Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Full of the milk of human creepiness

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Bad ads at Ridgemont High

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mayne: "Who does?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 17, 2011

Tacos are for closers

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

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

Unfortunately, this year Taco Bell did this instead:

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The vegetarian's nightmare: sentient produce

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

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

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

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

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

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

By the way, sloppy bagging job, whoever.

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

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

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


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


Friday, October 14, 2011

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

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

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



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

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

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

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Oy Ge-Volt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guess what, though. It gets worse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Monday, October 10, 2011

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

Oh, what the FUCK, you guys.

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

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

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

Tough Guy: "Because this is our movie!"

Here we go again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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