I am well aware that advertising – and advertisers – pay the freight so that I can sustain my TV sports habit. I appreciate the mountains of money that they bestow on TV networks thereby making sports programming valuable commodities to those networks for the simple reason that it gives me access to lots of sports stuff. Just as, however, I recognize and appreciate the democratic form of governance that is extant in the US, I can still criticize the US Government when it does something dumb, I have no qualms about pointing out those advertisements that are bad. Some are in poor taste; some insult the intelligence of the viewer; some are just stupid.
Let me interject here a definition from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm:
“Advertisement: A medium through which people who truly care about your welfare (and not at all about money) provide you with helpful, extremely subtle reminders that your bad breath, body odor, cell phone provider and make of car all have to go.”
As I watch games on TV, I make notes along the way regarding dumb or annoying ads. Then I gather them up and use them as fodder for the final rant of the calendar year. I never bother to “hold over” a few bad ads from one year to the other; I never have to worry about a lack of material for the next calendar year. That has never been a problem.
In 2018, we had mid-term elections and that meant my sports viewing activities would be assaulted with campaign ads run by the candidates and also by influence groups on behalf of candidates. There is not a single campaign ad ever produced that is completely candid/truthful. The only redeeming quality for political campaign ads is that they are absent from my television in odd numbered years. I shall only consider commercial enterprises here and the ads they present to try to induce me to buy whatever they are selling.
Let me begin this year’s Bad Ads compilation by referring you to a generic set of ads. I am referring to ads for medicines/drugs that you should “talk to your doctor about”. They purport to rid patients of various maladies – some significant and others much less significant – but there is no free lunch. Each of these ads has the voiceover guy – – and it always a “guy” – – reading a list of side effects and potential problems that have been noted in patients who take the medicine in question. About the only side effect I have not yet heard described in that portion of this class of ads is having a third arm grow out of the middle of your forehead. [Aside: That might come in handy while doing push-ups …] And somewhere in that whole spiel is a tip of the hat to two things:
- How stupid the viewers of this ad must be – – and – –
- How litigious we have become as a society.
Every one of these medicines reminds you not to take the medicine if you are allergic to it or to any of its components – none of which you have ever heard of. Seriously now, if one is allergic to poison ivy, does that person need to be reminded not to use the leaves as toilet paper if nature calls while hiking in the woods? C’mon now…
While I am on the subject of categories of ads, have you noticed that all the car company ads are pretty much the same? They all show the vehicles driving on scenic highways with no other vehicles in sight from horizon to horizon – – or they show them in the city pulling up to hotels or restaurants where there are no other vehicles parked within a half-acre of the front door. Really? Does that ever happen to you? Oh, and every car maker asserts that they have the “best features in their class”. If you hauled five different carmakers into court and forced them to try to prove that assertion, you could probably get a jury to find all five of them guilty of false advertising.
In terms of car ads that were either stupid or annoying or both:
- The Chevy “Real People Not Actors” ads were still on the air this year. How can that be? Who is not annoyed as hell with those silly things? What focus group told the company to do more of them?
- Some of the Chevy Christmas ads are telling me I am part of the Chevy family and can get family discounts. They open with kids telling you which of their parents works for Chevy. Juxtapose those ads with the news in late November that GM is closing plants and laying off about 15,000 “family members”. Ho Ho Ho… Glad I was not one of the ones dis-invited to Christmas Dinner in the Chevy Family.
- Buick brought back the smug guy who touts Buick vehicles for a Christmas ad that makes little sense. He is sitting in an easy chair near a fireplace and he proclaims that all he wants for Christmas is already under the tree. The camera then pans to the other side of the living room where there is a Buick SUV with a Christmas tree tied to the roof. “Under the tree” … get it? Here is a question for you. How easy would it be for you to drive an SUV into your living room? Stupid in spades…
The same general concept of impossible outcomes applies to insurance company ads. Every one of them claims that the average person who switches to their company saves hundreds upon hundreds of dollars per year. While that is mathematically possible, it does make you wonder how all those astronomically priced insurance companies stay in business. Or maybe the way they stay in business is that their clientele comprises that stupid segment of the population who must be reminded not to take medicines they are allergic to.
For the record, the last time I compared auto insurance prices for the same level of coverage from three of the large national insurance companies, the difference in cost from the “most expensive” to the ”least expensive” was $4 per six months. So, I wonder if all those alleged savings of hundreds of dollars per year come from reducing the level of coverage as one changes insurers. If so, that would be highly deceptive advertising, no?
There are several insurance ads that go beyond questionable in terms of the math and take themselves squarely into the stupid realm:
- A husband and wife stand in their backyard noting that the wife’s “she-shed” is on fire and is going to be burnt to the ground. The husband is standing there with a look on his face that makes you think he set fire to her “she-shed”. She ignores him as she calls her agent and finds out that she is covered and that she will be able to build herself a new and better “she-shed”. The look on the husband’s face lets you know he is the arsonist – – and that his caper did not turn out the way he intended. What a stupid message to convey in an insurance ad…
- Liberty Mutual has an ad where the moronic character in the ad who is touting Liberty Mutual’s coverage gets so disgusted with the competitor’s coverage that he turns and throws his wallet into the bay behind him. If that is your typical Liberty Mutual customer and/or the customer demographic Liberty Mutual is seeking, I think I’ll look elsewhere…
Back to generic advertising for a moment… Have you noticed how many inter-racial couples there are in ads these days? I guess it is a way to show a ‘post-racial” image of a company and it does provide a way for the ad to “identify with” more than a single demographic. However, it is not as “progressive” as it might make itself out to be.
Consider that DirectTV had an ad where a black female and a white male are in the process of breaking up. He is on the street; she is in their second story digs and is tossing all his stuff out onto the pavement. Wanna bet you never see a guy – of any race – throwing a woman’s stuff out the window at her on the sidewalk? No one in the neighborhood thought to call the police because it was a guy standing there trying to catch his stuff on the way down?
I cannot wait until the surviving family of some teenaged twit sues Red Bull for false advertising – – “Red Bull Gives You Wings” – – when the teenaged twit jumps off a bridge aiming to soar and fly his way into some treetops far off in the distance. He won’t make it; he will become the forest equivalent of a “pavement pizza”; but his family will take it to court. Red Bull does not give you wiiings; it does give you gas … but not wiiings.
Olive Garden had an ad touting ‘Buy one, Take one” in their restaurants. According to the ad, you go to Olive Garden and order a main course; then you can take another helping of that main course or some other main course home with you for consumption at some later time. Sounds good? Well, I don’t want to drop a torrential rain on your parade here, but there is a drizzle you will need to deal with:
- If you “Buy One” – and eat it at the restaurant … and then
- You “Take One” – and presumably eat it elsewhere at some future time,
- That means you have consigned yourself to eating TWO meals from Olive Garden.
- In what universe is that something to celebrate?
You have to look quickly to catch this, but Castrol is the official motor oil of the NFL. What might it mean to be the official motor oil of the NFL? Do all the lawnmowers in the stadiums with grass run with Castrol oil? Maybe all the team buses use that product? Motor oil is a big deal regarding NASCAR and/or Formula 1 racing; it has nothing to do with a screen pass left. That makes about as much sense as Riddell signing on to be The Official Shoulder Pad Manufacturer for the US Olympics Women’s Gymnastics Team. Sheesh…
There were two iPhone ads this year that were stunningly annoying. There was an ad where a teenage girl unlocks her phone with a facial recognition app and then manages to unlock anything and everything that she walks past. Fortunately for all of us– I suppose – she does not meander past death row or the large cat house at the zoo. The ad is abjectly stupid – and then it compounds that by being annoying.
In another iPhone tour de force, the message in the ad is that you can do group video chatting with the phone and the wireless carrier. To demonstrate this the ad features about a half-dozen Elvis-impersonators singing There’s Always Me. Question:
- Have you ever noticed that most Elvis-impersonators look a lot like one another and they sound a lot like one another, but none of them look or sound anything at all like Elvis?
- Just asking…
Let me pose a rhetorical question here: Who is the guy you would most like to see dipped in molasses and strapped down to an anthill:
- The tall skinny Verizon guy who interrupts other people’s events to give them access to Verizon’s superior network – – or – –
- “Paul” who used to be the Verizon guy until Verizon “went in a different direction” with their ads and now “Paul” is shilling for Sprint?
The obviously correct answer here is – – Both of them!
Colonel Sanders doing his dancing routine with Mrs. Butterworth is more than cheesy; it is downright creepy. Who knew that these companies were seeking the squeamish demographic?
Speaking of seeking a strange demographic, Hanes underwear had a series of ads where people took “smellfies” (sniffed their armpits to see if their body odor was detectable) and the message in the ad was that Hanes underwear would eliminate the need to take “smellfies”.
- Memo to Hanes – and to “Smellfie-takers”: Regular bathing habits and the use of most commercial deodorants will make “Smellfie-taking” unnecessary and totally creepy.
Lavazza is a coffee company for those of you who have missed out on their ad campaign and have not ever run across the brand in real life. The cornerstone of their ad campaign is that the Lavazza family has spent 4 generations of perfecting the art of blending coffee. The only conclusion one can draw from that is that the Lavazza family is pretty dumb to take 4 generations to do that. After all, once they “perfected” the blending, they cannot improve on it; so, it had to take 4 full generations of effort – by their own admission – to get to the point where they think they can rest on their laurels. Is that really the message they meant to convey in this ad campaign?
Two beer ads were startingly dumb this year:
- Dos Equis ads used to be mildly amusing when they featured The Most Interesting Man in the World. Then they replaced Most Interesting #1 with Most Interesting #2 without realizing that is not likely to be possible. That was bad enough but the creative folks who make up those ads were not done. Someone there thought it would be a good idea to put Rob Riggle in Dos Equis ads. How that might mesh with “Most Interesting Man in the World” seems never to have been considered. There is no way that any of the ad geniuses there thought folks would buy that Rob Riggle is anywhere near the Most Interesting Man in the World. I can’t be the only person in the world who does not think Rob Riggle is even marginally interesting let alone funny.
- Michelob Ultra Gold is made from – – hold your breath here – – organic grains. Ooohh… That must mean this is the beer that hipsters chug when they want to get wasted. Here is a cautionary note for you. Michelob Ultra – Gold or Not Gold and/or Organic or non-Organic – tastes like the south end of a northbound horse. Light beers as a genre are miserable; Michelob Ultra is among the worst in class.
Need I even mention how annoying the State Farm ads with Aaron Rodgers and his monumentally inept “agent”, Gabe, can be? There has yet to be one in the series that rises to the level of “not stupid”. I am not the only one who reacted negatively to this ad campaign; consider this comment from Bob Molinaro in the Hampton Roads Virginian-Pilot:
“Comedown: Aaron Rodgers is 28th among NFL quarterbacks in completion percentage and 19th in yards per attempt. But even more disappointing are his latest series of State Farm commercials. Just not as witty as before. You don’t suppose that this is Mike McCarthy’s fault, too?”
Several companies run advertisements for genetic testing so that you can get in touch with your roots and understand/express your heritage. I ignore them for the same reason that I have not chosen to avail myself of the service that these companies provide. Here is why:
- Even after I know that my DNA is 52% this and 34% that and12% some other thing and 2% yak, how would that information change what I do with my time and energy on a daily basis?
I will close here by simply posing a few questions and that will surely recall the stupid ads that spawned the questions:
- How many times did you have to see the ad featuring “The Salmon Sisters” who run their business off their boat before you were rooting for a great white shark to chomp that boat in half with the two of them on it? Microsoft should be able to do much better than that…
- Did Old Navy go out to ad agencies asking them to submit their ideas for the most annoying and obnoxious Christmas ads? I am beginning to suspect that they do that every July because the stupid Old Navy Christmas Season ads cannot be that bad every year by accident.
- If the couple who self-identify as “Slingers” ever approached you to join them in their “Slinging”, would you run for the hills immediately or would you grab a crucifix and back them off into a dark locked closet first?
- If you simply must escape from an awkward or unpleasant social situation, is Buffalo Wild Wings really going to be your preferred escape/destination? You just found a way to escape from Aunt Millie’s family reunion party which is a plus; however, you are now in a joint that is way too noisy, that serves bad food and smells like grease – – which is THE critical component of everything served there other than the beer. Seems like The Great Leap Sideways to me…
As the days in 2018 “dwindle down to a precious few”, we all look forward to 2019 and just about everyone hopes that 2019 will be better than 2018 was. Even if one does not anticipate such improvement, one hopes it will come to pass. I too hope that advertising campaigns in 2019 are improved over what I had to experience in 2018. However, even if they all improve a lot, there will still be plenty of material for a Bad Ads rant at the end of 2019.
Does that make me a cynic or a realist? It depends on whether or not you agree with me.
I began this compendium by giving you the definition of “Advertising” from The Official Dictionary of Sarcasm. Let me close here with another definition from the same source that demonstrates the power of “Advertising”:
“Bottled Water: Tap water made more palatable by a label with a mountain on it.”
Happy New Year, everyone.
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………