Steaming Pile of Ads that drive me Nuts

24 Feb

I won’t lie, most ads on TV push up my urge-to-kill-o-meter, so much so that my wife makes us enter the cinema at the last possible moment because I can’t suppress embarrassing outbursts of contempt at the screen when the ads come on. I think I was emotionally damaged like this before I began working in the ad industry, but it didn’t help to see it up close.

There are a whole raft of ads or types-of-ads that get up my nose at the moment, and they’re probably all a bit old because  of how little I can stand to watch TV (we pay our TV licence and yet still rent almost all of the series’ that we watch). Once the newer ones have had a chance to steal a piece of my soul, I might make a new list.

#5 – Unscripted ‘Consumer Advice’ Ads

brandpower_zootSome unholy organisation called the Buchanan Group is responsible for bringing advertorials to our TVs. Companies that can’t afford to pay for real ads that employ actual creativity (such as it is), have some pseudo-celebrity interview an ‘actual’ consumer who provides ‘unscripted’ consumer ‘advice’. We are supposed to believe that someone has been so moved by their recent purchase of coffee creamer that they need to appear before the press to help us experience the overwhelming joy that they experienced.

I have no trouble believing that the ad is unscripted, because that just means that they didn’t bother to pay an expert to write it. Of course the ad is undoubtedly prompted. Behind the scenes, someone says, ‘You have a certificate of completion from VD Drama School; I want you to pretend that you liked this product more than your many illegitimate children. I will give you money if the camera doesn’t detect the shame you feel right now.’

As for ‘facts and value’, you can bet that the only facts expressed are carefully controlled by the people paying for the ad, which makes it different from regular ads only in that it contains less entertainment value.

For once I want to see consumer advice ads where someone says, ‘This product is total garbage. You should rather buy some other thing.’

Look into my eyes. You can trust me... Trussssst.... meeee.....

#4 – Nescafe Find your Inspiration

Be possessed by the lamest poltergeist in the universe

Nestle wisely has neglected to leave any trace on the internet of its ‘Find your Inspiration’ ads, because they truly are horrible. The one that comes to mind involves a jazz pianist who has composed a love song for his coffee. He effectively sits there pianoing and whispering sweet nothings into the non-ear of a glass jar of instant.

I can’t quite tell if the actor is supposed to be acknowledging the stupidity of it all — because it certainly is hard to believe that this concept was approached as unironically as it comes across — but he seems to be suppressing a 25-second cringe beneath his cool jazz exterior. It is certainly as hard to watch as it is to believe.

I don't care how tired you are, singing to your coffee does not count as inspiration

#3 – Solving Non-existent Problems (Standard Bank)

Ever since they promised that they couldn’t speak to me due to ‘high call volumes’ (is that too many customers, or customers complaining too loudly?), and then didn’t call me back, I’ve kind of had it in for Standard Bank. I closed my account with them in protest (I think they got the message).

But now there’s this. It’s one of those ads in which there’s a problem, someone solves that problem in a cute and creative way, and then because of their association with Company X, somehow it’s supposed to reflect well upon the organisation as a whole.

In this version, we see a businessy type getting ready for work. Nothing strange going on here, but… no wait! What’s she doing??!! Instead of businessy type shoes, she’s putting on trainers!! Aah! She’s breaking the mould so hard, I might have to experiment with drugs before the ad ends, just to keep up!

Why would kids think it's crazy? Have you seen how kids dress?

Why is she doing something so daring (and, if you’ll forgive the rhyme, why are all people everywhere staring)? Well, the ad would have us believe that the reason for slow service is impractical footwear. It’s not the queues, lack of staff, or ENIAC computers that they use. It’s the time it takes them to cross the floor to the printer. Yeeeaas…. riiight.

Please bear in mind that this genre of ad trades on the viewer being impressed with the people in the ad, and by association their company. And that is their analysis of the problem. I’d encourage you to let that sink in for a while.

This is why I wish I could do internet transfers to under my mattress.

#2 – Male Entitlement Ads

Advertisers have been doing serious research (i.e. watching sitcoms) and they’ve noticed that the evils of feminism have made men feel stupid and useless. What better way to confirm that fact than to imagine an ‘attaboy chaps!’ ad will successfully salve the male soul enough to sell chicken and beer?

KFC, consistently with one of the worst advertising portfolios on SA TV, has done just that. With men feeling so marginalised lately, what would make them feel better than the idea we can get by just as well with our feet, because our hands and faces ought to be occupied with deep-fried poultry?

You're up against it, Man! Show em who's boss by eating yourself into a grease coma and succumbing to heart disease in your mid-thirties!

KFC at least score a consolation goal by aiming at humour. Carling Black Label gets serious, paying Ruud Gullit for his dignity, and getting him to read a script about champions. To reassert male entitlement and massage the shrivelled male ego, they lay it on in thick about how ‘champion men deserve champion beer’. Realising perhaps that most men don’t feel much like champions because they really aren’t, they set the bar pretty low. Tiny trophies for inner-office ping-pong games is champion enough for this beer. Although even the loser can have one, I’m sure.

You're a champion. Even if you haven't done anything that matters at all. Even if you lost at that meaningless thing. You still deserve our beer. It's that good.

Wait, am I supposed to feel better about being a man or worse?

#1 – Celebrity Endorsement Ads (Mostly Just Radox)

It's tough because of the X.

I never liked Bobby Skinstad. They put him in the rugby team instead of someone humble and far more able, and he played glory boy for 15 minutes before excusing himself to go to modelling shoots. He helped ruin rugby for me.

How pleased I am that he appears in one of the most humiliating ads I have ever seen.

Firstly, it’s a man-affirming product (see above).

Secondly, it’s a product made for women that they’re seeing if they can convince men to buy. To this end, instead of calling it ‘Very expensive soap that does nothing other than the soap you now use except cost more and run out incredibly quickly’, they’ve gone for the very masculine, ‘Radox Man X’. (Why is the letter X so manly exactly?). Rule of thumb: if a product has to tell you on the label, ‘No seriously, you’ll still totally be tough if you buy this’, the opposite is true.

'Experience extreme exhilaration' in the shower? Does it contain rhino horn or something?

Thirdly, according to the ad storyline, after ‘working out with his bros’ he takes an impassioned sniff of the stuff in the store, imagines himself rock-climbing with his muscles, and then after waking up from his hallucination, has some sort of incontinence accident that makes him all wet in the store (did I mention that?).

Then, still dripping from whatever excretions it provoked, he tells his friend, ‘Rob, you’ve got to try this!’

You really shouldn’t be getting a bigger reaction from sniffing your soap than your prescription nasal spray.

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