Capturing The Moment

Every once in a while a TV commercial aptly captures the prevailing zeitgeist and popular culture of the moment in a way that ponderous news articles or pontificating academics simply can’t match.

So it is with the classic, current “sunset heart hands” commercial for Taco Bell, which makes me laugh every time I see it.  It’s not only hilarious, it also deftly skewers the phony, social media-obsessed, it’s all about the photos world in which we now live.  Faced between a choice of eating some tasty chicken rolled tacos and taking another pointless Instagram photo, what self-respecting person wouldn’t opt for the tacos — even at the price of a snarling girlfriend?

Mint In The Morning

This morning I woke up with “morning breath.”  That’s what we call it these days, where we promptly take steps to try to get rid of that hot, coated, somewhat slimy feeling on our teeth and tongue that comes from keeping your mouth closed during a good night’s sleep.

mint2When you think about it, “morning breath” is really just the absence of minty freshness that we all expect to achieve as a result of our time standing at the bathroom sink, brushing and flossing and gargling and swishing.  We want to feel that frosty sensation and experience the rush of cool air when we inhale after a vigorous encounter with toothbrush and toothpaste.  And, thanks to the effective advocacy of toothpaste commercials, we are vaguely embarrassed to have “morning breath,” and we wouldn’t dream of walking outside and inflicting it upon people we encounter in the unsuspecting world.

Yesterday I went to the grocery store and needed to pick up some toothpaste.  Although there are the dozens of different toothpaste offerings, purportedly geared toward sensitive teeth and teeth whitening and plaque prevention, virtually all of them involve flavoring with spearmint, or peppermint, or some combination of the two.  The same is true of mouthwashes, and even dental floss is offered with mint flavoring.  Yes, mint is what we want, and mint is what we must have.  Have you ever gone to the dentist’s office for a tooth cleaning and had the oral hygienist offer you a choice of mint versus, say, cherry toothpaste?  Cherry?  Yeah, right!  Nobody wants their mouth to taste like a cough drop when they rise from the dentist’s chair!

Mint is supposed to have lots of health benefits, from aiding digestion to pain relief.  That all may be the case, but it’s that blast of arctic chill that we crave.  We must have mint in the morning!

Smug And Annoying

There’s nothing more annoying than an annoying commercial pitchman.

That’s why I’m grinding my teeth at the commercial TV reappearance of the former Verizon “can you hear me now” guy — this time as a spokesman for Sprint.

0c9df173f01d6b91-822x512I didn’t particularly like the guy during his first 15 minutes of fame, because the constant “can you hear me now” questions became incredibly irritating.  But at least in that incarnation he was a uniformed blue-collar guy, apparently an engineer type, out there in the hinterlands, hiking around in remote areas and personally testing the geographic range of the Verizon network.  He was a working man just doing his job.  You got what he was doing and the message he was sending, and it made his irritating catch phrase a bit more bearable.

But he apparently lost the blue-collar, working man identity when he switched sides, and now he’s just a smug wise guy walking down the street and drinking lattes in a Christmas tree lot, trying to tell you that you’re a colossal idiot if you still use Verizon rather than paying less with Sprint.  And all the while, he’s got this insufferable I’m smarter-than-you smirk on his face — probably because his dormant commercial career has been resurrected due to his willingness to switch sides in the ever-present cell phone wars, and he’s now getting paid a boatload of cash that he wouldn’t be making otherwise.  His commercials are as unlikeable as the historically obnoxious “Jake from State Farm” ad.

Maybe I’m alone in this, but I normally wouldn’t take the unsolicited advice of some know-it-all buttinsky, on the street or in a Christmas tree lot, and I don’t exactly trust the lectures of people who’ve peddled their opinions to the company that pays the most cash. Wouldn’t you like to know whether this cell phone Benedict Arnold is moving the needle on Sprint subscriptions?  I’m betting that his ad campaign is a flop.

Weird Car Commercials

If you’ve watched any sports broadcast on TV recently, you’ve undoubtedly noticed two specific commercials that stand apart from the ever-present erectile dysfunction and an-unpronounceable-drug-for-every-condition ads.

matthewIn one of the commercials, Matthew McConaughey gets spruced up, puts on an expensive suit on a dark night, smiles a slight, enigmatic smile, and then falls backward into a pristine pool.  In the other, a prissy, entitled Brit talks about how some people are always able to dodge all of the rules — hey buddy, in this American presidential campaign that hits a little too close to home! — and then visits wheelchair-bound Steven Hawking in his underground Bond villain lair where they talk about the laws of gravity, time, and space.

Curiously, these are car commercials.  McConaughey is peddling Lincoln, and Hawking and his above-of-all friend are hawking (pun intended) Jaguars (which I’d always thought was pronounced Jag-warr, but I now learn from the commercial is pronounced, with an affected British accent, Jag-u-are).  In contrast, say, to the commercials that purportedly astonish slack-jawed “real people” with the sheer number of awards Chevrolet has won in the last two years, the Lincoln and Jaguar ads don’t really tell you anything about the advertised vehicles or even show them very much.  The Lincoln and Jaguar ads are lifestyle ads — the kind that try to convince the credulous that if they just buy the product they’ll get the advertised lifestyle, too.

Okay, I get it.  But I’ve still got a question:  how many people out there really want to be like McConaughey or the Brit who trades witticisms with Hawking in his futuristic bunker?  I guess Lincoln and Jaguar aren’t looking to sell cars to women, for example.  And I doubt that the lifestyles depicted appeal to a huge chunk of the American male population, either.  I, for one, have never aspired to fall backward into a pool while zen-like music plays.  And as much as I admire Steven Hawking’s colossal intellect, I don’t exactly associate him with cars.

Give me the car commercials that feature brightly painted roadsters rolling down a winding, open road on a bright sunny day, whisking through freshly fallen leaves as they round a curve.  Leave the enigmatic smiles and the falling into pools to the erectile dysfunction crowd, will you?

The Most Interesting Man

When I was doing this morning’s post, I couldn’t remember whether the Dos Equis ads referred to the Most Fascinating Man in the World, or to the Most Interesting Man in the World.  (I did remember, however, that he says at the end “Stay thirsty, my friends!”)

So, I did what every modern American would do — ran a Google search — and stumbled across this website that has 100 of the best “Most Interesting Man” lines.  They’re all pretty funny, but 1, 27, and 52 are among my favorites.

In a world filled with mind-numbingly similar ads that either leave no impression or are affirmatively annoying — like the Jake from State Farm spot — you have to give credit to whatever Madison Avenue wizard came up with the Most Interesting Man in the World.  It’s a classic.

 

The Fantastic Two-Dog Complete Morning Workout

Mr. and Mrs. America, are you tired? 

Are you tired of being overweight and out of shape?  Are you tired of buying expensive rowing machines, treadmills, and stairsteppers that now just gather dust in your bedrooms and basements?  Are you tired of solitary workouts that simulate some form of martial arts and are performed to stupid music ?  Are you tired of lurching from exercise fad to exercise fad like a young child who can’t make up his mind about which toy he really wants at Christmas?

DSC04139In short, are you yearning for an exercise regimen that doesn’t require cumbersome machinery, will produce results, provide companionship, add years to your life, and require the kind of disciplined, long-term commitment to exercise that you know is the only way to produce meaningful fitness results?

Let me introduce you to the Fantastic Two-Dog Complete Morning Workout!  It’s all described in this easy-to-read book, The Fantastic Two-Dog Complete Morning Workout.

You start by acquiring two dogs.  We’ve all read the studies that show that people who have a canine companion live longer.  Imagine what having two dogs will do for your life span!  But here is where the science of the Fantastic Two-Dog Complete Morning Workout comes in — because the scientific choice of the two dogs will make your exercise regimen even more meaningful. 

You don’t want two dogs of the same breed, or disposition.  No, Mr. and Mrs. America, you want two dogs that are as different as day and night.  One should be small, shifty, always surging ahead, and completely untrustworthy when it comes to bowel and bladder discharges.  The other should be a heavy, stubborn, slow-moving load.  Let our book help you make the right choice!

Then, when you’ve acquired the dogs, feed them.  This is a crucial step in the Fantastic Two-Dog Complete Morning Workout plan, because we all know the end result that inevitably occurs when dogs are fed.  That’s right — it means you need to walk those dogs and pick up their poop.  And that’s where the sheer magic of the Fantastic Two-Dog Complete Morning Workout really happens, because the process of walking two radically different dogs and picking up, bagging, and tying off their poop combines every known form of exercise in one fantastic workout!

DSC04130You’ll get the benefits of walking — but at the same time you’ll be pulled in two directions by your tail-wagging friends.  You’ll work the upper body by relentlessly pulling the stubborn, overweight dog on the walk, restraining the energetic dog that wants to run away, then holding back both dogs as they suddenly start lunging and barking at any strange dog that crosses your path.  You’ll also work on your balance, develop ballerina-like grace, and improve your eye-hand coordination as you learn to avoid leash entanglement by dogs that suddenly veer in unpredictable directions and you must spin and transfer leashes from hand to hand behind your back, often also juggling filled poop bags in the process.

Speaking of poop:  your midsection gets a workout from constantly having to bend at the waist to pick up the droppings, and trying to do it as quickly as possibly before the unforgettable odor is permanently embedded in your nostrils.  Then work those fine motor skills by tying off the poop bag as you continue to walk dogs that are never as fast moving as they are immediately after they’ve taken a dump and want to promptly evacuate the tainted area.

And finally, feel the adrenalin surge when the stubborn, overweight dog makes a dead stop at random points during the walk, almost wrenching your shoulder out of its socket and requiring you to pull her forward.  Feel the blood rush scour every scrap of plaque and cholesterol from your veins when your dogs embarrass you by misbehaving when other well-trained dogs walk by.

And know, all the while, that you’ll be doing the Fantastic Two-Dog Complete Morning Workout for every morning, rain or shine, brutally cold or blastingly hot, for as long as your two devoted companions share your little corner of the world.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?  You can get the Fantastic Two-Dog Complete Morning Workout book for only $29.95, a 50 percent discount from our normal price.  Operators are standing by!  Call now, and we’ll throw in, completely free, two sturdy dog leashes and a pack of 50 dog poop bags stamped with the Fantastic Two-Dog Complete Morning Workout so that you’ll think of this great product every time you bend over to do your duty.  Feel the burn!

Why Is The “Jake From State Farm” Commercial Still On The Air?

I’ve been watching college basketball on TV lately. That means one thing: I’ll see the “Jake from State Farm” commercial another dozen times or so. What pitiless person keeps running that ad during every bit of sports programming on broadcast television?

This commercial has been on the air for years. Why? Why? It’s a very weird storyline. A sweaty, shifty-eyed, whispering guy is calling State Farm at 3 a.m., apparently to get a quote. His suspicious wife thinks he’s calling some trollop or phone sex service, so she seizes the phone and hears the voice of Jake from State Farm — who says he’s wearing khakis.

Are we supposed to think the wife is a shrew? Because I actually sympathize with her. Why is her husband disturbing her sleep by calling for an insurance quote in the middle of the night? Why is he acting so secretive? I’m betting she has good reason to wonder about his whispered phone calls.

So, I repeat — why has this commercial been a staple of sports TV for years? It’s not funny. Maybe it appeals to guys who feel hen-pecked? And what’s supposed to be our takeaway about State Farm? That it keeps a call center staffed with beefy salesmen at all hours of the day?

It’s time to retire “Jake from State Farm.” Please, I beg you — let sports fans watch a game without being exposed, again, to this sordid family tale!

Kids In Commercials

Kids have been starring in TV commercials for years.  Sometimes the ads work, more often they are annoying or so cloying you feel like wretching.

A current commercial for a local car dealer features kids.  They are there just to be cute, and at the end a blond, pigtailed girl who appears to be about 4 years old sings the dealership’s advertising ditty without being able to clearly articulate all of the consonants and vowels.  Adorable, right?  Sure it is . . . the first time you see it.  But when you see that commercial during every time out on an NCAA tournament game, you quickly feel like rinsing your eyes with vinegar to avoid the sweetness overdose.

Contrast that with the classic “Mikey” commercial for Life cereal.  Two brothers push a bowl of “healthy”cereal back and forth, neither willing to try it because we all know that healthy cereal tastes like twigs and cardboard.  So they do what any real brothers would do — they force their grumpy younger brother (“Let’s get Mikey!  He hates everything!”) to give it a shot.  When little bro tries it and likes it, they know that Life must be good.  The commercial works because it’s not just going for “aw shucks” cuteness but instead tries to make its point through kids acting like real kids.

That’s why I like the current AT&T commercials, where the guy in the suit asks kids questions and we get to see kids acting goofy and giggly, just like real kids do.  My favorite the “pickle roll” commercial shown below.  Any parent has seen actual kids dissolve into helpless laughter at some silly comment — and the commercial adds the tag line to bring it home.  Faster is better!  We want more!  It’s not complicated!

When it comes to kids and commercials, a little cuteness goes an awful long way.  Better to let kids be kids.

Smugrolet

In the “life imitates South Park” category, the latest commercial for the Chevy Volt is a pretty strong contestant.  South Park, you may recall, had a memorable episode about the “smug” emitted by Prius drivers.

You may have seen the ad, which has been running during the NCAA Tournament games.  It features an earnest if devilish looking guy who appears to be wearing a bowling shirt talking about his Volt.  He professes to wake up every morning “thinking about the future.”  He thinks his car is cool, but also “makes a statement at the same time.”  He’s happy to explain that people “don’t totally understand how the Volt works”; he doesn’t ever worry about running out of battery power because his car will just switch over to gas when needed.  He doesn’t need to gas up much, either.  At one point, the commercial actually says about the guy:  “He is smart.”

This commercial just radiates smugness, and the dripping condescension of Mr. Smarty-Pants as he explains how his car works to the knuckle-draggers in the unlettered masses is insufferable.  I guess we’re just lucky the guy doesn’t also remind us that buying a Volt also is smart because the car is subsidized by the federal government — which means that the rest of us doltish taxpayers who are driving standard, unsubsidized internal combustion cars are helping him feel good about himself each morning when he thinks about the future again.

Goodbye To That Troubling Shamrock Shake Commercial

Although there is some Irish ancestry in our convoluted family tree, I don’t pay much attention to St. Patrick’s Day one way or the other.

This year, though, I’m glad to see March 17 pass by, because I hope to never again see the frightening McDonald’s shamrock shake commercial.  Many TV ads suggest deep back stories, but nothing as troubling as that reflected in this 30-second depiction of a profoundly dysfunctional marriage.  The husband would do well to turn and sprint out of the house, drive away at breakneck speed, and change his identity, before his deeply disturbed and terrifying mint-loving wife decides it’s time to take even more severe steps to keep his behavior in line.  Run, buddy!  Run away as fast as you can, before it’s too late!

Could this commercial actually be successful in enticing the average person to try the shamrock shake that evidently has moved the wife to the brink of axe-murderer craziness?

Hot Cereal Days

In the Webner household during the 1960s, there was a hard and fast breakfast rule:  during the winter months, you ate hot cereal, period.  No Frosted Flakes or Quake!  No sir, winter was for Malt O Meal, Cream of Wheat, Coco Wheat, Maypo, and particularly Quaker Oats.

On a cold day like today, my mother was a firm believer in the views expressed by this vintage Quaker Oats commercial (which aired in the days of the original, vastly superior Darren on Bewitched).  If it was cold outside, you needed to have something hot and gooey in your stomach when you started your day.

By the end of March, we Webner kids were sick of hot cereal and counting down the days when we could start our morning with something cold and sugary.

Getting To Choose A Super Bowl Commercial

If — like the vast majority of viewers — you watch the Super Bowl only to see the commercials, you now have a chance to influence what you really care about.

Doritos is sponsoring a contest that allows us to visit this website and vote for which of five commercials should be aired on Super Bowl Sunday.  They’re all pretty good, but the one that I thought was the funniest is called “Man’s Best Friend” and appears below.  (I admit, I’m a sucker for anti-cat humor.)

We’ve all had enough of politics for a while.  Here’s a chance to vote on something we really care about!

The Unheralded Defeat Of “Ring Around The Collar”

To a young boy growing up during the ’60s, the life of a housewife as shown on TV seemed full of curious challenges and potential disasters.  So many crucial product decisions to be made!  Which floor wax was most likely to seal against black heel marks?  How could you keep that “fresh as a daisy” scent in your home, even with smelly husbands and children around?  And, perhaps most importantly, which detergent could avoid the dreaded cry of “ring around the collar”?

Of the awful humiliations that could befall a loving wife, “ring around the collar” was the worst.  She could be packing a suitcase, or happily enjoying a cruise with her husband, when the suitcase, or the cruise director, or countless other buttinskys would bray “ring around the collar!”  And then all attention would focus on the grimy markings on the inside of the husband’s white shirt collar, and the wife would shrivel with embarrassment.  She’d tried soaking them out and scrubbing them out — but nothing worked!  You couldn’t help but identify with her feelings of horror, shame, and frustration.

Why wasn’t this the husband’s fault?  After all, he must have been a sweaty slob who couldn’t keep his neck clean, even while working a cushy white-collar job.  Such questions were not even acknowledged, much less answered, for boys trying to understand the mysterious ways of grown-ups.  What was clear, instead, was that “ring around the collar” was to be avoided at all costs — and Wisk could help.

Eventually I started wearing white-collared shirts, and at some point, I realized that I was not experiencing ring around the collar.  In fact, the insides of my collars didn’t seem to get dirty at all.  Collar buttons occasionally fell off, and ties could get stained during lunch — but the collars remained pristine.  And apparently I wasn’t alone in that experience.  You just didn’t see “ring around the collar” commercials anymore, either.

Did Wisk finally prevail in its life-and-death battle, and eradicate “ring around the collar” just as surely as the Salk vaccine eradicated polio?  Why was there no public acknowledgment of this great triumph?  Isn’t the final defeat of “ring around the collar” at least as deserving of attention as, say, the results of the Iowa straw poll?

In The Days Of Hai Karate

Why do you remember TV commercials from 40 years ago, but not the name of somebody you met five minutes ago?  Who knows?  But for some reason this stupid Hai Karate commercial, featuring the dorky glasses-wearing guy fending off an excited young woman, is engrained on my neural synapses as surely and inexorably as, say, the theme song to The Beverly Hillbillies.

What did Hai Karate smell like?  Why would any guy want to wear after shave?  And why would any guy want to use karate on some girl who was interested in a make out session?  The commercial left these central questions unanswered, to be carefully pondered by the confused, soon-to-be-teenage boy who was trying to figure out what was cool and what wasn’t.