Several years ago I read an article that said that my generation would not create a great work of art, or produce a great leading man or lady. It was written that my generation’s lasting contribution to culture is the television commercial. For the life of me I have no idea who wrote it or published it. I wish I did. Considering that the TV commercial has become part of pop culture as evidenced by what goes on in and around the Super Bowl, I have a hard time disputing that claim. The Golden Age of Hollywood is long gone. There may be a few top-notch actors today, and certainly we have our box office draws but the studio stables are nowhere near as full as they used to be.
I know people who record everything on their DVRs just so they can fast forward through the commercials. In many cases the commercials are far more entertaining than the program.
Conversely, I cannot and will not buy a product, I don’t care if it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread, if I find the commercial to be particularly poorly made, insipid or just plain tripe.
Allow me to illustrate.
I think the greatest commercial of all-time is an animated Nissan 300 Z spot featuring, GI Joe, Barbie and Ken. It’s set to David Lee Roth’s version of The Kinks’ You Really Got Me. GI Joe hops in his remote control 300 Z, avoids all kinds of household obstacles, including the cat, to get to the Barbie Dreamhouse. He invites her for a ride and she goes from tennis to do-me outfit in three seconds flat. Barbie hops in the 300 Z with GI Joe and speeds off much to the chagrin of Ken who is left flabbergasted on the balcony.
I don’t know about you but every time I go by the Dreamhouse, GI Joe’s Jeep is parked in the driveway. Just sayin’.
I very much enjoy the Most Interesting Man in the World commercials. I think the writing is superb, they couldn’t have chosen a better actor and the vintage footage is brilliant. I don’t necessarily drink Dos Equis because of them, I was partial to it already.
As beer commercials go, Heinken has really put some good efforts forth lately with the Skyfall themed spot with Daniel Craig, The Entrance and The Date. I am not a Heineken fan but I certainly appreciate the production value and the musical research – especially when you pull the Bollywood track Jaan Pehechaan Ho by Mohammed Rafi out of your ass.
Movie trailers have long been the crème de la crème when it comes to TV spots. However, ever since Don LaFontaine passed away, they haven’t quite been the same.
There are plenty of creative and fun car commercials out there. Restaurants continue to find new ways to get us to drink more and eat more.
For a long time the soft drink peddlers set the bar in the soda wars. Coke and Pepsi went at it for years throwing money, celebrities and a little accidental fire at trying to get people to buy their sugary beverages.
Some ad agencies have had some success recycling music and bands from bye gone eras. Nissan also had a nice little spot featuring virtuoso guitarist Dick Dale. Starbucks had a great little run with Survivor and a man named “Glen.” This can go a little far – I’ll get to that in a minute.
Insurance companies seem to really push the envelope. I like the Farmer’s Insurance spots with J.K. Simmons, Allstate with Mayhem, and of course GEICO with the talking gecko.
As I mentioned I will not buy a product if the commercial is inane. I have GEICO for car insurance. I don’t mind the gecko, I really don’t. I think it’s played out a bit. However, a new GEICO spot chapped my ass tonight. When I was a kid, I worked at McDonald’s. I worked with this heifer who I could’ve sworn keyed my car once. We worked the opening shift and she got there before I did and set the radio station. And for the love of all that is holy, you could set your watch by it, Europe’s The Final Countdown came on the same time every God damned morning. I don’t like hair metal and I honestly grew to hate the group and the song (never mind the bitch who keyed my car).
GEICO has dusted Europe off for a reprise of The Final Countdown for their new commercial and I have to say, I am considering changing insurance companies. I talk a big game and probably won’t do anything but it makes for good blog material. And oh yeah, I still hate that damn song.
There are several products on my list of “nevers.” Sticking with the insurance theme, I will never switch to The General. The creepy little animated military figure just drives me nuts. The snuggie is another product. First of all it’s a glorified effing blanket. Second of all, the “actors” they get to model this thing in real-world environments should never be seen or heard from again.
I can’t tell you how many commercials I’ve seen, mostly of the local variety, that feature some sort of weird animated character and I swear the business owner asked his kid to whip something up on the old Commodore 64.
I accept the infomercial for what it is. It’s a televised version of the state fair huckster. I get it. The next time I’m up at 3 a.m. and feel like I need some steak knives that can saw a car in half I’ll be in luck.
There are tons of commercials out there with production value, a good hook and even some storytelling. And there are just as many made by a 12-year old with an iPad and an app. If you are going to put one on TV, just make sure you make a high definition version because, I am telling you now, your kid’s animated car mechanic just plain looks creepy in standard def. You’re trying to get me to buy something or use your service, not recreate the video for Dire Straits’ Money for Nothing.
I grew up in Rochester, N.Y., the home of the House of Guitars, who just happen to be the 1970s kings of the homegrown commercial. You will never top what they did, don’t even try. I’m the real Easter Bunny, hop hop. Columbus, Ohio car dealer Fred Ricart ripped off every TV show of its time and came off as a cheesy huckster even though he had the biggest dealership in the state capitol.
Bottom line is this – if you put some time, money and effort into your TV spot I may or may not buy. But if you don’t, I sure as hell won’t and I won’t care how good the product is.