Occasionally, I try to keep up with various aspects of pop culture. Even advertising.
Here’s one way (it’s an Ad Age editor's - Hoag Levins' - collection of eight ads).
Man. Okay, sometimes there are jokes in there that are all right (or “creative” moments), but even when there are, how do they sell a product?
Here’s my descending order of what I find wrong with them, on the superficial single go-around that I had with them (not the incessant TV-saturation they are hoping for):
Gimmick: They’re painting a whole city to look like a blue sky
My issue: In an era when one of the single most memorable moments is having two airplanes crash into tall buildings, should we be camouflaging our buildings to look like the sky? What's next, an ad for motorboats featuring a flooded city?
What I might have done: Honda. Our cars don’t suck. Now we make airplanes. (Maybe have Garrison Keillor sing a song about flying like he does for their diesel motors.)
Product: Independence Blue Cross
Gimmick: A pregnant woman is on a bus and when she starts feeling contractions the whole city is devoid of people
My issue: I don’t get it. Why would you follow a visual image that says “There’s nobody there for you” with the logo for Blue Cross? And I thought the set-up was promising. Too bad.
What I might have done:
Lady gets on a crowded bus. Nobody gives her a seat. Blue Cross guy (bouncer/bodyguard type) comes on and forcibly ejects an inconsiderate rider. Blue Cross. We’re there for you.
Lady is on crowded bus. Labor begins. People are frantic. Bus driver asks about her insurance. She shows her Blue Cross card and the bus driver whips out one of those handy Kojak sirens and whizzes through traffic.
Similar idea: Pregnant woman in cab. Labor begins. Cabby delivers baby. Meter reads $15,277. Blue Cross representative comes and pays fare. Plus tip.
Product: Bud Light
Gimmick: There’s a pole in a guy’s apartment. As he’s getting beers for himself and his date, she gives it a whirl. He says that’s not what it’s for. She opens the proffered beer and gets clocked by the guy’s roommate sliding down the pole like a Pavlovian fireman.
My issue: Okay, it made me laugh. I’m a sucker for slapstick, even though it was expected (what other switcheroo would a pole in an apartment offer?). But don’t expect any women to buy Bud Light after seeing this. And it ought to come with a guide for what to do when watching this ad with a woman.
What I might have done: Jeez. Tossed in the towel. Maybe have the honest tag line: Bud Light. We don’t expect women to get it and we don’t care.
Oh, I’ve got it. Have your funny cake and eat it, too. Have a guy and a girl watch this ad (for an unnamed beer) and then have them “discuss” what happens on-screen over a beer (it can even be Bud Light if they pay enough).
The “discussion” begins when the girl looks around sheepishly and starts twirling on the pole. She: Oh, give me a break. He: Yeah, really. Of all the sexist crap. [tink, bottoms up!]
Later, when the girl gets clocked. She: squeaks. He: laughs. She: That wasn’t funny. He: Well, maybe if the guy gets knocked down, too.
And, when he does. She: laughs. He: Cheers!
Product: Minnesota State Lottery
Gimmick: Skinny guy trying to take down a Sumo wrestler. (I.e., The odds of winning are so good that the wimpy guy in the ad figures he might give Sumo wrestling a whirl.)
My issue: Why include the warning “don’t do anything stupid” when you want people to gamble? And, where is Minnesota in all this?
What I might have done: If you want to highlight the good odds, compare it to daily gambles. Chance that you’ll make this light, 1:7. Chance that your appointment will be on time, 1:12. Chance that your wife will be ready in ten minutes, snowball:hell. Chance to win at MN State Lotto, 1:4.
Product: ESPN Visa
Gimmick: A guy’s at the vet with his dog. And, instead of hearing the prices for the procedures, the guy hears the vet say all the things he can get with his bonus points.
My issue: No real issue. This one actually made sense, but it went by too fast to let me get that what the vet was saying was really what the guy was hearing. Also, we all know that having some fleas removed doesn’t even add up to a hot dog at the ballgame, let alone the tickets they claim (or whatever the case is).
What I might have done: Slow it down. Maybe tone it down, too. And, as a punch to the whole thing, have each procedure be a ticket for a different family member. Then, when an in-law or unpopular member might benefit, have the guy say, “Is that procedure really necessary?”
That really does it for me. The other three, I think, are past saving. But I’ll include them anyway, since I don’t have limericks tonight and I’m still exercising my little brain.
Product: Cellular One
Gimmick: Guy gets elf ears to improve his cell phone reception. Other guy says switching to Cellular One would have been cheaper and easier. First guy says, “But I have Cellular One.” (Just kidding.)
My issue: Whoa, talk about a stretch to get an early Christmas link. The acting is terrible, too.
What I might have done: Really, said no thank you to the account. But, if the elf ears are necessary, maybe have a more gradual buildup as to what crazy things people do to accommodate their carrier’s bad reception. In order to make the elf ears not seem so outrageously stupid, you see? Okay, you’re right. You can’t save the elf ears.
Product: Corelle dishes
Gimmick: Runway models show the stylishness of the plates and, to show the durability, they runway is greased and they fall.
My issue: A) It was bad slapstick. B) If you’re the kind of person who buys dishes for the fun of it or the stylishness, don’t you secretly hope they’ll break soon so you can get new ones again? C) Who enjoys buying dishes?
What I might have done: Maybe, maybe, after a big runway model pile-up have them go to the director backstage and have a little tantrum and show their anger by trying to break the dishes, unsuccessfully, of course.
Product: L.A. Times
Gimmick: The camera is inside the newspaper vending box and shows the reaction of the people looking in.
My issue: It’s as stupid as it sounds.
What I might have done: Told them not to spend any money on an ad campaign and instead pay their reporters more.