Considering that I watch almost all of my television on either DVD or DVR, it would seem like I shouldn’t have much to complain about in the realm of commercials. But I’ve been seeing quite a few of them lately, most likely due to all of the live sporting events I’ve been watching (March Madness, MLB Opening Day, etc.). And I find a lot of them to be irritating, for various reasons. Below, a few examples.
Buffalo Wild Wings
Both Johanna and I have been annoyed by this Buffalo Wild Wings campaign since it first started airing. I can’t comment on its effectiveness; it doesn’t seem particularly good or bad at getting its message across. And while the idea of a bartender pressing a button that sends a message to an undercover agent at a nationally televised sporting event telling him to do whatever it takes to prolong the game for the sake of a few people at one particular Buffalo Wild Wings is, quite obviously, ridiculous, I’m generally willing to suspend disbelief when it comes to advertising.
The real issue here is the motivation of the patrons. A bunch of people wearing generic “New York” and “Boston” jerseys go to BW3 to share tables with each other and watch the game. They care enough about their “teams” to dress up and go somewhere special to watch the game. But when it comes down to it, they all know that it’s not winning that matters, it’s spending quality time with mixed groups of sports fans in a large room surrounded by chicken wings and big televisions. Send it into overtime!
OK, this one is obvious. There is absolutely no Taco Bell anywhere on Earth where two young, attractive, and friendly women like Denise and her redheaded friend are taking your order. I don’t expect complete realism in my commercial casting, but this is just insulting.
I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!
I hate Will and Grace. Eight seasons of jokes about him being gay and her being flat-chested. I didn’t even enjoy the beloved character “Karen.” Even she couldn’t avoid the one-note shrillness of the show. That said, I’ve always liked Megan Mullally. She has good comedic timing, and she seems nice and friendly enough. This just makes me feel bad for her. Is this all she can get?
Not only do I not know what Megan and her agent were thinking, I don’t really know what the ad agency in charge of this mess was thinking. “Turn the Beat Around” is not a timeless classic. It’s a bad Gloria Estefan song from 16 years ago (or, if this is a reference to the original, a bad Vicki Sue Robinson song from 34 years ago). It does not belong in a commercial in 2010. And you don’t make it relevant by casting someone who hasn’t been on television in five years.
I can only think of two explanations for this:
1) The advertisers, realizing that the target demographic for I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter! consists almost entirely of 45-year-old housewives, weren’t really concerned with cultural relevance.
2) Someone made a bet that they could get Megan Mullally to sing the line “No hydrogenated oil so there’s no trans fats here” on national television.
If the second explanation is actually what happened, kudos, sir or madam.
I would never attempt to argue that these commercials aren’t effective. Everyone knows them, and everyone now knows FreeCreditReport.com. And I’m not here to complain that the songs are annoying, or that they get stuck in my head, or anything like that. I actually kind of like them.
I did some research on these because I was curious if the singer was actually a musician. He’s convincing enough, and the songs are catchy. For all I knew this was actually some indie band forced to sell out to make ends meet. Well, it turns out that this guy IS actually a musician, but it’s not him singing. He’s French. They dub the vocals. So what’s the point of this charade? These are obviously low budget. Why didn’t someone step in at some point during casting or production and say, “Hey, why don’t we kill two birds with one stone and cast someone that can actually sing the songs without a French accent? You know, so we only have to sign one paycheck?”
I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not irritated by these commercials, really; they just sort of confuse me.
I first wrote about this ad in my Super Bowl entry. At the time, I couldn’t quite figure out why it didn’t click with me. The background music is my eighth favorite song of the decade. Tracy Morgan, star of my fifth favorite show of the decade, is in it. It even has Stevie Wonder!
Well, I quickly figured out what was off about it.
I’m from the Midwest, where there aren’t quite as many Volkswagens as there are in the Northeast. I grew up playing Woodchuck, a variation of Punch Buggy, the game featured in this commercial. The rules of Woodchuck are simple: the first person to spot a car with wood paneling yells “Woodchuck!” and punches the person nearest to them on the arm.
Just because I grew up playing Woodchuck, though, does not mean I don’t know the rules of Punch Buggy. You don’t punch someone when you see a Volkswagen. That would be chaos. There are Volkswagens all over the place. You only punch someone when you see a Volkswagen Beetle. Preferably an old Beetle. This commercial is knowingly perpetuating a lie and is nothing less than an assault on our shared cultural memory.