The political ads are gone now, and we’re all sad to see them go. NOT. As someone who logs a lot of hours in front of the tube so that you don’t have to, The Idler is something of a connoisseur of advertising. After all, it’s the advertisers who pay for the shows you watch. From their point of view, the programming, whether sports contests, sitcoms, movies or reality extravaganzas are a means to an end. They’re the bait in the marketing trap, the opportunity to direct your attention to their product. That’s why TV commercials often have much higher production values than the shows they sponsor. Caveat: what follows are summaries of ads the Idler has seen. With today’s multiplicity of channels and resultant narrowcasting, ads for hosiery, cookbooks or feminine hygiene products are unlikely to have appeared on broadcasts frequented by the Idler.
Take the auto insurance ads. Liberty Mutual has the series where the guy loses his bicycles by scraping them off his car against the roof of his garage. Another guy saws a big limb off a tree which proceeds to crush his neighbor’s car. Not bad, but a little cringe inducing and not exactly “Star Wars” in the FX department. The Geico pig/gecko and the AFLAC duck can be amusing, but where’s the substance, you know? State Farm’s commercials are too much like negative political ads in which they’re telling you that if you get that cheap insurance, nobody will answer your calls when you have an accident. You have to give the University of Farmers professor credit for a puckish sense of humor and some stimulating crash scenes. First prize, however goes to Allstate, not for the basso voiced guy but the Mayhem series. Imagine the technical expertise it took to not only blow up the SUV in the stadium lot, but have the “Mayhem” character, in flames, fly out of it and land on a Buick across the aisle. This is the type of action-packed ad the Idler actually looks forward to, especially when the Steelers are making you wish you could go out to the parking lot and blow yourself up in your car.
You’d think beer commercials would be an Idler fave, but recent entries leave us flat. The Most Interesting Man In The World seems to think that telling us not to be ourselves at a masquerade party is some sort of boffo laugh riot. We like him better when he’s pearl diving in the Arctic ocean with a bayonet in his teeth. Coors has that series where guys are chopping beers out of mountain ice caps and magically delivering them to the cooler at the Hays Moose. It’s a nice effort, but what’s the message here? Our beer is colder than the other guy’s beer? Some whacko climbed a mountain to get you this brewski so show a little respect? The dumbest are the ones for Michelob Ultra, the 96 calorie beer. They show a bunch of insufferable narcissists yapping about carbs and fitness and stuff. Sit down. Shut up. Have a beer.
There are two series of AT&T cell service ads. The ones with Lily the cell phone clerk were sort of cute at first, but the nerdy tech guys are more compelling, especially of you’ve ever encountered actual engineering/IT/computer-geek types in real life. Verizon wireless missed a golden opportunity by featuring Houston Texans’ Defensive End J. J. Watt in full uniform, in one of their commercials, but not letting him sack anybody. They could’ve had him at least stiff-arm that one obnoxious teacher.
The most riveting ad to appear lately is the one for Febreze where they spray a roomful of garbage with it, then blindfold people, bring them in and ask them where they think they are. The Idler had a roommate in college who could have really used that stuff. The blindfold would have come in handy too.