Saturday, June 27, 2009

More Idiocy from our friends at Smirnoff

Here's another chapter of what I guess is a series of commercials entitled "What Morons Will Do When They Drink Enough of Our Product." In the first installment, we saw a crowd of clueless knotheads fill buckets of ice and bottles of Smirnoff Vodka, carry them up a hill, throw sheets of plastic on the ground and, when the sprinklers come on, hurl their bodies down the wet plastic, risking severe neck and back injuries in the process. "Be There" is the tag line.

In this second installment, the survivors of Commercial # 1 gather at what looks to be an abandoned gas station with about a hundred buckets of purple paint. They proceed to throw the paint everywhere- on the walls, roof, and even windows of the abandoned building.

As the sun goes down on the county's newest toxic waste dump, the crowd gathers inside the building and dons headlamps. A disco ball is suspended from the ceiling. Music blares, and everyone starts jumping around, and it's oh-so-freaking-cool to see the bobbing lights, especially when you are consuming bottles of vodka.

Here's the punchline- you hear a girl's voice exclaim "I can't believe I was there!" Hey, me neither, lady. I can't believe your life is so pathetically empty and shallow that you consider it some kind of SuperAmazing experience to have spent a day dumping paint everywhere in order to create a pitch-black room, and then spent the night jumping around in said room. Yep, that's something you'll want to tell your kids about, I'll bet.

Quite a summer these people are having. First, they get drunk and slide down a hill all night. Then, they get drunk and trash an abandoned gas station. I just can't WAIT to see what this group of go-getters does the NEXT time they get bored. I think, however, we can eliminate a few possibilities right away:

1. Volunteering at a soup kitchen
2. Taking mom and dad out to dinner
3. Going to a museum or library
4. Attending an AA meeting

The good people at Smirnoff are sure providing a public service, aren't they? Please, keep providing us Great Ideas on How to Stave off Boredom While Getting Shitfaced on Smirnoffs this summer. And providing me with great material for my blog. Next to McDonalds, you guys are my greatest assets.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Your One-A-Day Dose of Sexism

The commercial is for yet another "Specialized" One-A-Day Vitamin, (remember when there used to be ONE? Now there's One-A-Day for Men, One-A-Day for Women, One-A-Day for Seniors....) this one for the daily multivitamin needs of teens:

"One-A-Day Teen Formula has specially blended formulas to fit the special needs of both teen girls and teen boys: For girls, there's a formula to support healthy skin. For boys, there's a formula for healthy muscle growth...."

Um, excuse me? Teenaged girls don't care about healthy muscle growth? Teenaged boys don't care about healthy skin (then what's with all the Stridex commercials I've been seeing for years)?
Apparently not- I guess that when boys shop for a multivitamin, they think "which one will help me get stronger muscles to help support my growing body and skeletal structure?" and when girls shop for a multivitamin they think "which one will keep me looking hot, so I can attract boys?"

A few years ago, I saw an ad for the Sunday Washington Post, which included the line "there's something for everyone in the family." The "wife" in the ad said "I love the Style and Shopping sections," and the "husband" in the ad said "and I love the Front Page and Sports!"

Ugh, come on. Sexism in ads was bad then, and it's bad now. Teenagers of both sexes want healthy skin and strong muscles. There's nothing uniquely "male" about wanting healthy muscles, and there's nothing uniquely "female" about wanting clear, vibrant skin. The good people at One-A-Day ought to give this kind of stereotyping a swift kick into the ashbin of history. It won't be missed.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Moronic, Pointless, "We Are Out Of Ideas" Crap from McDonalds

Two people are sitting at a McDonalds, eating "snack wraps." For roughly thirty seconds, we get a series of grunts that I suppose are supposed to be alternating signals of assent ("MM-Hmm") and expressions of satisfaction with Said snack wraps ("Mmmm...") I don't know if this is meant to be informative, or interesting. I'm pretty sure it's supposed to stimulate the viewer to rush out and buy snack wraps, and then, instead of just eating the fricking things, try to carry on some level of conversation with other people shoveling fast-food grease down their cake holes.

Seriously, McDonalds. Thirty seconds of "MMM..." and "MM-hmms?" Thirty seconds of people acting like total choads? Thirty seconds of people grunting and mumbling as they eat a piece of food designed to be consumed in roughly that same thirty seconds? Because you think the general public is populated with idiots who:

1. Must let everyone around them know how much they are enjoying each and every damn bite?

2. Must try to continue to talk to people but must also continue to eat while doing it?

What happened to you guys? Is this the same company that gave us a series of iconic commercials in the sixties and seventies? The same company that invented an entire cast of characters- Mayor McCheese, Grimace, the Hamburglar- that a generation of Americans grew up with ? And now you give us "I've got serious hunger pains," people sticking their fingers into Not-Milkshakes, and grunting morons who nod at eachother for half a minute?

They don't make Ad Agencies like they used to, I guess. Another sad non-effort by McDonalds, which is getting more pathetic in it's sales pitches by the day.

Monday, June 22, 2009

These Guys Need to be taken off the air. And jailed.

"Breaking News on the Economy!" And there's President Obama, declaring that he's going to hit the issue of the deficit "head on" in a press conference. "News" scrolls across the screen- except that the "news" seems to include things like "L.Smith gets reduced payments" and "Linda K. debt cut 80%"- who are these people, and why are their names scrolling across the screen during this Important Breaking News?

Because it's not breaking news on the economy. It's a commercial for Credit Debt Services, and the people who made it are using the President's image and words to pimp their ripoff "service." Which is illegal. But they get away with it because the White House has better things to do than to go after these shysters. Too bad, because no company should be allowed to use a phony "breaking news" motif AND the words and image of a popular President to con desperate people out of their hard-earned money.

A huge fine at least is in order- and would send a strong message that this shit will not be tolerated. I'd endorse jail time too. These bums need to be slapped down hard- there's nothing more revolting than companies that prey on people who find themselves in a hole that they can't find a way to crawl out of. A nice first step would be for networks to stop running these pathetically misleading ads.

Can These People and their Milkshakes just Get A Room Already?

McDonald's "McCafe" (groan) Commercial # 1: Guy puts a huge cup of what looks for all the world like a hot fudge sundae to his lips, takes a sip ( I guess- for all the slow-motion action, he might as well just be pressing his mouth up against the whipped cream and then removing it) and then slowly pulls his head back, with this look of utterly-contented ecstasy on his face. This guy is going nowhere fast, that's clear. It's also clear that at this rate, it's going to take him roughly two hours to consume that milkshake.

(Oh excuse me, it's NOT a milkshake. It's a "Iced Mocha." It's coffee with cream and sugar. Topped with a mountain of whipped cream. Which is topped with chocolate sauce. But it's not a milkshake. Whatever.)

McDonald's "McCafe" Commercial #2: Woman sitting in the drive-thru with her own cup of whipped cream and chocolate sauce Which Is Not a Milkshake delicately and slooooooooowwwly dips her pinkie into the whipped cream and slooooooooowwwly puts it to her lips. Same virtual-orgasm look on her face as the first guy. She slowly leans back- and a long shot of her car reveals that she's in the drive-thru lane. What joy for the next person who wants to just pick up his damned greaseburger and get on with his life, having to wait for the woman in front of him to stop having sex with her damned not-milkshake.

Seriously, unless McDonald's is lacing these "coffees" (please- what are they, 20% coffee?) with something even more addictive than sugar, the reactions of these idiots is just ridiculous. How empty does your life have to be if just the right combination of sugar and caffeine renders you immobile with pleasure like this? Get dates, people.

And get out of the damned drive-in lane.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

This Guy Just Weirds Me Out

Just a brief snark today, because it's been a very, very busy week- but who came up with the idea that a grotesque bald man with freakishly big ears and matching enormous glasses would make a good mascot for an amusement park? Every Six Flags commercial features this totally bizarre, ghoulish, animated zombie who is apparently supposed to make you think of water slides and roller coasters. I just don't get it.

My "favorite" Six Flags commercial shows a couple of preteens sitting in their yard, bored out of their minds. Suddenly the Official Six Flags bus shows up, and this frightening scarecrow man jumps out and starts dancing on the sidewalk, pointing to the open door of the bus. Yay, Six Flags! Goodbye, boredom! Here's the cure for the summertime blues: jump on to a bus driven by a total stranger who looks like he died several years ago! Or not.

When I was a kid, there was a character on tv called "HR Puffinstuff." During the credits of his show, Puffinstuff would successfully encourage two small children to follow him to a tiny boat, get in, and get propelled across the sea to a magical land. Even when I was young, I thought that the creep factor was very heavy in that opening- why would Sid and Mary Kroft encourage little kids to go off with interesting-looking strangers?

I can take the Six Flags guy a little less seriously, but still. If I were a kid under the age of six or so, this guy would totally give me nightmares. I just don't get how he's supposed to encourage me to go to an amusement park. And I hate to think of the mascot ideas REJECTED by Six Flags before they came up with THIS guy.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

How We Know That Men Write All the AT&T Ads

A guy and a woman who is presumably his girlfriend are sitting at a table in an outdoor cafe. Two hot girls come walking by. The guy whips out his LG Shine from AT&T, holds it strategically at knee-height, and catches a photo of the hot girls as they walk smiling by.

Specifically, he takes a shot of their cute butts as they pass the table. Because girls just LOVE being ogled by strange men who are sitting with their girlfriends at outdoor cafes.

This guy's quick foray into public voyeurism is suddenly interrupted by a text message- haha, how hilarious, it says OMIGD U R A PIG and it's from the girl across from him at the same table!! And as if that's not funny enough, he gives her a "who me?" shrug and responds "What?"

And then she gives him the "my boyfriend is a total dickweed who has no respect for me, and my only response is to drop him a text and roll my eyes" bit. End of absolutely Hil-arious commercial. Thanks for the mirth, AT&T.

Ok, here are a few quick points: First, do girls really enjoy having strangers leer and then take quick cell phone pics of them as they pass? Second, did the girlfriend at the table have "OMIGD U R A PIG" saved as a template, to send to her dickweed boyfriend several times a day? And finally, what is WITH that "what are you gonna do?" helpless eyeroll from the girlfriend? Here's what you SHOULD do, you idiot: Grow yourself some pride, toss a glass of something very hot into this prick's face, and walk away. Because you are right, he IS a pig- a disrespectful, sexist pig who cares so little for you that he sees nothing wrong with snapping pictures of other girls in your presence. In fact, it would have been just as appropriate to see one of those passing girls toss the hot liquid into the moron's face.

There are a LOT of these "men are assholes, but that's just the way it is" commercials out there these days. Which suggests to me that the writers are all men-- or perhaps women with zero self-esteem.

...Because Nothing says "Fun" like a Severe Neck Injury!

The narrator intones "it was very, very hot. Something had to be done." We see bucket after bucket of ice and bottles of Smirnoff Vodka. It's a dark, dark night, so the ice and bottles of vodka practically glow on the screen.

One car after another pulls up to a dark hillside which appears to make up part of the back yard of a very wealthy person ( I don't know what gives me this impression- there seems to be an aura of richness and privilege hanging over this entire commercial- maybe it's the glowing bottles of Smirnoffs.)

And what is the "something" that "had to be done" because it was so "very, very, hot?" We see a bunch of half-naked guys spread out yards of plastic sheeting, drench it with lawn sprinklers--- and then we see the presumably inebriated "adults" throwing themselves down the improvised Slip And Slide to the delight of presumably not-quite-as inebriated onlookers.

Sigh. I've got to give credit to the makers of this commercial for finally injecting a little Truth in Advertising: When it's hot, and you're bored, and you're drunk, the likelihood that you will do something really stupid and dangerous increases dramatically. I imagine that after a few glasses of vodka, hurling your body down a sheet of wet plastic is not the limit to what you'll be willing to attempt, especially if you are being egged on by friends. But I'd like to throw a little cold water on this whole situation by posting this line from the Wikipedia entry on Wham-O's Official Slip and Slide Toy:

"Both the manufacturer and the Consumer Product Safety Commission recommend that only children use the toy due to the risk of back and neck injuries when teenagers and adults use it. Injuries occur because people heavier or taller than children might stop suddenly when diving onto the toy. Between 1973 and 1991, seven adults and one teenager reported injuries suffered while using Slip 'N Slides including neck injuries and fractures, quadriplegia, and paraplegia.[1]"

So what the good people at Smirnoff who made this commercial are actually doing is encouraging adults to get drunk and do something that has been shown to cause major injuries to adults. Super. As if judgment isn't impaired enough when one has had a bit too much to drink, the manufacturer is now SUGGESTING dangerous activities to partake in upon consuming his product.

I'm looking forward to future commercials suggesting that the way to liven up that dull backyard barbecue is to dig into your banned toy stash and get everyone involved in a quick game of Jarts. Because really, the only thing more entertaining than watching your drunken friends suffer spinal cord fractures is watching their skulls getting pierced with heavy metal darts, right?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

I suggest the Witness Protection Program- or at least, moving to a new neighborhood

I'm watching ESPN while on the treadmill a few nights ago when I see this scene play out in front of me-- a woman in bed hears a sound downstairs and flips on a light. She throws on a robe and goes into the hall- "honey? Is that you, are you home?" Teenaged daughter, having already come in from her date, pops out of her room- "no, mom, I'm home already...."

Suddenly the front door is smashed in, and a menacing-looking guy wearing a gray sweatsuit and a matching cap rushes in. Alarms blare, however, and he rushes off.

Mom is now on the phone- Security Alert guy says "are you all right?" Mom: "Somebody has tried to break in to our house!" Security Alert guy: "We are sending help right now."

We then get to hear about all the benefits of the Security Alert system being peddled in this ad (for one thing, it will set off loud alarms certain to frighten away gray-clad burgler/rapist/murderers) and how, for only a few dollars a month, you can protect yourself and your family from the marauding bands of thugs out there just waiting for you to close your eyes so they can bust down your door and kill you.

Literally moments later, I see another commercial: Mom and Dad are going out for the evening, leaving teenaged daughter alone. Seconds after they leave, teenaged daughter hears a noise outside. Oh, silly mom and dad forgot something. Teenaged daughter heads for the door, when suddenly she notices, staring at her from a side window-- GRAY-CLAD BAD MAN again!! A broken window, a blaring alarm, and a scream later, we are right back to learning about the Security Alert system.

Here's what really gets me, though: I'm pretty sure that in both instances, the SAME ACTORS ARE USED. Same mom. Same daughter. Same gray-clad maurader. Which means that if have been paying attention, and we accept the premise of the commercial that These Are Real People, this is a Realistic Situation, and This Could Happen to You, we have to buy in to the idea that the same family is constantly being terrorized by the same guy. And he keeps getting scared off by the Security Alert Alarm.

Two things: First, I walk by houses all the time with these "This House is Protected by ---" signs on them, and I assume that the purpose of the signs is to tell the population of gray-preferring maniacs out there to move on to the next house. Does this particular system not include the signs (or window stickers) letting the predators that This House is Protected?

Second, can't the nice people at Security Alert find some new actors? It's kind of depressing seeing the same people narrowly avoid attack again and again. I'd also start to think that the Scary Door-and-Window-breaking man is someone I know, and it's only a matter of time before he gets me while I'm getting out of my car, or walking my dog, or am otherwise outside my Security Alert cocoon of protection.

At the very least, I'd move.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Not Smart- or Funny

Two grown men are hanging out at the zoo together (look, it's a commercial. It's not supposed to make much sense.) One guy holds up a camera and tells the other that he should jump into the bear's den because "I want to get a picture."

The second guy is skeptical- gee, isn't jumping into a fenced area containing an untamed animal with claws and sharp teeth dangerous? "Nah" is "friend" reassures him, "it's winter. Bears hibernate."

Oh ok then, no problem! Moron boy proceeds to jump over the fence. Freeze-frame, and the words "Not Smart" appear on the screen.

Then the scene switches to CarMax, and the guy who was jumping into the bear's den is now jumping into the back of a truck. Ah, get it? This IS smart- buying a truck at CarMax! And the other friend, who apparently has a camera surgically attached to his hand, takes a picture of him jumping in. Brilliant.

So the message is "don't commit suicide by jumping into a bear's den, even if your retarded friend says its ok. DO buy a truck at CarMax, because you'll get a good deal." Seriously. Is this the best you can do, CarMax? I find it hard to believe that a guy dumb enough to jump over a fence at the zoo holds down a job that pays enough money to buy a truck. Or dumb enough to stay friends with a guy who thought it would be fun to get a picture of him being mauled by a non-hibernating bear. But that's just me.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Too Much Time on my Hands

It's occurred to me that at some point, Geico will stop throwing mascots at us and finally settle on just one. I just don't think that the American Attention Span will sustain multiple spokespersons/digital images/etc. and that someone over at Corporate will put his career on the line and give the axe to one of the Geico mouthpieces. But which will survive?

Let's take a look at the contenders and handicap their chances:

1) The Geico Gecko. This one first appeared in 2000 asking people to please, PLEASE stop calling and asking him about how to get a great deal on auto insurance, because he's a GECKO, and the insurance company we are apparently trying to reach is called GEICO. Later, the digital lizard "interviewed" for the job of Geico spokesman, and the rest is history (well, not really. You know what I mean.) Over the last several years, the Gecko-as-Spokesperson has been carried....well, not very far, actually. Today's Gecko Commercials look a LOT like the ones that were being made eight years ago. We haven't been introduced to other digital animals that are acquainted with the Gecko, we haven't met the Gecko's family....for which we should be eternally grateful.

2) The Geico Cavemen. Grooooaaaan. Look, the first commercial, with a caveman coming out of nowhere to protest the "Even a Caveman can do it" line, was cute. The follow-up with the Geico spokesman taking two angry cavemen out to dinner as an apology was good, too. The Caveman discussing his issues with a Therepist was just plain funny. But Geico, having hit on a decent gag, decided to do what companies generally do to decent ideas- beat it to death, ressurect it, and then beat it to death again. Cavemen arguing over the propriety of working for Geico. Caveman attending dinner parties. Cavemen bowling, walking through airports, getting caught by the Fan of the Game camera at NBA games. Christ, ABC even had the brilliant idea of trying to create a sitcom based on these fricking commercials in the fall of 2007. It lasted about ten minutes. (When you try to make a tv show based on a commercial, you've run out of ideas. Especially when it's based on a commercial puttering along on a joke that's as stale as last year's donuts.)

In short, look for the Geico Cavemen in the dictionary under the word Played. As in, enough already. As in, let it go.

3) The stack of money with googly eyes. This is a triumph of minimalism which puts "Five Dollar Foot-Longs" to shame. People oddly startled by the sight of a stack of bills wrapped in rubber bands and decorated with googly eyes. Except for the fact that the meaning has to be explained in each commercial, and that we have to endure a remix of bland 80s hit Somebody's Watching Me, there's not much to complain about with this one. Simple, and to the point. No "adorable" lizard with Australian accent, no need to come up with story lines involving sensitive cavemen.

My guess is that when it comes time to cut overhead, the Googly-eyed stack of bills survives. After all, the production costs must be close to zero- no actors to demand more money if and when the commercials become more popular, and I doubt that Rockwell is gouging the company for the use of it's 1984 hit. No need for Kelsey Grammer or anyone else to provide voice work. And best of all, it's hard to see a tv network trying to build a sitcom around the adventures of a bundle of cash with eyes.

Memo to networks: that is NOT a dare.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Thom Hartmann is Shameless

First, let me make very clear that I like Thom Hartmann's radio show on Air America. Hartmann is an intelligent, thoughtful liberal with a lot to say about the state of our political system, foreign policy, and economy. Generally, I find him to be a very honest, sincere spokesperson for progressive causes.

Here's my problem with Hartmann: Like so many other radio hosts across the political spectrum, he's decided to use his good name to sell a service called "Goldline International." Goldline International is a network of gold brokers who are in the business of convincing people that the American dollar is on it's way out and the only way to protect personal wealth is through the purchase of "rare" gold coins.

And that, by itself, is fine. Radio shows cost money, which means they need advertisement revenue. Hartmann's not the only host to peddle Goldline- Randi Rhodes, Bill Press, and Ed Schultz do it too. And it's not just liberal hosts- I've heard Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham warn their listeners that if they are relying on paper wealth to provide for a stable financial future, they are setting themselves up for disaster when the economy inevitably tanks.

But here's where Hartmann crosses the line-- I'm listening to a rebroadcast of his show on Sunday afternoon. Hartmann is discussing the economy in very general terms, when he "just happens" to mention that economic indicators point to a rise in inflation coming, possibly by the end of the year. "We can see prices already starting to rise, and that explains the spikes in gold prices over the last year." After making a few more points, Hartmann goes to commercial---- and the VERY FIRST COMMERCIAL that comes on is- you guessed it- Tom Hartmann pitching "rare gold coins" from Goldline International "as a hedge against Inflation."

Come on, there's got to be a line here that's been crossed. Hartmann educates his listeners on the issues of Global Warming, the Health Care crisis, etc. His weekly interviews with Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont ("Brunch with Bernie") are not to be missed. But Hartmann cheapens his profession and brings everything he says into question when he uses a general discussion of the economy to provide a subliminal plug for one of his advertisers. Makes me wonder if Goldline is paying extra for this kind of advertising- or Hartmann has a financial stake in the company. Either way, it's dishonest and dirty.

We expect more of you, Mr. Hartmann. A lot more.