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

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Mind over Chatter

Do you suppose there is really a huge overlap between "people who are big fans of the Black Eyed Peas" and "people who make major software decisions for businesses"?

I have my doubts that the Black Eyed Peas actually use this service. But whatever.

Announcer: "Will.i.am, what do you think about the cloud?"

Better first question: "What the fuck is the cloud?"

Will.i.am: "The cloud? You mean this guy?"

Oh, I guess it's an actual cloud? Question answered! Or, not. At all.

Will.i.am: "Chatty? Man, I love this dude."

I might suggest that it is a bad idea, when attempting to introduce a new product to a mass audience, to have your main pitchman call the product by a different name. "Hey, what's that thing called? Chatty? Chatter? Chatbox? Chat Stevens?"

Will.i.am: "He helps me and my team stay aligned, so like, we all on the same page and stuff."

Thought: when attempting to sell a product that needs to be pitched to manager-level employees at companies, don't describe its function as making sure that "like, we all on the same page and stuff." This product is aimed at business professionals, not 12-year-olds from Encino.

Will.i.am: "I'm sorry, that's my phone. But hey look, check it out: Fergie be showing me tour updates, Taboo's showing me all the fly shoe designs, and Apl's letting me know where the DJ gigs at."

I guess these are things that this service does better than any other? It's sort of impossible to say, since your spokespeople are the Black Eyed Peas, and 99.9% of the people who will use this are not part of musical groups that also dabble in shoe design. Also, why are they the "Baby Peas" in this ad? And why did they need to be animated?

Will.i.am: "You see, we keep our whole business up there. It's private, and most importantly, it's safe."

Actually somewhat meaningful, I guess.

Fergie: "Will, let's go!"
Will.i.am: "Oh, yo, I gotta go on stage!"
Announcer: "Do impossible things as a team. Chatter.com."

And Apl and Taboo get what I imagine is the usual shaft. The slogan is "Do impossible things as a team?" Impossible things? Unless your company is working on the first time machine, maybe we could just stick with a verb like "incredible," which would have been just as good for the ad's purposes without sounding ludicrously overblown.

Seriously, why are the Black Eyed Peas in this ad? Even though Chatter is supposed to be a Facebook/Twitter equivalent, it's still only like that within the confines of a professional setting. Was there really that much of a need to "cool up" the ad with will.i.am's presence? Even if there was, I still don't understand why they're the "Baby Peas" or why they're animated. For all the sense it makes, will.i.am might just as well have been 500 feet tall and stomping through the streets of Tokyo, or rendered in Rankin/Bass-style stop-motion, or depicted with oozing sores and a hacking cough as "ill.i.am" of the "Garbage Pail Peas." Or maybe this commercial could have been way, way more straightforward, used someone less famous but more relevant, and given more than a whiff of a suggestion of what Chatter is actually good for.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Dressed to baffle

I'm pretty sure this ad is seriously intended to encourage you to use LivingSocial.

Uh... what?

I Googled LivingSocial and, believe it or not, it's actually some sort of Groupon competitor - not, as this ad might lead you to believe, a drug that delivers a powerful dose of estrogen to help kick-start your long-slumbering desire to transform into a woman.

This truly ranks among the most bizarre sales pitches I have ever seen. Sure, it's just intended to be funny, but you're not Budweiser, LivingSocial. You can't just do whatever you think is humorous; you still need to sell your product. Not enough people know who you are yet. And while there is a small segment of the population for whom this pitch might make perfect sense, the vast majority of people are not watching this and thinking, "Oh, sweet, LivingSocial's deals are so great they will help a bearded Deadliest Catch-type turn into a transvestite! I gotta get me some of that sweet deal action!" They are almost certainly thinking what I thought when I saw this, which is, "That is fucking weird."

And realistically, LivingSocial clearly does not disagree with that. All this ad is really doing is using the idea of a man becoming either a transvestite or a transgendered individual to get cheap laughs. This strikes me as just a little inappropriate. It's kind of interesting to chart the groups you can and can't get away with using as punchlines in commercials - you couldn't get away with making gay or racist jokes anymore; you can still get away with making fun of the genders because they're such broad groups. And apparently you can also get away with jokes about transvestite/transgendered people, presumably because they're a pretty small segment of the population and because most people still regard that behavior as particularly abnormal.

The idea of this guy transforming into a woman - eating and enjoying cupcakes! Doing yoga! Getting waxed! - is clearly supposed to be side-splittingly hilarious. But I don't think so. To me it feels cheap - like the live-action equivalent of Dodge's "Man Bag" commercial narration, which actually mentions a yoga class as something unmanly - and borderline offensive to the population it's ostensibly depicting. Especially because, I mean, we're talking about something that I assume is a momentous decision for the individuals affected... and here's LivingSocial suggesting that all it takes to open up to your true self is a few good coupon deals. Ick.

Whatever. The irony is that with this ad being so bafflingly strange, all Groupon really had to do was make a passable ad with their Super Bowl entry and they would have easily won the category for the night. Of course, we all know what Groupon actually did - so maybe LivingSocial comes out ahead anyway.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Shape up and ship out

Well, at least her boobs aren't talking.

What was up with this Super Bowl and making us think we just watched someone have sex?

Kim Kardashian: "I don't really know how to say this, other than to just say it."

If there's one sentence that would describe Kim Kardashian's acting chops, it is definitely "I don't really know how to say this, other than to just say it."

Kim Kardashian: "You're amazing. The best I've ever had. But things just aren't working out. Well that's not completely true. I am working out. It's not someone else. It's SOMEthing else."

Jesus, the voice in the Chevy Cruze demonstrated more range. I love how she accentuates the wrong syllable of "something." Come on, Kim - you may be a horrible actress but I know you at least speak English on a regular basis.

Kim Kardashian: "Bye-bye, trainer. Hello, Shape-Ups."

Until we see the shoes - at the 23-second mark of a 30-second commercial - there's very little (aside from the gym equipment in the background) to suggest that this isn't a commercial about Kim Kardashian dumping a guy post-coitally. Whatever that would be an ad for. And frankly, even after we see the shoes, there's really no suggestion of why the first three-quarters of the ad had to play out that way. Is it because Kim Kardashian is only famous for things pertaining to sex? If so, why is she your spokeswoman? (Also, is it me or is it a little weird to have Kim Kardashian as a spokeswoman for exercise shoes when her most notable feature is an enormous ass, something that assumedly most women buying this product are hoping to avoid?)

I'm also not sure who this ad is aiming at. Many of the Shape-Ups ads that have run in the past, a number of them featuring retired male athletes like Joe Montana, have seemingly been aimed at men, something that sets Skechers apart from most of the other shoe brands in this category (such as the above-linked Reebok Easy Tone). And by displaying Kim Kardashian in a tight exercise outfit, panning suggestively over her body, and having her compliment a guy at the end, this would seem to be no exception. But: Kim's shoes are pink. This is right up there with having her get into a bathtub naked to sell a cranberry walnut salad. Does Skechers really want to sell to men and women? And if so, shouldn't this ad have been just a trifle more sedate in its obsession with Kim Kardashian's various curves? Then again, she's not a good actress and isn't famous for anything connected to athletics (dating athletes doesn't count), so maybe not. I guess I just question why they went with her at all.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Love Wheat Thins? Then you'll love Wheat Thins!

It's kind of hard to believe that this social-media ambush stuff wasn't cooked up by Crispin Porter, but it's actually from an agency called The Escape Pod. Think Wheat Thins are boring? Think again! Now they're still boring, but also annoying.

(Credit to reader Tyler for bringing this particular spot to our attention.)

When Wheat Thins started this campaign, there was - understandably - a lot of debate online over whether it was real or whether the people being visited were simply actors. Wheat Thins responded with a spot in which they visit one such questioner, thus "proving" that they are real. Never mind that, even if you trust that that spot isn't itself faked, it hardly proves without a doubt that all previous spots were not faked. But whatever. The issue here is not the legitimacy of these ads. The issue here is whether or not they suck. Which they do.

Crunch is Calling Guy: "This is CHRISMACHO. He tweeted, 'Had a hunch today would be good but didn't think it would be this good... Wheat Thins is now following me on Twitter.'"
[They knock on Chris's door]
CCG: "You Chris?"
Chris: "Yeah."
CCG: "You remember when you tweeted, 'Had a hunch today would be good but didn't think it would be this good... Wheat Thins is now following me on Twitter?'"

This commercial is now half over. And virtually all that has happened is that the Crunch is Calling guy read this snooze-inducing tweet twice. Twice! I didn't need to hear that shit once. By the way, every single commercial in this series involves this dude reading an asinine tweet out loud twice. Great way to get me to change the channel; not so great way to get me to care about what's happening.

CCG: "We made your day once, and I have a hunch we're gonna make your day again today. We have this for ya."
[Truck reading "Follow @CHRISMACHO, He's Awesome" pulls up]
CCG: "Guy's gonna be driving around town all day today."

You probably could have spent this money on, say, advertising for Wheat Thins. I don't know. Seems like it might have been a better use of your marketing budget. To those of you who would say that this is advertising for Wheat Thins, let me direct your attention to the following tweets (which are [sic]) received by @CHRISMACHO since this spot began airing:

"hey u the dude from the cereal commercial" - @RobbCroyl

"u the guy frum the chip commercial????" - @713MAINMAINE

"You the dude from the condoms commercial?" - @KWAPT

That last one is most likely a joke, but I'm guessing the first two aren't. It reminds me of when people find posts on this blog by Googling the names of other companies (like people Googling the description of a Burger King ad but writing "Wendy's" with it). When you aren't direct, your brand name is not always as memorable as you think. In this case, we're talking about a commercial in which Wheat Thins themselves don't even appear as anything other than set dressing! At least in other stupid ads in this campaign, like this one, a box of Wheat Thins makes a legitimate appearance.

The end result of this commercial is that @CHRISMACHO now has about 13,000 followers. I'm guessing this is almost 13,000 more than he would otherwise have had, but it's still a pretty modest number considering that his handle was given out in a national ad campaign that explicitly told people to follow him. I'm guessing there were plenty of people who read his feed first, didn't think he was that awesome, and decided that maybe they shouldn't do something just because a box of crackers told them to. Also, @CHRISMACHO does not spend all his time tweeting about Wheat Thins (there are a couple tweets in the last month that mention them), so not a lot of residual advertising there, even to that fairly small number of people who did opt to follow him. But I'm sure it was worth it.

Here's the other thing about these ads: in just about all of them, people get visited because they commented about Wheat Thins on Twitter in a way that made it clear they are already consumers of Wheat Thins. Am I crazy or is saturating the market of existing consumers not really that effective a strategy? Seems to me you should be wanting to create new buyers, and commercials which tell us almost nothing about your product beyond the fact that it exists just might not be the best way to do that. I mean, unless the hope is that this commercial encourages craven fame-whores to tweet about Wheat Thins just to get on TV... but that still doesn't mean they're buying Wheat Thins. The whole thing just seems counterintuitive.

On the bright side, at least these commercials aren't stupid... well, at least they're... um... at least they don't start off by pretending to be about helping Tibet?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

With my mind on my Facebook and my Facebook on my mind

I legitimately cannot believe that Chevy spent three million dollars to pitch this to us.

Hey! We're Chevy. We have a new car called the Cruze. Here's what you need to know about it.

1. Inexplicably, you can have your Facebook updates read to you while you drive.
2. It is a car.
3. Hmm? Sorry, I dozed off for a second there.
4. You know, I think I'm going to head out early today.
5. *tires squealing*

I mean, is this an ad for a car, or for Facebook? Have we really reached a point in society where people cannot wait more than 30 seconds to check their Facebook feeds? And do I really want people doing that while driving? I guess I'm glad he can do it (mostly) hands-free rather than fumbling with a smart phone, but that's small consolation. It's only a matter of time before your feed starts to look like this:

John Smith is driving to the mall. And updating Facebook from the car, using just my voice! Is this cool or what?

John Smith kind of wants an Orange Julius when I get there.

John Smith Whoa! Almost rear-ended this guy who decided he just HAD to turn right. Learn to drive, asshole!

John Smith Holy fuck I can't BRRRRRGGG

Also, I know this is a commercial, but there's no way the voice would manage to correctly read the woman's update with what I'm assuming is dramatic punctuation.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Teleflora: Because you're stupid

It's nice to know that, as a man, less than nothing is expected of me.

Is there really a man on the planet who would think that "Dear Kim: Your rack is unreal" is an appropriate sentiment to put on a Valentine's Day card? Or any card? Come on. I know this is hyperbole, but surely this guy could have choked out the most basic thing like "I love you," right?

Teleflora's 2009 ad went with the curious tactic of claiming that it didn't do something that none of its competitors was doing either. This year, they're going with just calling their potential customers morons, which I'm sure is always real good for sales. Here's the pitch:

"Teleflora says it beautifully. Because frankly, you can't."

Well, I can't turn into a flower and stuff myself into a vase, but otherwise I'm pretty sure I can get this shit handled, assholes. I don't think you have sonnet writers on staff over there.

Also, so, okay. The guy is already sending flowers; he's just writing a shitty note to go with them. Is the implication, then, that it doesn't even matter what he writes because it's accompanying a bouquet of flowers? Because I would kind of hope that most women would be incrementally more demanding. "Well, this is certainly a stupid and inappropriate thing to send me... but flowers are pretty! All is forgiven!" The gender stereotype exacta of "men like boobs, women like presents" has rarely been so perfectly hit.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Incompetence comes standard

Apparently 2011 is the year of car sex. At least if you go by the Super Bowl ads.

This is a 30-second ad that really has no purpose other than to tell jokes... and I count four of them. Four! That's it! Also, they all suck.

Red Car: "Hey guys, the reviews are in on Cars.com!"
Silver Car: "Really? What'd they say?"
Red Car: "Well, let's see. It says Sheila looks great... topless. Heh heh..."
Convertible: "What's so funny?"
Red Car and Silver Car: "Nothing."

Ha ha ha! It's funny because convertibles are topless, but then we also made the convertible a female car and if a woman was topless her breasts would be showing! Yeah! Oh man, what a joke! Also, there's no reason for cars to find toplessness erotic because they are cars, and not humans.

Red Car: "And it says here Hank's a real gas guzzler."
Silver Car: "You hear that, Hank?"
Blue Car: [belches] "Whatever."

Wow, a burp joke. I guess I should be happy they didn't have him fart, but we're still talking jokes that are sub-Mater. Although I'm almost inclined not to even count this one as a joke, because, are you fucking serious?

Silver Car: "Hey, what about me?"
Red Car: "It says your ride is very smooth."
Silver Car: "Aww yeah! Hear that, Sheila?"
Convertible: "Never gonna happen."

I can think of a lot of reasons why it's never going to happen, the first one being that you are cars and are incapable of having sex with each other, and the rest of them being that any attempt on my part to try to think of what it might look like for cars to be having sex with each other is going to end with me finding out who wrote this ad and beating them with a tire iron.

Announcer: "With consumer and expert reviews, confidence comes standard."

I know they only had 30 seconds. But those are not very confidence-inspiring examples of your great reviews that will help me make a car-buying decision. Whoa, a convertible looks good with the top down? Holy shit! Car X has a smooth ride? Surely not something you could say about any of a hundred different models. Expert reviews, everyone! A huge SUV/truck thing does not get good gas mileage. Thank God I visited Cars.com for that fascinating insider nugget!

Woman: "See? Just like the review said - big rear end."
I'm Sure Coincidentally Black Minivan: "Excuse me?"

And we end with probably the best joke of the ad, which should tell you how bad all the others were. Also, again, useless information from Cars.com. I mean, if you don't want a car with a big rear end I'm sure it's nice to know which ones do and don't before you head to the showroom. But they're at the showroom and walking past the car they don't like anyway, so total time saved = zero. Also, it's a fucking minivan. If you want a minivan, the back is probably going to be kind of large. If that's not what you want, you don't get a minivan. You're not going to walk up to a convertible and be like, "Just like the review said - the top goes down. That is not what I want at all!" You're just going to avoid that section.

I'm sure Cars.com has plenty of useful things that it does. Kind of a shame they couldn't show any of them in their three-million-dollar ad that was seen by a third of the country. But hey, I'm sure the belching SUV made a lot of four-year-olds giggle. Now we just need to make sure they also learned the name Cars.com and will remember it for the next twenty years! It's all about the long-term, people.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

I like ample cargo space and I cannot lie

Should I have expected better from Mini?

Host: "This is 'Cram It in the Boot!' Where we take the four-door, all-wheel-drive Mini Countryman and... cram it in the boot!"
[Model makes suggestive pushing gesture]

Really? Really.

Host: "Josh! Have you ever crammed it in the boot before?"
Josh: "Um."

This, of course, is the point at which it becomes literally impossible to think that this commercial isn't referring to anal sex. At first you're like, well, maybe this is just supposed to be a funny-sounding title. No. Look at Josh's face as he considers the question. This ad is about butt-fucking. (It's even more blatant in the 60-second version which didn't air during the Super Bowl when the host says to Josh, "Your fiancée Ashley says you can really cram a boot!" and Josh just stammers and looks uncomfortable.)

Host: "Cram it!!!"
Audience: "Cram it! Cram it!"
Host: "Golf clubs, cram it in the boot! Cram that robot in! Yeeeees! Cram it in there!"
[Josh crams a giant sub sandwich into the trunk, featuring an extremely suggestive angle on the "Cram Cam"]

Ha ha! Yeah, Josh! Go! Um... fuck that car with your party sub strap-on! Wait, what? Why the fuck is this happening?

Host: "Whoa!!!"

"He sure fucked that car in the ass! Daaaaamn!"

Announcer: "The bigger all-new Mini Countryman, with plenty of room to cram!"

I'm sorry, I just do not understand this angle at all. Why are they alluding to anal sex? Are they discreetly (a word I use very loosely in this case) trying to suggest that the larger Mini allows you to have sex in your car the way you couldn't in the original Mini without it being extremely uncomfortable (you know, like the back of a Volkswagen)? Are they really only trying to talk about trunk space but for some reason thought that making the car look like the recipient of anal sex would be a hilariously naughty joke to "slip out" to 100 million people?

Call me a square, but I'm of the opinion that if you're going to make your commercial "secretly" filthy, it had better be really hilarious. And this just isn't. It's one joke - "talking about packing the trunk of a car with stuff kind of sounds like you're talking about anal!" - that is at best mildly amusing to begin with, repeated ad nauseam for 30 seconds. (Or 60 seconds in the case of the extended version which, I assure you, has nothing new to contribute to the scenario.) I get trying to be edgy for the sake of being memorable, but I just don't think it worked. There's edgy funny, and then there's edgy repulsive, and this lands far too firmly on the side of the latter.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Super Bored Awards IV

Ah, the Super Bowl. For people in the ad world, or for those of us tangentially connected to the ad world, this is like our... World Series? Well, it's like some really big sporting event. You know what I'm talking about.

I had really anticipated, based on descriptions of the ads I read before the game, that we were in for the worst year yet. But in fact, as I tweeted afterward, this was a surprisingly non-terrible group of ads from a mean standpoint. But were there still plenty of bad ones to fill out the Super Bored Awards? Oh, of course there were. In fact, we ended up creating a new category just to get them all in. Without further ado...

The Apple 1984 Memorial Award for Least Shitty Ad

Windier: As I mentioned, this was a surprisingly bad year for unbearably shitty ads. That doesn't mean it was an incredible year for great ads, though. Still, there were a few contenders for this spot, more than I can say about some years previous. Eminem's Chrysler ad has seemed popular - and it's pretty good, but it's also two minutes long and only finally names its product in the last ten seconds, so I'll be a little unconventional and go with this Coke ad instead, which I enjoyed. We figured Coke (which also won this award in 2009) was good for a decent ad, and they were - although only one (see below). I sometimes find Coke's insistence on treating its product as some sort of magical elixir a little grating, but it's nicely underplayed here (I could go for a Coke if my job were pacing in the desert for hours, too) and the wordless acting from the two soldiers is handled well. The bit at the end where the one soldier drags his sword on the ground to re-establish the official border is outstanding, recalling famous temporary truces like the 1914 Christmas Truce during the first World War. Too heady for a Coca-Cola Super Bowl ad? Probably. But it's a classy spot nonetheless.

Most Overproduced Ad

Quivering: I saw this one live, and I was shocked to find out later that it was only a 60 second spot. That's how bored I was while watching it -- time almost stopped. Not only was it long and boring, it was also really overdone. This is one of the few spots that probably cost more to make than it did to buy the ad time to air it. Dragons, beasts, Planet of the Apes-like creatures -- this definitely took a while to conceive and produce. Was Coke trying to make a commercial or pitching a movie idea to Pixar? It's dull, bad, and entirely deserving of Most Overproduced. Congratulations, Coke, on managing to crank out one good ad and one terrible one.

Cheapest Budget/Clumsiest Execution Award

Quivering: Last year's overall winner of Worst Ad, E*TRADE is back and this time we're honoring it with Cheapest and Clumsiest. These commercials are probably supposed to look shoddily made -- it's not like they go to great lengths to nail the CGI on the baby's mouth or anything. But these are also clumsy -- they just go for lowest common denominator humor, and then shoehorn in a comment or two about investing. This campaign has dragged on and on, with no end in sight. Maybe E*TRADE likes it because it's cheap to execute. Maybe they think it works. Who knows. Let's just hope this baby does us all a favor and retires in Tuscany with Enzo.

Worst Use of "Humor" Award

*sniffffffff* Doritooos!

*sniffffffff* Lawsuuuuuit! Workplace lawsuit.

Knitwear: Doritos: Like cocaine, but orange! Here's the line of logic that I see people having brainstormed for this commercial. Doritos are good. (They are.) They're so good, they're addictive. (Unfortunately, they really are.) Addictive, like drugs? And I mean, like, hardcore drugs? (That's pretty crazy.) So crazy it's... brilliant? (More like the real crazy.) Crazy like the kind of crazy that people expect from their Super Bowl ads?

I think that's the point we're getting to here. If you want your ad to be a classic Super Bowl ad, it must be so brilliant that it stands on its own as art (see: 1984, Google's Parisian Love). But brilliant is difficult to do. So instead, you can make it controversial with one or any combination of those old chestnuts - sex, drugs, rock n' roll - and even rock n' roll is starting to show its age- or make it crazy. You wouldn't be able to get away with introducing this ad at any other time of year, but now that it's made its entry into the mainstream, you can continue to reuse it.

Flimsiest Pretense Award

Quivering: Hey, how about we take the most awkward, least fun part of sex and then represent it over and over in a commercial? That'll move some product!

From an article I found about the new Sealy campaign: "'Our research found people do much more in bed than sleep; there’s a whole lot of living going on in bed,' said Jodi Allen, Chief Marketing Officer at Sealy." I love that they had to do research to find that out. "Hey, people just sleep in bed, right? Nothing else at all? Hmm, better get a focus group together..." And here's Susan Credle, the Chief Creative Officer at Leo Burnett (an agency adept at hemorrhaging business and staff): "This campaign will get people talking about Sealy and saying, finally a mattress company who gets what I do... in bed." Thank you, Susan, for being precisely as much of an adult as I thought the creator of this ad would be when I first watched it.

The Carlos Mencia Book Prize for Most Egregious Use of B-List Celebrities

Windier: This was a pretty easy one to call - all you have to do is say "Richard Lewis and Roseanne." How much more out of date can you be? How many people even remember who Richard Lewis is at this point? This is also a pretty weak attempt at recapturing the magic of the Betty White ad that took last year's game by storm and eventually helped land White on Saturday Night Live - let's just say Lewis shouldn't expect a call from Lorne Michaels any time soon. Although Lewis' transformation into a beefy logger with a heroic beard is passably amusing, his "whiny" lines themselves are dull at best, and that should be the best part of the ad. Roseanne's appearance, featuring her nails-on-a-chalkboard voice and some of the worst CGI of the night, merely puts the capper on the half-assed job (although kudos to Snickers for recognizing that most people would love to see Roseanne get hit by a log). It seems like almost no effort went into this ad beyond the initial step of coming up with "What if it was about being whiny this time and we got Richard Lewis and Roseanne?" If your entire ad hangs on the presence of Richard Lewis, and you're not selling Boku in 1991, something is probably wrong.

The Bad Idea Jeans Award for Most Epic Miscalculation

Windier: We had to create a new category just for this one, because wow. Crispin Porter strikes again. How badly did this ad misfire? Well, Groupon spent most of Monday apologizing and attempting to explain it. Another example? As of this writing, its like/dislike count on YouTube was 144 likes and 669 dislikes. 669 dislikes! It's virtually impossible to post something on YouTube with that many votes and that kind of ratio (82% disapproval!). But can you blame people? This ad isn't funny enough to pull the crap it does. "Sure, Tibet is being crushed under the iron fist of an authoritarian regime that seeks to assimilate it... but hey, cheap food, everyone!" Sorry. You can't possibly expect that to work in 30-second form.

I understand Groupon's ostensible joke. But how do you not see something like this coming? Start the ad by pretending it's a serious PSA about the hardships of life in Tibet... then yank that away to reveal your pitch? Groupon later revealed that the ads (including Cuba Gooding Jr. for saving the whales and Elizabeth Hurley on deforestation) are also intended to raise money for the causes mentioned. Okay. I know 30 seconds isn't a lot of time, but wouldn't it have made a lot more sense to slip that in at the end or something? There's no way anyone would know that by just watching this ad, and what potential philanthropist would go to Groupon's site to find out after seeing it? Also, did you know Christopher Guest directed this ad? Money well spent, I'm sure. Too bad it comes off more like it was directed by Hu Jintao.

SkyMall Championship Trophy

Windier: The reason Chevy's pitch for the Cruze gets the SkyMall trophy - for weirdest attempt to sell a product - is made painfully apparent by watching the ad. Hey, should we air a commercial for our car? Or should we show three seconds of it and then have the next 27 taken up by old people repeating the few things we said, only incorrectly? I have no idea what Chevy was hoping to accomplish here - I mean, clearly they were hoping it would be funny (it is not), but it lacks any real relevance, has no connection to the Cruze's target audience (or any automotive target audience, save Hoverounds), and is incredibly difficult to watch. By the time the ad is over, it's easy to forget what it was ever trying to sell in the first place, and equally hard to care.

Worst Super Bowl Ad of 2011
Best Buy

Quivering: 42: Number of seconds of this ad you have to watch before you know what company the commercial is advertising.

3: Number of technological generations that are supposedly created within the span of one minute.

0: Number of amusing jokes in this commercial.

11: Seconds of Osbourne arguing/screaming you need to endure during this ad.

Infinite: Number of times you would have to watch this commercial to have it finally make sense.

One Trillion: Amount in dollars that Best Buy should be fined for airing this minute of torture.

Negative One Trillion: Amount in Canadian dollars that Justin Bieber should be worth after appearing in this ad.

1: Number of guesses we needed to predict the overall worst ad would be Best Buy's once we found out that Crispin Porter was directing their Super Bowl commercial.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

What is this I don't even

Speaking of a lack of creativity...

See, McDonald's, here is the problem. You hired an ad agency to make a commercial for your new McCafe drink. And then the person on your account forgot about the presentation until the morning of, and just grabbed something he found on YouTube.

The bigger problem, though, is that hand dancing is annoying. I'm sorry to all you hand dancers out there - it is. Well, let me qualify that. If I decided to go to a hand dancing show (I'm assuming such things exist? I have no idea, since until I saw this commercial I was not aware that hand dancing was a thing at all), then fine, I know what I'm getting into. This commercial, however, posits that I would like to see a hand dancing show spontaneously break out in the middle of a McDonald's at like 9 in the morning. Look at all the editorial bullshit that gets worked into this ad in just 15 seconds: multiple people look over and smile, and one dude even whips out his smart phone for a little video. Can you imagine reacting like that if you were there? I'm fairly sure I would leave at the first opportunity and stare a hole in them up until that point. Because that is fucking annoying as all get-out.

These two are also revoltingly proud of themselves - look at the way they finish, like they're concluding the gold medal pairs skate at the Winter Olympics. Of course, if I put up a video of my more or less useless talent on YouTube and the world's biggest restaurant chain paid me thousands of dollars to do it in a commercial, I'd probably be all smug too. Doesn't make it less obnoxious. Things aren't helped by the ridiculous song - there are multiple YouTube comments that are like "I love this song, do you know the title?" Are you fucking kidding me? If you "love the song" surely you must have been able to understand the lyrics, which as far as I can tell go like this:

"Is there chocolate / is there whipped cream / is there caramel / in espresso they're mixing"

The end part was a little harder to pick up but it's something like that. Whatever. The first three parts are certainly right. The chances that there was an existing song that just happened to describe a caramel mocha espresso are roughly 975 quadrillion to one against. Who would think this was a real song? Also, real or not, it sucks. (And is it me or do those whipped cream toppings fail to move at any point during the commercial? I call bullshit.)

You know what this reminds me of? 80s movies. In the 80s, no matter how lame your sport or activity, no matter how unable it was to sustain a movie for two hours, there was still a movie for absolutely everything. Breakdancing? Hell, there was Breakin' and Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo. BMX biking? Rad. Skateboarding? Gleaming the Cube. Arm wrestling? Over the Top. Gymkata? Gymkata. Were all these movies shitty? Of course they were! And one reason why is because a movie should never have been based around a niche activity in the first place. Granted, this is a 15-second commercial and not a two-hour movie... but hand dancing is way less interesting than any of those other things. The point is that just because someone has a YouTube video does not mean you have to put them in a commercial. Are you listening, Wonderful Pistachios and Geico?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The P List

I don't think Wonderful Pistachios is going to run any ads during the Super Bowl, but if they did, they'd be a shoo-in for the "Most Egregious Use of B-List Celebrities" award. Frankly, they might deserve the lifetime achievement award in that category just for their most recent series of ads.

That's probably the one I find the stupidest, mostly because (a) Keyboard Cat isn't even a celebrity and (b) that's not even the real Keyboard Cat (who is dead, as we all know by now). Also, the way the guy says "purr-fectly" drives me up the fucking wall. But I mean, here's a list - not sure if it's fully complete - of other people appearing in this series of ads:

Lewis Black
Chad Ochocinco
Rod Blagojevich
R. Lee Ermey
Lucy (and Charlie Brown)
Wee Man

If you have no idea what's happening at the end there, you are probably over 40, and I envy the hell out of you.

Look at that list. Granted, it's not completely terrible - Ermey appears in other ads, for instance (though it is worth noting that Ermey is not mentioned by name in his ad, implying that he is the least famous person on the list). But Rod Blagojevich? A guy who is only famous for beating corruption charges despite permanently looking like the cat who ate the canary? Wee Man, at best the third-most famous person from the inexplicably long-running Jackass franchise? And even though I will grudgingly admit that Jersey Shore's popularity means Snooki is famous enough to appear in these ads, is she really someone well-liked enough to constitute a positive endorsement?

I also don't really care for the construct of the ads. I'm sure they're cheap to make, and I suppose they're sufficiently original among what's out there as to be memorable... but we're talking about a gag ripped off of any one of a hundred bumper stickers that say shit like "Teachers do it with class." And then all they do is take that and cram pretty much whatever random quasi-famous person comes to mind - probably not even the first ones, just the ones they can most easily write puns for. It's like Mad Libs: "[person/thing of note] does it [adverb/simile]." That's it. Even if it's successful, I don't think such a lazy excuse for creativity deserves to be praised. Or to put it in terms they'd understand: Wonderful Pistachios ad writers do it... hackily.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Repeat offenders

The advertising strategy for Totino's Pizza Rolls is kind of weird, right? They're basically portrayed as a product that kids are totally obsessed with. Yet would such a product need to advertise? And assuming their claims to be true and bearing in mind that I saw the following ad appearing on the evening news just tonight, you kind of wonder why parents would be excited to buy their kids some snack food that isn't especially healthy and on which they have a disturbing fixation.

Who thought this was a good idea?

Girl 1: "There's nothing we love more than listening to our favorite songs!"
Girl 2: [overlapping] "There's nothing we love more than listening to our favorite songs!"
Girl 1: "But our favorite thing is eating Totino's Pizza Rolls!"
Girl 2: "But our favorite thing is eating Totino's Pizza Rolls!"

And then we get one line of the most wimpy-sounding version of "Kids in America" ever, just for good measure.

This commercial is conceptual crib death. The idea never had any chance of not being annoying - I'm guessing if you asked most parents of pre-teens they would tell you that trying to talk to a kid who has music blasting in her headphones is one of the most aggravating experiences on earth. So what does Totino's do? They try to sell you their product by recreating an impossibly obnoxious experience. As if that weren't enough, there's the awful repetition, which only points up the fact that neither of the girls is listening to anything going on around them. I suppose kids could find this funny, but if your target market is middle schoolers then you really need to be selling to their parents. And this ad just seems like parent kryptonite.

In this vein, here are some potential future ad concepts for Totino's:

* Kids in the back seat of a car tell us that they love violating each other's personal space and saying "I'm not touching you!" but that their favorite thing is eating Totino's Pizza Rolls.

* A four-year-old at the mall tells us how he loves to throw himself on the ground and scream if he doesn't get his way, but his favorite thing is eating Totino's Pizza Rolls.

* A 14-year-old girl halfway out her bedroom window tells us how she loves to sneak out late at night to meet her older boyfriend for some third-base action, but her favorite thing is eating Totino's Pizza Rolls.

* Through a telephone handset at the visitor's window, Lyle and Erik Menendez tell us that their favorite thing is eating Totino's Pizza Rolls.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

2011 Super Bored Awards Preview

I swear the Super Bowl ads get worse every year. We did have one of the best of all time last year with Google's entry, but it's not just the infrequency of the best ads. The middle class of passable, acceptable but generally forgettable ads, ones that won't win any awards but simply don't annoy the hell out of us, seems to be getting smaller every year, as more and more companies watch their millions swirl into a howling vortex of crap. Don't believe me? Take a look at our preliminary guesses for this year's Super Bored Awards - as well as the slew of potential runners-up - and tell me this isn't one of the most dire-looking crops you've seen. It's going to take a lot of overachieving to make 2011 a banner year in the megabucks ad world.

The Apple 1984 Memorial Award for Least Shitty Ad

Explanation: I don't know if we actually need to keep explaining these given that this will be our fourth year handing these awards out... but whatever. This award, pretty evidently, goes to the least awful ad that airs during the game. Sometimes these ads are legitimately great (Google), sometimes they're more just decent and inoffensive (Coke in 2009, Gatorade in 2008), but either way we're just hoping we see at least one worth giving the award to.

Prediction: Scrolling through Ad Age's list of this year's buys, as I said earlier, makes for pretty dismal reading. There are a few that look like they could be undistinguished, but that would give them the win on a technicality, which sucks. Quivering's suggestion was Coke because they're the only major corporation we can trust to make a passable ad, especially with stalwarts like Nike and Gatorade apparently off the game entirely. Mercedes-Benz and BMW (the latter buying an ad for the first time in ten years) are both options to class up the joint, but car commercials these days always seem to be at least a little stupid.

Most Overproduced Ad

Explanation: You can understand, I guess, why advertisers feel the need to try to make their commercials these larger-than-life affairs - spend millions on a 30-second ad and it damn well better be memorable. But the best ads aren't always the ones that go utterly for broke. The worst ones often are.

Prediction: Here's Ad Age's summary of SalesForce.com's campaign: "Ads were developed with help from Will.i.am, part of half-time show act the Black Eyed Peas. The spots happen to feature animated characters called the 'Baby Peas.'" Anyone who was watching CNN on Election Night 2008 saw Will.i.am manage to overproduce the political process, and if you've heard any of the Black Eyed Peas' recent hits, you know that they go hand in hand with overproduction. As Quivering put it, sounds like we have the makings of a spot that would make Liberace blush.

Worst Use of "Humor" Award

Explanation: Another one that could easily go to two-thirds of the ads on the broadcast, this simply "honors" the ad that tried to be funny and failed the hardest.

Prediction: E-Trade. The E-Trade baby will apparently never die, because if there's one thing funnier than womanizing, cheating, boozing and generally being an asshole, it's when babies womanize, cheat, booze and generally behave like assholes. E-Trade has bought into the babies so much that their commercials don't even always mention trading anymore, which is never a good sign.

The Carlos Mencia Book Prize for Most Egregious Use of B-List Celebrities

Explanation: Shelf life is not a common concern for Super Bowl advertisers, since a hugely expensive 30-second spot is the ad equivalent of blowing your load and then rolling over (especially for companies that either rarely advertise during the rest of the year or just run their Super Bowl spot over and over again). Nothing makes this more apparent than the title of this award - I mean, remember when Carlos Mencia was a noteworthy name? Seems like a million years ago. So this award goes either to a weak use of current minor celebrities or, alternately, a weak and embarrassing use of people who maybe were briefly A-listers, except it was two decades ago. Whichever is more desperate.

Prediction: Snickers' famous Betty White ad didn't win any awards with us last year, but it wasn't awful and was certainly one everyone remembered. Then Snickers did another one with Aretha Franklin and Liza Minnelli. This year... they're doing another one. The people representing who you are when you're hungry that isn't you? Roseanne Barr and Richard Lewis. Apparently this commercial was shot at the Improv in 1987. Keep your finger on that mute button, folks - it's going to be painful.

Flimsiest Pretense Award

Explanation: This one goes to the commercial with either the most inappropriate use of sex or the one that does the worst job of justifying it. You could easily stick GoDaddy.com in front of this since their entire schtick is using sex appeal to sell, of all things, domain name services... but at least they're consistent. It's the companies who suddenly bust it out that we're really worried about.

Prediction: Skechers. Shape-Ups are already in the recently-growing category of shoes designed to tone your physique - in particular, your butt, if you are a woman. Skechers' spokesperson of choice? Kim Kardashian. I think we can all see where this is going.

Cheapest Budget/Clumsiest Execution Award

Explanation: Pretty much what it sounds like. Does your ad look like you had three million and one dollars to spend and the first three million had to go to buying the 30 seconds? Then you'll probably win this award.

Prediction: Doritos and Pepsi are both running "Crash the Super Bowl" contests again this year where users submit homemade ads, thereby costing the companies nothing except the ad space. And because they're user-submitted, they usually look pretty cheap and/or awkward. Plus while we're sure there are some pretty decent user-generated spots out there, you have to bear in mind that Pepsico executives will be choosing at least one of them.

SkyMall Championship Trophy

Explanation: You know how when you flip through SkyMall on an airplane, you find yourself looking largely at weirdly specific products that probably don't need to exist, and the pitches for most of them are totally insane? That's kind of what we're going for with this award - the product that has no business running a Super Bowl ad (like the Census Bureau last year) or simply the weirdest overall attempt to sell a product.

Prediction: Volkswagen. The Ad Age description says that the spot for the new 2012 Beetle "will make use of a 'Black Beetle' character jumping along to the song 'Black Betty' by Jon Spencer Blues Explosion." Um, okay. Was this just the result of some weird train of thought brainstorming exercise that the ad agency had? It will be interesting to see how that ad comes together. If it does.

The GoDaddy.com/SalesGenie.com/Bud Light/Miller Lite/Emerald Nuts Award for Worst Super Bowl Ad

Explanation: No real explanation necessary - when you get beyond all the particular reasons to hate an ad that feed into the other categories, which was simply the worst? This year's winner will join luminaries such as SoBe LifeWater (2008), CareerBuilder (2009), and E-Trade (2010).

Prediction: If you look through that Ad Age list, you know there are at least half a dozen candidates. But one that stands out as a possibility is Best Buy. Why? Three words: Crispin. Porter. Bogusky. Just do a search for that agency on this site and you'll see what we mean - note in particular the plethora of Burger King ads, but don't forget that they were also the geniuses behind the ill-fated Jerry Seinfeld/Bill Gates pairing of 2008. This is also Best Buy's first-ever Super Bowl buy, so they'll probably be on board with all kinds of ridiculous shit just to make a splash - Ad Age gently warns us that "a celebrity or two could also be in the mix." God only knows what that means.