Thursday, April 30, 2009

Now I feel old. And disgusted.

What happened?

One day I was in High School, and Jamie Lee Curtis was dropping jaws all over the country by stripping off a supertight top and giving us an unforgettable three seconds of full frontal nudity. What we could never have guessed was hiding under her rather drab, almost Puritan coverings in Halloween and Halloween II was right there for us to enjoy for a brief moment in Trading Places. And later, we get to see her in all her bubbly, bouncy glory wearing short shorts and Pippy Longstocking pigtails- awesome.

I blink, and suddenly there's Jamie Lee Curtis again- but she's not displayed on a massive piece of canvas at the local drive-in (partially because there isn't one.) She's not even entertaining us from the downtown Cineplex-6. She's on my television set, looking thrilled as all get-out at the opportunity to tell middle-aged women about Activa, The Yogurt That Keeps You Regular.

It hits me. Hard. Jamie Lee Curtis is a Middle-Aged Woman, fit only for commercials in which she delights other middle-aged women with the News that Great-Tasting Activa can help ensure Regular Bowel Movements through some added chemical or something....ugh. Former Sex Symbol Jamie Lee Curtis, pitching yogurt. And seemingly very happy about it.

It seems almost inevitable that one day I'll see Phoebe Cates trying to sell me FiberCon and Jennifer Jason Leigh pitching for ExLax. Because it's suddenly become the mission of the advertising industry to Make Me Feel Old. Very, Very Old.

And if I feel old now, how do you think Jamie Lee Curtis will feel when she gets replaced as Activa's spokeswoman by Catherine Zeta-Jones in a year or two?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Verizon bids for the Nobel Peace Prize

The founder of Toms Shoes of Los Angeles appears on the screen, handing out pairs of shoes to grateful villagers in some unnamed South American nation-- "I give away a free pair of shoes for every one that I sell." That's awesome- a great idea, and if Verizon, the makers of this commercial, can give this guy a shout out, I'm all for it.

Except...."If it wasn't for The Network, this wouldn't be possible..."

Um, What? It wouldn't be possible for you to give away shoes if not for Verizon Wireless? Why not? It seems to me that charities managed to function for many, many years before The Network came along to make Our Lives Worth Living. But now this guy is telling us that he could not give away shoes without The Network? I think an explanation is in order here.

Does he mean that he would not be able to find the people who need the shoes without The Network? That's preposterous on it's face. Or he wouldn't be able to know, on a day to day basis, how many pairs of shoes he is supposed to be giving away? That doesn't make sense, either- the number of shoes to be given away would be decided long before he left the US, because gee, those shoes have to be flown into the recipient nation, don't they? Or are we supposed to believe that this guy flies into a village, counts people who need shoes, matches that to the number of shoes he's sold, and then acts accordingly? A bit far-fetched.

I have to come to the uncomfortable conclusion that Toms Shoes is just doing a little cross-marketing with Verizon. Here's a chance for some free publicity, and all we have to do is say that Verizon is somehow vital to our work. Never mind if it makes no sense- this is exposure, and it helps us AND Verizon....

Which brings me to another point. Verizon is clearly very proud of it's "role" in "making it possible" for Toms Shoes to engage in such a noble enterprise. But other than being praised, what is VERIZON doing to help out the less than fortunate? I mean, other than sending a camera crew to show shoes being handed out. How does this big sloppy Valentine from Verizon to Verizon help make life better for anyone?

I hope Toms Shoes sees its bottom line improve based on the positive attention it gets from this commercial. I'm just sorry that, in order to get it made, we had to give such an obvious butt-kissing to Verizon, which, near as I can tell, did nothing but film the sequence and run it to improve its OWN image. How about a charitable contribution, Verizon? Because I don't think that filming someone handing you credit for HIS charity quite cuts it.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

I need an App for this?

"Say you are looking for an apartment closer to college. There's an App for that. Or you need a good price on a used Geometry book. There's an App for that."

Well, thank goodness. Because we all know how hard it is to find an apartment these days. It's not like the local newspaper provides a list of available apartments for rent (wouldn't it be awesome if it did? Why hasn't anyone ever thought of this??) or there are any stores which sell books or even places where you can just borrow books for free ( I have so many great ideas, why don't I run this country??)

Seriously, though, it's a damn good thing that once you've dropped $300 on a gaudy "look what I've got" conversation piece/social contact substitute and another monthly fee for an "App" (is there something wrong with the word "Application?" Are we ultimately doomed to reducing the English language to "words" that are easier to spell and text? OMIGD tht wld suk lol) you can save four bucks on a used Geometry book.

And why did you need the $300 phone and Additional Fee Required "App?" So you could find an apartment and a used Geometry book? Really? Did that line work on your parents, or the stupid little voice that occasionally replaces your brain in the reasoning process?

I also like the commercial where the guy shakes his phone so it can display, like the screen of a one-armed bandit in Vegas, restaurants in the area. I have yet to see anyone actually shaking their phones like that, but I promise to do my best not to beat that person senseless when I do.

Seriously, people who think they need these phones to do things that were mysteriously both possible and rather easy before these electronic security blankets came along aren't what I'd call especially bright. But I feel the same way about the morons I encounter on a regular basis who suddenly can't drive fifteen feet without one of these things attached to their faces, or take a walk in the park with their kids without blathering about nothing to whoever is Not Actually There At The Moment. These idiots need therapy.

Is there an App for that?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Magic Johnson Is Shameless

"A big-screen tv. Stylish furniture. A bedroom set."

Why is Magic Johnson doing inventory? Because "Rent A Centers help you bring your dreams within reach."

Sheeesh, didn't you make enough money in your NBA days, Magic? What compelled you to sign up to be a shill for Rent-A-Center?

First of all, there's simply no way that you've ever walked into a Rent-A-Center. Magic Johnson doesn't patronize stores that specialize in renting crappy furniture to people with terrible credit who are so desperate to deny their own financial situations that they are willing to sign contracts obligating them to pay $80 a week for three years for a 60-inch color tv or (as I read in a Rip-Off Report post, $33 a week for 63 weeks for a Playstation 3.) Magic Johnson doesn't rent bedroom sets that have been rented by five families previous. Magic Johnson doesn't rent.

And what are these "dreams" that Rent-A-Center promises to bring people closer to? The dream of owning nice things? Um, no. More like the dream of being able to pretend to own nice things, while you sink further into debt. The dream of being admired by your neighbors who didn't notice the Rent-A-Center truck in your driveway, and hopefully wont' notice the RAC collectors banging on your door when you are late making that $28 weekly payment for the recliner with the built-in fridge you "had" to have, or the $42 weekly gouging you decided to stop making because you woke up one day and wondered why you had already shelled out $800 for a microwave that retails for $169 at Best Buy. Some dreams.

Hey, Magic- I don't think people really "dream" of paying loanshark-worthy interest rates for junk they will never even own. Why you decided you needed an extra paycheck enough to lend your good name to these bloodsuckers is really beyond me.

What's next? Michael Jordan for Payday Loans?

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Can you imagine Derek Jeter getting snarked on like this?

Commercial for the new video game MLB 09 The Show, featuring Dustin Pedroia of the Boston Red Sox on the cover:

Pedroia asks the "Director of Game Development" a question- "this new game shows I can't hit the high inside fastball. You're gonna change that, right?"

Fat choad sitting at desk: "Well Dustin, here at MLB 09 The Show, we pride ourselves on accuracy. So we're going to keep things as they are. It's called integrity."

Pedroia: "Oh, I'm sorry. I was busy polishing my MVP trophy. How many MVPs you know who can't hit that pitch?"

At this point, the Fat Choad Sitting At Desk has been totally owned, and it's time for him to come clean and admit that he screwed up, and it's time to agree to change the game. What do we get instead?-

"Other than you? Hmmmm...."

2007 ALCS, Game 7- Sox v. Indians- with the Red Sox clinging to a 3-2 lead, Dustin Pedroia sends a high inside fastball into the seats above Fenway's Green Monster, making the score 5-2 and propelling Boston to it's second American League Pennant in four years.

2007 World Series, Game 1- Sox v. Rockies- Dustin Pedroia sends the second pitch he sees as lead-off batter into the seats above Fenway's Green Monster. It's the same pitch- a high and inside fastball.

Nope, Dustin Pedroia can't hit that pitch. Except, perhaps, when the Pennant or the World Series is on the line.

Here's how the commercial goes if it's Derek Jeter with a problem concerning his game character:

"Hey, your MLB 09 The Show says I have the range of a lame box turtle at Shortstop, and that it's only a matter of time before A-Rod knocks me out of my position. You're gonna fix that, right?"

Fat idiot at MLB 09- "We pride ourselves on accuracy. It's called integrity."

(Jeter shows a few clips of himself making ridiculously exaggerated spins into the air after fielding routine grounders, barely nailing the runner at first while a simple throw with his feet on the ground would have made life much easier for the first baseman and beaten the runner by a yard or two.)

Fat idiot at MLB 09-- "Gulp! I'm so sorry Derek, we'll get right on fixing that error right away! We're not worthy! We're not worthy!"

Here's a tip, MLB 09- if you are going to snark on a player's weakness, pick a weakness the player actually has. Pedroia is a clutch hitter who has no problem hitting the high inside fastball. Jeter, on the other hand, has the kind of range at shortstop that forced Cal Ripken Jr to accept re-assignment to third base.

It's called integrity. Check it out sometime.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Savoring the Little Victories: Enjoying the Enthusiasm in Washington Nationals Commercials

These are pretty funny- fat guy standing in what is obviously a studio, in front of a huge screen in which "highlights" of last year's Washington Nationals Season- a season in which the Nationals finished dead last in the National League East, losing 99 games- are being shown. Our wildly enthusiastic fan starts waving his arms in obvious joy as he remembers his "favorite moment" of the 2008 season- the two-game September series against the New York Mets.

"Ok, so the Mets were in first place- but that was before they came to Washington! In the first game, the Mets blow a late lead and the Nationals pull off a big ninth-inning rally to win the game! And the next night- the same thing happens! The Washington Nationals pull off the Two-Game Sweep!" (Scenes from this epic series - can you believe you've already forgotten it?- flash on the screen behind this dope as he slams his hand into his glove and practically spits pride in his team's great achievement.) "And the BEST THING about it? When they leave, the Mets aren't in first place anymore!"

Wow, awesome. So this guy's favorite memory of a truly crappy season, in which his team was in the cellar from Day One and never left it- was a two-game series in which the Nationals served as spoilers for a team which appeared to be heading for the playoffs. Wow, I can't believe that DC didn't give the Nats a parade!!

In another commercial, this same guy waxes orgasmic over the memory of an absolutely SuperAwesomeAmazing Walk Off Walk that won the game for the Nats- "I mean, how often do you see that? The bases loaded, no place to put the batter and- BALL FOUR!! Game Over!! Zimmerman trots home from third base, and the celebration begins!! I mean, that was AWESOME!"

Geesh, I'm a big baseball fan (though not a Nationals Fan) and I appreciate ANY win, but you know your team has not given you a lot of highlights when your favorite memories of a season involve your team acting as a spoiler and a win by bases-loaded walk. These commercials are more funny than stupid ("pathetic" comes to mind, too) and I do hope they aren't necessary much longer, because I like baseball in DC and want it to have a permanent home there. But until the Nationals actually start winning some games, at least their advertising department is providing us some unintended snark.

(Side Note: The Nationals lost today to fall to 0-5; since the Indians won, that means that Washington is the only team in baseball to fail to win a game in the season's opening week. Perhaps in the near future we'll be served up some "and we only lost by two runs that day! Wow!" commercials.)

(Second Side Note: The Orioles run commercials featuring roughly the same message- celebrating the little victories, since the big ones aren't likely to be coming any time soon. The O's get a few extra points however because one of their commercials features a very cute girl with a very sexy voice. Take note, Nationals!)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Equal Time: Burger King Pushes the Envelope

Ok, I'm watching the Angels-Red Sox game on Fox, and all of a sudden I'm assaulted by a stupendously stupid commercial featuring a lame take-off on Sir Mix-A-Lot's Salute to rank Sexism, "Baby's Got Back." Except this time, we have The King- the once retro-kitchy, then creepy, and now downright dumb mascot of Burger King dancing to lyrics like "I like Square Buns!" and using a tape measure to check out the dimensions of a box taped, yes, to a woman's butt.

The joke then gets worse- turns out this is all about a promo featuring SpongeBobSquarePants, which can best be described as a rather inane but generally harmless little cartoon favored among very young children and stoned adults who really need to grow the hell up and get lives.
So nasty rap music + a cute cartoon character equals a marketing strategy. Great.

I wonder how many dads were watching the game with their young sons and found themselves subjected to this embarressing drivel. Sir Mix-A-Lot is a sad, best-forgotten reminder of the worst aspects of 90s music- viciously mysogynistic rap designed to reduce women to the role of mere trophies, pieces of bling no more significant than a gold chain or ring, and like chains and rings to be assessed in value with tape measures and weights. This has nostalgic value now? Really? Shame on Burger King for considering this music appropriate on any level.

What won't Burger King do to sell hamburgers? I guess we'll just have to wait and see. Right now, celebrating the exploitation of women is off the list.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

More Well-Deserved McDonald's Snark

Huge family is gathered around the table at Grandma's house. Grandma comes in with a huge pitcher of iced tea, which is quickly poured into glasses in an act that would put Christ's loaves and fishes to shame: that pitcher of tea fills about half a dozen ENORMOUS glasses.

Everyone tips their glasses at the same time and guzzles the tea down in about three seconds. Seriously, these people must have been PARCHED. They don't even come up for air until the glasses are completely drained.

Everyone praises Grandma on her Awesome Sweet Iced Tea. Dad grabs the pitcher and announces "I'll get some more."

Ok, stop right there, dad. Someone here doesn't know what goes into making iced tea. It's grandma, so we are supposed to assume that the tea was fresh-brewed (maybe it's supposed to be sun tea.) That means there's no barrel of tea in the kitchen waiting to be tapped, you idiot. Real Iced Tea- which the family assumes this to be- takes time and effort. That's the whole point of the commercial.

Grandma snatches the pitcher and orders her son to sit down, she'll get the tea. And then we learn Grandma's secret- the tea she's been filling the pitcher with is from McDonalds- the forbidden kitchen is filled with big cups of McDonald's Sweet Tea- $1 a cup- which she's been pawning off as her own.

Jeesh, give me a break. I've had McDonald's tea. It's not that good (I like unsweetened, myself.) Grandma's not on a fixed income, because she seems more than prepared to spend upwards of twenty bucks on individual cups of tea rather than admit that she doesn't feel like making it herself. And- most absurdly- she's somehow carted all this tea to her house, ice included, and stashed it in her kitchen, JUST to pull off this little scam with her family.

I remember a commercial from maybe 25-30 years ago featuring a guy treating his date to a "home-made meal" consisting of a Swanson's Frozen Dinner- I think it was a veal cutlet and mashed potatoes. The date loved it, then oddly damaged the message by asking "can I have some more?", indicating that the portions were not very substantial. This Sweet Tea Commercial doesn't reach that level of ineptness, but the fact that it reminds me of an ancient commercial for tv dinners means that it's pretty damned awful, not to mention trite and hackneyed. Back to the drawing board, McDonald's.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Cancer Treatment Centers of America- It's You v. Your Doctor

Apparently this country is just dominated by evil doctors who can't wait to tell their patients that hey, they are gonna die, so please leave our offices now and try not to spread the stench of your impending death to our other patients (you know, the ones we care about.)

Commercials for Cancer Treatment Centers of America aren't about promoting alternative cancer treatments- they are about bashing standard health care practices. In each of these commercials, we see people who ought to be filled with gratitude and relief that they are cancer-free but are instead too busy carrying grudges against the doctors who dared be straight with them about their odds for recovery:

"My doctor told me I had two months to live. I was devastated. Well, thank goodness I found Cancer Treatment Centers of America. That was three years ago, and I'm cancer free."

"My doctor told me that further treatments would do no good, and that I should get my affairs in order. That was five years ago. Thank you, Cancer Treatment Centers of America."

"My doctor told me that the Spectre of Death was sitting on my shoulder, and to begone and darken his door nevermore. Cancer Treatment Centers of America took me in and saved my life."

Ok, I made that last one up. But you get the idea. I find it really hard to believe that these people are so pissed off at their doctors- you'd think they would be too busy enjoying their new lease on life to film spots slamming the medical professionals who gave them an honest diagnosis which turned out to be wrong. Apparently, what the doctors were SUPPOSED to do was tell their patients that "hey, modern medicine has run out of alternatives for you. I can't help you further. However, there's this place that specializes in Tomotherepy, Immunotherepy and several other 'strategies' that they claim will holistically rid you of the demon that is eating away at your insides."

("Tomotherepy" and "Immunotherepy" are actual "therepies" promoted in Cancer Treatment Centers of America, BTW. Tomotherepy involves radiation- big advance, huh?- while Immunotherepy suggests the healing power of mushrooms. Ok..... )

(Here's a link to an article posted by Quackwatch concerning CTCA's false claims of patient recovery rates

Well, doctors don't do that. They don't specialize in giving people false hope by directing them to holistic healers, medicine men, or shamen. That's because they went to MEDICAL SCHOOL and are SCIENTISTS, not yogis. I know this sounds narrow-minded to some people, but I don't believe that anyone has ever been holistically cured of cancer. People have, however, been falsely diagnosed with the disease. And that's whats happened if in fact people have gone to Cancer Treatment Centers of America and found themselves Cancer Free after several months of the "treatment" and then found themselves free of the disease.

But I digress- my principal reason for posting was to slap down the ungrateful idiots who are so happy to be cancer-free that they feel the need to sneer at the actual doctors who tried to be honest with them, and praise the snake-oil salesmen who "cured" their cancer. Geesh, just be happy your doctor was wrong. Don't urge us to dump overboard centuries of medical advancemets because he was. I'll still take x-rays, cat-scans and blood tests over green tea and pyramids any day of the week, thanks anyway.

Stand Up (and Pose) Against Cancer

Look, I'm as "Against Cancer" as the next person. I'm against Cancer, and potholes, and the use of cellphones on trains and in movie theatres. All that being said, I must say that I'm also against Pointless Posing. Which makes the latest "Stand Up Against Cancer" commercial all the more grating.

The narrator tells us that "its time. It's time to stand up. Stand up. Stand up against Cancer. Stand Up. Stand UP." And sure enough, one sullen, angry-looking character after another stands up and stares at me as if I'M the personification of cancer, and damn it, they've had more than enough of me. I'm going down. Now.

It gets a little silly when the camera focuses on a poolside picnic, and not only does one person Stand Up with the prerequisite Pissed Off Look, but a woman in the background actually gets out of the pool to Stand Up, too. Wow, Cancer is really outnumbered here. Playtime's over, Cancer! You're about to get Schooled!

Naturally the last person to Stand Up is Lance Armstrong, Mr. Cancer Survivor himself. If you are a disease, and Lance Armstrong is standing up to you, you might as well just fall on your sword. It was a nice ride, but it's over for you now. Better call it a day.

What the hell is all this about? How does standing and posing do anything to help eliminate cancer? Has cancer really been such a brutal killer because we just weren't united in fighting it? So all it ever took was enough people to stand, turn, and stare into a camera with a determined, angry look on their faces to force cancer to back down?

Come on. A cure for cancer takes money. More money is needed for research. We need to contribute more personally, and we need to pressure the government to invest more on treatment and finding a cure. A cure for cancer will be found when enough money is spent, not when enough self-satisfied posers stand and look into a camera. Cancer won't be stared down, and all posing does is allow some people to pretend they are doing something about it. It's about as effective as a bumper sticker.

Stop posing. Stop staring. Please. It's just showy and stupid and pointless. Just tell me what I can do to help that doesn't involve me looking into a camera looking as if I've had a pout surgically attached to my face.

McDonald's Goes Minimilist, Someone Gets Paid Anyway

Two guys are sitting in a booth at McDonald's, eating breakfast. Here's how the "conversation" goes:

Guy #1: "I woke up this morning with real hunger pains."
Guy# 2: "Pangs"
Guy #1: "Pains"
Guy #2: "Hunger Pangs."
Guy #1: "Whatever, they're gone now."

That's it. That's the whole commercial. Except for the obnoxious, grating little "I'm lovin' it" music and logo, that's the entire commercial.

Seriously, someone got paid for this? This is what you come up with if you've been out partying all night, stumble into work, and suddenly remember that your boss asked you for an advertising campaign on his desk first thing in the morning. This is what you jot down on an index card as you are walking down the hall to his office. This is the last "idea" you present before you are asked to clean out your desk.

Darrin Stevens came up with better ideas than "Hunger Pains/Pangs" on his worst day. Why'd you even bother, McDonalds? Next time, just run a Classic Retro commercial showing seniors attempting to leave a tip at their booth. Those were pretty good.