There is a comfort in periodicity; the Super Bowl is the first Sunday of February; March Madness ends on the first Monday in April; the Kentucky Derby is the first Saturday in May; coincidentally, that is also the date on which the Oakland A’s are usually eliminated from MLB’s postseason action. I take comfort in my annual compilation of Bad Ads that adorn my TV set while I am watching sporting events; that compilation is my final rant of every calendar year.
Since the focus of today’s offering will be television advertising, I guess I should start with disclaimers:
- Do not read on if you are allergic to bad ads.
- No animals were harmed in writing this screed.
- Your mileage may vary.
- Valid only at participating locations.
The real challenge here is where to start because there are plenty of Bad Ads to fill up the space here. There were two beer ads that I found particularly annoying/idiotic:
- Sam Adams Boston Lager ran an ad where the background music included lyrics to “follow me into the jungle”. Can someone tell me what Sam Adams lager has to do with the jungle – or Sam Adams the person for that matter? Just plain dumb…
- Coors Light had an ad where they showed a sequence of people involved in strenuous activities culminating with a group of folks reaching the summit of a snow-capped mountain. The tag line is that the tougher the climb, the better the reward. Let me say this gently. If the reward is Coors Light, then the climb should have been made on an escalator.
Samsung ran an ad about millennials making movies on their phones because someone told them they couldn’t do that. The ad exhorted these millennials to “Do what you can’t.” Immediately, I resonated with that ad and that direct message; I came up with this response:
- Here’s something millennials can’t do. Stop acting like a bunch of self-absorbed, insufferable, know-it-all assholes.
- Get to it…
And now back to your regularly scheduled programming…
For some reason – known only in the highest creative circles of the advertising community – this year was a year focused on poop and pooping in TV ads. I know we have had the bears who use Charmin toilet paper to “enjoy the go” in past years, but this year was different; this year went to places that had not been examined before. Pardon the play on words, but I would not shed a tear if any of these were eliminated:
- There is a product out there called VIPoo. It is a liquid in a small spray bottle that is sprayed on the top of the water in a toilet prior to “dropping a deuce” and its purpose is to eliminate the odor. The ad lets you know that you can use someone’s rest room and not leave behind any aromatic evidence of what you did in there. In the ad, they refer to one’s elimination as “the devil’s donuts”. We can do without that – rather easily.
- Febreze tackled the same “problem”; Febreze asked if your bathroom is ready for halftime at your Super Bowl party. That is less graphic than the VIPoo ads but no less revolting.
- An ad for CharcoCaps, an activated charcoal anti-gas product, has an animated ad showing people going about with little “fart clouds” emanating from their nether regions. Obviously, the assertion is that the little charcoal pill can resolve that problem for you. The ad would have been in borderline bad taste if it stopped there but it went just a tad further with a tag line telling you there would be “less boom in the room”. Question: When did frat-boy level fart jokes become a good way to sell products?
- Quaker Oats spent time extolling the virtue(s) of oats and oat fiber in one’s diet. No problem at all; there are indeed plenty of health-benefits provided by maintaining a good level of fiber in one’s diet. What I did not need was for the ad to ask me, “What good will you pass along today?”
Let me pause for a moment here to refer to a news report that I saw earlier this year; it is not an advertisement, but it does seem to fit into the discussion here. NBC News reported on a model of American Standard toilets that can flush 18 golf balls at once. Obviously, at this moment you are thinking I made that up, so here is a link to show you that I did not. However, if you need a toilet in your bathroom with that level of “flushing power”, might I suggest that you do something to alter your diet. And do not even think of using anyone else’s bathroom not equipped with such a toilet. VIPoo will not help you out here…
Jimmy Dean Breakfast Frittatas announced with pride that they are made from “real ingredients”. Well, thank Heaven for that. I know I would not want to eat anything made from phlogiston for breakfast…
During the Holiday season, KFC ran ads where the Colonel replaces Santa and brings presents to a family comprised of some of the dumbest bipeds ever to exist. The mother of this consortium of cretins is the recipient of a “KFC $20 Family Fill-up Meal”. In her ecstatic reaction to that gift, she declares that it is a home-made meal that we don’t have to cook at home. There is something very fundamental about a “home-made meal” that has eluded this genius.
Some sort of breath mint – I don’t even remember the brand name indicating just how effective this ad is – shows us a young woman talking with a man in an office; she is going through the paper work of being hired. She says she will need 3 weeks’ vacation; the man says that 2 weeks is standard. She pops a breath mint; a unicorn appears; she tells the man she is not standard and demands 3 weeks; the man acquiesces. In the real world – you know, the one we all exist in – the way that conversation likely ends involves the man escorting the young woman to the door and telling her to take her fresh breath and her unicorn and find somewhere else to work.
There was a Hyundai ad where a guy is stuck in a traffic jam and he starts singing Sweet Caroline at the top of his lungs. That gets a woman in a car in the adjacent lane to start singing the song with him. Really? What does Sweet Caroline have to do with Hyundai vehicles? Is this targeting the Boston Red Sox fan demographic? Combien stupide…
The Black Friday car ads for GMC vehicles announced that you can get 20% off the MSRP during the sale. Sounds good – – but this delivers another message to me besides the one convincing me to run out and buy a new vehicle. Since I am relatively certain that the folks at GMC and at the various dealerships are not out to lose money on every sale for the week or so that the Black Friday prices are in effect, that means no one should EVER pay more than 80% of the MSRP for a GMC vehicle. They are making money at that price.
I don’t know if this next ad is a local ad or if it is one that can be seen in lots of markets. It is for RE/MAX Realty and the scene shows us a couple that is mightily confused about the housing market. They cannot figure out if it is up or down; they think they want to sell and move elsewhere, but they are in a fog. To the rescue comes a RE/MAX agent who gives the couple confidence by telling them that all the houses that he has listed in their neighborhood have gotten multiple offers above the asking price. The young folks look at one another and nod peacefully. Excuse me, let me tell you what just happened there.
- That realtor just told those folks that he is really bad at setting prices on the houses that he lists in that neighborhood. He prices them too low!
- Here is the important takeaway for confused couple. Find another realtor!
There are tons of banks and credit unions that run ads on sports programming. Let me offer the folks who run their ad campaigns some free advice. You can entice me to use your bank and its products/services by:
- Offering higher rates than other banks on deposits
- Offering lower costs than other banks on products/services
- Offering more convenient locations/hours than other banks
- Offering unique products/services that I might need
Here are some messages that are meaningless, and you might want to avoid:
- You do not “share my values”; you are a bank and I am a person. Please do not try to pump that sunshine up my ass.
- You do not “care about our community”; you participate in community events as a way to keep your name in front of the citizenry involved in said community events.
- You are not “on my side”; the first time there is any sort of controversy between you and a client on a product or service will demonstrate that fact directly.
Sprint hired the guy who used to do the Verizon ads asking every 10 feet if you “can hear me now”. He says his name is Paul; I have no reason to doubt that. The problem is that Paul’s pitch for Sprint is an unappealing one. He tells you that Sprint costs less than Verizon and AT&T and he also tells you that the Sprint network is less reliable – – it is close; but Sprint is not as good.
My reaction to advertising is that every ad campaign tries to convince me that its product is superior – – even when I know it is not. See for example – Coors Light. Miller Lite, Hyundai autos, Taco Bell, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Papa John’s … you get the idea. Now consider that Sprint is going out of its way to tell me that it is not as good as its major competitors. Thanx, but I will choose not to touch that service with a fork…
There is an ad campaign that is very active now for a product called Alpha Force. It is one of the family of products that is aimed at aging males and it insinuates that the use of this product can “turn the clock back” on their “maleness”.
- Memo to Aging Males (of which I am one): The “arrow of time” is a phrase coined by a British astronomer about 75 years ago denoting that time has only one direction. Turning the clock back only happens when Mr. Peabody fires up the Wayback Machine with his boy Sherman. Al Gore thought his climate warning was “An Inconvenient Truth”; well the irreversibility of time is yet one more inconvenient truth.
Having disposed with the fundamental instability of the foundation for the ad’s claims let me now turn to the ad itself. It uses Bo Jackson as the spokesthing to convince me that this stuff works because Bo Jackson uses it to stay in top shape. OK, I can live with that sort of nonsense, but here is where I get off the train.
- Bo Jackson tells me in this ad that HE has “looked into the science behind this stuff personally” and with that sort of endorsement, how could it be anything but the real thing.
When I want some sort of scientific or nutritional verification, I tend not to go to great athletes/Heisman Trophy winners for that sort of confirmation. By the same token, if I were drafting players to play in the NFL, I would not start my search with people who may have been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Physiology/Medicine nor would I contact the incumbent Poet Laureate of Manitoba.
There is another category of ads that I find repulsive and they are sort of attached to the Alpha Force ad cited above. These are the ads for drugs manufactured by reputable pharmaceutical firms for serious conditions. The object of the ads is to get people who suffer from those serious conditions – or their families/caregivers – to “ask the doctors” about this specific drug. When I am in my most magnanimous mood, these ads seek to inform people with serious medical conditions to seek every possible option to alleviate their serious condition. Momentarily, I think those ads are good…
And then comes the time in the ad when the drug manufacturer needs to list the side effects and the possible “adverse events” that may or may not occur with taking the drug that is the subject of the ad. In one such case, I counted 21 potential adverse events – including death which must be the ultimate adverse event – from using the drug being advertised. I understand; the lawyers require this sort of “disclosure” because we are a humongously litigious society; nonetheless, if there are more than 20 adverse conditions that are sufficiently bad that they need prior notice to mitigate lawsuits, maybe there should not be any advertising? Just saying…
I am sure you have seen the ad for NFLShop.com where the guy wears a Raiders’ sweater to Christmas dinner at the home of a bunch of Chiefs’ fans. This ad sends so many mixed messages that I wonder if anyone associated with the NFL ever screened it. Let me walk through the ad:
- Guy is wearing a Raiders’ jersey; wife tells him he cannot wear a Raiders’ jersey to her family’s Christmas dinner; he takes off the jersey to reveal a Raiders’ sweater. We never do learn why she finds that as acceptable attire. The message is that the guy is a doofus for wanting to wear a football jersey to a Christmas dinner, but he is a docile doofus because he removes the jersey as soon as his wife tells him it is inappropriate. Or, maybe he is a manipulative SOB, because he knows there is a Raiders’ sweater underneath. Or, maybe he is henpecked…
- Then, seated at the Christmas dinner table with the wife’s family – all of whom are dressed in Chiefs’ jerseys – the guy has his Raiders’ sweater on with blinking Christmas lights. Everyone at the table is offended; the wife tells him to turn off the lights; the guy just sits there blinking away. The message is that the guy is not henpecked; he is a passive-aggressive asshole. Oh, and the family that eats their Christmas dinner wearing football jerseys is a piece of work too. Passive-aggressive guy has a wife who is the spawn of these cretins and will probably need lots of therapy down the road.
- Final scene has the family dog – also decked out in Chiefs’ gear – growling at Raider guy. The message here is that even a dog is smart enough to know that everyone seated at that table is a cretin.
Remind me to check out the great values an NFLShop.com so I can enjoy my Christmas dinner next year the same way those folks enjoyed theirs this year.
I saved the best – or worst depending on your vantage point – for last. There was an ad for Dairy Queen that touted the fact that drinks and pretzels are only two dollars every day during “Happy Hour” at Dairy Queen. I think there is a hugely important message in this ad campaign:
- If you are spending “Happy Hour” at Dairy Queen – even once a year – you have no social life that is supportive of claiming any time period as a “Happy Hour”.
The New Year is about to start. Companies have already committed millions upon millions of dollars to produce and air ads during the Super Bowl. Other companies will agree to ad campaigns that the “creative people” at their ad agencies tell them are targeted just right. And the fact of the matter is that I will be back here at the end of 2018 – just as I have been here at the end of previous calendar years – pointing out the Bad Ads of the year.
Not to worry; you can ignore the ads in whatever way fits your lifestyle. I’ll be here – Lord willing and the creek don’t rise – to point out the next tranche of Bad Ads. Until then …
- No sub-atomic particles were created or destroyed in the writing of this rant.
Happy New Year, everyone.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………