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Adding Insult
(2013-2014 Archives)
Lucki Melander Wilder

Lucki, I think we're kindred spirits on the advertising thing.  I notice many of the same little nuances,
and have often thought I should keep a notebook handy to write them down.  -- Tom Ligon, SF author

It's surprising (or perhaps not) how many times I see a "Say what?!" moment in TV advertising, and want to share the fun with someone (everyone?) else.

Feel free to email me to subscribe and receive notice of new entries, with feedback, or to call my attention to your own (un)favorites. Not all feedback necessarily appears in this page, and may be edited for links, typos, multi-source redundancy, and relevancy. That doesn't mean, though, that we consider negative feedback irrelevant or refuse to post it, as negative feedback can often help us learn to do more and better.

Mouthing Off

We had guest blog entries from renowned author and long-time pal and reader Tom Ligon in both 2012 (Nothin' Sells Like Scary) and 2013 (Milking It). So we couldn't let 2014 fade away without allowing him to have another good rant. Here he goes with our final thumbs-down of the year. (And no, we didn't compare notes about people acting dangerously stupid; it just happened.)

The cell phone ad getting my goat is the one with the girls (not trying to be sexist ... they're playing the role of teenyboppers) meeting in an eating establishment with their new me-phones.

Broken Green Glass BottleWhile food is being set out, they are discussing a new cell service. Every time one of them points out a plan feature, the rest squeal. Finally, the scream goes inaudible, presumably ultrasonic, and all the glass around them shatters. Bottles, bowls, glasses .... shards everywhere.

At which point, one of them suggests they start in on their lunch now. And the only message I get is that these particular customers are dumb enough to eat shattered glass.

Also, have you seen the folks "speaking in tongues" ... spouting various lines of mumbo-jumbo they heard on cable shows the previous evening? A few poor souls have no idea what the rest are talking about, but the punch line is that they will if they subscribe to cable.

Yeah, right. I have seen few better ads for NOT getting cable!


Thanx, Tom. Spot-on as usual. And I really appreciate your ongoing support of Adding Insult and of Earthstar Works in general.

But boy howdy, do I agree on that shattered glass thing. Ranks right up there with hiding behind the chainsaws.

As for cable/satellite, the only reason I have it is 'cuz our condo association voted it in and it's in the assessments whether we watch it or not. I gotta admit, tho, that it's been almost worth the price of admission - which is almost dirt cheap compared to what lone homeowners have to pay - to see Doctor Who on BBC America and The Artful Detective (the Bisson version of "The Murdoch Mysteries") on Ovation. But that's just me.

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Entries During

2014-12-31 Mouthing Off
guest blogger: Tom Ligon

2014-12-30 Lionhurt

2014-11-19 Poor Reception

2014-09-19 Do The Math

2014-06-20 Duck Duck DUCK!

2013-10-31 Totally Unacceptable

2013-09-25 Milking It
guest blogger: Tom Ligon

2013-08-13 Munch Ado

2013-07-13 Considered O'Minion

2013-06-10 Spin Dizzy

2013-03-01 More Shorts


Go to Older Entries

Switch to Abiding Blog


Correct me if I'm wrong, but when zookeepers go to feed their big cats, they don't actually run into the middle of the moated enclosure with their hands full of bloody gobs of raw meat WHILE THE CATS ARE THERE, TOO? Right?

Roaring Maned LionSo what am I supposed to think when I see someone do this on TV? Stand there with a tray full of steak, lobbing pieces practically into the faces of the lionesses. Who are not, I might add, amused. And then, 'cuz that ain't stupid enough, also teasing their lord and master by waving a prime cut right in front of his jaws ... and then PULLING IT AWAY!

Never mind the less-than-the-best green screen work. Especially when the king of beasts swipes a lethal paw at the meathead two feet in front of him ... and misses him ... ON THE WRONG SIDE. The takeaway is supposed to be that, no matter what kind of idiot the zookeeper is, he can still make a good decision about his car.

Excuse me, but the takeaway for me is this: If that's the kind of idiot the guy is with a 400-pound lion, why would I trust him about ANYTHING ... even - especially- anything having to do with my 4,000-pound automobile? (Not that I have one.)

Like I said, correct me if I'm wrong.

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Poor Reception

Garage PenthouseOkay, so there's this man. A family man. Working very hard in his garage to make his little start-up business a success. I can relate. I worked for a decade in a minority small business development firm back in the day (before Reaganomics wreaked havoc with the whole field). Culminating as their Director of Education. Anyway, this guy in the commercial is perhaps a little grandiose, with his business suit and his executive desk and his penthouse-view wallpaper covering the big garage door behind him. But maybe that's what he needs to motivate him on a day-to-day basis. At least he's trying, positive-attitude-wise.

I wish, though, that his wife were a little more supportive. And a little less sarcastic. (Yeah, another of my rants on why advertisers think the best way to get their point across is by featuring dysfunctional families. Remember my take, for example, on Henpecks & Shrews.) Especially since I don’t believe for a minute that the only entrance into their home is through the garage. Or that anyone who parked the car out front would regularly make a habit of waiting for their garage door to slide up. Just so they could carry a bag or two of groceries through to another closed door into the house, Instead of going through the front door or the side door or even the back door in the first place. Especially when they know their spouse has asked them not to totally disrupt his home office (or hers; it could just as easily be t'other way 'round) during work hours - in front of his employees, no less - 'cuz, ya know, he IS trying.

The only sensible way in is through the garage? Really? Like, through the garage is how you ask visiting friends to come into the house, too? Shoot, even my little apartment has a “reception entrance”; and although it’s only about four feet square, it’s decoratively tiled and has a greeting framed on the wall, and people have commented on how attractive and welcoming it looks.

So lemme tell you, ad agency and the company that paid you, your "reception entrance" commersh did not, for several reasons, meet with a good reception in this home.

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Do The Math

Have you been catching the series of mobile phone ads that revolve around groups of five people talking with a vendor rep about the right plan for their family or small business? Some of them seem to go okay. Some of them -- like the one with the wimpy-looking guy who subserviently mimics his I-am-woman-hear-me-roar colleagues -- are mildly irritating. And some of them really make you go "What the....?!"

Calculator 1+1=2Take the one where one of the two guys in the back row has just now, on the spot, made partner because he's able to run a dirt-simple calculation on his calculator. On his calculator! He can't even do the math in his head. Never mind, even, how he then so rudely interrupts the vendor rep. Who I'm sure was perfectly able -- and about -- to tell the group what her own company's rates are.

The other guy in the back row looks gobsmacked. And rightfully so. Only, what he should really be gobsmacked about is the thought of working for a company so lackadaisical that you get made partner for knowing how to hit keys on a calculator and read the result (and be rude). I mean, would you want to work for that company? Knowing their combined business skills are so feeble that using a calculator impresses the head honcho. Which portends that when they start trying to swim with the big fish, the sharks are going to eat them alive?

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Duck Duck DUCK!

DuckIt probably shouldn't be surprising that the physically rehabbed insurance drake doesn't have a clue how to use power tools (or, in a companion commercial, golf clubs). Nevertheless, said Pekin poultry really seems intent on drumming up business sort of before-the-fact, doesn't it? Why anyone would let it anywhere near a nail gun, never mind neglect to (you should pardon the pun) duck when it starts killing coffee mugs and shovels and light bulbs and whatnot, is beyond me.

On the flip side, the plucky duck should profusely thank its lucky stars -- the ones in Cygnus are probably the duckiest but, considering how hamhan, uh, -winged it is, also honoring the other eight avian constellations might not go amiss -- anyway, thank them that it was unable to start up the chainsaw it was standing astraddle of.Bears  

Speaking of insurance-company spokes-entities, did I mis-see or does that other, oh-so-white insurance company's price-comparison board not only levitate company personnel, but disintegrate them too?! Of course, the organization is apparently very bad at keeping track of where anyone is anyway. Because if, as stated, no one was at home in that cottage Flodilocks found, how come the whole ursine family was sitting there watching her sneak in and mess with their too-big, too-small, and just-right policies?

PigAnd hey, with the duck getting into yoga next, do you think it'll be in the same yoga class with the other-other insurance company's Maxwell? (And would the knee-jerk protesters please get over the idea that Max's company is promoting bestiality to children, 'cuz I honestly don't think any of their children are going to meet a talking - or car owning, or jet-ski riding, or et cetera - pig that they might therefore be tempted to, um, date. (Mildly creepy isn't the same as, I dunno, Satanic.)

One final thought on the good, the bad, and the plucky in adverts. Gotta give BBCA credit for an interesting conglomeration of commercials during the Christmas 2013 episode of Doctor Who (sorry to be so late on this, but stuff happens). Specifically the:

  • Muscular Dystrophy Association (favored charity of 3rd-Doctor Jon Pertwee)
  • candy that's exuding gold regeneration-like energy
  • tiny footballer (11th-Doctor Matt Smith became an actor because injury derailed his soccer career)
Tue, Jul 1, 2014 at 8:35 AM, Saba wrote:
  Keep up the good and fun work :)
  Lucki responds to Saba:
  Will do. It is fun, especially when readers let me know y'all had fun, too. Thanx.

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Totally Unacceptable

You already know that I think some TV commercials are just too silly, some are fallacious, some intentionally obfuscate, some promote negative messages or memes. But occasionally I run across one that makes me do more than laugh or snort, shake my head or wince. It makes me cringe. Grind my teeth. And get really, really irritated and disgusted.

I've been sitting on two of those for a while because I wasn't quite sure how to approach them with any sort of wit or whimsy. But I've had them up to here. So I'm just going to have at them with all the ire they invoke.

One is that homecoming scene between big ol' Rocky the dog and his camo-clad military owner in her driveway. It should be heartwarming. In fact, it is. Until the bitter end.

Big red inflatable-tube balloonThe other is the one with the lady trying to escape being manhandled by one of those big, red, inflatable-tube balloons that bend and whip in the wind.

Talk about inappropriate visual images. They're not just creepy; they're sick (in the original sense of the word). It makes you wonder whether everyone was just oblivious or did it on purpose with malice aforethought. It makes you wonder if the same careless, or even evil-minded, creator conceived them both. It makes you wonder why the director of each didn't realize how inappropriate the final cut looked. It makes you wonder why the actor in each didn't stop in her tracks and tell the director what he (or she?) could do with that unacceptably sexualized image.

We know that TV commercials and print ads are intentionally rife with subliminal sex (and, in some cases, death) symbols. But sometimes it's so unconscionably raw that even a child can get it. These two are prime examples of the kind of commercial that makes me want to carefully remember the product being touted so I can carefully avoid ever wasting one red cent on it.

Is it just me? Or do you feel that way, too?

Thu, Oct 31, 2013 at 12:58 PM, Patrick wrote:
  Are you kidding? There is nothing sexual about those commercials. I'm not sure how I got signed up for these letters, but please take my name off your spam list.
  Lucki responds to Patrick:
Hi, Patrick,
   In the first place, there's no call to be insulting. Just 'cuz you disagree with something, that doesn't make being told about it spam. I don't think that kind of reaction is what's meant by "the clash of differing opinions."
   You got signed up the same way other Baha'i friends & fellow Chicagoans (at the time) did, 'cuz I wanted to share stuff, including some Baha'i stuff, with them. It's been a year & a  half, & now you jump salty over one entry on one page on a whole wide site? Really? Not one thing anywhere else on the site has ever garnered your approval or interest? Or you're blowing it all off 'cuz you got ticked once when someone else saw something you didn't? How sad.
   In the second place, I gotta say the ad agency really deserves whatever the vendors are paying them if they disguise the subliminals so well that even when the visuals are called to someone's attention, s/he still can't see them. So far, though, the majority of the response has been readers agreeing. Not that I mind those who disagree (that helps me learn), as long as they're not also disagreeable.
   But not to worry; I just deleted [your e-address].
Khoda hafez,
Fri, Nov 1, 2013 at 11:13 AM, Brit wrote:
  Thank you. I didn't like either of those commercials. It felt like the men (I'm sure they were men) that wrote them were blind jerks. I thought I was the only one, so I'm glad you spoke up.
  Lucki responds to Brit:
  I'm glad, too. I have no problem speaking up about things I think inappropriately cross the line. If other people don't agree, that's their problem. Maybe their view of something actually is closer to reality, but that doesn't mean I don't get to share mine, too. Same for you.
Fri, Nov 1, 2013 at 12:54 PM, Derrick wrote:
  I agree with you about the commercials.
Fri, Nov 1, 2013 at 1:13 PM, Lann wrote:
  Maybe I'm not always the most sensitive guy in the world, but I got what you're saying, not so much how a soldier might be OK with her own dog acting but more where the big balloon is hitting the lady from behind. I didn't see it before you called attention to it. Live and learn like they always say.
  Lucki responds to Derrick & Lann:
  It's heartening to see guys can recognize the issue, too. Thanx.

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Milking It

Last month's take on cannibalistic cereal brought on another spate (see Nothin’ Sells Like Scary) of after-my-own-heart commercial-questioning curmudgeonry from long-time pal and reader (and, of course, renowned author) Tom Ligon. To wit:

Ooohh, Lucki! I had dearly hoped you would notice the cannibalistic cereal!

These crunchies are in this strange family of talking cereal that wants to be eaten. One of the more peculiar takes on this family has the various nuggets basking in a bowl of hot milk. The creepy part is when they then climb out and, presumably soaked with milk, head back into the box.

Tire swing in autumn treeI should hope food safety experts the world over are screaming foul!

On another note entirely (sorry, that’s an untended pun), a luxury car manufacturer has been running commercials for their family-sized crossover. By all accounts it is a nice vehicle with advanced safety features. One commercial shows it spotting a child behind it as it is backing up, and applying the brakes automatically. Good. We approve of not squashing kids!

In another commercial, the same vehicle, with the same family, is seen driving down a quiet neighborhood street. The fine print appears near the bottom of the screen: "Professional driver. Closed course. Do not attempt."

Don't attempt? Really? Perhaps insiders know something we don't? Or is this gratuitous disclaimer just a sign that we have too many lawyers with too much time on their hands?


Thanx, Tom. And you're right: inquiring minds want to know.

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Munch Ado

Since our earliest hunter-gatherer days, humankind has been trying to deal with other species raiding our food. And when we invented agriculture and husbandry (not that we were the first species to do that; ants, for example, beat us to both), it escalated. Think crows in the corn field. Weevils in the wheat silo. Rabbits in the radish garden. Mice in the melon patch.

So it’s a logical extension that, say, the kids think the silly rabbit shouldn’t get their cereal. Although I personally think he’s mainly silly for wanting that processed, dyed, sugar-soaked grain — all of which is terrible for him ... and for the kids — when there’s plenty of lettuce, cabbage, carrots, clover, dandelions, and grass to be had. (Uh, scratch the carrots. Too full of sugar to be healthy for rabbits.)

Dish of the Day (portayed by Peter Davison)Still, it gets sort of weird when ads pretend that other species actually crave to be eaten. Putatively sentient (at least in the ads) creatures, at that. Take that tuna who’s all bent outa shape ‘cuz no one wants to catch him. Why? I mean, it’s not as if he’s bred and brainwashed for it. Not like the Dish of the Day that's served — after it talks you into ordering it — in the restaurant at the end of the universe. So why is Charlie so suicidal?

And that big ol’ red melt-in-your-mouth candy is even weirder. What the hey, he’s being eaten “alive” even as we listen to him. To say nothing of the fact that his chocolate femme fatale actually hooked him up and sent him off to be chomped on.

But the final straw is the weirdest. Crunchy cinnamon cereal? Well, okay, if you insist. But cannibalistic* crunchy cinnamon cereal? Really? IGGHH!

* Remembering that cannibalism is not eating people per se. Cannibalism is eating one’s own species (so to speak).

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Considered O'Minion

You know, I’ve been a bit bothered by a bad turn that the oh-so-white insurance adverts have sometimes been taking.

Understand, I have absolutely, positively nothing against Stephanie Courtney. In fact, I've enjoyed watching her sweet and quirky character evolve. But really, the guy whose car ran off the road in the rain is too stupid to come IN out of the rain? If it'd been me (which, of course, it wouldn't be, 'cuz I don't drive), I'd've quickly surveyed the front-end damage. Then gotten back into the undamaged, only slightly tilted driver's seat. Before calling the insurance company. Or anyone else, for that matter.

One-Eyed MinionThat's not the worst thing, though. I'm willing to put up with that chick-flick send-up, even if it seems a little sarcastic. But by their angry-biker commercial, I was beginning to worry about a shift in focus. And when I saw the spokesgal-as-drug-dealer one, I really cringed. As I noted in my original Short Takes, something like that doesn't seem funny (at least to me) in a society where so many people are embroiled in real life-or-death addiction (to say nothing of the school-to-prison pipeline) situations. And to make Herself the negative "role model"? Really wrong direction.

At least her latest sinister "one day the world" commercial is really just a silly "Mu-ha-ha-ha" moment with three of the Despicable Me minions. So all is not yet lost. (And the new movie does look like it's gonna be fun.) I'm keeping an eye on 'em, though. Just to be sure they don't backslide some more.

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Spin Dizzy

I'm going to spin around in the opposite direction this time and tell you about a commercial that I think, in a way, got it right.

You've seen the ad series that tells you "It's not complicated." Beck Bennett, portraying a reporter or focus group facilitator or pollster or some such, asks four kids a question about the importance of networking size, speed, economy, flexibility, multitasking, etc. Listens carefully. Elicits further feedback. Then reacts to their responses.

Are the adverts memorable? Yes. Though I don't always remember exactly whose product/service is being touted.

Is their formula simple without being boring? Yes, though I don't know how long that can hold true.

Do they get their point across? Yes. Though it's not always a good point. (Case in point: There are times when, say, multitasking with your mobile phone is definitely not a good thing, such as texting while driving.)

Do the kids improvise "cute" answers? Yes. Though you can sometimes tell when a kid is delivering their initial improvisation for the second or third take.

Are the kids being exploited? There's a debate raging in other quarters. I don't need to get into it here. If they are, at least they're getting the chance - being encouraged, even - to be imaginative in the process.

Spinning TopBut of all the commercials in the series, I've been most taken with the "Dizzy" one. Despite the fact that, as mentioned before, I'm not all that thrilled with its multitasking focus. Why, then? Because it actually breaks formula in a way that I find endearing.

In every one of the commercials, Bennett asks the key question, the kids respond, Bennett may engage them in further dialogue, and then Bennett has the last word. Always. Except in the "Dizzy" ad. The one with the little boy demonstrating how he can wave his head and wave his hand at the same time. There, Bennett delivers the expected last word as usual. Only to be "upstaged" by the little boy's "I'm getting dizzy."

Obviously, that wasn't in the script, because there mostly is no script for what the kids say. What's endearing, though, is that the director decided to keep that formula-breaking line. He could have left it on the cutting room floor. But he didn't, formula be damned. Good for him.

Good for Bennett, too. Who seems not only to work well with the kids but to enjoy doing so. He could've protested not having the last word. But I suspect he didn't.

As for the young boy? I hope he remembers or is reminded, when he grows up, of just how unique his contribution to the series turned out to be. But for now, I hope he stops that particular bit of multitasking.

And I promise, next time I'll get back to my curmudgeonly tirades on the ridiculosity of so many commercials.

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More Shorts

Movie clapboard #2Well, I haven't done a slumgullion of short takes in over two years, so I guess it's about time.

Let's start with the lady serving breakfast. There's her son sitting at the table with a head full of drying shampoo. And her daughter with a neglected curling iron sliding shoulderwards. And all Mom is worried about is that her hubby hasn't put his pants on yet?!

Speaking of eating, don't you just love how that catfood commercial uses an adultish-looking long-hair kitten -- which you'd only realize if you noticed how small it looked compared to the human earlier in the ad -- so that the serving from the very small gourmet-catfood can will look larger by comparison?

And when it comes to trying -- and failing -- to make small look big, there's Shaq calling the hybrid he's sitting in "roomy". Even though, in order to fit behind the wheel and under the roof, he's practically lying down. Wouldn't you just love to be the backseat passenger who nearly has his headrest in your lap? How comfortable! For you AND for his neck.

In a really short short, would the alpenhorn cough-drop people please decide whether their brand name is accented on the second syllable or the first?

Even shorter, no matter what truth there may be in the patter, I really don't cotton to any online dating service that pretends to speak for God.

OTOH, the ads with the short "in my day" actors range from funny to hilarious. On the one with the dollhouse, I find myself responding, "Hey, in MY day you didn't have to worry about where the TV outlet was, either." That's 'cuz, you know, in my day there was no TV outlet. We could put the TV wherever there was access to a plain ol' electric socket. Then I find myself wondering why those girls need a TV to play their dress-up, fashion-model, high-society game anyway. Have we really saddled our newest generation with such paucity of imagination?

The insurance duck commercials are as crazy as ever, with the spokesquacker now having to use the very insurance it's been touting because of injury to wing and beak. The Facebook campaign to send the duck a get-well card is quite clever. Or a wanton waste of people's time. Take your pick.

As for the "mayhem" guy pretending to be snow on the collapsing roof, there's that "don't try this at home" disclaimer. Come on, if someone is stupid enough to try this at home, do you think they're going to pay any attention to the fine print?

And to cap off insurance ads going in a weird direction, that doe-eyed young lady shy-flirting with the spokespig in the tow-needy car is a tad creepy. At least the oblivious oinker isn't flirting back. But it's still just too bizarrely Kermit-and-Miss-Piggy for my taste. I mean, really, okay, did she seriously just say that?

Finally, there's one commercial series I really appreciate NOT seeing anymore (I hope). That's the macaroni-and cheese "liquid gold" smith. Nothing against David S. Lee per se. But his portrayal of that character is the downright creepiest. Especially the one where he and the woman he's "helping" have a grand total of six hands. HUH?!

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