Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Full of the milk of human creepiness

If you think about it, if you only include national advertisements, how many brands do you really see ads for on even a yearly basis? I'm guessing it's less than two hundred. And whenever you see an ad for a brand you've never seen an ad for before - especially if it's a product you had heard of despite not seeing any ads - doesn't it always seem a little strange? Like, "Oh, I guess they're advertising now." That's how I felt about this Muscle Milk ad, right after I got done hating the shit out of it.


Host: "So! All-Star left fielder. What's on your mind?"

We're just dropped into this, so there's really no explanation for why the host is such a complete freak show. But if you pretend for a second this is a real show, would Muscle Milk really want to sponsor it?

Ryan Braun: "A female doctor asked me to take my shirt off yesterday... for an eye exam!"

Ladies and gentlemen, the Friar's Club Roast of Ryan Braun's Pecs! Seriously though, is that a zippy one-liner or what? And delivered with such verve!

Host: "Ryan, a little lesson. Life is like a river. But for guys like us, life is like a river that's also a hot tub!"

At this point he pulls his shirt out and rubs his stomach. The guy is in average shape, I guess you'd say, but I think clearly the idea is that he's supposed to be unappealing. Or is it?

Host: "Now! It's clear to me that you drink Muscle Milk after you work out. And you are just going to have to deal with women trying to get into your hot tub river!"

Cut to the guy in a hot tub with two women. Cut back to the guy on the set making a creepy noise. Fin.

I mean, what the fuck was that? Look, Ryan Braun is clearly not an actor, but if that's all you're going to do with him it seems pointless to even have him in the ad. At least he seems like a likable guy, unlike the actual pitchman, although who wouldn't seem like a cool dude next to this lunatic? (By the way: bargain-basement Ed Helms. Tell me I'm wrong.)

This ad is obviously aimed at men, so they don't really care if their attitude towards women is a little questionable. But who is watching this and thinking, "I want to be like that guy! I bet he's a big success with the ladies." No one. And I don't think this guy is supposed to be cool or attractive. Look how confused Braun looks when the guy starts pulling his shirt out. But with that being the case, WHY IS HE YOUR PRIMARY PITCHMAN???? For a product that is trying to associate itself with being hot and in great shape????

The last couple years have seen a lot of products using really unappealing spokespeople. I didn't get it when Toyota did it, I didn't get it when McDonald's did it, and I don't get it now. I mean, obviously this is just supposed to be funny, but (a) it isn't, (b) it's trying way too hard, and (c) the goal, ultimately, should be to sell product, not just be funny. Aside from making you aware of the product's existence, I don't see how this ad moves product. At least in that McDonald's ad, you could imagine people recognizing the main character as an exaggerated version of how they feel in the morning when they haven't had their coffee. Who is going to identify with this shithead? "Muscle Milk: preferred protein shake of creepy guys with hairy stomachs who make gross throaty sounds to indicate they're happy with something!" Yeah, uh, pass.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bad ads at Ridgemont High

The Dr. Pepper Ten ad that briefly set the internet on fire last week - including this very blog - was roundly denounced as being sexist. But I don't think that everyone caught that the ad was, really, just as sexist against men as it was against women. Women, in fact, got off pretty easy - all they were told was that Dr. Pepper Ten was not "for" them. (Oh no!) Men, by comparison, were told that they were more or less obligated to like action movies, hate romantic comedies, and refuse to pick up any soda with "diet" in the name - or they simply were not real men.

Well, welcome to Ad World. As many ads as are sexist against women, there are just as many that negatively stereotype the hell out of men. For instance: men cannot cook! No, seriously, men cannot fucking cook. Men are romantically incompetent. Men are total douchebags. Men are slavering pigs who lose control at the sight of an attractive woman. Etc.

The irony, of course, is that while most commercials that are actively sexist against women are marketed towards men, most of the commercials that are actively sexist against men are ALSO marketed towards men. For proof, let's just look at the latest example of this phenomenon, from JC Penney:

I didn't look very closely, but it seems like there's some discussion in the YouTube comments over whether the ad objectifies women.

Yes. It does. I mean, of course it does. How could you even dispute this? In case you don't know, in the film from which the clip is taken, Fast Times at Ridgemont High - by the way, this film is nearly 30 years old, so way to stay relevant there, JC Penney - Phoebe Cates actually opens her bikini for a topless scene which is taking place in the imagination of the main male character, played by Judge Reinhold. For him, she is absolutely a lust object and little more. In the film, however, Reinhold gets his comeuppance when Cates walks in on him masturbating to this fantasy. Nothing like that happens in this ad, nor really could it. So, yes, it's obviously objectification, or at any rate the male viewer is invited to objectify Phoebe Cates.

But - and I'm sure you already guessed that I was going here - the ad is in many ways at least as offensive to men.

Kenny Mayne: "JC Penney understands that you don't like advertising for clothes."

I... I don't? I must admit, this is a new stereotype of men to my ears. Men hate advertising for clothes? They're just making stuff up now, aren't they? "JC Penney understands that you hate oak trees! I mean, fucking acorns, right?"

Mayne: "Who does?"

Honestly, who likes advertising of any kind? Why do you think people get so excited about DVRs and internet browsers with ad-block functions? But really, who thinks enough about advertising for clothes not to like it? There have been about 380 posts in this site's history and I think three of them talk about an ad for any kind of clothing.

Mayne: "Tell you what, though - if you look at these smart fashion choices from Van Heusen, we're gonna show you this. That way everybody wins."

Nine seconds into the spot and out comes the Fast Times footage. Here's the thing, guys: if the expectation is that men will be looking at the footage on the left, that means NO ONE IS LOOKING AT THE FOOTAGE ON THE RIGHT. You really can't focus on two things at once, and if it was true that men hated clothing ads, why would they even bother trying to look back and forth between them? And especially consider that Phoebe Cates is wearing a bright red bikini, whereas the clothes on the right are in fairly nondescript colors and the prices are in white text on a white background! You couldn't sufficiently check out the clothes offered in this ad if you wanted to.

So, sure, it's kind of a sexist ad. But maybe the real problem is not just that it's sexist but that it is so exquisitely committed to being sexist at the expense of even trying to sell the product. There are eight million ways you could make a commercial for men's clothing that featured a hot female sex object, and literally all 7,999,999 others would do less to completely distract the attention away from any and all information about the men's clothing that was ostensibly the point of the spot than this one does.

And that's really where you get into the area of "reverse sexism." Hey, men - you don't care about clothes, right? You'll probably just wear whatever your wife buys you or something. So, we're going to pretend we're running an ad for clothes you might wear - but we both know that's ridiculous. So check out these sweet tits! Don't get me wrong, I like that sort of thing as much as the next (straight) guy, but I know when I'm being pandered to. This ad isn't going to endear me to JC Penney and it does nothing to sell the product in question. And as it turns out, the only thing it was effective at was being quickly pulled from the airwaves due to complaints of sexism.

Mayne: "JC Penney: It is seriously hot in here."

"JC Penney: You are seriously dumb in here."

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tacos are for closers

During last year's baseball playoffs, Taco Bell managed to come up with an ad that actually was not completely stupid.

Sorry about the video, but I couldn't dig up a better example on YouTube. Anyway, that's not too bad, right? You could argue that Joe Girardi and Mariano Rivera aren't famous enough to lead a commercial like this, but it did play mostly during baseball games, and obviously that audience is going to recognize two well-known Yankees figures. Rivera's acting is pretty bad, but hey, he's not an actor, nor is English his first language, so I think we can cut him some slack. The concept of the ad is moderately clever, it's not overwritten, and there's some amusing little touches like Rivera taking a last sip of his drink before running over. It's not some masterpiece, but given how bad most ads are, I can live with one like this.

Unfortunately, this year Taco Bell did this instead:

The weird thing is, I'm quite sure I saw an ad with Brian Wilson in it this year where he was basically doing a similar thing to what Rivera did last year - "hey, I'm the closer, I'm here to finish your overly large chalupa." That's the whole joke, after all, since Wilson only gained fame as the closer for the Giants during last year's World Series. But I can't find that one on YouTube, and it seems like it didn't run very much, almost like Taco Bell felt like they needed a pretense to get to this one but liked this one so much more that they abandoned the pretense as soon as possible.

Why is this ad so bad? Well, perhaps the biggest problem is that it seems like Wilson wrote it himself. For God's sake, Mariano Rivera, the best closer in history and certainly one of the most famous, gets two lines in his ad. Yet here's Wilson, unaccountably given nearly every line in the ad in spite of the fact that he's less famous than Rivera, is also not much of an actor and comes off like a total maniac. (That was likely the point, but that doesn't mean it was a good idea to do it.)

The whole "let's go meta on our own ads" thing is pretty trite, too. And since the only point of having Wilson there is to continue the "you need a closer to finish this huge chalupa" theme, and since Wilson, no matter how much of a character he is by baseball standards, is not a professional comedian and therefore incapable of selling a pretty dire script, it makes no sense to change the entire concept and yet STILL KEEP BRIAN WILSON IN THE AD.

I mean, "black ops?" "Inner deliciousness?" Really? What's with the props? This is like the world's most sedate Robin Williams routine, only performed by a baseball player and even less funny. Nothing Wilson "comes up with" ties into the idea of the chalupa being especially large - which, again, is pretty much the only reason these ads exist in the first place. I guess there's the "these monsters are stacked" line, but compared to everything else he says that's basically a non sequitur, so I'm not even going to count it.

Really, I imagine it would have cost Taco Bell a lot less to cast any old commercial actor in this spot, cut out the "Brian Wilson just decided to change the concept" framing device and shoot it as some wacky doofus vamping around while his friend attempts to eat the XXL Chalupa. Would that have been fucking retarded? Of course it would have. But so is this, and if you're going to insist on making a stupid ad, I'm guessing not paying whatever Wilson's endorsement fee is would at least have been cheaper.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The vegetarian's nightmare: sentient produce

Jewel-Osco is the branch of Albertson's that exists here in the Chicagoland area. YouTube suggests that this ad runs in all their markets with the different store names subbed in, but this is the one I've seen so this is the one I'm posting. I'm also posting it because GODDAMN is it creepy.

(NOTE: This is now a version of the ad that was used in Albertson's markets, since the original vanished from YouTube. I haven't otherwise edited the post text.)

Here is what the description says on YouTube (emphasis mine): "By popular request, here is our newest TV commercial featuring our lovable Fruits & Vegetables! Enjoy!"

Okay: I cannot believe that people actually called, or e-mailed, or whatever the fucked Jewel-Osco and demanded that this commercial go up on YouTube. I mean: this commercial? I'm not sure I can think of ten more boring ads in existence. It's not like it's funny, or raunchy, or even particularly interesting - the reason ads usually get posted online. If you read the comments on YouTube, people seem to be talking mostly about how much they like the song - which is appropriate, since it's a cover of "Fresh" by Kool and the Gang, a song that was a top ten hit... in 1985. Of course, it's pretty obvious that most of the people commenting on this ad weren't born yet in 1985, so that probably explains a lot.

Lovable fruits and vegetables, though? That is weird. That is creepy. Some (though certainly not all) vegetarians don't eat meat in part because they can't bear the thought of a living animal being slaughtered for their consumption. What kind of heartless bastard tries to freak them out by making their vegetables (and fruit) into a singing, dancing nightmare straight out of the uncanny valley?

Honestly, look at these things. They're fucking terrifying.

By the way, sloppy bagging job, whoever.

I'm not sure what exactly it is that creeps me out so much, although it might be the lack of noses on the faces of the fruits and vegetables. Or maybe it's just THE FACES ON THE FRUITS AND VEGETABLES. Good Lord. This is a crime against nature.

But is that the weirdest part of the ad? Not quite. It's more the way the fruits and vegetables are gleefully singing about THEIR IMMINENT DEMISE. There are other commercials out there like that (see this post and my comment below it), and sure, it's weirder when it's animals practically begging you to eat them. But this isn't much better. I mean, think about the contrast of some of the shots in this commercial for a second.

"Ba ba ba, we're the singing tomatoes... we're hanging in the store just singing our song..."


"Peppers / just a bunch of singing peppers / what in this life could be better / than to be a singing pepper..."


Friday, October 14, 2011

'Cause if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener, buns would all be having sex with me

The GrubHub ads on the CTA have really been getting more and more questionable. They started off depicting people pleased with the fact that they can order food from just about anywhere. That's fine. Then they turned a corner with one that showed what was clearly intended to be a post-coital couple in bed, with the woman's toplessness blocked only by her laptop as she declared her desire for "something spicy!" A bit much, but I guess workable. But now... there's this.

I really don't know how many times I can keep saying this. But I guess I'll try again anyway.



I mean, this just doesn't seem like that hard of a concept. I don't care how phallic hot dogs already are - I don't need an ad for your food-related service that shows a hot dog attempting to bed a hot dog bun, with the bun thinking "I hope he brought condiments!" That is gross. Surely there is no one out there who sees this ad and thinks, "Oh man, that hot dog and bun are about to GET IT ON!!! Shit, I just got hungry."

Yes, I know it's supposed to be a joke. Ha ha, hot dogs kind of look like penises! And the word "condiment" sounds like the word "condom!" The phrase "do it" could be a generic description of performing an action, but it could also refer to fucking!!!

But even if it were funny - and it's not - it's utterly lazy and just wrong for the product in question. Look, I'm capable of enjoying sex-themed jokes. But they have their place and this ain't it. All I see is an online menu service making a cheap fuck joke because they think it'll make their brand seem cool. "Oh man, can you believe what GrubHub got away with putting in the train station?" Is that really as high as our standards are?

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Oy Ge-Volt

"Use our product and be the subject of mockery and annoying questions everywhere you go" is probably not the exact sales pitch I would use to sell something, especially something as expensive as a car. But sure, Chevy Volt, give it a shot.

Kid: "Hey, I thought these were electric."

Big ol' editorializing right off the bat. What's this kid, 12? He really recognizes the Chevy Volt on sight? Whatever.

Guy: "Uh, it is, yeah, it's a Chevy Volt."

Hey, genius, the kid obviously knows it's a Chevy Volt. And yes, I know they have to get the product name in there, but why not just have the kid say it? I'm pretty sure you can write an ad that makes sense and still get the car's name in there.

Kid: "So what are you doing at a gas station?"

I really find the writing in this commercial to be almost embarrassingly clumsy. First of all, there are various things you can do at a gas station besides buy gas. Second of all, wouldn't it make WAY more sense to have the guy putting gas in the car and the kid being like, "Wait, you're putting gas in there? I thought it was electric?" Oh, but then the commercial would just be a straightforward description of the car and wouldn't get to include a hilarious joke about the bathroom.

Guy: "Uh, well, it, it still takes gas, to go farther."
Kid: "But you're not getting gas."
Guy: "True! Not this time... uh, don't have to gas up very often."
Kid: "So you have to go to the bathroom."
Guy: ""

The BATHROOM, you guys! The bathroom. God, the humiliation associated with having to urinate in a semi-public area. I should probably lie to this sixth-grader so he won't think I'm doing something that literally everyone on the planet does, multiple times every day.

Kid: "Yes you do."
Guy 2: "I thought these were electric!"
Guy: "Yes. It's a, uh, it's a Chevy Volt."
Guy 2: "So what are you doing at a gas station?"

The slogan on the screen is "Electric when you want it, gas when you need it." On the one hand, it's smart of Chevy to address what I would assume are concerns that a lot of people have about electric cars, stuff like "what if the battery suddenly runs out" or "how powerful can it really be?" On the other hand, the attitude of this ad is "But you're probably going to want to stop only at gas stations where no one else is, because otherwise, HOLY SHIT are people going to annoy you."

Guess what, though. It gets worse.

Guy 2: "I thought these were electric."
Guy: "Uh, yeah, it's a Chevy Volt."
Guy 2: "So you're just here rubbing our noses in the fact that you don't have to buy gas?"

What? Is there a person on the planet who would say this? Seriously, everyone knows that YOU CAN DO OTHER THINGS AT A GAS STATION, right? This can't be that hard of a concept. Also, what the fuck is wrong with these people?

Guy 2: "Just plug in and go? That makes you feel better?"

Better than what? This ad was written by someone raised by wolves, with no concept of actual human interaction, right?

Guy: "Well, I still pay about a dollar fifty a day in electricity... on average..."

Not the response I would have gone with. I think "IT ALSO TAKES GAS, FUCKWAD" would have been the way to go here. But I guess they used that feature up in the other spot.

Kid: "You know, he's just here to use the bathroom."

"He thinks he's better than us, but he's not. That filthy gas station bathroom will bring him down to our level."

Attendant: "Customers only. No gas, no bathroom."
Guy: "Okay, I'll buy gas!"


Some Other Guy: "Whoa, what are you doing? I thought these were electric!"

That's right, America: the Chevy Volt. Prepare to get bombarded with stupid questions, harassed by smug pre-teens and denied the right to perform basic excretory functions, all because you have the good sense to drive an electric car. Now there is a flawless sales pitch! Honestly, short of running an ad that shows a Chevy Volt broken down on the side of the road, could you have made the ownership experience look any less appealing?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Dr. Pepper Ten is more sexist than regular Dr. Pepper

Oh, what the FUCK, you guys.

Honestly, how much sillier would this commercial have to be before you would just think it was a spoof? Maybe five percent?

[Action film stuff is happening. Big tough army guy is running through the jungle.]
Tough Guy: "Hey, ladies. Enjoying the film? Of course not!"

Of course not! Women don't like action movies, or so goes the stereotype. And this commercial does nothing if not ridiculously pander to stereotypes.

Tough Guy: "Because this is our movie!"

Here we go again.

In a time where ABC's fall comedy lineup includes not one but TWO sitcoms premised entirely around the idea that the "male identity" is under some kind of confusing external threat, I suppose I shouldn't be surprised by ads like this. And yet I am, every single time. Because in the world I live in - rather than the one depicted in TV commercials - you can be a man and have no interest in muscle cars. You can be a woman and enjoy watching action movies. And, for fuck's sake, you can be a man and pick up a can of soda that says "Diet" on it without recoiling like it was an erect penis. (Because no homo, you guys, seriously.)

Tough Guy: "And Dr. Pepper Ten is our soda!"

No, I guess you can't. "Hey, I know Diet Dr. Pepper tastes more like regular Dr. Pepper, but fuck THAT shit. Diets are for women."

Tough Guy: "It's only ten manly calories, but with all 23 flavors of Dr. Pepper."

Diet Dr. Pepper also has those flavors. It's a key part of your advertisements for that product. So the difference between men and women isn't taste - no, it's TEN CALORIES. High fructose corn syrup - which is the sugar component in Dr. Pepper Ten - is four calories a gram (as carbohydrates are). So the difference between the manliest soda alive and a diet drink that's just for GIRLS is a big two and a half grams of sugar.

Wait a second... two and a half grams... Two and a Half Men... are you guys thinking what I'm thinking here? Cross-promotion! The original manly men's sitcom (it's right in the theme song!) and the new manly men's soda.

Tough Guy: "It's what guys want!"

Yeah, aren't you always hanging out with your bros, and then one of them starts complaining that there's only Dr. Pepper and Diet Dr. Pepper in the cooler, and that as a MAN who is totally super MANLY but is ALSO concerned about his calorie intake, what he wants is the incredibly masculine taste of Dr. Pepper Ten? And then you pointed out that he was the one who brought the cooler full of nothing but Dr. Pepper in the first place, and that you all know that he's Dr. Pepper's brand manager and could he please just talk about something else for two goddamn minutes.

Tough Guy: "Like this!"
[throws can, springs trap on pursuing motorcyclists]
Tough Guy: "Catchphrase!"

By the way, Dr. Pepper, don't think it's not obvious how much of this ad was clearly ripped from those Old Spice commercials everyone liked.

Tough Guy: "So you can keep the romantic comedies and lady drinks. We're good."

Diet Dr. Pepper: lady drink. Do not ever purchase this product again, people with a Y chromosome, or Dr. Pepper executives will be waiting at the checkout to call you a fag.

Tough Guy: "Dr. Pepper Ten: It's not for women!"

Hear that, more than half of the US population? Don't even THINK about buying our product! We are marketing exclusively to tough guys who are worried about their weight and also totally insecure about their masculinity and who ALSO love Dr. Pepper and refuse to drink anything else. So to Steve Johnson of Seattle, Washington and Bill Smith of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: there's finally a soda for you! Get to the store right now and pick up some Dr. Pepper Ten, before this ridiculously clumsy sales pitch ensures it vanishes from shelves forever!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Yogurt, lies and videotape

I know this ad is a few years old. Is it ever too late to write about a total piece of shit? (Answer: no.)

First things first. Is there some compelling reason why this woman would be lying to her friend on the phone about her diet? I mean, once you've stated you're, you know, on a diet, it's kind of already out there. Why then go on to pretend that you're some sort of magical person who can eat a million desserts and lose weight?

The counterargument, I guess, is that she's not lying - the friend knows she's naming Yoplait flavors and it's just the dumb, sweets-craving husband who's confused. But if that's the case, why does she describe apple turnovers as "sort of my weakness?" Really, one random flavor of this 100-calorie cup of yogurt is your weakness? Come on.

Woman: "My diet? Well, yesterday I had an apple turnover. Mm-hmm. I know, it's sort of my weakness."

I mean, if the friend knows she's talking about yogurt, what could POSSIBLY fill the gaps in that conversation?

Woman: "My diet? Well, yesterday I had an apple turnover."
Friend: "You mean a cup of Yoplait yogurt flavored like an apple turnover, whatever that means beyond just 'tastes like an apple, more or less?'"
Woman: "Mm-hmm."
Friend: "Good for you, I guess?"
Woman: "I know, it's sort of my weakness."
Friend: "Am I even part of this conversation? God, shut up."

Woman: "I always keep it in the house."

The use of "it" here is, I suppose, evidence that the friend knows she's talking about yogurt, because it's a weird pronoun choice to refer to apple turnovers, in my opinion. But it's more likely that it's evidence that this ad was sloppily written, as if we needed much more of that.

Woman: "Well, that, and Boston cream pie, white chocolate strawberries - yeah, yeah! - and, mmm, key lime pie."

I honestly have no idea what to make of the "yeah, yeah!" part, which really could go either way as far as proof of what she is supposed to be talking about. But I've also lost interest because there isn't enough evidence to discount my original theory, and based on my original theory, fuck this woman.

By the way, check the bottom of the screen at this point in the ad for some truly awesome fine print.

Woman: "Yeah! Mm-hmm, I've already lost some weight!"

Fine print: "As part of a reduced calorie diet and regular exercise."

So basically what you're telling me is that the yogurt has effectively nothing to do with it. Good to know!

This series only gets worse, by the way, and the people in it only get more obviously full of lies. Check out this piece of shit:

Am I supposed to like the main character of this ad?

Woman: "Could you take all of these in for me, please?"
Seamstress: "All of them?"
Woman: "Well, it's the Boston cream pie, and the apple turnovers, and the white chocolate strawberries, and the key lime pie."

Didn't you say you have fourteen flavors? FUCK YOU for using the same four in every ad.

Seamstress: "So you need them let out."
Woman: "No, no, in."
Seamstress: "Out."
Woman: "Uh, in."

This goes on forever, while wacky French music plays in the background. Seriously, though: am I supposed to like this woman? She's a bitch. She goes into this shop, lies like she's been eating a lot of desserts, then treats the seamstress like a fucking moron for being "confused" about the issue. For good measure, this ad ends with a "joke" so bad I'm not even going to repeat it here. I can't believe someone got paid to write this and that it was filmed and aired. It's awful.

There are other ads in this series, like a follow-up to the first one where the husband is busy bragging to someone about all the desserts he's eating and yet staying thin, and the lying becomes more and more blatant. What's Yoplait's angle? "Our product is so bad you'll want to lie about eating it?" "See if these flavor compounds can distract you from the fact that you're eating a soul-crushing cup of diet yogurt?" Yoplait: It is so not worth telling anyone you ate it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The rapping bird gets the worm

The Aflac duck commercials must be one of the most prominent series we've never mentioned on this site, because while somewhat dopey and tedious, they've really just never been worth commenting on. Well, that streak is over.

If you're wondering why the pigeon is rapping, it's because this is a follow-up to this commercial... not that it made any fucking sense that time either.

Kid: "Why do we have Aflac-"
Duck: "Aflac!"
Kid: "And major medical?"
Pigeon: "Major medical, boyyyyy, yeah!"
[Frogs lay down a beat]

I sort of thought that commercials based around rapping clearly written by a forty-something white guy who has heard a grand total of one rap song in his life went out of style in the mid-nineties, but it looks like I was wrong.

Pigeon: "I help pay the doctor, ain't that enough for you?"
Dad: "There are things major medical doesn't do."

Also fun: when you decide to build your commercial around a rap song, then hire the whitest guy ever to stiffly speak half the lines in it.

Duck: "Aflac!"
Dad: "Pays cash so we don't have to fret."
Baby robins: "Something families should get!"
Worm: "Like a safety net!"

Then the mother robin CASUALLY TOSSES THE SINGING WORM TO HER HUNGRY OFFSPRING, WHERE HE IS INSTANTLY DEVOURED. This might be the most sadistic commercial I've ever seen. I hope that worm had some form of life insurance. Thoroughly unfazed, the mother robin goes on to the next line:

Robin: "Even helps pay deductibles to cover your back, with-"
Duck [using lily pads as turntables]: "A-a-a-a-a-aflac!"

This song was ghostwritten by Jay-Z, right? You can tell me. I'd recognize Hova's style anywhere.

Just for good measure, after the Aflac logo we get a scene of the worm doing the worm while the duck, frogs and robin beatbox. Here's the question: is this supposed to be the same worm? We just saw him become breakfast for those robins. There's no way he's not dead. Maybe the end scene is actually out of chronological order, Pulp Fiction-style (which would fit well with the embarrassingly 90s tone of the rest of the ad), and depicts the worm attempting to impress his various potential predators with some hot breakdancing moves. Sadly, as we know all too well by this point, it didn't work; the mother robin simply waited for an opportune moment to pounce. Perhaps the worm's line in the song was a last-ditch effort to prove to the other creatures that he was too talented to be eaten. Good try, pal, but those hungry chicks are a tough audience.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

There's always room for creepiness

I've talked before about how much I hate it when advertisers of products that are really geared toward children try desperately to pitch them to adults instead. Well, it probably shouldn't surprise anyone to see this, since Jell-O is a Kraft brand.

First of all, dude, you're an adult. Buy a big tub of whatever brand of chocolate pudding strikes your fancy and eat out of it to your heart's content. By no means are you confined to eating from tiny little two-ounce or whatever pudding cups.

Second of all, "pudding face" is goddamn horrifying and I can't believe Jell-O built an entire campaign around it in the hopes that this would move product. I first came into contact with this campaign via their series of horrible billboards which, I assure you, are like 500 times creepier than this ad is.

These things are fucking terrifying. This is apparently supposed to represent happiness? Unrestrained joy? Guess what, Crispin Porter + Bogusky (yeah, I know, who would have believed they'd be behind another terrible ad campaign) - that's not what I think of! The guy on the right looks like a serial killer. The kids on the left look like evil ventriloquist dummies from some creepy B-movie.

But hey, we're here to talk about this TV ad. So I guess we might as well.

Daughter: "Didn't we have some Jell-O pudding?"

I know this is just something commercials do, and I can't expect them not to, but: no one says the complete brand name of a product out loud like this. Ever.

Daughter: "Dad? Did you eat my Jell-O pudding?"

Did you buy it with your own money? When did this go from "hey, we had some of this product in the house, right?" to "IT IS MINE WHO TOUCHED IT?"

Dad [unconvincingly]: "No."
[Daughter walks over and pulls the paper away from his face.]
Daughter: "Pudding face!"

Dad: "No... I'm just... happy."
Mom: "Only pudding gives you pudding face."

Fuck you, Kraft, you editorializing pieces of shit. Your shitty products are not this good. Also, this guy? Does not look happy. He looks absolutely miserable, but with a grotesque forced smile wrought across his face. Jell-O pudding is apparently now a Batman villain.

Dad: "I'm sorry."
Son: "You don't look sorry."
Dad: "You're right, I'm not."

"Maybe because I paid for that fucking pudding. You hear me, grade schoolers? If I want your pudding I'm going to eat it and you're not gonna say shit." Honestly, what is Crispin Porter's obsession with trying to turn adults into the Trix rabbit? If, for some reason, adults want to eat the mediocre pudding you've been pitching to children since time immemorial, and if you're trying to sell it to them for that purpose, why is the pitch here seemingly intended to shame the adult for eating a kids' snack? Do you want me to buy it or not, assholes?

Announcer: "Get your pudding face on with oh-so-cool and irresistible Jell-O pudding."

Uh, Jell-O? You don't really get to take credit for the pudding being "cool." That's the refrigerator's job.

Obviously I don't expect Jell-O to under-pitch their product. But when you go way, way overboard, that's just annoying. Of course, that isn't nearly as big of a problem as is the fact that there is nothing even remotely appealing about "pudding face." It sounds awful. The way this spot treats it as a scarlet letter is bizarrely counterintuitive. And, most damningly, it looks awful. This is, seemingly, a condition to which I should aspire! I should want that horrible, contorted grin that looks more like the result of weeks of Clockwork Orange-style torture than the result of eating something delicious to be plastered across my face. I mean, what, was Crispin Porter so upset that Burger King phased out the King that they decided they were going to get something even creepier on the air? If so, I'm scared to think what kind of ads we're going to see when "pudding face" inevitably runs its course.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Worst threesome ever

Oh, the awkwardness of high school reunions. Being forced to make small talk with people you haven't seen in decades... getting hit on by old classmates who are like totally bald now... having old friends surreptitiously unzip your clothes... you know, all the normal stuff.

I think there's a reason we don't normally see Coldwater Creek ads on television.

Man: "Sooo... are you seeing anyone?"
Woman: "I'm married."

Boom! In your face, guy! Guy who has not at all been calculatedly paired to make this already quite-attractive-for-her-mid-40s woman look even better than she does by virtue of being balding and awkward!

Man: "Oh!"
Woman: "Yeah."
Man: "Lucky fella."
Woman: *chuckles patronizingly*

Why is either of them still standing there at this point? Really, why was this entire first exchange even necessary, other than to fill time?

Woman 2: "Oh, my - Jennifer?"
Woman: "Elizabeth?"

"We're wearing nametags that identify us, so I'm not sure why we sound so shocked."

Woman 2: "You look amazing! And this dress, wow! It is so good to see you!"

Then, while distracting Woman 1 with her uncomfortably long hug and thoroughly pat small talk, Woman 2 fucking unzips Woman 1's dress so she can look at the tag to see what brand it is.

I mean, this isn't a thing that happens, right? No one would ever do this. And why would they? You could, you know, ASK WHAT BRAND THE DRESS IS. The person who bought it is right in front of you. Or is that an etiquette faux pas? Even if it is, is it more of an etiquette faux pas than unzipping someone's clothes while they're wearing them? I say no!

And then Woman 2 just walks away without saying anything else, while the guy stands there with a look on his face suggesting he's totally going to be using that hug as the starting point for some furious masturbation in his lonely Holiday Inn Express room later that night.

I guess the ad does an okay job of getting the brand across by the way it just plops it on the screen at the end there, but really this whole thing is just forced and uncomfortable, to say nothing of the fact that it seems like it was pulled directly from an unaired sitcom pilot from the year 1997. The overall pitch - "Hey, 40-something ladies, prepare to wow everyone at your 25th high school reunion" - makes sense enough, but could it have been executed more questionably? I doubt it.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Women: can't live with 'em, totally can't live with 'em

Hey guys! You know what I, as a man, can't stand? Listening to women. Like, about anything, ever, particularly if some form of sporting event might be on in the immediate vicinity. And especially because women never have anything important to say. Why would they? They're women! If a woman is talking to me and I'm listening to her it's due to one of three reasons: (a) she's asking me what I want her to cook me for dinner; (b) she's telling me how her bra unhooks; or (c) I'm going to get a Klondike bar (manliest food on the planet!) as a reward.

Now who can't relate to that?

Announcer: "New Klondike Mint Chocolate Chip bars present: Five Seconds to Glory! Mark versus Actually Listening to His Wife!"

At least this isn't one of those ads where the guy with utter contempt for his wife's presence is also married to someone who is way too hot for him. Minor point in Klondike's favor.

Wife: "...beautiful, beautiful yellow squash. And I thought, we could potentially paint our foyer yellow. What do you think? I know, it's yellow, I know..."
[bell rings]
Mark: [jumps up] "YEAAAHHH!!!"
[confetti falls, models run in]
Jingle: "What would you do-o-o for a Klondike Bar?"

In addition to the obvious problems with the depiction of a relationship in this scene, isn't this just dumb? I mean, has anyone ever had to do less for a Klondike bar? Yet it's treated like Mark is having acupuncture on his penis or something. Oh man, listening to a woman for five seconds, you guys! That shit is hard! Because women, you know? They're like all boring and stuff. Unless they're models who bring you ice cream and don't talk.

I'm sure this post will yet again get me accused of having no sense of humor, as though "having a sense of humor" requires finding anything funny as long as it's trying to be. Sorry - this is a major failure. Let's ignore the ridiculously casual sexism for a minute - what exactly is "funny" about this commercial? The only possible "punchline" is Mark's wildly outsized celebration at accomplishing an incredibly easy task. But here's the thing - the commercial does not present the task as incredibly easy. It implies that it's difficult; Mark's facial expression suggests that it's difficult; and given that Mark is rewarded with the sponsoring product, this certainly suggests that Klondike is of the opinion that this is a difficult challenge. In other words, Mark is given a tough task, achieves it, and celebrates. That isn't humor. The only real "humor" is intended to come from the hilarity of Mark having to "actually listen to his wife" for five seconds - because if your wife is talking to you, it's boring and inconsequential, and thus paying attention to her is just all kinds of a chore. Haw! This brings us back around to the "sexism" part on the Möbius strip of shittiness that is this ad.

And if you still can't see the sexist subtext (though I hesitate to even call it subtext) in this spot, watch this other Klondike ad and tell me it doesn't have a homophobic subtext. Then tell me you'd put sexism past the troglodytes in charge of marketing at Klondike. The hilarious part is that, as a chocolate-and-ice-cream confection, doesn't it seem like Klondike should be advertising to women as much as men? It's not like they're advertising beef jerky or energy drinks or something that has a market of mostly 18-49 males. Instead, here's Klondike dumping all over at least half of its potential audience. Good work, guys.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Every kiss begins with cats

I don't know what kind of TV loyal reader Tyler watches, but he sure finds some weird stuff to recommend to us. Case in point:

What the fucking shit is that?

There must be a trimmed-down version for actual broadcast, because at a minute long this is a waste of my fucking time. The first 25 seconds tells us nothing except that these two are dating and that she likes her family's cat. Yawn. Then there's the creepiness/utter insanity of the rest of it.

No one's house needs a goddamn cat room. Okay? It just doesn't. Especially if the cat is the size of a gerbil. (I know, I know, it's going to get larger. Still doesn't need its own room.) But that's nothing next to the idea of using a kitten to propose, creepy on a number of levels. First of all, he apparently thinks that just because she loves her family's cat, she'll love any cat. It's not clear to me this follows. Second, he's basically using cuteness to guilt her into this engagement. "Well, if you won't marry me, will you at least marry Mr. Snuggles and me?" Third, that poor kitten looks terrified while she's holding it. And fourth, the ad ends with what looks like "Our Wedding Album, Brought to You by Fancy Feast."

And Fancy Feast has FUCK ALL to do with any of this. What's even the pitch here? Feed your cat Fancy Feast or you don't love it? Feed your cat Fancy Feast or you don't love each other? Only Fancy Feast is good enough for your cat when the cat is the fulcrum on which your relationship balances? And, fuck, are there really people who feed their cats from fancy glass dishes? God, I hope not. Really, the idea of pretending that canned cat food is fancy when it looks like shit and smells like a wet pile of rotting fish just annoys me. But when you go out there and try to sell cat food with a treacly human story... that's just retarded.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Domu ads. Stupid. Annoying. Chicago.

This probably falls into the category of "stuff only I care about," since unless you take public transportation in Chicago you're never going to see these things. But they've just been blanketing the El and buses lately, which means I'm stuck learning two unlikely things about some total stranger I couldn't care less about.

Because there's no way I'm going to get a picture of these things from a moving train, I'm stuck with the ones inside cars or at stops I actually use. So trust me when I say there are way worse ones than the ones below. For instance, every male appearing in these ads seems to have come right out of "Look at This Fucking Hipster" right down to the clearly ironic ridiculous facial hair.

I mean, look at these fucking things. So, okay. Presumably the idea is that you're trying to sell the viewer on the product by showing a wide range of people who use the service (right down to the varying of the neighborhoods, which is probably the most important part anyway). But how does it help to go with weird, ridiculous, unrealistic and/or esoteric professions and interests? Take this one. Slam poets and urologists? Both of them? Did they meet at a urology convention and realize they both loved slam poetry, or did they meet at a slam poetry session and discover they both happened to be urologists? I mean, come on. It would be hacky enough to make some ad be all "Hey, wouldn't it be super funny if this person was a slam poet and a urologist?" But pretending that this describes two people living together makes me absolutely incapable of taking this bullshit seriously. Is this supposed to be lighthearted and I'm thinking too hard about it? Probably. I don't care. It's stupid and I have to see shit like this eight times every day. If they weren't so ubiquitous I'd have snorted and moved on.

"Muse?" Guess what - go fuck yourself. Is there a single noun you could use to describe a person that would make them sound more insufferable other than obvious pejoratives? I say no. And while this might be stereotyping, is there a universe in which this woman looks like, of all things, an air traffic controller? She looks more like a waitress at a vegan restaurant who goes to art school during the day.

Thanks (I guess) to what appears to be the website of the woman who took the photos, I was also able to get a hold of this one. Holy shit, LOOK AT THIS FUCKING HIPSTER. Worse yet, this appears to be part of maybe the most bizarre viral marketing attempt of all time - that Twitter account has been posting for several months, mostly about podiatry, but if you read the thing it's pretty clear (I think) that it's being ginned up by someone who isn't a real doctor, it links only to and gives no actual links to or contact info for the supposed business, and Google doesn't give any indication that anyone named Sven O. Svenson is actually a podiatrist in the area. Also, if I walked into a doctor's office and they looked like this motherfucker, I'd be out of there faster than you can say "This is the weirdest fake shit I have ever seen in my life."

According to Liska + Associates, the agency responsible for this nonsense, "For the next evolution of marketing, Liska worked with Domu on a series of ads that feature the human side of Domu—the cool, interesting Chicagoans who use the site." Here's the problem: it's hard to feature the human side of something when you use humans who are so obviously fake, and when half of them have goofy, esoteric jobs or interests that virtually no one can relate to, and every picture is the most hipster-looking douchebag available. I can't recall seeing a single one that's just a normal looking dude in a business suit. They all have to have weirdly teased-up hair, or stupid ironic beards, or be dressed like they're on their way to a poetry reading in 1997. None of these people look "cool" or "interesting" unless you're already that kind of a schmuck, which means I'm forced to assume that Domu decided that their only real audience, I guess the only people currently renting apartments in Chicago, was hipsters. In which case, I guess, mission accomplished?

Dear advertisers: making the people in your ads into ridiculous extremes of human behavior does not make them seem more real (because how could I possibly come up with a person who was a slam poet and a urologist???). It makes them seem fake as shit. Even if these were all real people and were accurate recountings of their jobs and passions, I would have come up with some other people whose descriptions were closer to the peak of the bell curve, not several standard deviations toward the far end. Because these ads are stupid unbelievable bullshit and don't sell me on a fucking thing.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Forget smartphones, get a smarmphone

Leave it to Apple to concoct the smarmiest, most defensive ad campaign of the year.

Smug Douchebag Announcer: "If you don't have an iPhone, you don't have iBooks. So you don't have your favorite books in your pocket."

The emphasis on "your" there is weird, like if you buy an Android Phone it jams a hundred books you don't like down your pants. "Hey! Get out of there, the complete Dean Koontz oeuvre!"

SDA: "And you don't have the iBook store, an entire bookstore in your pocket."

Just in case you couldn't figure out what "the iBook store" could possibly be referring to, here's another whole clause!

SDA: "So whether you're looking for a certain author or a New York Times best-seller, a good book is just a tap away."

Certainly not true of any other product!

SDA: "Yup, if you don't have an iPhone, well, you don't have an iPhone."

Tautology moves a lot of product, let me tell you.

The whole series of these ads is so obnoxiously smug that, frankly, it completely turns me off from ever wanting an iPhone. And it's not just that they treat themselves like the hottest shit on the planet. Take this ad, for instance - the iPhone is trying to throw its body in front of e-readers like Amazon's Kindle, Barnes and Noble's Nook, and etc. And that's all well and good, I guess, except that the iPhone isn't really a competitor to those products. It's a phone. It's great how much other stuff it does, but if I want to read a book and don't want an actual book, I'm going to get an e-reader. The iPhone screen is like four inches! Yeah, can't wait to be hunched over Moby-Dick on a screen that size. It's like that T-Mobile commercial that brags about the phone that comes preloaded with Inception, as though anyone is excited to watch Inception, a film noteworthy for its visuals, on a tiny screen in the palm of their hand. I swear, sometimes I feel like the more things they make smartphones do, the less excited I am about it. I want a phone that makes calls and can surf the internet. I don't need to watch tiny, tiny movies or read tiny, tiny books. There are other devices that can do those things on the go in a way that isn't completely stupid, and if I need to do them that badly, I'll get one of those devices.

Are there 80 million variants on how much of a stupid jerk you are for not having an iPhone? Of course there are.

SDA: "If you don't have an iPhone, you don't have an iPod in your phone."

A necessary thing that everyone should have! Also, pretty much every smartphone plays music, asshole.

SDA: "With your music, and your playlists."

Again with the overemphasis on how this will be stuff you like, as though it's not true of anything else. Windows Phone finds out what music you like and then deliberately recommends completely unrelated tracks. Android phones come preloaded exclusively with fifteen remixes of "My Humps" by the Black Eyed Peas. I know the idea is how great it is that the iPhone can sync to iTunes, but really, BFD.

SDA: "And you don't have iTunes on your phone, the world's #1 music store."

Hey, have you heard of iTunes? No? Well, apparently it's some kind of music store. Good thing they told us that, or this ad would have been really confusing. Now it's time for some applesauce - open wide for the airplane!

(My phone, which is not an iPhone as you can probably guess, comes with direct access to the MP3 store, which is basically the exact same thing as the iTunes store. So... no, Apple, I really don't care.)

SDA: "With Genius, that recommends new music based on the songs you already have."

Do not care. At all. Every online music company in the world recommends music based on your established likes. And who buys songs on their phone based on a recommendation without even listening to them first?

SDA: "Yup, if you don't have an iPhone, go fuck yourself."

Well, maybe he didn't say that. But he may as well have. I find the tone of ads like this completely counterproductive. It's 30 seconds of telling any iPhone-less viewer that they're an idiot for not having one because it's just that great. Why would you want to talk down to consumers? Unless that was the point...

Adman 1: Okay, time to get to work on the new iPhone commercial, guys. What should we focus on?
Adman 2: All the great features!
Adman 3: The ways in which it's better than other phones!
Adman 4: The douchey self-satisfaction you get from owning one!
Adman 5: The inherent superiority of iPhone owners to other humans!
Adman 1: Those are all pretty great ideas. Anyone have a slogan?
Adman 4: "If you don't have an iPhone, go get one right now, you stupid twit!"
Adman 5: "If you don't have an iPhone, you probably also don't have a BRAIN!"
Adman 1: Okay, um, not bad, but maybe a little bit too on the nose. We don't want to insult potential customers.
Adman 5: We don't?
Adman 4: The iPhone is still made by Apple, right? I mean, have you ever seen an Apple ad before? Those Mac vs. PC ads are classic examples of insulting the consumer!
Adman 5: Apple products sell themselves by word of mouth. The whole point of the TV ads is just to make people who already own Apple products feel even more satisfied with themselves than they already do. They're like "attaboy" pats on the back for people who own Apple stuff.
Adman 1: Wow. Okay. What about something like "If you don't have an iPhone, you don't have an iPhone?"
Adman 4: ...maybe. But can you get the guy talking to sound like he's much, much better than anyone who doesn't have one?
Adman 5: Gotta have that sense of superiority. It justifies the inflated purchase price.
Adman 1: Okay, I think we're all done here.

The iPhone! If you don't have one, how are you supposed to feel like a better person than all the other losers?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What the Hawk?

I sympathize with makers of local commercials. You're tasked with standing out amid a sea of high-budget national ads that never fail to make your spots look even cheaper than they already would. With that in mind, I can see why a company might opt to borrow ideas from a national campaign for their local ad. However, the eTrade baby is not the one I would have gone with.

Baby: "I'm looking cool in this car! This thing is a stroller magnet! I should work on my pick-up lines."

First of all: no. You should not do that, because you are a baby. Also, note that the baby's body never moves, which is kind of disturbing and just makes him look like a tiny quadriplegic.

Baby: "Hey girl, you need a nap? 'Cause you been crawling through my mind all day."

As awful as the eTrade ads were with their implications of babies having sex with each other, I'm not sure this isn't more blatant than any of those. Baby pick-up lines? Someone really thought this was a good idea?

Baby: "Wow. I'm slaying it!"
[Mom in front seat rolls her eyes]

"Ha! Man. My infant son thinks he's, like, the hottest shit. And he's so not. I would never fuck him if he used that line on me."

Baby: "How about, dang, girl! That diaper's looking good on you."

How about not? How about I'm three seconds away from clawing my own eyes out and shoving them into my ears?

Baby: "What are you, a size 18 months? Yeah, I like my girls a little chubby."
Announcer: "You want some chubby?"

What? What the fuck are you talking about? If this is reliant on me having seen previous ads in whatever fucking series this is, or knowing Hawk Ford's shitty dealership slogan, that is a BAD idea, because I live in Chicago, watch a lot of TV, write about ads as a hobby, and yet can't recall ever seeing one of their ads before. If it's not reliant on that... WHAT?

Announcer: "Chubby discounts. Chubby savings."


Does Hawk Ford know that "chubby" is also a slang term involving the penis? Were they going for that pun? When the baby says that he likes his girls "a little chubby," is that intended to be a play on words, in that he might also have a "little chubby?" Because if so, I want to drive down to Oak Lawn and light that entire dealership on fire.

And if they don't know that, and they weren't going for that pun... what in the hell were they going for?

By the way: "Chubby discounts, chubby savings" isn't even Hawk Ford's normal slogan, as evidenced by these other ads in this campaign. So... a baby calling another baby fat was just so hilarious we had to alter our whole ad to be built around it, in spite of the fact that it makes no goddamn sense? For fuck's sake, at least those other ads use the baby for semi-legit reasons. With this one it just seems like there was a bet in the office about how horrible a commercial they could make and still get it on the air.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It's Greek to me

Beware of Greeks bearing gifts, as the old saying goes. I guess we can modify that to "Beware of Greek grandmothers bearing hummus."

Ye gods. Time for a team effort!

It's entirely possible that this ad would be hysterically funny if I were Greek, or Greek-American, and had a grandmother like that. But here's the thing. I'm not, and I don't. And the exact same is true of, oh, about 99% of the population (according to Wikipedia, the State Department says that about three million Americans claim Greek heritage). So while I'm sure Jennifer Aniston and Tina Fey find this ad funny and relatable, I'm of the opinion that you kind of need to think of the broader audience. And as a member of the broader audience, I am baffled as to how this is supposed to sell me anything.

Bizarrely smug announcer: "Hey, Michelle! Whatcha doing?"
Michelle: "I'm serving delicious Athenos hummus to my friends! I've got-"
BSA: "That's great! Let's see what Yiayia thinks!"
Yiayia: "You dress like... a prostitute!"

Windier: I have an idea! What if we just totally shit all over someone for using our product? "Ladies, do you like Athenos hummus? Well, so does this old Greek lady, and she also thinks you look like a whore." If you're a woman, and you have a Greek grandmother - or, I suppose, any grandmother from the "old country" who's all "set in her ways" and shit and is also excruciatingly frank - then I suppose you've already been in a situation like this and it's funny. But I must stress again that most people don't, and to those people, I'm guessing the idea of being called a prostitute is about as funny as the actress playing Michelle makes it look. Which is to say, not at all! What was the point of this ad again?

Knitwear: It's hard for me to understand how demoralizing a woman for wearing a perfectly normal dress in a perfectly normal way would help you seem likable. It's unkind and it borders on misogynistic, unlike this other ad in the series for Athenos hummus, which leaps over the border to misogyny land and breaks some plates on the floor, as parenting is a second-class job, a wife is a second-class citizen, and if you're a man, your children should laugh at you for bothering to take a role in raising them. At the same time, this company is attempting to move product. Are you secretly trying to neg these people so that they'll buy more hummus to get back into your good graces? Notice also how cavalierly the announcer dismisses Michelle's plans for the evening - in spite of the fact that Michelle is the customer surrogate in this ad. He wants her (that is, you) to buy the product - but he doesn't care what she (that is, you) thinks.

Michelle: "Did she just call me a prostitute?"
BSA: "No! Yiayia would never do-"
Yiayia: "Prostitute."
BSA: "Never mind that, Michelle! At least Yiayia approves of you serving Athenos hummus!"
Yiayia: "Mmmm!"

Windier: All that I'm really getting out of this ad is the following:

(a) Old Greek women are kind of horrible.
(b) Old Greek women like Athenos hummus and apparently nothing else.
(c) Therefore, you should like Athenos hummus, because it's the only way you're ever going to win the respect of this awful crone.

Sold! Let me run right out and purchase every container in the store! Because when I think delicious food products, my mind goes right to old women who will casually demean you if they don't like your outfit. Here's the official description of the video on YouTube, by the way:

"Yiayia (Greek, for grandmother) is a fan of simple, respectful food made the Greek way. That's why she approves of ATHENOS. And that's why she doesn't approve of anything else."

First of all, what is "respectful food?" I fucking hate shit like that. Don't take adjectives and dilute their meaning by forcing them into completely inapplicable situations. (Also, I think it's pretty clear that if there's one thing Yiayia has absolutely no use for, it's being respectful.) Second of all, what the fuck is this, Life cereal? "Give this Athenos hummus to Yiayia, she doesn't like anything. She likes it! Hey Yiayia!" And I still don't see how this is going to encourage me to purchase the product. You can just see Michelle in the last scene thinking how quickly she can get to the store for some Tribe or Sabra or whatever.

Knitwear: Third of all, let's not pretend that hummus is some sort of classic Greek food. I'm sure you could find it in a grocery store somewhere in Greece, but it's not like you're going to unearth some sort of ancient pottery shard depicting Zeus with a big platter of hummus and pita.
Extensive research went into making sure this ad "properly reflected Greek culture," so I'm glad they went that extra mile to include both an authentic Greek food and the special importance placed on nurturing your children (or not).

Windier: Here's the slogan this ad probably should have ended with, for consistency's sake: "Athenos Hummus: So authentically delicious, it'll be just like a Greek woman is horribly insulting you while you're eating it! Mmmm. Pick some up today!" You're already in your car on your way to the store, right?

This isn't the only ad in the series, as Knitwear mentions above. In addition to the one where Yiayia suggests that being a stay-at-home dad is unmanly, there's also one where she tells a couple living together but unmarried that they're going to Hell. For real. But hey! She loves Athenos products! So, um, enjoy! This hummus will surely distract you from your sinful modern lifestyles! I don't care how much like anyone's grandmother this woman is - why would I want to buy any product she's endorsing? If this is "Greek authenticity," I'll be fine with a less authentic brand, thanks.

Knitwear: And it's Greek authenticity only in the most calculated way imaginable, which is probably my favorite part. "Athenos! We're Greek! Greeky Greek Greek! (Kraft.)" Anyway, despite the controversy following the first airings of the ad this week, the company stands behind their commercial. Kraft, meet Groupon. Groupon, Kraft. I'm sure you two will have lots to talk about.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011


Three guesses as to what you will see if you go online to "see more now" at the end of this ad, and the first two don't count.

If you said "Danica Patrick and Jillian Michaels are NOT naked," you're right! (If you additionally said, "It's excruciatingly unfunny and you will instantly regret watching it just to remove the 0.0000000001% of doubt you had before posting this," you are also right.)

Don't you wonder why GoDaddy is still making ads this way? At first, I get it. You want to get your name out there. But everyone knows who GoDaddy is by now and yet we get functionally the exact same thing every year - the ad implies that if you go online for the full version you will see nudity or at the very least something extremely risqué; you of course will not; and for some reason GoDaddy refuses to cast anyone who would be worth the effort anyway. For crying out loud, I could type virtually any sexual term into Google and find video of a more attractive woman than Danica Patrick doing unspeakable things inside of thirty seconds.

Just for good measure, this year's spot adds Jillian Michaels, because two passably attractive brunettes are better than one, even if neither of them can act worth a lick. Neither Michaels nor Patrick is hot enough to justify appearing in these spots, right? Surely you could find someone around their level who could act, or at least find someone hotter who can't. Maybe it seems kind of sexist for me to harp on this, but come on - their entire premise is "We're using hot ladies to sell domain names." You can't do that and then not provide hot ladies.

If you hate yourself, do be sure to check out the full online spot, which ranks right up there with the worst associated web content to a televised ad I've ever seen. Although it is sort of impressive how many people they managed to cast who lack the ability to competently deliver a line.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Making bad ads isn't exactly rocket science

Last September I mentioned a Honda Civic ad that I hated and wanted to write about but was unable to find on YouTube. Well, guess what I just found.

Come on.

Applicant: "Mr. Stratton, thank you."
Stratton: "We'll be in touch."
[Applicant leaves]
Stratton: "Seems bright."
Tom: "I don't know, Hank."

What is with the crazy low-angle shots here? Did I need to be able to see all the way up that guy's nose? Was Verne Troyer the cameraman?

Stratton: "Tom?"
Tom: "I think we just found our next rocket scientist."

They looked out the window and saw that the applicant dude drives a Honda Civic. And that pushed him over the top! As if this makes any sense at all. "Sure, your qualifications are impeccable... but I don't know, is that a Ford Taurus you're driving? I'm sorry, I think we need more of a Honda Civic man for this job." Alternately, what if this guy isn't even qualified to be a rocket scientist? "Well, we reviewed your application, and it says that your only previous work with rockets was 'shooting off some bottle rockets on Fourth of July 1997.' So I'm afraid that... wait a second, is that a Honda fucking Civic?"

Announcer: "It can take you farther than you think."

See, I could write the whole thing off as a joke - a really awful, stupid joke, but a joke - if they didn't have this line in there. They are serious! They are legitimately claiming that if your potential boss appreciates your taste in cars, you will get hired. And why?

Announcer: "The best value of any car in its class for the past 23 years."

Okay, first of all, out of context that really doesn't mean much. Second of all, does an appreciation of value make you a better rocket scientist? Wouldn't this make at least a little more sense if he was being hired as an economist or something? Oh, but "economist" isn't a profession that is widely used as shorthand for "genius-level intelligence," so we can't go with that. We need everyone to understand that buying a Honda Civic is proof that you are so smart that you can design spacecraft. And if you don't buy a Honda Civic? Well, I think Arby's is hiring for the night shift, jerkoff. The irony of the whole thing is that "rocket scientist" is probably a pretty high-paying job - what are even the odds that this guy would still be driving a Civic within five years?

Sunday, February 20, 2011


This isn't some ridiculously terrible commercial or anything. It's just kind of a mess.

I suspect this is what happens when there are six ideas in the pitch meeting and they just decide to use them all. My prevailing thought about this ad is that the first piece of the plotline, which depicts a couple handcuffed to a cop's motorcycle as the cop drives away in their Kia Optima, would probably have been sufficient by itself for the entire ad. You start with the couple driving, cop pulls them over, cop looks the car over and is taken by it, cop has the couple step out of the car, then hops in and drives away. Gets the point across, doesn't make wild, random lurches between events in something that can only charitably be called a narrative, and is at least conceptually amusing.

But does this ad stop there? No. In fact, it doesn't even start until right at the end of that piece of the plot. Instead, we move on to a helicopter grabbing the car with a giant suction cup and flying out across the ocean to deliver the car to some rich guy on a yacht. (Apparently this takes place in an alternate dimension where there is only one Kia Optima in existence, because surely with a base MSRP of around $20k, dude could afford his own. Hell, hiring that helicopter and fitting it out with the suction gadget probably cost more than that.) But does the yacht get to the rich guy? No. Because - watch the ad, this actually happens - fucking Poseidon pops out of the ocean, knocks the helicopter away, and examines the car.

Okay. I say this a lot on here, perhaps too much, but it's too often applicable: I know this is supposed to be funny. Or something. But I just find it stupid and "lookit me!" What use does Poseidon have for a car that he's like 20 times larger than? Or at all? Maybe it's just going to be a present for his daughter's Sweet Sixteen - not to drive, mind you, because they live under the sea, but to add to her collection of human items. She can admire the car as it slowly rusts, all the while humming "Part of Your World" and combing her hair with a dinglehopper. Or maybe this is kind of retarded and could just as easily have been left out, except that Kia apparently really wanted to show off more of their mediocre CGI.

Then aliens zap the car away, but they lose it as well, as the car is pulled through some sort of wormhole and ends up in Mayan times, ready to be worshiped as some sort of god. Okay. How do the Mayans know what a car is? What are they going to do with it?

So in 60 seconds the car is possessed by six different entities (I'm including the couple at the beginning, who technically have already been dispossessed before the 60 seconds start). Doesn't this seem a little frantic? Am I the only one who finds it sort of distracting and muddled? You'd think the idea of an ad like this would be to focus on the car, but in sixty seconds it seems to me that only about seven of them - 0:05 to 0:08, when the cop is driving, and 0:37 to 0:41, when the alien is driving - really show the car doing anything besides being pulled from one place to the next. A 60-second car commercial and barely more than 10% of it actually shows the car in action? (It could be worse, of course.)

That might even be okay if there were anything particularly distinctive about the Kia Optima... but it's a mid-size sedan, a.k.a. the most conventional automotive category in existence. Virtually every car in that category looks at least 80% like all the others, and the Optima hardly looks like an exception. It's not a hybrid, it's not electric... the only thing we know about it is that everyone in this ad wants it, which is hardly a convincing argument. Shit, even that awful Cruze ad cited the car's MPG. The only thing we get at the end is the starting price (which is only if you want it in manual, by the way). I mean, for all I know there are lots of awesome things you can get with the Kia Optima - for six million bucks, plus whatever it cost to produce, is it too much to ask that this ad mention any of them? Or should I just be thankful that no more hamsters showed up?

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Coffee-mating ritual

Holy shit, Coffee-Mate. Really?

Express yourself! Reveal your true self to the world... by adding flavored creamer to your coffee. For real. Drinking flavored coffee is the equivalent of writing a song, or painting, or dressing in interesting clothing to stand out. Never mind that no one else will have ANY IDEA what flavor is in your coffee unless you tell them, and hey, that wouldn't be weird at all.

Office Worker 1: Morning, Bill.
Office Worker 2: Morning, Tom.
Office Worker 1: So, how are things?
Office Worker 2: Not bad. Especially since I'm drinking this... [holds up mug] ...hazelnut coffee! [takes sip] Mmm. You know, hazelnut-flavored coffee really speaks to me as a person...
Office Worker 1: Well, gosh, I would love to stay and chat, but I'm late for my exit interview!
Office Worker 2: You're leaving?
Office Worker 1: I am now!

Honestly, I would buy Miracle Whip as the edgy youth condiment before I would buy Coffee-Mate as an expression of self. Plus, what if you like your coffee black?

Office Worker 2: To me, hazelnut speaks to my artistry. I don't even feel like I can create until I've had at least three cups... but once I have, the creative juices start flowing and I feel like I can do anything with the canvas.
Office Worker 3: I hear you. I could barely muster the energy to press the keys on the piano until I had my second cup with the Cinnamon Bun flavor, but once I did, I was ready to knock out a concerto.
Office Worker 4: Morning, guys. Mind if I squeeze through to pour a cup?
Office Worker 2: Of course not, fellow coffee aficionado! So what'll it be for you today?
Office Worker 4: Um, coffee?
Office Worker 2: Well, of course. I meant what flavor of Coffee-Mate?
Office Worker 4: Oh, I just like it black.
Office Worker 2: I'm sorry?
Office Worker 4: Black. You know, no cream, no sugar, just straight?
Office Worker 3: I don't understand.
Office Worker 4: ...well, see, I'm just going to drink this...
[He puts it to his lips, but Office Worker 3 slaps it away.]
Office Worker 3: Good God, man! Do you realize what you almost did? There's nothing in there! No French vanilla, no amaretto, no gingerbread... it's just... it's just...
Office Worker 4: Coffee?
[Office Workers 2 and 3 shudder.]
Office Worker 2: I don't even like to think about it.

Coffee-Mate! Life needs flavor! Specifically, mass-produced flavor that you can pour out of a plastic bottle. Be your own person and express yourself by purchasing goods from a major multinational corporation!

(By the way, Coffee-Mate's website has a whole section dedicated to desserts they want you to make using Coffee-Mate for the flavors. I will say this right now: if you're making tiramisu or crème brûlée at home and you're using Coffee-Mate in the recipe, you have truly gone dead inside.)

Friday, February 18, 2011

Hamstering it up

It's about time I got around to this one.

This ad, from early 2009 or so, is a good commercial. It's a clever use of interesting visuals to communicate, getting across the idea that the Kia Soul is distinct from the many cookie-cutter cars on the road. It even gets in a couple facts about the car at the end.

Unfortunately, Kia bought into the hamsters maybe a little too much.

What the hell is that mess?

It seems pretty clear that I'm not in this ad's target demographic (the references to 145th Street and Amsterdam Avenue place the setting quite conspicuously in Harlem). But it's still baffling. First of all, Kia makes the pretty bold assumption that you remember their earlier hamster ad - it was a good ad, but it wasn't exactly "Have you had your break today?" Even beyond that, the two ads have virtually nothing in common beyond the hamsters - the hamster wheels make only a fleeting appearance in the sequel, the hamsters have now been dressed up in all manner of clothing, and Calvin Harris' "Colours" (an electronica song from 2007) has been replaced with Black Sheep's "The Choice is Yours" (a hip hop song from 1991). Really, why did they even bother to keep the hamsters? Surely the branding from the first commercial wasn't that valuable if they just threw out everything else.

Gone is the clever suggestion that the competition is like a bunch of identical hamster wheels; in its place are comparisons to a toaster and a cardboard box. Is this still supposed to represent the competition? Is it supposed to represent the used cars that might be the only other alternative for someone shopping in the Kia Soul's price range? It's impossible to say for sure when Kia is dealing entirely in metaphors. I don't know. Maybe if I lived in Harlem this ad would make perfect sense... but somehow I doubt that.

It's also worth noting that by giving the hamsters so much more to do, Kia has successfully called attention to the not-especially-good CGI they're employing in that department. The first ad seemed like it might have been mostly real hamsters until the end; I can't imagine there's a real hamster for even a frame in this commercial, and it's painfully obvious. Does that really matter? Probably not. But it looks cheap. I don't know, maybe that was the point.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

A piece of Kraft

I decided to look into the Crispin Porter + Bogusky oeuvre to see what else they'd done, because in spite of our hate for the Groupon and Best Buy ads, and our historical hate for their Burger King and Microsoft campaigns, surely, surely they must not exclusively produce crap ads, right?

I'm still looking.

You know what I don't love? Ads that take a product traditionally aimed at children and try to pretend that it's something that is or should be beloved by adults. I've never been able to turn up proof of this, but I'm quite sure that sometime in the early to mid-1990s Cookie Crisp started running ads suggesting that adults could also eat it as kind of a snack food. It was ridiculous then, and it's ridiculous now.

If you've ever had real macaroni and cheese - I mean made from scratch - you know that Kraft's equivalent is like mixing baker's chocolate with Splenda and calling it a Belgian truffle. It is not good. And sure, each to his own taste, but it's objectively of lower quality, even if you still like it. There's no way this dad is so obsessed with it that he's just standing there cramming it into his stupid face.

Of course, that ad is more annoying than truly terrible. Don't worry. It gets worse.

I hate nearly everything about this one.

Girl: "So get this. Kraft Mac and Cheese, but it's in a bag."

Everyone was familiar with the fact that it came in a box, right? And cared?

Girl: "And you bake it. In the oven."

Thereby taking away the only real reason to eat Kraft Mac and Cheese in the first place, which is that it takes slightly less time to make than to make real macaroni and cheese from scratch.

Girl: "Whatever happened to Cheeseasaurus Rex? I love that guy!"

WARNING: MASSIVE EDITORIALIZING OF OUR OWN ADS! "Hey, remember our shitty old mascot we just got rid of? He was totally super popular!" I'm surprised CP+B's recent Domino's ads didn't have people demanding the return of the Noid, too. Also, what's this kid, 9? How long has it been since Cheeseasaurus Rex was actually named in the Kraft ads?

Girl: "Well, Kraft Corporation, I'm on to you. Going after the grownups and trying to muscle me out?"

Revealing your marketing strategy in your copy: super edgy.

Girl: "But I'm not going anywhere."

Yeah, Kraft Mac and Cheese is likely to still be more enjoyed by kids than adults. What was the point of this ad?

As the mac and cheese is pulled out of the oven, pay close attention to the fine print, which states: "Optional oven finish." So basically you're trying to make it look classy on TV, but the fact is that most people are not going to bother to do that extra work as though bread crumbs will make you think your grandma made this.

Announcer: "New Kraft Homestyle Macaroni and Cheese. Cheesy noodles topped with golden brown bread crumbs."

So macaroni and cheese. Only not as good.

Announcer: "You know you love it."

I loathe this tagline. Absolutely hate it. Why is this the pitch? Seems to me the idea is that adults secretly love Kraft Mac and Cheese but refuse to admit it because it's supposed to be for kids. As though, being adults, we don't have the option to buy whatever the fuck we want. If I want to buy Kraft Mac and Cheese, I will. But I don't, because it sucks, no matter how many bread crumbs you sprinkle on it. Don't try to tell me what I love and don't love, Kraft, you assholes. I will make my own grocery buying decisions and you will like it. Fuck you.

And here's the latest one.

Is that the same girl? She looks pretty similar. If so, did her mom recently suffer some sort of brain injury that caused her to forget about Kraft Macaroni and Cheese? (Wouldn't that be the life.)

Let's say that it's either a different girl or is supposed to be. How does this ad make sense? If the mom has never purchased Kraft, then the kid has never had it; if the kid has never had it, how does she know to want it? Even if you assume it's because she saw an ad for it, she seems really certain of how good it's going to taste for someone who's never eaten it.

I'm also no fan of the disdain with which this ad treats the mother's cooking. Okay, so Kraft is trying to "eliminate its competition" or whatever, something common enough in the ad world. But this seems questionable at best. "Hey! Parents! You know the food you're cooking and serving to your kids? Yeah, they fucking hate it. Get with the program and start making them pasta from a bag, and maybe when the revolution comes you won't be the first against the wall. Kraft: We Will Destroy You. I mean, You Know You Love It."

Guess what, Kraft. I didn't like it when Pizza Hut took this angle and I don't like it now. You make shitty processed pasta in a bag and/or box. This is no one's idea of a wonder meal (well, maybe this guy's). Unless someone is a particularly bad cook, it probably does not outclass something they made from scratch, and the idea that we should all just stop making real food and settle for pre-packaged crap is obnoxious at best. Or, why not go the other way and just make the tagline that much clearer?

Kraft: You Know You Can't Cook

Kraft: You Know Your Kids Hate You

Kraft: Stop Embarrassing Yourself

Kraft: Fuck You and the Casserole You Rode In On