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 …”):
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:
It just occurred to me,all the effort Taco Bell is putting into fiesta bowls, they could be using to give us cool ranch Doritos tacos.
— Colin Wyers (@cwyers) October 15, 2012
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.
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?
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.