X-Box Live? Uh, you're sitting there, staring at your phone, and moving it back and forth. She can tell you're playing X-Box Live. And even if she couldn't, she could certainly tell that you are doing nothing but staring at your phone. I'm going to ignore the whole avatar/"sexy dance" segment of this ad because it's stupid and also besides the point.

The point being this: which is it, Microsoft? Are your phones supposed to "get us in and out and back to life?" Or are they supposed to enable us to play video games literally anywhere, a development which the first ad certainly seemed to be raging against? One possibility, I suppose, is that Microsoft ran all those "Really?" ads and then people pointed out to them that the central idea of the ads was stupid and unproductive, so they decided to shift to "Uh, wait! So you want to stare at your phone incessantly no matter what we say? Well, then stare at our phones incessantly! We've got X-Box..."

Of course, once you've already suggested that everyone in the world is a phone zombie who should buy your phone so they won't be staring at it all the time, it's kind of hard to turn around and tout the features that will make them want to stare at it all the time. Would you ever see a car ad that made a big deal about how the car will get you from point A to point B quickly so you can just go about your day? No, you wouldn't. Making a commercial implying that your product should be used as little as possible is pretty much the essence of counterproductivity. It's easy to see why Microsoft shifted gears; unfortunately for them, we'd all already seen the initial ads.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

It's the cost that counts

So you want the most expensive thing in the store and your parents won't buy it for you. Instead, they offer you a lower-cost option that is pretty similar. What does this make them? That's right: inconsiderate assholes.

[Kid admiring undoubtedly expensive electric train set]
Mom: "How about this one? It's almost the same thing."
Kid: [insufferably] "No. It's not."

Fuck this kid, am I right? Your parents aren't obligated to buy you anything, you ungrateful little bastard.

Dad: "This one's great! It's just as good as the one you wanted."
Kid: "No... it's not."

This just makes me feel really bad for the dad. Listen to how he sells that first line. The mom seemed kind of noncommittal - "Eh, this other one seems okay, right?" - but the dad sounds legitimately invested in the quality of the guitar he's holding, and Flock of Seagulls just shits all over him. How much do you suppose that kid even knows about guitars? "Uh, hello, Dad? This guitar looks cooler and is five times more expensive, therefore it's better."

Guy: "That's the one."
Salesman: "Great choice."
Voiceover: "Don't settle for a copy when you can have the original."

If you can afford it, sure. I'm fairly certain that if Seagulls' dad was swimming in cash he'd have been happy to buy his obnoxious son whatever expensive guitar he wanted - so clearly he wasn't, meaning what we have is this douchebag kid griping every year because his middle-class parents can't and/or won't cater to his every whim. Great message, BMW. Hey, did your parents buy you exactly what you wanted for Christmas every year, no matter the price point? They didn't? Well, fuck them - treat yourself with a $40,000 luxury car this Christmas! Can you afford that? Who the fuck cares? You're an adult now and you don't settle for copies, whatever that means. Also, your kids eat cookies and ice cream for dinner and stay up as late as they want, because you're just the kind of guy who follows through on all the whiny shit he said as a ten-year-old when he didn't get his way.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Prince Charmin

There are various reasons why there hasn't been a post here for a while, and I won't bore you with explanations or excuses. But suffice it to say there haven't been a lot of really noteworthy ads to skewer lately, or at least not much to say about the really hateable ones. (We can't stand those Hyundai ads with the insufferable indie band, but how much can you say about that? They're just impossible to sit through.)

Well, leave it to the Charmin bears to bring us out of hibernation.

This commercial opens by implying that the Charmin bears are about to have sex. Sadly, that's the least distasteful thing about it.

[Charmin bear reaches for a square of toilet paper]
Announcer: "When you have a softer bath tissue, you can enjoy going more!"

I assume she means you can enjoy (going) more, but it's funnier to think that she means you can enjoy (going more). "Oh, this bath tissue is so soft, I just can't wait to get back in the bathroom for my next dump! Bring me all the baked beans in the land!"

Announcer: "While still using less."

Then apparently you can snuggle up against the leftover paper because it's just that goddamn soft. Come on, Charmin. It's still paper - I'm not wiping my ass with a silk handkerchief here.

Next it's the typical demonstration of how absorbent the paper is, which is always secretly the most disgusting part of any toilet paper commercial when you think about what it's going to be "absorbing." These commercials probably pass the old Metamucil commercial for "most ridiculous dancing around a subject that no one wants to hear about in a TV commercial, even if it is something everyone does."

Announcer: "Using less never felt so good!"

On the inside of your ass!

Announcer: "New Charmin Ultra Soft: Enjoy the Go."

"Enjoy the Go????" That is so unbelievably gross. Look, Charmin. It's nice that you want to make ass-wiping a more pleasant experience. But enjoy the go? Enjoy it? What the fuck is your problem? Bowel movements are a fact of life, not something that can be turned into an entertaining experience by the addition of a softer toilet paper. If you could make some deal where solid waste would just vanish from your body so you'd never have to take a shit again, wouldn't you do it? Wouldn't most people? Meanwhile, here are the Charmin bears, treating softer toilet paper like it's a fucking free weekend at Disney World. Of course, I suppose it's not as ridiculous as some of the slogans they rejected:

Charmin Ultra Soft: How Sweet It Is

Charmin Ultra Soft: Oh Thank Heaven

Charmin Ultra Soft: Let's Get It On (Your Butt)

Charmin Ultra Soft: And Flights of Angels Sing Thee to Thy Flush