What follows here has become a predictable year-end event. For those who have seen these sorts of things before, let me apologize while I take a paragraph to let new readers know what lies ahead.
I watch a goodly amount of sports on TV. That practice means that I get to – or have to – watch a lot of advertisements. After all, those advertisements are the mechanism by which I get to watch all of my sports for next to nothing. In and among the myriad ads, there are some that are genuinely stupid and/or insulting and/or confusing and/or disgusting. I try to make a note of these sorts of ads and then put them together here as a way to end the current calendar year and to hope – against all hope – that the ads next year will not be so bad. It never works out that way…
I have to admit that 2016 was a “different year” when it comes to finding “Bad Ads” related to sporting events. I need to put everything that follows here into perspective:
- In 2016, none of the ad campaigns featured on sporting events could come close to being as annoying/stupid as the “campaign ads” that polluted the public airwaves throughout the Presidential primaries and then in the general election campaign. Those political ads were unctuous, slimy, misleading, weasel-worded assaults on the intelligence of the electorate. The creators and promulgators of those ads – regardless of party affiliation – deserve severe punishment for the bullsh*t they inflicted on the populace. Boiling in oil and/or drawing and quartering seem to be candidates for the appropriate punishments.
With that out of the way, let me go to my notes and see what sorts of things the ad mavens decided to inflict on viewers of sporting events. A relatively recent trend in advertising seems to be ads for prescription drugs that one is supposed to ask their doctor about. I don’t know about you, but I talk to my doctor about symptoms, aches and pains, changes in my well-being and the like. None – as in not a single one – of those conversations has ever begun because I watched an ad on TV. Anyway …
The year in advertising/promotion got off on a bad foot right away. In January 2016 as the NFL playoffs were leading up to Super Bowl 50 which was to be telecast on CBS, that network ran promos touting Super Bowl 50 as:
“The most historic event in television history.”
Let me see here … Super Bowl 50 as the most historic event in television history vis á vis:
- Lee Harvey Oswald shot to death on live TV by Jack Ruby
- Neil Armstrong sets foot on the moon
- The hostage taking and murders at the Munich Olympics
- President Nixon’s resignation speech
- The explosion of the Challenger spacecraft
- The tearing down of the Berlin Wall
- The end result of the Branch Davidian standoff in Waco, TX
- September 11,2001
Those 8 television moments are ones that come to mind because I remember seeing them and recalling where I was and what the circumstances were when I saw them. I am certain that many folks can add to this list. And the upshot of this list – with or without any additions from others – is very simple:
Super Bowl 50 is not even close to any of these events in terms of being ”the most historic event in television history.”
Annually, the Super Bowl is an event filled with new ads and marks the start of new ad campaigns. Last year, Colgate used an ad spot to tell me how much water I consumed if I left the water running while I brushed my teeth. According to the ad, I would waste more water doing that than some people have available to them for a week. Given my background in science/engineering, my first reaction was to wonder how long it took the guy in the ad to brush his teeth and what was the flow rate of the faucet. However, that quickly passed and I realized that this argument was one I had heard before:
- As a kid, my parents used to tell me to eat all of my veggies because there were children starving in China. Maybe in your family, the children were starving elsewhere; it doesn’t really matter. The point is that the veggies – or the water in this case – are here and the starving children – or the water-deprived folks – are there. There is a huge flaw in that argument…
[For the record … I do not let the water run while I brush my teeth. I do this out of habit and not in any misguided empathy for people who happen to live in arid places like the Gobi Desert or Sudan.]
I encountered an Internet ad on Feb 4 2016. It told me that I should buy a gift card from some pizza purveyor and then use it as a stocking stuffer. The visual for the ad shows a gift card in a hand poised over a Christmas stocking hung on a mantel. Given that this was February when it appeared on my computer screen, I figured there were only 2 possible explanations:
- Some “Internet ad placement specialist” somewhere hit a wrong keystroke and put a leftover ad from the previous Christmas season in queue for viewing about 6 weeks late.
- Some company has decided to get a jump on the marketing for Christmas and has decided to get the Christmas ad campaign going 10 months early. If so, that would be a crime against humanity.
There is an ad for a drug that counteracts “repeated or chronic constipation” that is not alleviated by laxatives, a massive intake of prunes or the normal things one might resort to when one suffers from a “blockage down-south” so to speak. At one point, the actor on the ad looks directly into the camera and says plaintively,
“My chronic constipation kept coming back …”
My first reaction on hearing that was “No sh*t!” but I realized that would be a cruel response to anyone with constipation. So let me simply say that this moron reading lines in this commercial whose chronic constipation keeps coming back does not understand the meaning of the word – CHRONIC.
Dominos Pizza is a regular in these annual compilations. Earlier this year, they had a promotion where you would get a free pizza after you placed 6 online orders of $10 or more. They then proceeded to suggest six circumstances wherein you might order from Dominos in order to get that free pizza. One of their suggestions was “a hot date”. Seriously? If you have “a hot date” and you order Dominos Pizza, my guess is that there will be no follow-up hot dates.
Another “repeat offender” that shows up here every year is Taco Bell. This year they introduced their “Dollar Breakfast Menu” with 8-10 items that – slow down here – all cost one dollar. Looking at all of these choices displayed on my TV screen, this is the thought that ran through my mind:
- So, what do they charge you for the Kaopectate milkshake you are going to desperately need after chowing down on those bad boys for breakfast?
Applebees introduced the “Burger Quesadilla” to its menu. Before you get too excited, this is merely a burger where the bun is replaced by a quesadilla; on the creativity scale this ranks about where Whack-A-Mole ranks. Naturally, Applebees shows us smiling customers eating this new culinary delight. One woman is so agog with this new concept that she says,
My dear. If the concept of substituting a quesadilla for a bread roll is mind blowing, I fear for your existence. If your brain were converted to TNT, you might not be able to clear your sinuses.
KFC spent much of the year trotting out a bunch of D-List celebrities pretending to be Colonel Sanders. Then they concocted silly and irrelevant circumstances for each of these reincarnated colonels to make a fool of himself. The only way this ad campaign might become even marginally interesting would be for KFC to try to pass off Kermit the Frog as “the real Colonel Sanders”.
There is an annoying ad for Subway where a couple marks important dates in their life by which Subway sandwich is on sale on that day of the week. For example, they named their daughter Terry because she was born on the day that the chicken teriyaki sandwich was discounted. These mouthbreathers are annoying on top of being stupid.
Memo to Subway: Annoying and stupid is not the exacta you should seek for the “characters” in your ads.
JP Morgan Chase has a retirement planning service ad that shows a couple with a pig on a leash walking around town. The theme of the ad is that you should be able to live your life the way you want to live your life and if that means having a pet pig on a leash, well, mazel tov! At the end of the ad, the couple – still with the pig on its leash – go into a bank to speak to a banker. Look, I will be happy to take this ad off the Bad Ads list and retract my statement that this is abjectly stupid as soon as I see a real banker dealing with real customers who have a real pig on a leash in an actual bank.
Car manufacturers seem to revel in producing and showing dumb ads. Let me begin with the one for the Audi Q-7. According the disembodied voice in the ad, the car demonstrates that “a higher form of intelligence has arrived.” Immediately I begin to wonder what this sedan got on the SATs but those thoughts went away quickly because what I see on the screen is the car clipping along at a high rate of speed on a foggy road. Perhaps what the meant to say is that the car is a higher form of intelligence as compared to a boulder.
Audi decided to double down on this theme and by the time Spring arrived, they were not only asserting that this car was highly intelligent, they were declaring that intelligence is the new rock and roll. It is jarring when an ad touting intelligence says something so trivially inane. If I told you that I think intelligence is the new kielbasa, would that be any dumber than what Audi was trying to tell me?
Matthew McConaughey was back again this year doing creepy ads for Lincolns. The creepiest – and the dumbest – one involves him dressed in suit walking to the edge of a swimming pool and doing a backwards belly-flop into the water fully dressed. Question:
- How and/or why is that supposed to motivate anyone to think about buying a Lincoln?
Equally low on the intellectual scale you will find the “Chevy Focus Group Ads”. This series of ads features “real people not actors” with the group led by a facilitator with a mellifluous voice who says nothing important. Actually, that is a good thing because the evident IQ level of the focus group participants suggests that Chevy spent a lot of time searching for people who live under the left side of the bell curve.
In the category of abjectly annoying ads for automobiles, all I have to do is to put two things in juxtaposition:
- Toyota Corolla
- You Don’t Own Me.
Right about now, I suspect you have just finished shaking off a sensation similar to the one most folks feel when they hear fingernails scraping on a blackboard…
There is a local car dealer here in the DC area who brags that he only sells “certified pre-owned cars”. Really? You take the time to certify for me that the car has had a previous owner? Why is that important? What this guy sells are “Used Cars”; you can probably deduce that from the fact that most of them are models from 2 or 3 years ago.
There is a radio ad for one of the online universities that says they provide each student with access to a “success coach”. Maybe this university should teach a course in “redundancy”. Have you ever heard of a coach whose mission was to teach you how to fail?
Coors had a mercifully short ad campaign where they touted their beer as “tough but fair”. I tried to understand what those adjectives meant with respect to beer. Here is the best I could come up with:
- Coors is tough to drink because it is a fair-to-middling beer.
I am sure that the good folks at Coors and their ad agency has something else in mind…
Even dumber than the Coors ad campaign was one for Shock Top Beer. Some guy in a bar is lured into a staring contest with a Shock Top Beer tap. Not surprisingly, the beer tap wins the contest. Message for the consumer?
- You have to be as dumb as toast to drink Shock Top Beer.
Southwest Airlines now touts their Transfarency. This can mean “low fares with no added fees” and it can mean that you can use your reward miles “any way you want it/anytime you need it”. Here is the problem. The ads have fine print on the bottom of the images on the screen – really small fine print. If you look quickly you can see that “Rules and Regulations apply” which means that these ads are not as “transfarent” as they would like you to believe.
e-Trade had an ad where they used a “Benedict Arnold character” as someone to hawk their online trading product because – after all – Benedict Arnold knows all about being a traitor – er trader. Maybe this would be clever to a third-grade class; maybe not. One thing is for sure, Benedict Arnold is not a warm and fuzzy figure of American history and culture. People who think using a stylized Benedict Arnold as a spokesperson for their product might someday take the next step and try using a stylized Pontius Pilate. That would be a breakthrough in lunacy…
I will close this year’s compendium of bad ads with one that is local to the DC area. One of our local stations “guarantees their weather forecast will be accurate to within 3 degrees.” This is multi-level stupid. Let me count the ways:
What does “guarantee” mean here? What would I as a viewer receive as a recompense if the forecast was off by 4 degrees? The answer is simple; I would get nothing.
Now that I know this station offers meaningless guarantees, my trust in its product is on shaky ground. So, why should I tune in to see its next big investigative report that it will be touting someday if I don’t trust what the station says?
Back to the weather … When I hear a forecast and it says tomorrow’s high temperature will be 96 degrees, I realize that tomorrow is going to be uncomfortably hot. Do I care if it is only 92 degrees or if it is 100 degrees – thereby falling outside the “guaranteed range”? Not really; I will still be uncomfortable. Here is what I want from a weather forecast where accuracy is important – and none of it has to do with a temperature range:
- Rain or no rain
- Snow/sleet/wintry mix or no snow/sleet/wintry mix.
- If “Snow”, then how much? There is a huge difference between 2 inches and 16 inches.
In closing, let me offer all of you a chance to purchase a product that I guarantee will be effective and will make your life easier and more pleasant. For three easy payments of $29.95 I will send you a giant spray can of Unicorn Repellant. Never again will you need to clean up those annoying unicorn droppings from your yard; never again will you have the paint scraped from your house due to unicorn horns; never again will you be awakened in the middle of the night with unicorn cries as they play leap-frog in your back yard. If you ever see a unicorn in your yard after using my repellant spray, just send us back the unused portion and we’ll refund your money. One dose of my unicorn spray will last for weeks. If you hurry and order now, I’ll double the offer and send you two giant spray cans of Unicorn Repellant; just pay additional shipping and handling. But wait; there’s more …
Actually, there isn’t any more. Those are all the ads from last year that I found annoying or stupid or ineffective. As is always the case, I wish that the folks in creative at the ad agencies and the folks who deal with those people from the product side would make a New Year’s resolution to make ads more entertaining and less silly for 2017. As is always the case, I doubt that’s gonna happen – – meaning I will be back doing this sort of thing again next December.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………