Monday, January 30, 2012

Matthew Broderick's Day Off: Honda's New Super Bowl Ad

Tonight was like Christmas in January.  I must have been good these past few weeks because Super Bowl Santa has brought exactly what I always wanted, 6 days early! Honda has posted its Ferris Bueller themed Super Bowl commercial on YouTube.  To build the excitement better than any drum roll, read my preview and watch the teaser here.

Without further ado, here it is:

Knee-jerk first reaction: not exactly what I expected. I thought it would be a two minute and thirty second mini-movie of Ferris Bueller 2. But it isn't.  And I'm okay with that.

Instead we get Matthew Broderick playing Matthew Broderick, which works because the entire world thinks Matthew Broderick is really Ferris Bueller and always has been. Effective.

We also get a two minute and thirty second mini-movie chock full of Ferris Bueller references.  "Bueller, Bueller" reference?  Check. Cough that reminds us of Bueller's electric keyboard of illness noises? Check. Nearly getting caught while stopped in traffic? Check. Thoughtful pondering at work of art while camera gets closer and closer? Check.  And yes, I'm considering that walrus to be a work of art. Major sporting event? Singing in a street parade?  Check. Check. The valet jumping the CR-V is perfectly executed, and Broderick talking to the viewers after the commercial is officially over were both right in tune with the movie.  It's a fun spot that fans of the film will love, and will make everyone else will at least smile.  Honestly, who doesn't love Matthew Broderick?

Even better for Honda, it works as a commercial.  The CR-V is integrated nicely into the plot of the ad, without being too obnoxious AND without fading into the background.  Damn, that's a nice shiny new car as it drives Broderick between his adventures. I mentioned in the last post that the goal is to get the Ferris Bueller cool to rub off on the car, and I think they did a pretty good job at it.

There are three tiny, little details that I absolutely love from this ad.

1. What's the name of the lady that Matthew is speaking to through the car phone?  Grace. Just like Mr. Rooney's secretary. Who can forget him screaming, "GRACE!" while he's on the phone with Ferris pretending to be Sloane's father. For half a second I thought the lady on the car phone was supposed to be SJP (ahem, that's Sarah Jessica Parker, otherwise known as Mrs. Broderick).  But I was not disappointed to see the name Grace appear on the dashboard.

2. Broderick replicates Ferris' goofy little grin after he tricks Grace with that disgusting cough.  What a charming little schemer!

3. I bet you didn't catch this, but I was looking for it.  Check out the license plate:

SOCHOIC! It's the one thing that I needed to see in this spot.  That car is SO CHOICE! I don't know why that phrase fell out of style, but I totally want to bring it back.  I'm thrilled to see they found a way to fit it in. Seriously, thrilled.

Let me interject a small note here about that walrus.  At first, I thought it was just a random image for Matthew Broderick to stare at to replicate the scene with Cameron in the art museum.  But upon further reflection, I realize there's more to it.  You may recall Ferris Bueller quoting John Lennon in the movie, and resolving that he too could be the walrus, but he would still have to bum rides.  I'd like to think Matthew Broderick, all grown up, is staring into that walrus and thinking to himself "I am the walrus." It's a beautiful thing.  

Finally, I must report that I just Shazam'ed this commercial for the sole purpose of learning the details of that famous "Oooh yeah, bow bow, chick, chicka chicka" music. This doesn't go against my philosophies as reported in my Shazam post--the app was meant to help you identify music. I was happy to do it at the comfort of my own computer, rather than on game day after they might have slapped a stupid "Shazam for more content" icon in the corner of my screen. That song made famous by Ferris Bueller and Twix alike is "Oh Yeah" by Yello.  And I just downloaded it. 

The Ratings
Appeal: A+
Effectiveness: A-
Longevity: A


So, we've had a first glimpse of some pretty special Super Bowl commercials.  Alright then, other advertisers, the gauntlet has been thrown.  Don't let us down with any lame ads that waste our time and your $3.5 million.

For more Super Bowl related news, check out these posts:
Super Bowl XLVI- Honorable Mention For M&M's Ms. Brown 
Super Bowl XLVI: The Top Ten Best Commercials of 2012
Super Bowl XLVI: The Commercials Live Blog
Budweiser- King of Super Bowl Commercials 
Volkswagen's Fat Dog New Beetle Star Wars Cantina
Volkswagen's Star Wars Dog Choir- Super Bowl Preview
Pet Peeve: Shazam

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Matthew Broderick Back as Ferris Bueller in Honda's New Super Bowl Commercial

UPDATE: The full ad has been released.  After you read this post on the teaser, check out my post on "Matthew Broderick's Day Off" here

Never has a 10 second teaser made me so happy. This little clip has absolutely made my day. Today's post comes with a side order of the type of news that causes an entire generation to collectively squeal with excitement. Hang on to your cheetah-print vests, 80's kids!

Ferris Bueller returns to the small screen next weekend with a "Day Off"-themed Super Bowl spot for Honda. The teaser was released last week to adoring fans of the 1986 John Hughes classic. Here goes:

I know, like life, this ad moves pretty fast. If you don't stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it. So, take that as a lesson to keep your eyes peeled during the Super Bowl and limit your bathroom breaks to game time.

Ferris Bueller was the voice of a generation. Who hasn't dreamed of taking the ultimate skip day? The movie had everything from a trip to the Cubs, to a street parade that devolves into a dance party. So, kudos to Honda for taking on the project of updating us on grown-up Mr. Bueller. The ad should be a hit, so long as it retains the original tone and feel of the movie. Considering how it has become a cult classic, studied and replayed for over 25 years, the viewing public are going to feel it if the commercial misses the mark.

The key to success is going to be keeping Bueller cool. If everyone wants to be Ferris Bueller, and Ferris Bueller is shilling your car, some of that cool is bound to rub off. I predict a home run here, or more appropriately, a touchdown. I hope Honda doesn't let me down. They have a opportunity to make a memorable Super Bowl commercial that invokes one of my all-time, favorite movies, and really strikes a hit for their brand.

The interwebs are abuzz with news that Ferris will be taking his day off in a Honda CRV. Considering the original plot line with Cameron's father's Ferrari, we could see some impressive automotive shots that would fit perfectly with updating the movie.

To be a hit, the ad has to go a little further than your average spot and really invoke the movie. There are so many pop culture gems that have lived on since we were introduced to them back in 1986. Here are some things I would want to see incorporated in a Ferris Bueller update:

1. Since this is for a car commercial, Matthew Broderick MUST look at that car and say that it is "so choice."

2. Someone has to be looking for him at work, calling out "Bueller, Bueller." Preferably Ben Stein.

3. Someone at work should walk around raising money for our deathly ill protagonist with a can marked "Save Ferris."

4. Ferris should head back to the Cubs game- great opportunity for a sports cameo. Maybe he'll be sitting next to Ernie Banks or he'll catch a home run ball hit by Alfonso Soriano.

5. Speaking of cameos, I hope we get an appearance from grown-up Jeanie Bueller (Jennifer Grey). She'll have to introduce herself, since we won't be able to recognize her with that nose job. I expect she'll be married to Charlie Sheen's drug addict character, who would really blow up this commercial with his talk of tiger blood and goddesses. Hopefully, Ferris will convince grown-up Cameron (Alan Ruck) to cut work, too, because every slacker needs a buddy. And maybe Ferris is still in touch with grown-up Sloane (Mia Sara), who can come along for their wild ride.

6. Can we please hear the phrase "Abe Froeman, Sausage King of Chicago?"

7. The main scene that has to make the cut is the car sailing through the air, like when the valets take off the in the Ferrari after Ferris drops it off. I think it will be a more effective advertisement if Bueller makes the jump himself, though.

8. Finally, dance party in the streets of Chicago. Can we get a little "Twist and Shout?"

I can't wait to see this commercial. As a Bueller mega fan, I'm thrilled to see Matthew Broderick reprise the role, even for 30 seconds. Thank you, Honda, for doing this--just don't mess it up.

I'll leave you with some wise words:
Not that I condone fascism, or any -ism for that matter. -Ism's in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon, "I don't believe in Beatles, I just believe in me." Good point there. After all, he was the walrus. I could be the walrus. I'd still have to bum rides off people.
--Bueller, 1986

For more Super Bowl related news, check out these posts:
Super Bowl XLVI- Honorable Mention For M&M's Ms. Brown 
Super Bowl XLVI: The Top Ten Best Commercials of 2012
Super Bowl XLVI: The Commercials Live Blog
Budweiser- King of Super Bowl Commercials 
Volkswagen's Fat Dog New Beetle Star Wars Cantina
Volkswagen's Star Wars Dog Choir- Super Bowl Preview
Pet Peeve: Shazam

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pet Peeve: Shazam

For those of you out there gearing up for this year's Super Bowl commercials, we need to talk. I've noticed a highly disturbing trend. Thank goodness for this opportunity to expose it in all its grotesque horror. Be warned, and warn your children.

It started out innocently enough.  For those iPhone users out there, you might remember when you first booted up your sparkling, shiny new phone and discovered a magical little app called Shazam. No, not Shazam! the 70s TV show about Captain Marvel.  No, not Kazaam, the 1996 genie buddy movie starring Shaquille O'Neal. Just Shazam, the marvelous song tagging app.

I know, nowadays you've moved on to more exciting apps like Cards or you're still busy playing Angry Birds. You've forgotten all about Shazam and its instant novelty that you loved so dearly back in 2009.

Or have you? Few apps provide such a useful function. And now Shazam isn't just for Apple devotees. It's available on most phone platforms from Android to Blackberry.

For those who have missed it, Shazam is an app that helps you identify music.  You trigger the app and wait for it to "listen" to a couple seconds of that Duran Duran song when you can't remember the title, and after it matches the audio fingerprint to a database, SHAZAM! The app displays the song details (Ahh! Her name is RIO and she dances on the sand. Got it!).
I love Shazam. It's a great app. But methinks we've taken it too far.

Recently, I've noticed Shazam is being used in commercials on TV.  Why? Well, so you can Shazam them for...  I have no idea. Why on earth would anyone want to Shazam a commercial? What comes up when you Shazam a commercial? I will never know the answer.  I refuse to find out.  I will not Shazam a commercial until they promise to pay me real, cold hard cash for doing so.  You [advertisers] have paid big bucks for air time and production of these commercials.  Get out whatever it is you need to say out on the TV, while you have my captive attention.  I will not seek out more brand messaging and brain washing by Shazam'ing your commercial.  It's one thing for you to interrupt the latest episode of Top Chef.  It is wholly another thing for me to choose to subject myself to your inane characters and irritating jingles.

I first noticed the little Shazam icon in the corner of my screen during some obnoxious Old Navy commercials. My first reaction was rage. Who thought of such a horrible idea? First of all, I couldn't stand the cutesy pop tune in the commercial, so if the point was to connect me to the music, you've lost me already. But worst of all, these commercials were replayed so much that the mere sound of the music would make my skin crawl. I can't imagine the brave individual who dared to Shazam it.

Yes, Old Navy commercial stars, we are confused, annoyed, and bored by the idea of Shazam'ing this, too.  And no, Old Navy, I will NOT "Shazam Now!"

Hoping this was just a fluke, I was rudely surprised to find it a growing trend.  Over the holidays, there were Shazam ads by Marshalls and TJ Maxx.
The songs grew worse.  The Shazams became more prevalent. These are frightening times we live in.

I always figured the Shazam in the commercials had something to do with the music. Until the other day when I saw a Turbo Tax commercial using Shazam.  There wasn't any memorable music to this ad, in fact I think it was all talk.  I haven't been able to find it the offending spot on YouTube or managed to snip a picture for you, but trust me, it's out there and it's coming for you.

I think its too much. If I want more information about a product, I know how to find it.  We live in the Information Age. I disagree with creating a special, distinct layer of commercial hell by tempting viewers to activate an app on their personal cell phones to connect through the WiFi to the latest special offer.  Plus, Shazam "listens" to about 10 seconds of sound to map out the audio fingerprint.  You have to wake up your phone, open the app, and active the Shazam button in enough time to catch it. Maybe they expect you to pause your TV, rewind back the DVR and then Shazam their commercial so you can experience the hidden content.  I bet that'll be a very rewarding experience for the viewer.

Don't get me wrong.  I am someone who has looked up songs from commercials and downloaded them.  I don't think there's anything wrong with that.  Just to embarass myself, here are a couple examples of songs I found only because they were in commercials:

1. Montell Jordan- "This is How We Do It"
Yup, after I wrote my blog post about "Steve," I just had to have the song. 

2. Trio- "Da Da Da"

3. Shiny Toy Guns- "Le Disko"

4. Asteroid Galaxy- "Around the Bend"

5. This is the last example I'm willing to publicly own up to--I went old school after this Visa commercial with Renato Carosone- "Mambo Italiano."

It isn't an exhaustive list.  I hit up iTunes after watching many an iPhone ad, and many other older commercials that are nearly impossible to hunt out on the interwebs. 

Today it isn't considered artistic suicide for musicians to sell their songs for commercial use. Not only is it standard procedure, but for some it can really kick off a career. I've gotten accustomed to this and I've managed to find some arguably good (or at least fun) songs as a result.

But please, oh please, don't ask me to Shazam your tax software.

What do you think?  Do you Shazam?  Have you ever Shazam'ed a commercial? Does it inflame you to your core? Tell me about it either way.  I'm looking forward to your comments. And if you have Shazam'ed a commercial- what did it bring up? 

Regardless of your opinions, I hear that up to a third of this years Super Bowl ads will be Shazam enabled. When I open my Shazam app it tells me: "Use Shazam for the big game. Halftime with Madonna. Game Stats. Shazam-Enabled TV Ads." Keep an eye out. You know I'll be watching and shuddering.

For more Super Bowl related news, check out these posts:
Super Bowl XLVI- Honorable Mention For M&M's Ms. Brown 
Super Bowl XLVI: The Top Ten Best Commercials of 2012
Super Bowl XLVI: The Commercials Live Blog
Budweiser- King of Super Bowl Commercials
Volkswagen's Fat Dog New Beetle Star Wars Cantina
Matthew Broderick's Day Off
Matthew Broderick Returns as Ferris Bueller in Honda's New Super Bowl Commercial- Teaser
Volkswagen's Star Wars Dog Choir- Super Bowl Preview

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Volkswagen's Star Wars Dog Choir: Super Bowl Preview Edition

UPDATE: Volkswagen released their Super Bowl spot.  After you finish this preview article, check out my review of Volkswagen's Fat Dog New Beetle Star Wars Cantina.

Dear readers, you may not have known this before, but I am related to royalty.  No, not English Monarchy royalty, although my husband is English.  My older brother is King of Star Wars Fanboys.  Okay, you've got me, that may not be a real title--but only because High Overlord Lucas hasn't officially sanctioned it. But the point remains, my older brother is one of the biggest Star Wars fans out there.

That means that I grew up with Star Wars as a very big, very real part of my life.  I'm definitely a fan and happy to see when it pops up successfully in pop culture.

Which is why when I received a reader request for a post on the new Volkswagen commercial, I just had to do it.  [Thanks for the suggestion, Dyan!]

If you haven't seen it yet, here it is:

I'm guessing your first reaction was, "Wow, that was so cute! A bunch of puppies barking The Imperial March!" Not a bad response.  But if you let it stew for even a moment, your next reaction should inevitably be, "What the hell did that have to do with Volkswagen?"

There's a huge disconnect in this commercial. Yes, it's a great clip bound to go viral and attract some attention.  Yes, in this age of YouTube and the Twitters that's all you need for success. And yes, by writing about it, I'm only contributing to that effect. But, as an advertisement, I'm a little lost.

If you follow the link at the end, you're taken to a Volkswagen America page where you can send out your Super Bowl party invites using the famous Star Wars intro title crawl. That's not a bad trick for all the Star Wars fans out there.

But again, where does that get you?  You've made a commercial pandering to the fanboys [and fangirls] who have a fever, and the only cure is more Star Wars [not more cowbell].  Not to pigeonhole or sterotype too badly, but how many of those folks are hosting Super Bowl parties?  And even if you've hit the right interested people, the one thing this commercial doesn't do is make me want to go buy a Passat.  I'm more likely to watch it and go adopt an Italian Greyhound and dress it up as an AT-AT. 

I can't imagine how Volkswagen got Lucasfilms on board with this, but it is a very cute spot.  It succeeds in its adorableness.  Who wouldn't love a puppy choir, right? The expectation for a commercial like this is to get people talking and looking out for what's coming next.  This is a teaser ad.  It isn't supposed to make sense on its own.  And quite frankly, it doesn't!   The text at the end displays 2.5.12- the date of the Super Bowl. So, keep an eye out for whatever will follow.  It promises to be full-on geeky glory.

Speaking of geeky glory... were you able to recognize all of the characters in the dog choir?  On first watch, I only spotted the Wookie, the Ewok, and the AT-AT.  But upon closer examination, you'll find the gang is all there:

Apologies for using prequel Obi Wan, but the dog's coloring fits better with Ewan McGreggor. And for all the criticism the prequels took, I don't think McGreggor was the problem.

If you look at the Chewbacca still, you can see the Storm Trooper's gun.  I nearly missed that, but caught it when I was trying to capture that shot. Luke's got his Lightsaber.  Han Solo dog looks like his legs are khaki colored, very appropriate. Little Yoda dog's fur is the color of Yoda's coat. It's really not a bad cast.

The video has a look like it's had to be tweaked a little too much in order to get the effect of the dogs barking the march- especially for the staccato notes.  The editing makes it look unnatural and a little weird.  But, for a group of dogs barking The Imperial March, it's not bad.

It looks like the good people at VW are big Star Wars fans.  If this wasn't enough evidence for you, I'll direct your attention to last year's VW Super Bowl commercial:

Now that was a great commercial.  It hit all the right notes to be a memorable Super Bowl spot.  Whoevever is in that costume is a brilliant physical actor.  From the body language when stalking the dog, to the hand on helmet as mom passes the sandwich, to the surprised turns at the end when the car starts up.  It's amazingly well executed.

I'm sure it also invokes every fanboy's love of the franchise from a young age.  This kid can't be the first to dress up as Vader or practice summoning the force. Remember Kevin Smith as Silent Bob all through Mallrats?

I love the original, and if this is what VW is capable of, I have high expectations for Super Bowl Sunday. 

Here are The Ratings for the Dog Choir:
Appeal: A
Effectiveness: C+
Longevity: B+


The longevity score got a bump from that Italian Greyhound AT-AT.  That dog is so beautiful and so ridiculous dressed up that way that it makes me think I'll be happy to watch in the future.

Unnecessary side note: growing up I was slightly obsessed with Volkswagens.  I always dreamed of owning a Beetle, then fell in love with Jettas and later Cabrios.  I love the look of those cars.  However, none of those opinions have influenced my opinion on this ad in any way. I am happy that it's much better than their miserable "Sign then drive event" commercials! Ugh. I can't stand those.

For more Super Bowl related news, check out these posts:
Super Bowl XLVI- Honorable Mention For M&M's Ms. Brown 
Super Bowl XLVI: The Top Ten Best Commercials of 2012
Super Bowl XLVI: The Commercials Live Blog
Budweiser- King of Super Bowl Commercials 
Matthew Broderick's Day Off
Matthew Broderick is Back as Ferris Bueller in Honda's New Super Bowl Commercial- Teaser
Pet Peeve: Shazam

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Stewie & Brian Want You to Eat Wheat Thins

Have you seen the latest project from Seth MacFarlane? You know, the creator and voice behind Family Guy?
I present for your viewing pleasure: Wheat Thins.

21 times. In case you didn't get a chance to count it, they repeat "Wheat Thins" 21 times in that 30 second clip. It's like a mini brain washing session. After viewing it enough times to count how many times they said Wheat Thins, I now can't get Stewie repeating "HWheat Thins" out of my head.

Those who know and love Family Guy will love this ad. I'm totally in that camp. The show was cancelled while I was in college. My friends had the DVDs of the first three seasons and we would watch it non-stop. I was thrilled when Fox picked it back up and remember tuning in for that first episode back--the triumph of good television over the network big-wigs. I loved how it opened with a jab at the network- listing off ad nauseam all the shows that had come and gone on Fox since the show was cancelled.

Anyone watching this ad could like it for one of three reasons.
1. Ooo! I loved that gag on Family Guy! Wheat Thins are so cool to use it.
2. Ooo! I love Family Guy. Stewie and Brian are the best! OR,
3. Ooo! I love Wheat Thins! What a delicious snack. Why is that baby with a football shaped head talking to a talking dog?

As you can see, you either get the specific reference, or you don't. Even if you're a fan of the show, it's such a quick joke in just a couple of episodes that you might have missed it or might not remember it.

The problem with this ad is that it's an in crowd joke. I'm not making this point to brag about the fact that I'm "in" this in crowd (hooray! finally!), but rather to point out that it's the only real flaw to the commercial. The good news for Wheat Thins is that Family Guy has been in syndication for a while (a Hwhile? yes a while) so there's a greater likelihood that people are going to get it.

But what about your mom? And by that I very respectfully mean, what about people who don't watch Family Guy, who don't know The Clam from a Giggity Goo, and who don't understand why they are mispronouncing the name of this tasty treat. The commercial is going to alienate some of the viewing audience who have no idea what is going on here.

But, I'd wager that Seth MacFarlane didn't make this commercial for your mom. I mean, I'm sure your mom is a lovely lady and all. Seriously, much respect. But doesn't it make you feel just the tiniest bit cooler when the ad is over and your mom looks at you with that puzzled look on her face and says, "I don't get it." Yeah it does. Admit it.

So, if this ad is for me and others like me out there, it works.

Two more random points before the ratings.

Fist, I am so bummed that Cool Whip didn't take advantage of this first. I can't help but wonder whether Wheat Thins approached Seth or if it was the other way around. Because damn, Cool Whip, you really missed out on a grand slam. Cool Whip: how will you live with yourselves!?!

Second, Isn't the best part of the entire thing the self-awareness of the ad? Peter, feeling left out (a nod to the in crowd nature of this ad, perhaps?) shouts from the other room "Can I be in your commercial?" Stewie and Brian's quick "NO" makes the whole thing work. Family Guy has been described as a dark humored comedy, and its fitting to end the ad this way. It makes me smile that they are mean to him. Yes, that might make me a bad person, but I'm just being honest with you.

Ok, enough toying around. Here's a clip of the original exaggerated H:

The Ratings
Appeal: B
Effectiveness: A
Longevity: B-


The spot earns high marks for effectiveness. Like I said before, it's basically brain washing you for 30 seconds. But that's also its downfall for longevity. It's not something you'll be able to stomach on too many repeat viewings without going insane. I had to go with a middling grade for appeal to take into account that some people won't have a clue what they just watched and it will make them feel sad.

If after watching this commercial you need to get the sound of Stewie Griffin saying "HWheat Thins" out of your head, may I suggest "Steve" - Jackson Hewitt . That should help shake things up.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Quite a Character- "Mayhem" Keeps You on Hold

Alright, let's do this. Let's talk about one of the best characters in commercials today, Mayhem. Mayhem is amazing. Mayhem is versatile.  Mayhem works in every possible situation.  Allstate struck advertising gold when it teamed up with actor Dean Winters to create one of the most entertaining and devious commercial stars of the small screen. You may recognize him as Liz Lemon's crusty, loser ex-boyfriend, Dennis Duffy from 30 Rock.  But to me, he'll always be Mayhem.

The beauty of Mayhem is the variety of horrendous situations that Allstate has thrust him into.

Mayhem has been an emotionally compromised teenage girl.


Mayhem has been a hot lady jogger, making sure "this" stays a 10.

Love that awesome headband.

Mayhem has been your errant GPS.


And most recently, Mayhem strikes home for Allstate by directly attacking the competition.  Don't be confused, Mayhem has on a couple occasions actually struck a home- as a pile of snow on the roof, as you son on a law mower, and as your satellite dish. But I'm referring to the new spot where Mayhem is a claims representative at a rival insurance company.

This commercial works.  Some of the multitude of Mayhem ads haven't exactly hit the spot, but on the whole they are effective and memorable.  Each of the Mayhem ads have dark undertones.  Mayhem throws himself off roofs, into traffic, causes accidents, and is always nearly killing someone.  This one gets bonus points for the direct dig at the competition.

Mayhem isn't a nice guy.  So Allstate gets away with what amounts to an attack ad, without losing the audience.  No one watches this and says, "Hey! You guys are being so unfair to those nice insurance companies." We're sick of hearing from insurance companies.  If you consider what you see in any given commercial break I think you'll find the most common ads are for the following: cars, fast food, cable/satellite/phone, and insurance.  There may be some other obvious categories I'm leaving out, but you can't deny that the insurance companies are some of the worst offenders.  They use warm, fuzzy images, cute talking characters, and invoke sentimental family moments.  Gag.

As a small aside, let me just throw it out there that I HATE FLO. Hate her. Every single one of those Progressive commercials makes me scream at the TV.  Nothing about those commercials makes any sense.  What is this weird insurance store she runs? Why do customers pick out boxes of insurance? Insurance doesn't come in a box! She isn't funny.  She isn't witty. She's just weird and annoying and so are those commercials.  ARGH!

Ok, glad to get that out of my system for now.  I expect I may need to more thoroughly deconstruct my hatred in the future, assuming Progressive continues to use that poor excuse for a spokesperson.

Back to the point... 

Insurance companies have a bad rep for hanging people out to dry when they're needed most.  I'll never forget the hateful messages scrawled on debris scattered around Biloxi, Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina directed at insurance companies who found excuses to avoid paying.  Regardless of your politics, insurance companies are rarely considered to be the benevolent caretakers they play on TV.  Those personas are specifically constructed to gain your trust, goodwill, and your money.  But in reality, those companies can be infuriating to deal with in the best of times.  That's why the frustration portrayed in this commercial is so real to every person watching in TVland.

Mayhem hits it on the head playing the carefree, clueless voice telling you to stay on the line.  The sprite-like, happy hold music is the perfect contrast to the dark images of the stranded, desperate motorist.  I laughed when he said a representative would be with you in 97 minutes.  That sounds about right.

The best moment in the entire spot is that bright little trill on the electric keyboard. Perfect.

The Ratings
Appeal: B+
Effectiveness: B
Longevity: B+


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Google Has a Crush on The Muppets

The Muppets are riding high after their box office smash hit. And it's about time. I've missed Kermit, Piggy and Gonzo just as much as the rest of the Fraggle-loving world. I very distinctively remember that "The Rainbow Connection" was the song my class sang at our graduation ceremony from kindergarten. I'm only slightly embarrassed to admit that I teared up and let 'em roll when Kermie sang my song in the new flick.

Unsurprisingly, Muppet nostalgia is running rampant. In a world of global conflict and economic crisis old hippies and new hipsters alike can find sanctuary in Jim Henson's attempt to achieve world peace and harmony through googley-eyed puppets.

Plus, everyone knows Google has been harboring an undeclared love of the Muppets for some time. Did you know the Muppets were one of the first official brands on Google+?  I only know because Kermit told me.  Check out this video of one of their hangouts:

But that wasn't the first expression of Google/Muppet love.  Remember the doodle on the Google home page for Henson's 75th birthday? It was one of the most fun and innovative doodles they had ever created. You became the "Muppeteer" and could manipulate the six newly specially designed characters.

It was one of the best doodles they ever created.  But not the best. No, the best Google doodle is the one Google created to commemorate Freddy Mercury's 65th birthday. It was poetry in motion. They designed an old school video game clip with Freddie as the superhero extraordinaire to the tune of "Don't Stop Me Now." It is such a beautiful tribute to a beautiful star whose life was cut short.  You've got to watch this- especially if you missed it the first time.

Goosebumps.  Love it.

So it's no surprise that Google could easily marry these two loves into a flawless ad for Google+. Take a look:

I could watch that commercial over and over again.  I only saw it one time on TV and rushed to do this post to share it with all of you. And bonus points for picking the duet with David Bowie, King of Cool.

Google+ is on the verge of heading to the Google scrap heap, and fast. It's been skewered as a lame attempt to create a social networking site. It hasn't caught on and it's considered by most I know as woefully uncool.

How appropriate to toss a life preserver over to Google's great friends, those hippies and hipsters, utilizing a favored icon to both, the Muppets, and why not throw in two Rock Gods for good measure? 

But the Muppets have a mass appeal that goes even further than that and it could really help pump some life blood into those damn Google circles. Because, honestly, a hang-out with Kermit and gang (especially Beaker- he's my favorite) rocking out to Queen, is by far the best thing I've seen from Google+.

The Ratings
Appeal: A+
Effectiveness: A- (The minus is my disappointment that I wont be able to join that Muppet hang out on Google+, which makes me angry).
Longevity: A


Friday, January 13, 2012

My New Favorite Commercial Today: Steve

Time for the first of what promises to be a long line of posts on the topic of "My New Favorite Commercial Today."  And boy, do I have a treat for you! 

Take a watch below and just try not to crack a smile or bust up laughing at the 5 second mark.


Let's look at the freeze frame:

It makes me want to get up on my desk and dance like a fool, too! 

And I feel like I'd be in good company.  Just take a look at the other idiots dancing around our friend, Steve.  Is that curly haired, redhead actually doing the garden sprinkler? 

Watching this ad, I want to know Steve.  I want Steve at my house when I have friends over to keep them all in stitches.  I want to hear him tell a couple jokes, because I know they would be hilarious. I want to hop in a time machine and have Steve dance at my wedding. 

I wouldn't even mind letting Steve pick out the my playlist.  How about a little Montell Jordan? Have you missed him since 1995? I hadn't, but I do now. This commercial works because that song is 90s fly in a way you totally miss, but wouldn't have admitted until I called you out on it.  You know you want to jump on a table and do the running man to the phat beats of "This is How We Do it."  

Even better than the spot on song choice was finding Steve. He's brilliant. The jubilation in his face at the 5 second mark is undeniable.  And whatever it is he's selling, I'm buying.

Except, that leads to the one problem with this ad.  I am so preoccupied (read: obsessed) with my new best friend, Dancing Steve, that I've laughed through the other 20 seconds of this commercial and completely missed whatever it is they're advertising.  I think I only picked up on whose commercial this was on the third or fourth viewing, and only because I wanted to look it up.

So, Jackson Hewitt, great work with a fun, entertaining, funny ad.  But it was probably too good for your own good. My family uses that online tax software so we don't have to be bothered with dancing, curly haired, redheaded tax consultants who dance like it's 1993. You probably won't get my business, but you get my vote for my new favorite commercial today. 

The Ratings- Here are my marks for "Steve" in terms of execution, brand messaging, and watchability. For a thorough explanation of the ratings criteria, go to my Ratings page

Appeal: A-
Effectiveness: C
Longevity:  B+ 


Thursday, January 12, 2012

My Guilty Pleasure

I admit it. I watch a lot of TV. Too much, really. Probably more than the average human should.

And because of that, I have a deep and personal knowledge of television commercials.

Even with the development of DVR, you're bombarded relentlessly every time you flick on the box.

Inevitably, I've become a connoisseur. Not necessarily of television programming, because sometimes you're in the mood for art, drama, high brow humor, and other times you're happy to just watch a little Millionaire Matchmaker.
TV comes with its guilty pleasures and I have more than my share of mine.

But you can never completely control the commercials. Even "On Demand" programming through the cable box or on Hulu requires you to endure some form of advertisement.

When you learn so much about a subject, you start to form opinions. Strong opinions. Violent opinions. Sturdy, entrenched opinions made of oak or steel. These are the kinds of opinions that require you to shout them from the rafters (or at your television set, or your husband).

But perhaps the most sane reaction would be to record them for the world and for all time in a blog.

So here we are. I like a lot of commercials. I love some commercials. I hate most commercials.

Most importantly, I think I know why they work and why they don't. I tell myself this all the time -- and I tell my husband almost as often. It's time for me to finally put my money where my mouth is. Or at least put my thoughts into blog form and open the discussion to the floor.

So, let's talk about some commercials. But first, a few words from our sponsors.