Friday, March 25, 2011

Forget smartphones, get a smarmphone

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

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

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

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

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

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

Certainly not true of any other product!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What the Hawk?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Announcer: "Chubby discounts. Chubby savings."


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

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

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

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It's Greek to me

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

Ye gods. Time for a team effort!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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