You could say that watching Mad Men (along with recently taking a copywriting course for work) has made me more aware of commercials and what they're trying to achieve, but really, the inspiration for this post came from one of the worst ads I've ever seen -- not a commercial, actually, but a print ad on the tube that made me so angry that I had to share it with our small corner of the internet in hope of bringing its purveyors to fist-filled justice.
But first, some good ads. Obviously I don't get to (or have to) see most of the commercials from America anymore (except the ones that get famous and end up on YouTube), so this will be UK-focused, but I've found videos of all the ads in question. The good ones tend to be few and far between, perhaps for obvious reasons -- most commercials seem to set out to be annoying, most likely so that you'll remember the product (e.g., the ubiquitous Sheila's Wheels ads -- Australia, you have a lot of explaining to do, beginning with why you think it's acceptable to use the word "bonzer"). If they're not annoying to begin with, they are by the time you've heard them 400 times. I'm not going to go all Hidden Persuaders here and delve into the subliminal psychological techniques advertisers use, but it is terrifying to think that I can still recite the Oscar Mayer jingle by heart, and yet I can't remember the full text of a single poem. Sure, the jingle's better and more accessible than half of what John Ashbery wrote, but then again, he didn't have weiners as his muse. Or did he?
A rare good one that got particularly famous a couple years ago was the Sony Bravia ad that featured a lovely song by Jose Gonzalez (one of the only good ones he has, I'm afraid -- and it turns out it was a cover as well. I hope you're getting residuals from Sony, Jose) and a whole bunch of bouncy balls rolling down a San Francisco street. I think this ad got so popular because one, it's beautiful, and two, who hasn't wanted to dump a truckload of bouncy balls down a hill and see what happened? According to Wikipedia, source of all internet knowledge, David Letterman did it on his show before the ad ever happened, which doesn't surprise me, given his propensity for smashing watermelons and making guys in stilts jump over cars. Anyway, here's the ad, for anyone who hasn't seen it:
It's a mesmerizing ad; every time it was on, we'd stop to watch it. I even had a picture of it as our laptop's desktop for awhile. We still haven't bought a Sony Bravia tv, though (but not for lack of coveting). Sony tried to recapture the magic with a few similar ads, but the idea was really a one-off stroke of inspiration; the others seem a little pathetic by comparison.
More recently, we've found a new set of ads to love -- Teletext holidays. This is the first one we saw and still my personal favorite:
The rest can be found here. They're a world away from most ads that feature animals (see: the weird Volkswagen ads featuring a singing CGI dog), though I have to admit that they're still pretty anthropomorphic, since a visual representation of our cats' brains would probably look more like this:
Now on to bad ads. I will warn you ahead of time: this first one features Joss Stone rooting down her cleavage for a candy bar.
Joss Stone is so authentic! She's just like a real person who rehearses in a professional studio while singing an insipid, supposedly ad-libbed tune about how great Flakes are! (I know I will inspire outrage by saying this, but Flakes are disgusting anyway. They taste like chocolate ash.) Poor old Joss is already a national laughingstock after her Brit Awards appearance, where she displayed a poor sense of humor and an even worse American accent -- and now she's managed to annoy the Cadbury-loving public. Big mistake. As we will see later, no one can resist chocolate (even suspect ashy chocolate), so whose reputation is going down? Not flaky tempting chocolate's. No, it will be flaky pseudo-hippie warbler Joss Stone's.
Our next awful ad also has to do with chocolate, although that's not the product advertised -- instead it is Lynx body spray, previously seen making misogynist commercials about how Lynx will make women writhe uncontrollably with lust when they smell it (I'm sure Lynx does make women writhe uncontrollably; it's just that it's not with lust). What has lovely sweet delicious chocolate ever done to anyone? Besides this:
I don't know where to begin hating Lynx for this commercial. With the implication that women are such helpless creatures that a whiff of an "erotic" smell will make them sex up a nebbishy loser (and the matey, wink-nudge tone that comes with -- hey, it's like GHB, but you won't go to jail!)? Because of the implication that chocolate is such catnip to women that they will turn into drooling maniacs willing to do anything for a piece of it? Or perhaps the best part -- the fact that the women are eating pieces of his body and that's not incredibly creepy and disgusting. Yay cannibalism! Mm, that viscera was so chocolatey delicious. Try the bone -- it's got all that gooey marrow inside! Yes, it's chocolate, but the guy's walking around handing parts of his body over to be devoured. We also get the oral sex implication at the picnic in the park (finally she'll suck it, am I right, bro?), though that turns out to be something even more horrifying: she's swirling a strawberry in his belly button!!! There is not enough GAHHHH in the world for that. I think the thing that annoys me most about the Lynx ads, though -- along with the Nuts ads that ran recently -- is the implication that this is all good-natured fun, and if you're a woman and you don't find it funny, you're just a humorless feminist bitch. I hope those women rip his chocolatey Cadbury's eggs off.
This next one was suggested by Admiral Neck (as was the Lynx one), because this model has recently become inexplicably ubiquitous in the UK press -- she's usually pictured on the society pages in weird stripy dresses draping herself over people like a banded wombat. Admiral Neck hated her in particular, above all the other weird-looking models who become inexplicably famous, because of her "awful pill-shaped head" and faux-punk style. [Hate might be too strong a word. How about "severe twitch-inducing dislike powerful enough to make me scream obscenities at the TV"? - Admiral Neck] We also both hate her listless underwear-based dancing, which looks like an updated version of how everyone in The Great Gatsby danced (what's up with the horizontal arm slide? Is that how you dance without spilling your gin and tonic?).
I have to admit that I kind of love the way the announcer says "Burberry": she pronounces it "Buuuuuurrrrrbry" in the most bored, haughty parody of a posh voice ever. The worst thing about this ad, though? The model is named Agyness Deyn. Yes, that's right. Agyness. Deyn. (Real name: Laura Hollins. God, she could have just fixed it by calling herself Lho'Rah HyolLinS.)
And now we come to the worst ad of all. An ad so vile that we both tried to take pictures of it but couldn't, so had to scour the intertubes for it. Turns out we're not the only ones who hate it.
If you can't read the text, it goes: "Chris had a long face. The wife wanted a new family car and this had the potential to blow a huge hole in his finances, not to mention the other plans he had for his money. A little bird told him to get down to Cargiant, where he bought a quality used car that kept the wife more than happy and saved himself a tidy little sum in the process. Just enough for a wicked weekend in Paris...with the girlfriend, tweet tweet!"
Ha ha! Adultery is hilarious! Who is this ad trying to appeal to, actually? Cheap adulterers who like trumpeting their conquests to the world? Smug assholes with faces made for punching? It's got the chummy, matey vibe of the Lynx ad ("the wife," keeping financial decisions safely away from the hands of women, who only use money to buy purses and shiny baubles), but then it suddenly hurdles over any semblance of reason into insane lechery ("tweet tweet"? WTF?). The ad fails on all levels -- it could only appeal to a very niche audience of douchebags, and everyone else who sees it will be horrified and avoid Cargiant forever. (I can't help but think their salesmen all look and act exactly like the Chad in that ad.) All I know is, if I ever see that actor in real life, I'm going to kick him right in the Cadbury's.
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