Sunday, March 07, 2010

Who's the Mad Man Here?

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I've said it before, and I'll say it again: A lot of modern television commercials leave me me scratching my head and wondering what the heck the people who made this thing were thinking. Maybe it's just me, but it looks like the problem is getting worse.

Take, for instance, an ad for Bridgestone Tires which premiered during the Super Bowl. In the ad, a villainous-looking group stops a car at a roadblock on a darkened, rainy mountain road. The head bad guy calls out to the driver “Your Bridgestone tires...or your life!" There's a brief pause. Then a good-looking woman gets kicked out of the passenger seat onto the road. The exasperated head baddie calls out to the retreating vehicle, "not your WIFE, your LIFE!"

Bridgestone: you'd rather leave your beautiful wife to be raped and murdered than give up these tires. Uhhh...what?

Then there's the Levi's ad where young people, filmed in black and white, cavort in what looks like a destroyed amusement park, while a scratchy, old-man voice recites what sounds like total gibberish. The voice, as it turns out, is that of 19th century poet Walt Whitman, captured in an early wax-cylinder recording, and reading from his poem "America" : "Strong, ample, fair, enduring, capable, rich, perennial with the Earth, with Freedom, Law and Love," etc. Because, as we all know, nothing makes 21st century kids want your blue jeans quite as much as a recitation by one of America's most eccentric and tedious dead poets. I am informed by my consultant on youth culture (my 15 year old daughter) that Levi's are now regarded as dorky, and her opinion of Walt Whitman could best be described as lukewarm. I'm not seeing how this ad is going to help either one.

There have been a number of ads recently in which a company's message seems to be "Okay, we know we've really sucked lately, but we're better now." Considering Toyota's recent spate of product recalls, it's easy to understand their recent mea culpa ads, which tell us that the company "hasn't been living up to the standards that you expect from us, or that we expect from ourselves," but promise that they're "trying to make things right." After all, these are products that can and may have killed people, so some high-profile groveling would seem to be in order when things go wrong.

It's harder, however, to figure out the latest campaign from Domino's Pizza. Domino's, as far as I know, hasn't killed anyone, but their latest ads seem intent on completely demolishing the reputation of every pizza they've ever sold. They quote customers complaining that Domino's pizza was "bland" and the crust was "like cardboard." It's a decidedly odd feeling to look at an ad and respond, "Oh, come on guys, your product's not THAT bad."

The ad did have one desired effect, however. It did motivate us to try the "new and improved" Domino's, just to see. And the verdict? Eh. Not terrible, but not great, either. But then, that was the verdict on their previous recipe, too. I'm thinking Domino's could have saved the millions it spent on a new product roll-out and and just kept selling to its core demographic: drunk college students and harried parents trying to feed packs of rowdy kids rendered nearly feral by hunger. These are people who really only want something cheap, brought to them quickly. Flavor's nice, but edible will do.

Perhaps the most incomprehensible ad to me is the Viagra spot where the gray-haired guy's walking down the street, apparently on the way to his doctor's office. He's passing a set of windows when his reflection begins talking to him: "Are you going to ask the doctor about our erectile dysfunction?"

Yeah, pal. Sure. As soon as I get done asking him why I'm being nagged by a hallucination.

Oh, and will someone please make those talking baby ads go away? They do nothing to make me want to use E-Trade for my investments. Not only is the effect really creepy, but that kid's really turning into kind of a douchebag.

It’s the question that eternally bedevils me: which one is getting crazier, the TV or me? I’m sort of afraid to know the answer.


Celine said...

I would bet my betting nickel that whoever came up with the Bridgestone ad was thinking of it as "an updated, edgy Henny Youngman". But that still doesn't explain why none of the people who had to sign off on it realized how ugly it was.

nathan s said...

I haven't tried the new Dominoes, but my lady claims it is "excessively garlicky," which does not sound appealing to me. I am, apparently, the only person in the world who LOVED their old recipe. Not just tolerated, LOVED it (granted, I am a raging dope-head . . . if such a thing exists). So now I'm bummed that it's gone forever. Life has officially ceased being worth the effort.

JD Rhoades said...

Maybe they should have been bringing a bag of weed with every order.

Mary said...

Ads do seem odder and more annoying, and there are so many more of them. . . and therefore, so much less time for the program. I'm finding it less and less appealing to even turn on the tv. Maybe that's a good thing?

Mark Terry said...

Honestly, my wife just breaks out into semi-hysterical laughter whenever she sees an ad for Cialis. I would have guessed it had to do something with dual bathtubs out in a field, but I think she's more amused by the 36-hour lagtime between trying to get your wife to agree to have sex with you, giving you plenty of time to beg and plead.

David Terrenoire said...

As one who has made his career creating spots like these, believe me, you should see what gets left on the wall.

If you haven't read Pointless Planet, you should enjoy this:

Madam Backslash said...

I just don't get a lot of the "humour" in modern ads -- to me it's just a bunch of annoying people (usually men) being annoying.

Must be getting old.