Monday, February 20, 2006
This may be another Beavis and Butthead type of post where the overriding theme is "I don't like stuff that sucks" but I feel it necessary to share with you my feelings on commercials that are so poorly made it makes me want to buy their competitors' products in an effort to drive them out of business. (That was a long sentence but I'm here to tell you that it was worth every electron.) My poor brain can hardly handle the daily tasks that my little life demands, but when I'm inundated with stupidity, a little bit of gray matter turns black and falls off. Next thing you know, I'll have things that look like little mouse turds falling out my ear every time I shake my head. And that's rarely good.
I should probably be thankful for commercials, shouldn't I? If I didn't mind limiting my TV viewing to just a few local channels with a considerable amount of "snow", I could be enjoying free TV, right? I couldn't watch "I love the '80's" but I could still catch some "Dancing with the Stars". And, for that matter, "Lost" is by far the best show on TV right now even though you can't argue with a good episode of "What Not to Wear". So I need commercials to pay for that free TV. Instead of paying a gob of money each month to the cable company, I would "pay" in the form of commercials. Seems like a fair trade, I guess. What's my deal, then? I'll tell you what my deal is. My deal is when those commercials are so friggin' stupid that my brain turns into mouse turds!
Let me tell you what I'm looking for in a commercial. If you're trying to sell me something just bring in some guy who isn't duded up to look like an expert. That whole "I'm not a doctor but I play one on TV" thing doesn't do much for me. Put a guy in a pair of jeans and a sweatshirt and if I feel like he is honest when he is telling me that his product works really well or is better than the competitors', then I'm good to go and I'll buy his stuff the next time I'm in the market. Here's a possible script for the guy in jeans and a sweatshirt. The setting is an empty stage with a gray background (like you used to have in elementary school pictures, except hopefully the guy has a better haircut than I did when I was in third grade):
Guy in Jeans and Sweatshirt: Yesterday, I had a really bad headache and I took some Tylenol and my headache went away. I don't know about you, but it worked better than Advil for me. If you have a headache, you should go out and buy some Tylenol.
See how simple that is? Nobody posing as a doctor with the whole lab coat thing. No goofy pictures or graphics showing a time-release capsule blah, blah, blah. Just some guy who is digging his headache-free life. I don't need a backstory. Don't show me pictures of Junior rubbing his temples because his boss is yelling at him and his wife is bitching about the kids. The reason that this is more effective than any current headache commercials is because I don't feel like he is feeding me a bunch of hooey. This technique works for toilet bowl cleaners, cars, paperclips and refrigerators too. Less is more, people, and the less any salesperson talks, the better.
So that's easy. It's a little bit more difficult to create a commercial that is entertaining in some way. Headaches and Tylenol aren't exactly knee-slappers so you need a hook. You could either go the subtle route with some real Seinfeld-esque dry humor or go over the top with some Office Linebacker kind of stuff. Either way, though, you'd better make it good or I'll run from your dumb-ass product like I'm covered in gummi bears and being chased by a bunch of fat kids.
So instead of wearing jeans and a sweatshirt, have a guy wearing a two-sizes-too-small Superman outfit with a couple of holes in it, big fly-eye goggles and the actor has a big zit on his nose. He could even be holding a bowling ball in one of those cheesy vinyl carrying bags. The script can be the same, though. The temptation would be to have him say something about how fighting crime and life as a superhero really gives him a headache. That would be easy, but no funnier than him just standing there. Instead, just let him say the same thing as if he looks as normal as the jeans guy. Much funnier, and the next day around the water cooler people would be asking what the deal was with that acne-riddled superhero guy and the Tylenol. Also, for what it's worth, that goddamn Energizer bunny has driven me to buy Duracell batteries. Yep, I do know that that stuffed bunny is associated with Energizer - it just makes it easier for me to know which batteries NOT to buy.
Commercials have become so prevalent in our lives that we now have TV shows about commercials and let's not forget the hullabaloo around the commercials that played during the Super Bowl. I'm sure that whoever invented the commercial is wringing his hands somewhere talking about his master plan to shows those bastards at the network that his commercial for Tucks pads is better than this week's episode of Joey. He is well on his way to rule the world via toilet bowl cleaner commercials but I refuse to fall victim to his diabolical plan.
But I digress (which probably is no surprise to you).
My little walnut understands that television commercials do have a place in the universe. I'm just saying let's all try to make this li'l ole universe a better place by making those commercials more direct and with a little bit of entertainment value. Either get to the point and tell me that your product actually works or make me laugh and we're all set.
And if you can't do that, you can just use a babe in a bikini. I'll buy whatever the hell she is selling. In fact, put me down for a case.