Monday, October 25, 2010

If you can't take the heat, stay out of Miami

I don't want to get too sports-heavy here, but anyone who follows basketball probably has an opinion on the LeBron James saga. Regardless of what you think about his decision to leave Cleveland for Miami, and what you think about the subsequent fan reaction to it, I think we can probably all admit that this was not the best response.

I'm sure LeBron felt stung by the reaction he got upon leaving Cleveland. He no doubt felt that he had done all he could there - in 2007, he dragged the team to a spot in the Finals almost singlehandedly, and won 60+ games in each of the last two years with improved but hardly championship-caliber teammates.

But this ad just comes off as whiny and petulant. LeBron recently gave a statement in which he said that he could understand why Cleveland fans were upset - that's good, if months late. But really this, this post I'm making, isn't about what he's said in the media. It's about this ad, in particular, lest we get off-topic here. And this ad is stupid.

It's stupid for the same reason the Charles Barkley ad that James quotes - the "I am not a role model" one - was also kind of stupid. While I appreciate Barkley's point on some levels, the fact is that he's appearing in a commercial when he says it. He's a paid endorser of a product. And the whole point of paying an athlete to endorse your product is to trade on said athlete's fame and, yes, their position as a role model to sell that product. Barkley may genuinely not have wanted to be a role model, but Nike made him one anyway.

And the same thing is happening here. James, via Nike, was marketed as little short of the Second Coming in Cleveland. Don't believe me?

Yikes. To be fair, that ad doesn't actually mention Cleveland, but you get the point. You can see the huge size of the "We are all witnesses" banner that falls in the ad at the top. James was pitched as nothing less than the savior of basketball in Cleveland. And so when he left - when he decided, perhaps, that basketball in Cleveland was beyond saving, that he'd given it his best shot but now that he had more of a choice he was happy to go play in a nicer city with some friends of his on a better team, thanks - he was vilified by people who felt betrayed.

Should they have felt betrayed by LeBron? Maybe, maybe not. But this ad trades on mocking and/or complaining about that sense of betrayal, and it's a betrayal that was stoked by Nike itself.

Not a role model? Uh, hardly. This ad portrays James as the ultimate role model, one capable of affecting the entire population with his behavior.

"Should I be who you want me to be?" James asks, with more than a hint of sarcasm, in the latest ad. The obvious answer is no; LeBron James, like anyone else, can be whoever he wants to be. But as a man whose job, even as he speaks those words, is to pitch sneakers to teenagers... well, the answer is kind of yes. If you want to be a multimillionaire pitchman, you have to put on a face that the public will appreciate. It comes with the territory. LeBron James the basketball star and LeBron James the Nike spokesman are not separate entities. LeBron James the Nike spokesman is most definitely a role model - or anyway, he is in the eyes of Nike, because if he weren't he would be of no value to them. And if LeBron James the Nike spokesman is a role model, LeBron James the basketball star is a role model. And if he wants both of those personas to exist, fully functioning, as beloved as they are capable of being and not loathed by a spurned fanbase... well, then, yes, LeBron. You have to be who we want you to be.

And if you don't want to be? That's cool too. Just don't run back to Nike to make an ad about how none of it is your fault. I don't think you're going to sell too many shoes that way.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fake-us group

I've been waiting for someone to explain to me how this commercial could possibly be real. Maybe one of you has an idea?

Woman: "Domino's doesn't want me to know what's in their ingredients."
Man: "'Cause it's probably not real cheese."

I find this a weird complaint, in the setup. On what grounds is she claiming that Domino's doesn't want her to know what's in their ingredients? Did she call her local Domino's once to ask for a list and they told her to fuck off?

Focus Group Leader: "Well, I've got a surprise for you."
[the walls pull away to reveal that they're in the middle of a field]
Woman 2: "Oh my God!"
Leader: "This is just one of the dairies that makes the milk to make real Domino's cheese."

Okay. So, it claims at the bottom of the screen that this was an "actual focus group." I just have one question.


I guess there are some subsidiary questions within that one. How could these people possibly have failed to realize that they were in a tiny shack sitting on the grounds of a dairy farm? How did Domino's get them there without this being in any way revealed? Blanchardville, Wisconsin is pretty much in the middle of nowhere. Either these people were from the area - in which case it is particularly incredible that they would not have realized they were on a dairy farm - or they were like bussed in from Madison, the nearest city of any real size, and also should probably have found something at least a little off about a major corporation holding a focus group in the middle of farm country.

But let's say, for the hell of it, that this focus group was going on without any of the participants realizing where they were... why were they out there in the first place? How did Domino's know that the legitimacy of their cheese was going to be called into question in this focus group? Was one of the people speaking a plant? This goes back to that initial comment by the woman that Domino's doesn't want her to know what the ingredients are. What? Where did she come up with that? It's almost like that's something she was... I don't know, told to say?

Lest Domino's get any ideas about some ad where I'm watching TV calling their focus group fake, and then they have all the members of the focus group walk into my living room and introduce themselves to prove they're real people, I'm not necessarily saying that this ad was faked. But I am saying, for sure, that if you wanted to make an ad that looked fake, that was supposedly real but was so insanely convenient that it had the whiff of contrivance all over it... well, you couldn't do much better than this.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Avocado's number

What the fuck is happening here?

[We open on a super-fake-looking party with goofy background noise and two people not actually talking to each other but rather holding hot dogs at strange angles. Cut to a woman who was clearly just standing there waiting for her cue, striding forward with... a bag of avocados!]
Host [I assume]: "Perfect!"

So this is some sort of weird avocado party? "Everyone just show up with a bag of avocados! All other food will be provided."

[The doorbell rings. Some woman opens it.]
John Lynch: "Hey!"
[The two people who were holding hot dogs look at each other and shake their heads.]
John Lynch: "Wait! I'm- I'm John Lynch! Nine-time Pro Bowler! World champ!"
[He flashes his Super Bowl ring, but it's no use - the door closes in his face.]

Was John Lynch invited to this party? Or does he just walk around neighborhoods wearing his Super Bowl ring, looking for houses with a lot of cars parked outside, trying to get into strangers' parties based on his extremely tenuous fame? (For the record, I watch a lot of football, and I would not have recognized John Lynch had he not introduced himself. Peyton Manning he is not.)

[The doorbell rings again; Lynch offers a tray of some sort of snack - chicken wings? - but the door closes on him again. He tries again with a football-shaped cake - no dice. The woman bulges her eyes as if to say, "I don't think so."]

This makes sense. I don't think I'd let some random dude into my party even if he used to play football and even if he brought his own cake. But wait until you find out why he can't come in.

Voiceover: "What do you bring to a party that has everything?"

Not chicken wings or a football cake, I guess. Although this party does not seem to have those things.

Voiceover: "Fresh, creamy Hass avocados!"

Um, question. How exactly does this party have everything when apparently all it has are Hass avocados? Hot dogs? Throw some Hass avocados on there. Canapes? Better be topped with tiny avocado pieces, asshole. Chicken wings? I can't think of any way to add avocados to that, so basically get the fuck out.

Voiceover: "Nothing else will do!"

Aside from making guacamole, who does anything with avocados for a big party they're hosting? If I went to a party and everything had avocados in it, I would make one of two assumptions: either the hosts have been growing avocados in their backyard and just experienced a bumper crop, or the hosts are in some weird cult that pushes the benefits of the avocado for some reason.

John Lynch: "Puppies!"

Lynch has learned a lot from Pierce, it would seem. But it's worth noting that this commercial ends on a cliffhanger. Do puppies get Lynch into the party? Does the fact that the puppies are in a Hass avocados box win him any points? Or are the guests just even more furious with him? "You took perfectly good avocados out of that box and filled it with puppies? I couldn't eat a puppy with avocados even if I wanted to. Get lost before we call the police on you for avocado-related harassment!" Dammit, Hass, I must know! I smell sequel! Maybe you could get another ex-football player who is not famous enough on sight to warrant appearance in a national ad to appear. I just hope you're paying them in avocados.