The Ad Fool
I was going to write about the new Richard Simmons Telus spot. You must have seen it - it’s hilarious - , guy complains about annoying activation fees, and suggests they’re even worse than his new roommate. He then opens his apartment door only to see Richard Simmons in full dance party mode, ironing a pair of his famously indecent short-shorts amidst criss-crossing clotheslines swamping the shared unit. Richard loudly exclaims diva-style “Hello Roomy! You’re out of detergent!!!! Perfect.
Or maybe I could have touched on the fairly recent storefront marriage of Orange Julius and Dairy Queen. Apparently Warren Buffet and Co. concluded that the smoothie crowd needs to sit down with the burger/ice cream gang and really get to know each other. Personally, I’m all in favor of seeing Orange Julius show up somewhere with a drive-thru ‘cause I was never able to convince my mom to spring for one back when I was being dragged around the mall. I’m betting I can snow the wife into thinking they’re actually “good” for me, alongside a giant heat-rolled, foot-long, hot dog to boot.
Lastly, I was really tempted to go off on a couple of American political ads that hit my radar. One featured a dangerously young looking gal explaining how voting for Obama was like having sex for the first time while the other was a typically crude Michael Moore and Moveon.org ad showcasing a group of rowdy seniors waxing profane about all-things Romney and then threatening to c#@k punch him (very NSFW, btw). For the record, it seems c#@k-punching is now “a thing.” Now I didn’t realize c#@k punching was a thing, but thanks to Moore et al I have now exponentially expanded my knowledge. Thank you cool kids! But in the end I didn’t choose either of those ones either.
Back in 2004, when AdFool first started up I never actually thought I’d make it last eight years and 400 plus columns. That seems (and, well, kinda is…) crazy. So with more than 350,000 or so words spent thus far I think it’s high time to call it. But before I do, I did want to quickly revisit why I even started this in the first place.
I never got a degree in marketing and I certainly didn’t work for any ad agency. I was never an ad professional of any kind. Then, just as now, my only claim to this mantle of AdFool was my own personal acceptance of an earthly station in life that tagged me a life-long target for all things commercial. Basically, I’m a person who buys stuff, just like you.
I have always been that target (and always will be) but I’ve never been pissed off about it like some folks are. I think that’s because in my heart of hearts I sincerely appreciate all the good things commerce and capitalism has sent my way. Consider. There is no logical reason for Batman, ketchup chips, consumer-grade pressure washers or even the Star Wars movies to exist, but they do. They exist because someone wanted to sell something – nay, HAD to sell something to feed his kids, or heat his pool, or buy a car or feed a drug habit or whatever. And thanks to that, these insane little bits of manna fluttered down onto everyone’s larger world. Some of them suck, and lots may be a waste of time but TADAHHHH, they keep coming up with all new stuff just in case. No centralized, nanny-stated, government-directed economy is ever going to do that for you. It’s like having the best girlfriend ever! She just keeps trying to please you anyway she possibly can.
Now, let’s be clear. I like businesses and the entrepreneurs that build them. I won’t carry a cup of water for any slick CEO that views his or her business as little more than a series of statements and balance sheets. Those neck-tied, seat fillers spend far too little time actually running their businesses and way too much effort negotiating no-lose stock options, swish exit packages (for when they’ve plundered the place) and messing around with whatever trendy method of social engineering is currently hot at the country club. These mooks are basically bureaucrats masquerading as entrepreneurs, and they can kiss it, in my not so humble opinion.
Advertising itself though has always been communication, and communication is a good thing. People communicate, that’s how we interact. Is all communication good, or well-rendered, or even always that well-intentioned? Obviously not, but should we crimp, stifle or ever seek to make such things harder or more difficult to do? Never.
I simply could not live in a world of one, overriding monolithic message declaring what I needed to think, eat, say and do. That’s a government that has leapt the rails of its mandate and headed off into quasi-dictator-land, usually at its peoples own sad and lazy-ass request. I want capitalism (which I will admit is still messy as hell) but even at its worst still offers the sort of freedom in which I prefer to live. And I think you do too.
Anyway, I’m done with AdFool for now but I will still be writing. More pieces, more subjects, more fun stuff. I just don’t know what or where exactly yet. If you care to, drop me an email or visit www.littlebluetruck.com from time to time and I’ll try to keep you in the loop. Buy a book and I’ll even feel obligated far beyond what I probably should. If not, then rejoice. Your internet page just became a whole lot less cluttered. So, thanks to one and all for the attention and whatnot thus far but as things currently stand I’ve gotta be moving on.
Editor's Note: All of us here at Castanet are sad to see our AdFool moving on. We are grateful for the many funny, enlightening articles submitted over the years. We sincerely wish Jarrod the very best in his future endeavours!
The new James Bond movie is quickly coming up on us (at least here in North America) and I have to say, I’m pretty excited. The last few Bonds have, to me, been a lot more fun and true to-life-seeming (at least as true-to-life as any dashing secret agent with an actual license to kill can be). Sure, Pierce Brosnan was okay, but he was a little polished for me, which is saying something when you figure I was first introduced to the world of 007 by that master of the semi-sexualized eyebrow lift, Roger Moore. Yes, Connery is the still the greatest – time and history have a way of freezing crowns in place – but I would submit that Mr. Daniel Craig is right up there, and will eventually surpass even the gruffly good Scotsman.
But what is it about Bond that keeps him so relevant? Why is this still such a fun series to enjoy even fifty years on? I can only think it’s because the films present a world in which most men (and more than a few women) wish they could inhabit at least temporarily. Tough, hard and strong – intelligent and desired. What guy doesn’t want this? And missions that keep you moving and doing constantly? That’s the whole handbook for being a guy right there. Darn right I’ll be in the theatre stretching my waistline with popcorn and soda, even as I dream that Bond’s pectorals are actually my own.
The Bond films are legendary in their scale. And they only seem to grow with each successive event. Skyfall alone was pegged well north of $100 million dollars to make PLUS an additional $200 million spent to market it. And before starting in on the whole “do you know how many poor children you could feed with all that money?” kind of whinging that traditionally accompanies this sort of revelation, you must realize that the money spent was paid to actual people that do jobs, earn money and then proceed to feed and clothe their children and families. Not all good works are of the obvious kind. Still, with budgets this big, producers have little choice but to look into other sources of revenue. Hello advertising.
Skyfall has a ton of big-deal sponsors, together contributing upwards of $45 million (a record) to attach their respective brand to this latest adventure. Aston Martin, Heineken, Jaguar, Land Rover, Omega, Sony, Swarovski, Tom Ford, Virgin Atlantic and more are all big deal, luxury-type names that seem quite at home in James’ rather outsized hero existence. Except for one sponsor that is – Coke Zero. Now I don’t know how the heck they’re going to work Coke Zero into the plot smoothly “No, Moneypenny not that diet chum you drink. I’ll take a Coke Zero instead. Now, where exactly did you put my pants?” But so what? If Coke is willing to pony up the dough to make the movie that much more awesome for me to watch and enjoy then I say “thanks.” But they went and did even more than that. And I think I love Coke Zero for it.
Coke Zero set up a promotion in a London train station that was nothing short of brilliant. There is video (thank you internet) and so we get to see what happened ourselves. In the station, the Coke folks set up a soda vending machine for riders to purchase a Coke Zero. At first glance, nothing special nor all that exciting seems to be at stake. It’s just a pop machine with a young violin-playing busker located next to it. But when you go to buy a drink, the magic starts. As the consumer attempts a purchase the machine asks if they want to win tickets to the Skyfall premier. Those saying “yes” are then asked to enter their name into the machine via a giant touchscreen keypad. When they do, the machine immediately announces that they now have 90 seconds to collect their tickets from another machine on platform 7, which is a fair distance away. To add to it, the clock then starts ticking down. And just to drive home the point even further the busker next to the machine has already started sawing away on her instrument playing the famous Bond theme music.
The now instantly engaged consumer realizes free stuff is at stake and takes off as fast as they can to collect their winnings. What they don’t know is that Coke Zero has absolutely littered the station with “agents” of their own, all charged with making the consumer’s accepted mission to platform 7 a real Bond-type challenge. There are crowds that won’t move, runners going the wrong way on escalators, big panes of glass crossing in front at the wrong time, boxes of oranges tossed in the way, falling luggage, strangers calling out to you and all the while – wherever the person goes - Bond music is being played live by various buskers, performers and street musicians. To keep context (as the player runs) they even see various lovely women holding iPads showing the seconds counting down in real time. It’s a full-on mini-Bond adventure being lived by average consumers for 90-seconds at a time.
Finally, when the poor sod makes it to the machine in question and officially “tags up” a request comes up on screen that they must now sing the theme to Bond if they want to get their tickets. Voices warble and voices crack but come out they do, as the surrounding crowd of extras quickly join in – making this a promo stunt that would have to have been as much fun to pull off as it was to participate in. What a rush.
So, while you may decry the commercialization of all that is sacred and good, deny to me that this little endeavour is not a whimsically fun and truly inspired bit of consumer outreach that brings the joy and escapism of a fictional superhero to everyday souls. Coke Zero actually lets you be James Bond. The only thing that could make it better is if actually drinking the stuff led to the kind of body Craig has. I’m betting no, but what’s movie popcorn without something to wash it down? It’s only one calorie, right?
Most folks assume they’ll know evil when they see it. I mean, who could think, for even a second, that Hitler was not pure, out-of-the-bottle, undiluted evil? Or how about a serial killer? Or some soulless bastard that kicks puppies? That’s not so hard, is it? Seeing that kind of evil should be pretty easy, right? Well, maybe not. Take Mr. Hitler for instance. It’s pretty interesting when you realize just how many “smart” people originally thought quite highly of Der Fuehrer and his theories on, shall we say, “race purification.” Bright, well-known intellectual lights like politician Winston Churchill, birth control activist Margaret Sanger, author H.G. Wells, former president Theodore Roosevelt, playwright and co-founder of the London School of Economics George Bernard Shaw and even famous British economist John Maynard Keynes. How could personages of such august reputation and stature not realize whom they were backing? Were they evil too? Maybe just a little, but not like Hitler, right? Could it be that recognizing evil is not quite as easy as we might think it is?
Kraft would certainly appear to agree. Out with an absurdly hilarious ad starring (if you can believe it) the Prince of Darkness himself Kraft is making comedy out of our inability to recognize evil when we see it. Now this has gotta be a first, because you don’t often see family-friendly consumer product companies dancing with the devil all that much. But I guess when you’ve got a whole mess of spicy shredded cheese to move any port in a storm can start to look pretty good.
The ad takes place in a supermarket where right off the bat we see Satan – red as a pepper, sporting some serious horns and dressed like a dork in a blue apron as he mans a free-sample station featuring cheese nachos. Now before I go any further I have to say that I simply cannot imagine a better individual to handle the free sample area than Beelzebub himself. When you consider how surprisingly mean and petty some of those free-sample people actually are having the devil as their mascot only makes sense. What is it with them and guarding the samples like it’s the last bit of food on earth? Are they buying the food themselves? Do they get to take home whatever’s left over at the end of their shift? You’d sure as heck think so. Just try to grab a second taste of something interesting and see what happens. I’ve seen some pretty squishy smiles become pretty menacing sneers in nothing flat. Shouldn’t it be more fun to give things away? You’d sure think so…….
Anyway, so here’s the devil running the free sample station at the grocery store and he greets what have to be the two most clueless people in the world.
“Nacho? They’re made with new Kraft Habanero Heat Shredded Cheese.”
Clueless Gal takes one. “Mmmm, they’re hot.”
Devil answers, “Hot as you know what,” as he smirks a little grin, nodding his head knowingly.
Clueless Guy (also eating) looks confused and offers. “You mean like Mexico?”
The devil laughs, ‘cause they must be joking…..until he realizes they aren’t. “Beg your pardon?”
Clueless Gal jumps in. “Or New Mexico.”
Clueless Guy: “Ohhh, like sunburn hot?”
The devil can’t take this. He’s frustrated. “How are you not getting this?” And out of anger he stamps one of his cloven hooves, hard.
Clueless Gal, taking a cue: “Uh, hot to trot?”
Devil, now thoroughly demoralized: “No, not like hot to trot.” At which time he turns to look around, almost pleading. “Is there something going on?”
This spot killed me. I could not quit laughing. I mean the guy playing the devil is so sure of himself and his schtick, so confident that it’s gonna work only to have his hopes get dashed so completely by the sheer, unbelievably dense stupidity of the average person haunting a free sample table. Here he is – Dark Lord of the Underworld - front and center in a supermarket and not only is he not recognized but he can’t even use his obvious demonic appearance to make a single point about spicy cheese. It’s funny as (sorry, I have to say it) hell for an ad, but just so painfully true in reality.
Unfortunately, I am fairly certain most of us will fail to recognize true evil when we are first confronted by it. More often than not, evil seems silly, or maybe even inconsequential. Rarely is it as well advertised as some giant red dude with horns and horse feet. But I guess that’s the challenge isn’t it? To actually determine where evil exists. I think the trick is that it’s rarely where you think it is, and way easier to fall for than you might ever believe. No, when it comes to finding evil you really have to work at it, and get as much outside help as you can. Kind of like scoring free samples. I have way more luck when I get a few friends and we work as a team.
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A buddy of mine (and his wife, natch) just had a baby the other day. And amid all the ooooing and ahhing that invariably accompanies such a joyous event I tried to warn him about one of the greatest purchasing mistakes that any first-time dad risks: getting a lame-ass stroller.
Now I know this sort of thing may sound silly to any non-marrieds out there, or perhaps those without any kids, or women, or any people with actual lives and real things to worry about but bear with me. You see a new dad is a funny creature. He’s walked around up to this point in time thinking the world hinged on pretty much everything he ever did. He ate when and what he wanted, slept as long (or wherever) he felt like and pretty much lived his life as his own “billboard of cool.” The image he presented stemmed from his look, his haircut, his wardrobe – him. Then he got married – and truthfully, things still kind of went along the same. Oh sure he might have shared the remote control from time to time, maybe even agreed to host dinner parties for their (her) friends but through it all he remained his own best advertisement. His image was defined by him. At least it was……until little junior poopy-pants arrived.
Now this is the turn. This is where the party…shifts. And remember, the poor guy is shell-shocked. He went from a world he understood to one in which he alternates between feeling sorry for himself (due to the lack of attention being paid to him) or feeling guilty for all the extra burdens that have clearly been dropped on poor wifey. Sure, he can offer to feed the baby – or change him - but everyone knows the kid really doesn’t want him. They want mom. They always want mom. And mom’s the one whose body has done doughnuts just in delivering the little interloper. So, dad is understandably flustered and confused and trying to find his way in this new reality. Of course he’s gonna miss out on the importance of a stupid stroller.
At first, whatever stroller or buggy you buy doesn’t seem like a big deal. Move kid from A to B without carrying them – simple. But as a guy your image (at least as you knew it) is gone. That first time you step out with little sweetie no one – and I mean no one - is noticing your flash shoes, or your wicked leather jacket or even those rocking shades you bought in New York City. They see the baby. And when that realization finally comes home you glance around from left to right, trying to assess just who’ve you actually become. And invariably who you’ve become is the fleshy, hair-losing knob that’s charged with pushing the doofus-wheeled, plaid or floral printed abomination of a carriage you agreed to buy. Not only are you officially “the help” but you don’t even get to look cool doing it. And now it’s too late. You already let your wife buy the sensible stroller no man should ever be caught dead pushing.
Oddly, Kumho Tires gets this. The South Korean tire manufacturer has been making some TV spots focusing on guys using massive tires to “improve” the cool of their children’s strollers. If you watch the spots they are obviously trying to use humor to sell their tires but I wouldn’t be much of a commentator if I didn’t acknowledge just how horrible they actually are at it. Without exception their ads have been quite hopeless. They’re not that interesting, or particularly funny, and they’re not even acted all that well either. In truth they look a lot like someone shot them using a broken handicam only to edit the whole mess together on an out-of-date iPhone while doing a crossword puzzle with the other hand. But they did get one thing right: a guy needs to obsess about his – and his kid’s – first ride.
I know what you’re thinking. What kind of a shallow dipchuck do you have to be to worry about this kind of trivial thing? The answer? A dad that suddenly realized zip-quick how much more fun it is to push your kid around in something tough and cool and awesome versus the carriage equivalent of some ridiculous Smart car or a friggen Prius. If the stroller you’re pushing doesn’t make you feel the same way you did when you bought your first sports car you need to trade it in – stat! And when you do, you’re gonna thank me ‘cause nothing beats taking your offspring for a stroll in a set of wheels you’d be proud to ride in yourself.