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.

Pressure is on Phillies to finally spend “stupid money”

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For the Phillies, the term “stupid money” has defined their offseason. Coined in November when owner John Middleton said, “We’re going into this [offseason] expecting to spend money, and maybe even be a little bit stupid about it.” While Middleton caught himself, adding, “We just prefer not to be completely stupid,” it was a rare promise — especially these days — by a team owner appearing to actually commit to spending money. Austerity measures, it seems, have been implemented by most other front offices across the league.

One of two bombshells finally dropped on Tuesday: infielder Manny Machado reportedly signed a 10-year, $300 million contract with the Padres. The deal also apparently includes an opt-out clause after the fifth year. The other bombshell, of course, is free agent outfielder Bryce Harper.

While the Phillies have been more strongly linked to the superstar Harper, the club’s connection to Machado could not be overlooked. Several prominent members of the front office, including president Andy MacPhail and GM Matt Klentak, worked with Machado during his years in Baltimore. Upon learning today’s news, Klentak said (via Matt Gelb of The Athletic), “If the reports are true, this contract will exceed our valuation. Sometimes you have to walk away.”

The Phillies, mind you, spent the last five years actively and publicly rebuilding, which included a complete overhaul of the front office. All of that losing was designed to have the club be built up just in time for this offseason, featuring two mega-free agents in Machado and Harper. There are free agents every year. Few of them are of Machado and Harper’s caliber and at the age of 26. The free agent market has stagnated in recent years, in part, due to more analytics-focused front offices being hesitant to pay players lots of money beyond their prime years. Machado and Harper still have plenty of prime years left and, arguably, may not have even entered their primes yet. As far as free agency goes, there are no better bets than Machado or Harper.

So, the pressure is now on the Phillies to go get Harper and live up to Middleton’s “stupid money” proclamation. Despite adding J.T. Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson, and Jean Segura this offseason, PECOTA still projects the Phillies to finish tied for third place in the NL East at 85-77, just four games behind the projected first-place Nationals. The whole point of rebuilding is to avoid being an 85-win team, teetering on playoff contention. To these more analytically-oriented front offices, it’s either boom or bust. Failing to get Harper would not only make the spurt of activity over the last four months and the entire rebuilding scheme pointless, it would be a slap in the face to fans who endured the pitiful quality of play the club has shown over the last half-decade. Klentak, hired after the 2015 season, subjected fans to things like Jeanmar Gomez, closer; Rhys Hoskins, left fielder; and whatever the heck you call the last three editions of the starting rotation beyond Aaron Nola.

If the Phillies do fail to sign Harper, Klentak will likely say something similar to what he said today, that Harper’s ask didn’t match up with their internal valuations. There will be claims that the Phillies can still spend “stupid money” elsewhere in free agency, like going on a binge and signing Craig Kimbrel, Marwin González, and Dallas Keuchel. No one player left in free agency is a better bet than Harper and no group of players would impact the Phillies’ strength relative to their competitors more than Harper alone would. For the Phillies, it is now Harper-or-bust, and fans should revolt if the club opens the regular season not having signed a free agent superstar.