Slow, Stupid, Dirty Commercials!

With the Super Bowl approaching, and its compendium of almost tolerable commercials, I thought I’d do a list of the five worst current ads on the air today. Not just the bad ones—let’s face it, even the good ones are kinda bad—but the nauseating, irritating, “how could someone possibly have gotten money to make that” ones.

In no particular order, and without using brand names if possible, here we go:

1. “Slow, stupid, dirty PC!” This one is almost the bad commercial perfect storm. To have all the precise ingredients for utter badness, you have to sprinkle in awful writing, add a dash of horrible acting, serve a heaping helping of cheap sets, and salt it all with one boring, stationary camera angle that has been the commercial standard since Ug tried to sell Oog a really cool rock back in caveman times. Four for four! I want to give the actress a break because there are few ways to say a line like “Slow, stupid, dirty PC!” even remotely “correctly”, unless you are doing high-tech dominatrix porn. But alas, I think a porn star would have done a better job.

2. “I am o…ver…whelmed by you.” First of all, this is a love song to beer. Right there you lost me. Not because people don’t have unhealthy relationships with beer that border on fanatical obsession. There are people out there who want nothing more than to pop out of a vat of suds with a stupid smile on their face and reenact Rocky Balboa at the top of the steps. Granted. But no one…I repeat NO ONE…would do it to that insipid, trite, vapid, stuck-in-the-70s, piece of crap song. “You make me laugh and show me how, just how good this life can be / And in our moments filled with joy, is where I live, where I am free…” Stop. Please, just shut up. It sounds like Dan Fogelberg and James Taylor had a baby that was adopted and taught masculinity by Supertramp. In case you’re wondering, I don’t mean that in a good way.

3. “Two tickets to paradise.” This one has gotten a lot of buzz, with people coming down on either the “that’s hysterical” side or the “that’s too sad for words” side. Put me squarely with the latter. I was never a big Eddie Money fan, but I’m old enough to remember his live video for “Hold On” on MTV. He was young, he had at least 30 fans packed into that club, and he had a forgettable pop hit. Good times! Look at him now. Selling out the crumbling remnants of his singing career in thirty frightening, bug-eyed seconds. How much money, exactly, was that worth? Really, how many trucks of cash would they have to back up to make you poop all over whatever dignity you have left, in public, forever on film, so an advertiser can get an cheap laugh at your expense? Think that’s bad? Entertain this thought: maybe it wasn’t the money. Maybe (gulp) Eddie thought the exposure would actually help him! Maybe he thinks if people are talking about him, even if they’re laughing, it’s better than the lonely, soulless existence of being a has-been who hasn’t been mentioned by ANYBODY for thirty years. Oh my God! I have to stop, I’m getting myself depressed.

While we’re on the subject, if someone were to throw a hand-grenade into the Geico advertising department during a staff meeting, he or she would be doing the world a huge favor. I know I wasn’t going to mention brand names, but that was so they wouldn’t get free advertising. I mention Geico only to say no one should ever condone Geico’s commercials by actually using their services. They have twelve different campaigns going on at once and none of them are funny. Not one. The gecko doing a Chicago accent? The witch inexplicably laughing like a hyena every time she flies a new broom? The pig flying with those scary looking stewardesses? The two idiots with the banjos? The pig’s car breaking down with a too willing young girl? The pig doing anything? If they have so much money lying around to pump out a new bad commercial every three days, how much are they ripping off their customers? I want answers!

Plus they ruined Eddie, or stood by idly while he ruined himself which is the same thing

4. “I am a Mama’s boy”. I almost forgot this one. There is a certain long distance company that hired a certain Mexican man to expound upon his sick relationship with his mother. He’s somewhere in his 40’s, overfed since birth and really, really needs to cut the damn umbilical cord already. Over the sound of mariachi music (which in itself I find insulting, on behalf of every Mexican person I ever knew), Fatty Sanchez proudly explains how he calls his mother every day and how “every family has a favorite, and I am my mother’s” or some similar nonsense. Not only does the man in the commercial inspire the desire to slap him, he makes you wonder about his poor, unloved siblings back in Mexico who probably have to feed Mama strained taco salad with a baby spoon as she raves endlessly about her favorite son, while Junior lives it up in Minneapolis and sends a check when he feels like it. I can only hope they made his childhood a living hell.

5.  “As seen on TV” commercials are almost too easy to include on this list, with their litany of idiots who cut themselves shaving their nostril hair, or push the cotton swabs in their ears until they recoil in pain because they hit their tiny, tiny brains. The acting is universally horrid, the writing worse and the sets are built by the guys who didn’t get hired for the “dirty PC” ad. But there’s one that stands out above the rest. There’s a blackout. Everyone runs around in a tizzy. But candles never give enough light. Flashlights never have batteries, and when they do, they only emit a thin, narrow stream of light. Here’s where the commercial starts to spiral. To exemplify the relative uselessness of the aforementioned flashlight, the director has his bad actress try to eat dinner with a fork and knife while holding the flashlight illuminating the plate with her neck. Of course the flashlight falls into her supper (while she does her best to seem appropriately annoyed), underscoring the need for the lantern being hawked.

Poppycock. What moron, even in a blackout, would try to hold a flashlight with her neck while eating dinner? Couldn’t she possibly put the flashlight NEARBY, maybe pointing toward her plate if she’s really blind as a bat? Couldn’t she eat by candlelight? Couldn’t they all go out to the Chinese food place the next town over? Does the manufacturer of this piece of junk really want us to buy this particular line of BS reasoning? IF there is a blackout and IF candles just aren’t good enough for you and IF you find a flashlight beam too narrow for your precious self and IF you lack the common sense to avoid dropping said flashlight into your beef stroganoff, THEN you really need to buy this product!

I could go on (and on). But unlike Geico, I know when to just stop. By the way, you may notice the omission of a certain big-haired insurance rep named Flo. This is for one reason only: the line “These are troubling times in the kingdom.” A well-delivered, reasonably clever line is as rare in commercial advertising as Halley’s comet, and should not be discouraged.  

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