Wednesday, November 26, 2008

5 TV Ad Campaigns Forged by Satan and Perfected by His Minions

"It is to erase the fixed smiles of sleeping couples that Satan trained roosters to crow a five in the morning." - Tom Robbins, "Jitterbug Perfume"

No, I'm not a morning person. Nor am I a fan of commercials. If Satan trained roosters, he did the same for advertising executives. Because television ads are to sports fans what roosters are to the slumbering masses.

They are the harsh crow of reality that pulls us from our waking dreams.

As a junior in college, I stumbled across an infomercial for Tivo. It was three in the morning and I was, shall we say, not of sound mind. But my hatred for commercials pulled me through, sat me down at the computer, did a quick search to see if the company was publicly traded, and placed an auto-order for several hundred shares after finding out it had IPO'd a couple weeks ago.

Maybe it was a couple months. Like I said, I hadn't been out studying for an exam.

Anyway, it was one of my more brilliant drunken decisions. Did I say one of? I meant only. And I think my distaste for ads snapped me into coherence so it probably doesn't really qualify. There wasn't a doubt in my addled mind that the technology would be successful.

I'm also aware it is one of the better examples of irony you can find.

For that economic windfall and as an exercise in catharsis, I'd like to thank the following five commercial campaigns. They are, in my opinion, the worst offenders in a cluttered field and the inspiration for many a Tivo purchase:

5. Kay Jewelers' "Every Kiss Begins with Kay" campaign.

This campaign had issues before the growing awareness of how expensive diamonds are in the currency of human blood. Now, more people question the idea of showing her how much you really care with a stone that arguably perpetuates new levels of human brutality in Africa.

But even before that, you'd have to find the idea offensive. The commercials more or less equate the purchase of a diamond for Valentine's Day or Christmas or Hanukkah or whatever with proof of real love.

That's bad news if you can't afford what is essentially a shiny rock that costs thousands of dollars every time an annual occasion comes 'round.

Of course, it's good news if you happen to be Kobe Bryant.

I mean, we might all legitimately question whether the man really loves his wife. You know, because she was home in Los Angeles with their newborn baby girl while Kobe was banging some 19-year-old snowbunny in Colorado.

Thankfully, we have $5 million worth of proof to dispel such a preposterous notion.

4. The latest spate of eco-friendly campaigns from Big Oil.

These are phenomenal exercises in propaganda. Seriously, the most abhorrent dictators in history would be proud. Lest anyone accuse me of being a tree-hugger or even a firm environmentalist, let me say I'm not. Despite spending most of my life in Northern California, I see the confrontation between pursuit of livelihood and that of the environmental protection as a grayer area than most in this part of the State.

But environmental awareness and preservation as two of Big Oil's primary concerns?

Riiight. And I've got some lovely oceanfront property for you in Utah. It comes with a liquor license and it's own brothel.

That's a tough sell considering the corporations typically fight tooth and nail for every dollar they are forced to spend during clean-up efforts. They frequently and happily go to the mattresses in an effort to whittle away every cent of liability possible after some drunken, waste of oxygen rams a behemoth tanker into something so perilous as a bridge support.

Seriously, how can they be blamed? Those things really jump out at you.

3. The bronze medal goes to the current Miller Lite "Commissioner of Taste" campaign.

Any ad that drags an actor I like into the gutter is a serious offender. In this case, the actor in question is John C. McGinley. If you've gotten too seduced by his role on "Scrubs," take another run at "Platoon," "Office Space," or "Wild Hogs (an inexplicably entertaining movie)." His characters all have a general similarity, but I've got no problem with playing to your strengths.

However, the real reason it ranks so high (or so low) is that Miller beer is awful.

MGD is the worst, but Miller Lite is right there at its heels. The only Miller beer I'll drink is the High Life and that's more about the cool bottle/slogan ("It's the champagne of beers") than taste. Nor am I in the minority - I used to work in a bar during law school and almost no one orders Miller Lite.

Personally, I don't know anyone who prefers a Miller beer to its Bud or Coors equivalent.

And the campaign is based on TASTE! Ridiculous.

It doesn't help that the ads are generally irritating and mind-numbingly stupid.

2. The silver medal goes to any McDonald's ad - currently, the asinine McNugget campaign.

There are just so many soft spots, it's tough to know where to start. There are the shots of the restaurants, which are always clean and bright and cheerful. Where are these places? I'm not a huge fastfood guy, but I've NEVER been in a McDonald's that looked even vaguely reminiscent of these commercial palaces.

Or what about the food? If the burgers, shakes, fries, etc. really looked like that, those lines would be a lot longer.

Or how about the patrons? I never knew so many svelte, supermodel-types (both men and women) were such loyal and enthusiastic customers. And I guess these must be secret, invite-only restaurants because I have yet to run across one. Sadly though, I am not a supermodel-type.

Or what about just the general ideas? A McNugget party? Really? That's the best you can do? Whoa.

Let's not forget the "I'm lovin' it," "McGriddle's," and ethnocentric campaigns of yore. Lots of aneurysm-inducing potential there.

1. But the gold medal goes to the Lexus "December to Remember" sales event campaign that returns like a plague of locusts every holiday season. And it's not close.

These are by far the worst because they come out like clockwork every year and seem to be placed in extra-heavy circulation during football games. What football fan doesn't know the image of a Lexus SUV with a big, red bow on it? Or the wife confronted with the sedan and same bow in a snowy driveway?

And now it seems Audi is following Lexus' lead. Wonderful.

But let's really examine the idea of giving someone a luxury automobile - or any new car, for that matter - on Christmas or, presumably, Hanukkah. I can't really speak to the Jewish holiday because I am not Jewish. However, I grew up with a lot of Jews (doesn't that sound derogatory?) and have been to my share of Bar/Bat Mitzvahs.

One of my closest and my oldest friend is Jewish. We have Thanksgiving with his family every year.

I think it's pretty safe to say that a car is rarely the payoff for a night of Hanukkah. I could be wrong, but I remember a lot of complaints about books, sweaters, educational video games, etc. A car doesn't really seem consistent.

The idea of a Lexus or Audi for Christmas is only slightly less ridiculous.

I grew up in Tiburon, which is part of Marin County in California. Marin is just north of San Francisco, right across the Golden Gate Bridge. It is one of the most affluent areas in California, probably the country. My two sisters and I have run up the following educational tabs: three undergrads, two private and one public; nursing school; law school; and medical school. We have done so without any concept of a student-loan or any other kind. Not only that, my family's wealth is modest compared to the typical measure in Southern Marin.

I'm not saying this to brag. I'm pointing out that my family is extremely fortunate. More so that probably 95 percent of the country. Our neighbors are even luckier.

And I have never, ever, EVER heard of someone getting ANY kind of car for Christmas. Who are these people? Where are these people? Is it the ad equivalent of a subprime mortgage? Convince someone to buy a car of an occasion that he/she can't ultimately afford?

Or is it an ad campaign targeting the upper tenth of a percent of the population?

The really shocker though, is that, according to some studies, almost 10 percent of Lexus models are sold as gifts during the season. In other words, the campaign works.

I simply cannot believe that. I choose not to because it would shake my faith in a benevolent God.

Those are the most egregious offenders in my opinion. The list is by no means exhaustive or definitive. I'm sure I've left of some truly horrendous campaigns. I might have even left off the real gold medal winner. The field is simply too cluttered to shoot for perfection.

In the end, I am but one man. And a mere mortal at that.

Such a monumental task would require infinintely more mental capacity than I possess.

So I'll leave it the greater wisdom of the Bleacher Report community.

I've vented and feel much better. Now, it's your turn.

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