Monday, January 31, 2011

Spanish ply

I ordinarily hate posting clips that have text on them promoting someone else's website. You can understand why - it might look like I'm endorsing that site when in fact I've never gone to it and have no intention of vouching for its quality. So with the understanding that this is not an endorsement of the site itself, which I've never visited, I do want to thank whoever is behind "Gallery of the Absurd" for posting this on YouTube, because this Cottonelle ad just cries out for comment.


Wife: "When you've been together as long as we have-"
Husband [off-screen]: "Honey, where's the-"
Wife: "Top shelf! Life can get a bit... routine. That's why I decided to switch things up..."

The gag, of course, is that you're supposed to think that this is an ad for Viagra, or Cialis, or KY Yours and Mine or something. Something involving sex. Of course, this is actually an ad for toilet paper. And here's where it gets really gross.

Wife: "...with Cottonelle Ultra toilet paper!"
Husband [o.s.]: "Oh, yeah."
Wife: "You see? It's 35% thicker than the Northern brand."

Originally here I wrote a parody of the Beatles' "Only a Northern Song" with the lyrics "It's only the Northern brand," before reminding myself that it's one of their deepest cuts and no one would find it funny. (I had to tell you that just so I could avoid second-guessing not posting it.) Anyway, around the laughable attempt to skirt the mention of their nearest competitor, we can see the commercial going to hell - well, going further into hell - as the husband is enjoying himself way, way too much off-screen.

Husband [o.s.]: "Love it!"

Egad. Really, Cottonelle? Really? Has this guy reached so far up there that he's massaging his own prostate?

Wife: "You might say this one little switch has made all the difference!"
[Husband emerges in some sort of 70s dance outfit.]
Husband: "Veena, get dressed, we're goin' dancing."

Horrifying. Also, is her name really "Veena?" I can't hear it as anything else, but who is named that, other than no one? By the way, this guy apparently successfully finished wiping his ass in under twenty seconds. Is he the Flash? Does he just shit pure water? And speaking of water, I didn't hear a sink. Get the fuck back in there and wash your hands, jackass.

Announcer: "Little switches can make all the difference!"

All what difference? I'm sorry, Cottonelle, but you're not selling me on the idea that using different toilet paper is going to change my life. Much less my sex life.

Knitwear and I were actually talking about this - toilet paper is a hard product to sell. 99% of products you can show people using, but toilet paper is not one of them. So instead we get this endless dance. You can be like Charmin and use cartoon bears so that you can get right up to the line of what's okay - showing pieces of toilet paper stuck to a cartoon bear's ass, something you obviously couldn't show on a human. Or you can be like Cottonelle and, in this ad, not show someone using your product but instead play the sound of someone using your product. The only problem with that is that I don't want to hear someone using your product either, especially not when they're making sounds that make it entirely unclear what is happening in there. And I also don't want to hear that while the guy's dumpy wife is standing outside using language that implies their sex life has improved thanks to cleaner asses. But hey, thanks for that mental image, Cottonelle! Maybe in the sequel the guy could come out in bondage gear. "Veena, put on your mask, grab the whip, and don't forget the safe word is rhubarb!"

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Today in things that don't ever happen

Friend 1: "Nice shape, Jane!"
Jane Krakowski: "Thanks! I've been helping out at a lot of celebrity car washes."
Friend 2: "I think she meant the new Trop50 bottle."
Jane: "Oh. Right."

Oh, right. Because Jane Krakowski invented the new Trop50 bottle and therefore it makes sense for praise for its shape to be directed at her. Or, oh, right, because "Nice shape" is a comment that any native speaker of English would ever make, ever. Or, oh, right, what the fuck is this. Friend 2's smugness is delightful here given that she's treating as an absolute given something no human being would say.

Jane: "Well, you can see how I'd make that mistake."

I can! Well, sort of. If I was carrying a bottle of juice into a room and one of my friends said, "Hey, nice shape," I think my response would be "What the fuck are you even talking about?" And then if they were like, "I meant that the shape of that juice bottle you're carrying is nice," I would have stared at them for a full minute without saying anything, and then never invited them to another of my famous "we're doing nothing but drinking orange juice in my living room" get-togethers.

Jane: "I've never been in better shape!"
[She attempts to preen for her friends, who totally ignore her.]
Friend 3: "Mmm, so good! And it's got 50% less calories!"
Jane: "What do you think?"
Friend 2: "Which makes it gooder!"
Friend 1: "It is gooder!"
Friend 3: "It's better than gooder."

This is really just fucking retarded at this point. What am I supposed to be feeling towards these women? Because I just hate all of them, and by extension the product for which they are shilling by deploying the reverse-engineered grammar of a four-year-old. Also, since the word which conveys the concept that "gooder" does is the word "better," I think I would have tried not to include that word in the copy. Might take some work, but it's not like you haven't already spent 20 seconds hooking a car battery up to the English language's genitals.

Jane: "Ladies, you don't say gooder! There's no such word as gooder!"

You won me back, Jane.

Friend 2: "But Jane, you look gooder."
Jane: "Do I???"

Never mind. "Oh, friends, I don't mind that you're the three dumbest women on the planet. I just want you to acknowledge that I've lost weight!" Incidentally, I am surprised, slash amazed, slash dumbfounded that in a commercial aimed at women, starring women, and featuring a main character bragging about her weight loss and a low-calorie product, that the weight loss and the low-calorie product are not actually tied together. It's like they weren't even trying to make this commercial effective. Or comprehensible. This shit makes those Yoplait ads where the women talk up desserts they're not actually eating look like masterpieces of the craft.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Happy thoughts, happy thoughts

Retailers always get a little weird around the holidays. But this seems a bit extreme.

This ad has bothered me since I first saw it, because... what is going on here?

Voiceover: "To us, the little things mean a lot. Add up all our standard features, and SafetyTech..."

As he's talking, we zoom around the car, which is driving through the snow. A helpful snowflake guides us through many of the features. Then the car pulls back up at the dealership and things get weird.

Salesman: "How was it?"
[A branch shakes for no apparent reason and dumps snow on the salesman's head.]
Girl: "We'll take it!"
Salesman: "Awesome."

Is this scene just bizarre to anyone else? Why is this kid making the family's car buying decisions? Why did that branch suddenly dump snow on the salesman, to the kid's amusement? Then it occurred to me - remember the old "It's a Good Life" episode of the Twilight Zone? This girl is the 2011 equivalent of Billy Mumy in that show. Her parents, desperate to please her, have opted to purchase an expensive new car in the hopes that she will enjoy riding in it. The salesman, standing in the cold waiting for them to return, knows that he has to keep smiling at all costs, even as she uses her telekinetic powers to drop a branch-load of snow onto his head, lest he displease her and suffer the consequences. "It's good that she made that snow fall on me," he thinks to himself, the grim specter of his doubts about this arrangement lurking in the recesses of his mind. "It's very, very good." He grits his teeth in a pained smile and tries to think nothing but happy thoughts. He knows that he's likely going to get a lowball offer for the car, but that's a good thing - nothing would make him happier! Shivering half from cold and half from fear, he stares from behind his plastered-on smile at the horrible monster who holds the whole town captive to their own thoughts and tries not to think of smashing her face into the back of the driver's headrest.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Shitius Altius Fortius

I'm not even sure what to say.

An anonymous commenter a few posts ago was the first to bring this to my attention, although frankly I would have been just as happy to go the rest of my life without knowing this commercial existed.

We've talked in the past about how commercials dealing with "gross" subjects tend to be somewhat circumspect, with my go-to example being the Metamucil "Beautify your inside" campaign from 2007. This commercial... is the opposite of that.

We open on some sort of shitting contest. I mean, that's actually what is happening here. Three babies are involved in a contest to see who can fill their diaper with the most shit. For real. That is the ad. So the first one goes, and gets scores of 6, 5 and 3. Whoa! Not nearly enough shit in that diaper, Baby #1! You knew this was the World Shitting Championships, right? Step your game up.

Baby #2 steps up and drops a much larger shit - while being recorded on cell phone cameras in the front row - and gets scores of 8, 7 and 8. But Baby #3... he came prepared. His diaper expands with shit until it is nearly as big as he is! Yeahhhhh! All 10s! He is the Nadia Comaneci of shitting!

Voice-over: "What happens in diapers should stay in diapers."

This now presents us with the alternate mental image of some non-Luvs-clad baby taking a monster dump the size of his own body and having excrement fly everywhere. Thanks, Luvs.

Voice-over: "New Luvs Ultra Leakguards with Heavy 'Dooty' Blowout Protection. Outstanding protection for your little 'heavy dooty' champs."

Have you ever seen "dooty" spelled that way before? I have not. Meanwhile, the second and third-place babies are for some reason putting their hands on the winner's still-full diaper, like they're in awe of his shitting prowess and want a little reflected glory. This is really exceedingly vile.

I know this ad is directed at parents. And I know that for the majority of parents, your kid taking a crap and you having to clean it up becomes so commonplace that it ceases to be disgusting; it's just a thing that happens that has to be dealt with, one of the things you sign up for when you decide to have children. (And if you glance over the YouTube comments, it's pretty clear there's an opinion divide between parents and the childless over the merits of the spot.) But even with that in mind, did this commercial really need to be this graphic? These are cartoon babies, after all - you're not actually proving the durability of the diapers by showing the massive shit expansion, so why show it at all? And did you really have to play "Whoomp! There it is!" in the background?

This is the place where I'd normally do some joke about what it would be like if other companies advertised this way. But how can I? There really is no analogous situation to watching a baby (even an animated one) fill its diaper onscreen - only a handful of other products even deal in an area this nasty, and none of them would ever advertise so directly. The only commercial I can think of that's even vaguely similar is the one for Oops, I Crapped My Pants, and that's a joke ad for a product that doesn't exist. So congratulations, Luvs, for being only slightly less gross than a fake ad that's intentionally over the top about its pitch.

You know, as long as we're talking about diapers, I just realized I never dealt with this one:

Eurotrash Voiceover: "My diaper is full! Full of chic!"

Ha ha! It's funny, because "chic" sounds kind of like "shit," which of course is what the diaper is actually full of.

Eurotrash Voiceover: "When it's a #2... I look like #1."

Diaper companies really just don't care, do they? Metamucil talks about primping your colon, but Huggies is just like, "Yeah, whatever! Babies shit all the time, and we all know it. We're not dancing around anything."

Eurotrash Voiceover: "I poo... in blue!"

Good God. Couldn't you try to be even a little cute about what diapers are for? I mean, we all know anyway. It really has to be shoved in our face like this? For good measure, the tagline is "The coolest you'll look pooping your pants." I love the use of the second person as though anyone truly capable of watching and understand this commercial is going to be the one using the product, as opposed to buying it for their child. (By the way: jean diapers? Seriously? This was something that needed to exist? Were there really people complaining that boring ol' white diapers were making their baby look dangerously uncool?)

I know this whole thing is kind of tongue-in-cheek, but I mean, no, it really isn't. You make that product and sell it, you can't really claim ironic license. This is something you want to sell. And again, okay, the people you're trying to sell to probably won't be fazed by all the talk about babies taking craps. But couldn't you think for a second about the non-parents out there, the people who were just hoping to watch television without being confronted with the image of someone taking a dump? We're people too, dammit.

Attention parents: babies are cute. (Most babies.) But they are not as cute to the rest of us as you think they are. And not everything they do is cute just because they're babies. Taking their first steps? Cute. Babbling happily? Cute. Filling a diaper with shit? NOT CUTE. There's a reason why bathroom stalls have doors on them - no one wants to see someone else taking a shit. I don't care how tiny and precious you are, I'm not interested in being informed about what just came out of your ass or where it's now residing. So maybe we could sell diapers without having to talk about how constantly full of shit they are? Is that possible?

Saturday, January 22, 2011

"Steamer" is right

Quick! Can you identify the product or service that Stanley Steemer provides?

It's kind of a trick question. According to their website, they actually provide a variety of home cleaning and repair services. They'll clean your carpet, your tile, your furniture, your air ducts... they do water damage restoration, sell flooring, clean the interior of your car, boat or RV... there are really quite a lot of services that Stanley Steemer provides.

Unless you learned about Stanley Steemer only from watching this ad:

In which case, Stanley Steemer is a company that cleans up animal shit.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Awful insurance ad blowout

Something very strange is going on in the insurance industry lately. For an example of what I mean, let's take a look at a Farmer's Insurance ad from about two years ago:

I mean, okay, it's sort of boring. It's straightforward, it maybe gets a little too much into financial jargon... but ultimately the main point is clear and sincere. Farmer's has been around for a long time, we don't play games with your coverage, etc.

Now here's a Farmer's ad from their most recent vintage:

What in the hell is happening here? Can you make hide or hair of it? Because I cannot. The commercial implies that you can buy insurance to cover your accident after the fact, which I'm almost positive is sort of the opposite of how insurance works. Then there's all the goofy details in the ad - "bait shop," "tulip poplar," that dopey singing at the end - which all just scream "Look at us! We are modern and hilarious!" Sure, it's a less boring ad than its older counterpart, but at what cost? We're talking about insurance here, not light beer or candy. Does it need to be sold with this kind of a pitch?

But it's not just Farmer's. Oh, not by a long shot. You'll remember, of course, the awful State Farm ads which started some months ago (and were taken on by this blog right here) and are still running. But that's hardly it.

That's a Nationwide ad from about four years ago. It's already in the "trying to be funny" range, as all those "Life comes at you fast" ads were - remember the Kevin Federline one? - but in a pretty clear, innocuous way. Not so anymore.

Is the point of this commercial to make me want to die? Because it does. Ooh, maybe before I walk into traffic I can buy some life insurance from Nationwide! I mean Nationpam. That's just funny right there.

What is this obsessive need to have a goofy character gimmick? "The World's Greatest Spokesperson in the World?" First of all, that's a pretty direct ripoff of like ten other things. Even if it weren't, it is not inherently funny, and that guy's over-the-top smarminess is not drawing me towards Nationwide. This particular iteration of the gimmick is even worse because it isn't really saying anything - while other ads in the series at least talk about services that Nationwide offers, like "vanishing deductible," this ad just takes on online insurance companies with a vague, unsupportable promise that Nationwide won't treat you like a number. And then the guy sings obnoxiously in a way that suggests that Nationwide, like State Farm before them, has fallen hopelessly in love with their own jingle.

Even Esurance - a sufficiently nouveau company that you might just have expected this kind of ad from them in the first place - has gone from the relatively direct Erin Esurance animated ads to, well, this:

Esurance is apparently trying to skirt the kind of attack Nationwide was directing at their ilk by pointing out that you can have "Technology when you want it, people when you don't." But for some reason they have to do this by inventing an obnoxious agent who insists on being known as "The Saver" and a series of not-much-less obnoxious coworkers who like to point out that you save exactly as much money by just using the Esurance website. It's like the insurance equivalent of those "Cash/credit same price" signs you see at gas stations, except much more aggravating. The only thing I really take from these Esurance ads is that the Esurance offices look like a really annoying place to work.

Progressive, meanwhile, has been running the same Flo ads for a couple years now, so I can't accuse them of a very recent lurch into painful gimmickry. I can, however, point out that the commercials are getting harder and harder to watch.

I kind of like the way she says "Still not sure," but I hate the rest of it SO MUCH that it really doesn't matter because I almost never see that part anymore. Why is this supposed to be funny? Because some old guy is saying silly words? This tells us nothing about Progressive that we haven't learned from 85 other spots of theirs, so that suggests to me that this one was created because someone specifically thought this guy's lines were hilarious. Guess what? They were wrong. And I'd say that maybe the ad was trying to market to old people except it's kind of making fun of them, so I'm not sure how well that would work.

There are other insurance companies I haven't touched on. Allstate's "Mayhem" ads are more sober than most of the ones above, even as they milk a specific gimmick for all it's worth. Geico is still running goofy ads that barely mention their product half the time, but it's Geico - if you're expecting anything else from them, come on. 21st Century Insurance has been running ads that very directly, with just a smidge of humor, point out how you can get the exact same coverage as other companies but for a good deal less.

As I said above... we're talking about insurance here. Why are we suddenly seeing nearly every company go in for the same inane pitch - or in many cases lack thereof - that characterizes most beer commercials? It could be that Geico's recent expansion has encouraged other companies to try and follow their style, but don't you think that Geico's rates and/or service really have at least as much to do with it as the gecko or the cavemen? Geico also advertises a lot and will have multiple campaigns running at once - currently they have at least two, the gecko and the rhetorical questions, running nationally. I feel like if you do that, it almost doesn't matter what your ads look like. And wouldn't it make more sense to pitch in a clearer, more sensible way? Are we really so far down the rabbit hole that even the most adult-oriented, non-impulse-buy product like insurance has to try to have ads that teenagers will laugh at?

I mean, when you want insurance, I'm sure you want to save money, but you also want it from a reputable source, right? Do most of these ads reassure you about the quality of coverage you'd be getting? No, and that's rarely even the focus, which I find insane. The Farmer's and State Farm ones both present you with an utterly warped and inaccurate picture of how insurance works; the rest rarely have much to say beyond "We're less expensive!" The bizarre thing is that it's not really that hard to focus on both cost and features, is it? Think about the average McDonald's ad, say. You might see an ad where they talk about how a hamburger is only 99 cents, but in that same ad they will likely also promote something else about the hamburger, like its taste. Now think about the Progressive ad, which implies a low price but spends too much time having an old guy bark out nonsense to really address anything related to the actual insurance.

Isn't this ironic? Insurance, of all things, seems like a product where I would not want to make my decision just on cost. If my choice is between a McDonald's and a Burger King hamburger, I can feel pretty safe just going with the cheaper one (assuming my goal is saving money). If my choice is between two insurance companies, I might want to take a closer look at the fine print, no? This is kind of a big decision - if I ever do get into an accident, don't I want to know what kind of coverage I have? Instead, when it comes to their commercials, most of the insurance companies want to distract you with shiny things as part of a grating race to the bottom.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Tax season in Bizarro World

Does this sort of sales tactic happen on a routine basis? I guess it must, since H&R Block has built a whole series of television and radio commercials around it.

Salesman: This is one of the best cameras we have in stock. It has phenomenal optics- here, hold that. Super sharp images, and you can have it for free.

Announcer: Imagine if you could get the best for free.

Customer: (laughs) Sounds too good to be true.

Salesman: Yeah, it is too good to be true. That would be insane. To give our best stuff away for free?

Announcer: At H&R Block, we're serious. We believe you deserve the best tax preparation available for free.

At the point of the "reveal" that the salesman was lying, I'm feeling confused, and also kind of irritated, uncomfortable and embarrassed on behalf of the customers. (I know they're most likely actors, but the commercial is setting us up as if they are actual customers, and thus those are the sort of emotions being pulled up for me as a member of the audience.) When I feel embarrassed, I don't want to hang around for whatever the sales pitch is going to be- I just want to get away from that commercial as quickly as possible. If this blog didn't exist, I wouldn't even have bothered to find out who actually made the commercial.

Salesman: How's it going?

Customer: Good, how are you?

Salesman: Good. Have you seen this? This is the best bike we have. Top spec gears, super light frame.

Customer: I love it.

Salesman: Right now, you can have it for free.

Customer: Shut up.

Salesman: Free! Yeah!

Announcer: Imagine if you could get the best for free.

Customer: Oh this is, oh my god. This is mine?

Salesman: (Shakes head) No.

Customer: Shut up.

Salesman: I can't just give away my best stuff for free.

In the first commercial, we're told that it would be insane to give away the company's best stuff for free. In the second commercial, it's implied that the customer is stupid for falling for the pitch in the first place. So which message do you prefer- that your customers are stupid for believing that there is such a thing as a free lunch, or that your company is crazy for offering a free lunch in the first place?

In neither commercial is it explained what the purpose would be of using such a bait-and-switch tactic in the first place, although the writers seem aware that customers would not like it, as the radio version of the second ad ends with the annoyed customer asking "Is this your idea of a joke?", to which the salesman flatly replies "Yes. Yes it is. Ha ha." How could you possibly salvage a sale after this opening? "Anyway, the bike's really $2,000. But you love it, right? So you still want it, right? Right? Where are you going?" In essence, H&R Block is setting itself up in contrast ("we're serious") to fantasy stores and salespersons who would never behave this way- at least, not if they wanted to actually sell anything.