Local commercials are usually pretty low-quality. At least, they were when the TV stations I watched were from Buffalo, NY, and Erie, PA. Now I live in Portland, OR, home of some top ad agencies, so the local commercials are… well, a little better, OK?
I keep seeing these commercials for a car dealership that use the chorus of this song. It was a popular song in the 80s where the singer begs a woman to get out of his dreams… not because of he’s sick of her, no, but because he wants her to get into his car! It’s called “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car” and it’s by a guy who calls himself Billy Ocean, perhaps because he was born in Trinidad or Tobago and moved to England.
This means that I get to hear him sing “get out of my dreams, get into my car” at least once a night when I watch TV. It doesn’t really make sense for a car dealership. (Are we in the car dealers’ dreams? Like, in a vague way or do they picture us with creepily prescient clarity?) The only reason they use it is because it mentions cars. They might as well use this angry song by System Of A Down and remove the swearing, or perhaps they could use this parody by “Weird Al” Yankovic.
This credit card commercial (or maybe it’s a debit dard dommercial) asks: “If something is simply the color of gold, is it really worth more?” Good point. This is in reference to the fashion of other cards being called “gold” as if that means anything—although I think the most current trend is to call them “platinum”.
Then they proceed to completely destroy their good point by insisting that their card is better because their card isn’t colored gold… instead, it has a rare shade of blue.
To boil it down: “Our card is superior to other cards that have a color, because our card has a color.”
I don’t tend to pay much attention to commercials for women’s hair care products, naturally. What has penetrated my mind is that the hair shown in them seems unnatural and I’ve never really noticed it elsewhere. It’s like hair commercials exist in a separate reality.
This reality doesn’t do good things for Tina Fey. She looks good as she is, and when she transforms into some sort of mystical being with otherworldly hair, I feel like there’s a lot she’s lost. When I first saw this commercial and she said, “Hi, I’m Tina Fey,” I didn’t believe her. Of course since she’s become super famous she has to do all kinds of stuff to her face (her scar used to be a lot more obvious, I’m sure of it) but here she looks bad, just bad.
Last night I repeatedly saw the same commercial for the movie Immortals, which insisted that it was “the first must-own Blu-Ray of the year”. You can just say that? I mean, I know it’s obviously just an opinion, but it strikes me as awfully audacious to just come out and say that your product meets some subjective superlative.
Remember those Mac vs. PC ads? Sure you do! Here’s a collection of like 20 of them, apparently in reverse chronological order and shoddily upgraded to widescreen by removing the tops of people’s heads. Can you watch the whole thing without the repetitive piano music causing permanent brain damage?
I have to say I don’t dislike these at all, and in fact I may even like them. There were enough of them that the repetition of any single one didn’t irritate, and only seeing one at a time makes Mark Mothersbaugh’s music manageable. Plus, they were a little amusing, and I like John Hodgman (humorist, writer, occasional actor) and I find Justin Long (voice of Alvin in the recent Chipmunk monstrosities) to be immensely tolerable, so it doesn’t bother me that they were paid horrendous amounts of money to do these things.
(Mildly relevant tangent: I’m reading Stephen Fry’s latest memoir, The Fry Chronicles, in which he says he was given twenty-five thousand squids (which is what the British sometimes call their money, or at least they ought to) to appear as the count in this. According to my calculations, that’s about $150,000 US today. Gosh.)
The success of Mac vs. PC pretty much demanded parodies and lots of them. Most of them were amateur productions made for YouTube, but the frenzy of parody reached all the way back to commercials themselves.
I was surprised the first time I saw this:
I’m sure competitors often parody each other’s commercials, though T-mobile and Apple aren’t really competitors, it’s just that the iPhone used to only be available on AT&T. What’s striking about this is that it’s not even really a parody. If there’s a fine line between parody and theft, T-mobile crossed it. They just filched the entire concept, and I think the only way they got away with it is by pretending it was parody. Soon they made it their own thing, sort of, by only including the attractive woman that guys like to look at and maybe some other things. They certainly lack the cleverness of the source.
Then along came Virgin Mobile, making a more proper parody of the pseudo-parody. Perhaps the creators of this one were fans of Inception. No matter how much they savage their competitor’s ad, I feel like they’re actually helping them out by treating the T-Mobile commercial like its own thing, which it doesn’t deserve.
Just in time for the Super Bowl to be a week ago, here are some thoughts on one of the commercials that aired then.
What a stupid commercial.
In what may be the laziest attempt at anthropomorphizing I’ve seen, this commercial shows a dog who is unhappy about having become fat, so then the dog does some exercising until it’s back to its target weight. The dog pretty much thinks like a human—at least in terms of exercise; when a hot new car speeds by at the speed limit of the suburbs, it reacts like a dog. Otherwise, its super brain comes up with the best exercises it can in order to help it act more like a dog. This is played very broadly, presumably so that the inane message will be easily comprehended even by people who are drunk or distracted by the game.
This must be intended to resonate with Americans who have become more depressed and obese lately. It feeds on the notion that all you need to return to your former glory is more discipline. No matter what a rational person would gather from the economy or their own slowing metabolism, all they have to do is stop being lazy and they can be young again. I wonder if this commercial was written by people who hate themselves.
Anyway, none of that really matters if all you want is to look at a dog being cute.
That takes care of the stupid first part, but there’s a second act that is less stupid but still not worthwhile. We’re suddenly transported to the cantina of Mos Eisley from the first Star Wars movie. The minor characters we saw in the bar are discussing whether this commercial was better than last year’s commercial. This probably echoes the conversation many people watching the game would have had if it weren’t being had for them. Since last year’s commercial involved Darth Vader, the guy who says he prefers this year’s commercial suddenly finds he can’t breathe… and it’s revealed that Lord Vader himself is at the bar. (It’s unnecessary to point out that there’s no reason for him to go there, and yet I did it anyway.) Vader is using the Force to choke the guy for expressing the opinion that something involving Darth Vader is not the best thing ever. The lesson: Darth Vader was a real jerk.
The first few times I saw this commercial I liked the visuals, what with the food coloring swirling around in the water. Soon I started paying attention to it and noticed an obvious contradiction. Do people normally read the small print in TV commercials? I think they only have that there for legal reasons and don’t expect anyone to actually notice it. Some of it, especially in car commercials, is so copious and quickly shown that it’s impossible to read all of it unless you go back and pause it on your DVR, and I’m sure almost no one does that.
Anyway, the small text in this commercial says “per 8 oz serving” to clarify the larger text above, which brags that there aren’t any calories in the drink that results from mixing the advertised gunk with water. In other words, the message about zero calories is entirely separate from that of the rest of the commercial. The whole idea here is “add a little [or] add a lot” and “Make it yours” and they even brought in that song by KC and his Sunshine Band to drive home the point that serving sizes are irrelevant… and yet, of course, they’re required to package it with precise serving sizes.
To put it more plainly: “Serving sizes have nothing to do with this! Also, check out this nutritional fact, which is only relevant in relation to serving sizes.”
(As I write this, there’s a super bowl going on, which will bring with it all kinds of commercials to irritate me. A few people suggested that I should check them out and then write about how I can’t stand them. Maybe I’ll do that in the future… y’know, retroactively.)
This acts like a parody of action films (seems like a combination of Avatar and Indiana Jones And The Crystal Whatever, but those are the only action films I’ve seen lately even though I’m a man) where a guy runs around in the jungle beating things up. The guy talks to us while doing so, conveying this message: “Movies like these aren’t marketed towards women, just like our product!” Actually, what he’s literally saying is “Ladies! This is our movie, and Dr Pepper 10 is our soda!” I think the message is, ironically, a bit awkward, so it comes across as pure sexism. Obviously they don’t mind that people think they’re being sexist since they keep airing the ad. They’re probably even glad that it’s misconstrued, because it gets people talking about it more.
I think what they’re doing here is trying to attack the notion that products aimed at weight loss are primarily for women. Weight Watchers doing a similar thing: “Lose like a man,” says Charles Barkley. I’m glad they’re straightforward about it, because the Dr Pepper commercial is just dumb. The guy even refers to the 10 calories as “Ten manly calories”, which is the opposite of what they’re trying to convey. Regular Dr Pepper has 100 calories, which by this logic means that it’s ten times as manly as Dr Pepper 10, so Dr Pepper 10 is a total sissy.
It’s funny how this ad campaign contradicts the ad campaign for Diet Dr Pepper, which insists that Diet Dr Pepper tastes almost the same as Regular Dr Pepper. If that were true, there would be no need for something in between.
(As I wrote this I was drinking a store-brand imitation of Dr Pepper called Dr. K, presumably because it was manufactured by Kroger. It promised to be “cold, crisp, refreshing”, which is three ways of saying the same thing. I didn’t find it particularly refreshing, but I’ve never been exactly fresh.)
Michael Imperioli, best known for the hit show Detroit 187, asks: “What ever happened to commercials?” Maybe I’m cheating already, because I agree with this one. At least, I like its statement that most commercials are annoying. It’s still a commercial, though, so it sucks.
“1800 Tequila” looks like a phone number. I wonder what happens if you dial 1-800-837-8452. Apparently it’s the number for a brand of rum. Not the same thing!