Mad for Ads

(Originally posted Friday, March 15th, 2013)

Like many people—especially the folks at the Clio Awards, which recognize innovation and excellence in advertising—I am a big fan of television commercials. I am particularly fond of television commercials that make me laugh, include an addictively catchy jingle, or feature Betty White or Aretha Franklin.

On the other hand, there are several commercials I simply cannot stand and that will prompt me to change the channel immediately upon hearing their opening lines or background music. These include—but are not limited to—ads that contain images of third world poverty, abused or neglected animals, or military service personnel who surprise their mothers by turning up unexpectedly for Thanksgiving. It may sound heartless—especially for a cat-fancying military spouse with two beautiful children—but the people who come up with such ads are wasting their time and talent because, in my view, they are far too touching, depressing, or conscious-raising to watch.

Maybe things would be different if we lived in a world with only four channels and no remote control, but why would I sit through a guilt-inducing lecture from Alyssa Milano, or look at pictures of half-starved dogs when I can click over to HGTV and gawk at the Property Brothers or Scott McGillivray? Seriously.

If these people want to keep me tuned in long enough to convince me to do something about third world poverty or animal cruelty, or to buy a certain brand of coffee, they should run an ad that will actually hold my attention. I won’t go so far as to say they should be funny, or use addictively catchy jingles, or feature Betty White or Aretha Franklin. All I’m asking is that they not make me want to cry, gag, or open a vein.

The poverty and animal cruelty folks could start by taking a cue from some of the other advocacy groups like those behind the Above the Influence ads and anti-bullying campaigns. They are thought-provoking and impactful but aren’t likely to drive me into the arms of a bar of dark chocolate or put me in the fetal position for two weeks.

The coffee people, meanwhile—and others who are bent on reaching out and touching someone—could learn something from my current Favorite Commercial of All Time, which has held the title for more than six months. Specifically, I refer to one in a series of recent ads for Florida Orange Juice featuring an individual seated at a table surrounded by the people he or she expects to encounter that day, who then take turns describing the perils that will befall him or her over the course thereof.

All of these ads are clever and amusing, but the one that never fails to make me laugh out loud—no matter how many times I see it—involves a man at a diner whose companions include a woman who says, “At eleven I’ll call crying because you haven’t updated your relationship status.” “After one date?” he wonders aloud. “Yeah,” she replied in a scarily serious manner. Later, when the guy utters the tagline, “At least I have my orange juice,” she adds, “And me. You have me.” Hilarious.

My previous favorite was a commercial for GEICO whose narrator asks, in response to the question of whether switching to GEICO can really save you fifteen percent on car insurance, “Does a former drill sergeant make a terrible therapist?” The spot goes on to show the ALWAYS amazing R. Lee Ermey mocking his patient and calling him a crybaby as he throws a box of tissues at him. Hysterical. (To judge for yourself, click http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=APwfZYO1di4 )

It bears mention here that the GEICO spot would still be my favorite—or at least a co-favorite—if the powers that be would just air it more often. Or every day. Preferably on HGTV. And, if it’s not too much trouble, during episodes of Property Brothers or Income Property—which is when I’m usually having my coffee.

And speaking of coffee…I have a bone to pick with Maxwell House, whose ads declare it “good to the last drop.” While the phrase may be factual, it does lead me to wonder: Does the coffee industry have a problem with certain products losing their flavor as they are consumed? If so, how severe and widespread is this problem? Does it happen at a specific time after you’ve poured it or vary with temperature? And what, if anything, can be done???

Just curious.


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