Deep Thoughts: Playoff commercials edition

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Because I DVR almost everything I watch on TV and 90% of my regular season baseball watching occurs on MLB.tv, the only time I ever really watch commercials is during the playoffs.  And, as anyone who has watched a lot of playoff commercials this fall knows, a handful of them are on HEAVY rotation.

This is pretty pointless — and yes, I realize that I’m half-talking out of my butt here as I don’t know jack about advertising beyond whatever I picked up while watching “Mad Men” — but here are some random postseason commercial observations:

The DirectTV ads may be the most nihilistic and depressing things ever.  The ones in the “don’t wind up in a roadside ditch” campaign are bad enough: they are basically telling you that any attempt to do anything besides watch TV will lead to bodily injury. But at least they core point of that — become a slave to your TV! — is in keeping with their corporate interests.  They’re a TV company, so of course they want you watching, so I cut that a little slack.

But the new spot is something else. You know which one I’m talking about: the woman who gets out of the shower to see the big DVR message in her bathroom, only to have her tooth-brushing husband offer all kinds of acidic and crappy remarks back at her (“well, at least somebody gets to …”):

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At least the guy who ends up injured in a roadside ditch will find some modicum of safe, depressing contentment if he gets rid of cable. The tooth-brushing guy, however, is gonna be a miserable, passive aggressive sonofabitch even if his family does switch over to DirectTV.  The worst part: the newest ad has him talking to his kid. Great, not only is he in a bitter and loveless marriage, but there are kids involved. Thanks DirectTV! Where can I go kill myself?

In a more subtle form of anti-marketing, the Taco Bell Cantina bowl commercials perplex me a bit.  I get what they’re doing — expanding their menu and going after Chipotle and the like — but it strikes me that there is no brand stronger in fast food than Taco Bell’s “come here and eat cheap tasty stuff that may not be good for you but by god it’s gonna make you happy” brand.  When I see a chef in an impossibly well-appointed kitchen, poring over fresh ingredients and telling me that “you won’t BELIEVE it’s Taco Bell!” I feel like they are abandoning their core stoner/blogger/Taco Bell-loving demographic.  And I’m not alone in this:

Consider it an opportunity lost.

I do like one thing about those Taco Bell ads: the way Lorena Garcia says “avocados” and “guacamole.” Not gonna lie: I look forward to that.  But one effect it does have is to put the actual avocado commercials — “that’s BUSH LEAGUE, BRO!” — into sharp, horrible relief. They’ve been around forever, and they’re beyond tired. The ballplayer in them is probably retired and nearly eligible for the Hall of Fame now. All I can think is that the avocado industry is so hard up right now that they can only film new commercials every five years and that, by rerunning them all the time, they’re banking on us becoming so sick of that ad that we feel compelled to buy more guacamole simply so that they get more money to produce new ones.

Hey handsome:

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I have no idea what to think about these ads. I am not a rum drinker at all and can’t see how I ever will be, but I kinda like them. And that “You Rascal You” song from the one they play most of the time is actually pretty bitchin’.  Easily the best “stumble upon a song you didn’t really know about and then end up liking on its own terms” commercial since that Volkswagon ad that featured Nick Drake’s “Pink Moon” back in 1999.

Still, I feel like the woman who the Captain takes out of that party is a bit fickle.  She is understandably creeped out by the old guy in the powdered wig with whom she’s dancing, but is this guy any less creepy?

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I dunno. I’m more for quiet gatherings in the first place, so maybe I’m taking it too easy on the dude from the dance.

Anyway, that’s all I got for now. Tune in next year when we celebrate the ten year anniversary of “HER HIS FATHER IS THE DISTRICT ATTORNEY!”  Hoping they bring that one back.

UPDATE:  Forgot one!  The Samsung Galaxy III commercial that makes fun of the people on line at the Apple store.  The one I like the most is the “the headphone jack is going to be on the BOTTOM …[speshhhew!!]” guy.  I don’t know why I like him. I like to imagine that he’s going to become like Henry “Are we have fun yet??!!!” Pollard on “Party Down.”

As for the campaign itself: good luck, Samsung. It reminds me — and this will date me a bit — of the IBM OS2 Warp operating system commercials from 1995.  They were kind of funny and clever and took aim at Microsoft and its slightly delayed introduction of Windows 95.  Those commercials will always live in my memory, but if you can find one person who was really using OS2 Warp after Windows 95 came out you were a better man than I.

Andrelton Simmons is absolutely freaking ridiculous

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I’ve been watching Andrelton Simmons play shortstop since he came up with the Braves back in 2012. From the moment he burst onto the scene it was clear that he was an otherworldly defensive talent. His arm was incredible. His range was astonishing. His sense of where he was on the field and his instincts about what to do with the ball were unmatched.

I’ll admit, however, that I’ve seen him less in the past couple of seasons than I used to. It’s understandable: he no longer plays for my favorite team and he now plays most of his games after old men like me go to bed back east. The numbers have shown that he’s still the best defensive shortstop around and the highlights which get circulated are still astounding, but I’ve not appreciated him on a day-to-day level like I once did.

But that just makes me more grateful for the highlights when I miss him in action. Like this one, from last night’s game against the Astros. You can see it in high resolution here, but if you can’t click over there, here’s the play as it was tweeted around:

I didn’t see last night’s game, but my friend Dan Lewis tweeted this out a bit. His observations about it in this thread explain why what Simmons is doing here is so amazing:

The lay-outs, the bobble-saves, the jump-throws and all of that spectacular stuff are understandably appreciated, but the various skills Simmons displayed in just this one play — not to mention the freakin’ hustle he displays backing up third base after it all — is just astounding.

There hasn’t been one like him for a while. We should all appreciate him while he’s still in his prime.

The Braves are leaning toward keeping Brian Snitker as manager

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Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported over the weekend that the Braves are leaning toward keeping Brian Snitker as manager. Part of that comes after team meetings between Snitker and top brass. Some of it, however, is likely attributable to player sentiment, with Bob Nightengale of USA Today reporting this morning that Freddie Freeman and several Braves players have told the Braves front office that they want Snitker back.

Is it a good idea to bring Snitker back? Eh, I’m leaning no, with the caveat that it probably doesn’t make a huge difference in the short term.

The “no” is based mostly on the fact that Snitker has had a disturbing trend of preferring veterans over young players, as Bradley explains in detail here. For a brief moment this summer the Braves seemed surprisingly competitive. Not truly competitive if anyone was being honest, but they were hovering around .500 and were arguably in the wild card race. Around that time he made a number of questionable decisions that favored marginal and/or injured veterans over some young players who will be a part of the next truly competitive Braves team, likely messing with their confidence and possibly messing with their development.

These moves were not damaging, ultimately, to the 2017 Braves on the field — they were going to be under .500 regardless — but it was the sort of short-term thinking that a manager for a rebuilding team should not be employing. Part of the blame for this, by the way, can be put on the front office, who only gave Snitker a one-year contract when they made him the permanent manager last year, creating an incentive for him to win in 2017 rather than manage the club the way a guy who knows when the team will truly be competitive should manage it. Then again, if Snitker was so great a candidate in the front office’s mind, why did they only give him a one-year contract?

I suspect a lot of it has to do with loyalty. Snitker has been an admirable Braves company man for decades, and that was certainly worthy of respect by the club. That he got the gig was likewise due in part to the players liking him — the veteran players — and they now are weighing in with their support once again. At some point, however, loyalty and respect of veterans has to take a back seat to a determination of who is the best person to bring the team from rebuilding to competitiveness, and Snitker has not made the case why he is that man.

Earlier, of course, I said it probably doesn’t matter all that much if they do, in fact, bring Snitker back. I say this because he will, in all likelihood, be given a short leash again, probably in the form of a one-year extension. It would not surprise me at all if, in the extraordinarily likely event the Braves look to be outclassed in the division by the Nationals again in 2018, they made a managerial switch midseason, as they did in 2016. If that is, indeed, the plan, it seems like the front office is almost planning on losing again in 2018 and using the future firing of Snitker as a time-buying exercise. Not that I’m cynical or anything.

Either way, I don’t think Snitker is the right guy for the job. Seems, though, that he’ll get at least an offseason and a couple of months to prove me wrong.