Commercial Breakdown

If you watched every inning of every Diamondbacks game this year, including the pre- and post-game shows, you would have watched a total of about 19,000 commercials. Admittedly, that's if you don't channel-hop during the breaks - courtesy of Mrs. SnakePit, I've seen more CSI that way, than I ever have directly. But there have been times, particularly in the last week, when the adverts have been rather more entertaining than the baseball. On the other hand, there are cases where, while you may remember the product, the urge the ad creates is less that of purchasing the product, than setting on fire the Madison Avenue executive responsible for the concept.

Since it's an off-day for the Diamondbacks, after the jump, let's review - in a semi-random manner - some of the 'favorites' that we've endured or enjoyed so far this season.


In our impromptu survey, there was a clear winner, in terms of entertainment value: Jack in the Box. And when Diamondhacks and I are in agreement on that, you know this is the truth. The highlight of the past year has probably been the one for Mini Sirloin Burgers, which manages - and this is rarer that you'd think - to retain watchability, regardless of the number of times it is seen. Cows the size of schnauzers, a posse of little people, including Phoenix's own Mark Trombino, and a jingle more infectious than herpes, which I have found myself singing at entirely inappropriate moments. [The Mexican version, above, is just... strange] It doesn't hurt that the burgers aren't bad, though I'd avoid the Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches.

It's interesting how the corporation has a long history of skating on the edge of good taste. In 2007, Carl's Jr sued them for an advert in which Jack refused to point to a diagram of a cow, and show the "Angus area". This year, the one where their smoothie stops a menopausal woman from going "street-rat crazy" has been criticized, but their use of little people has apparently got away with it. Unlike Burger King, whose juxtaposition of a cowboy and a mini luchador, with the line "The taste of Texas with a little spicy Mexican," provoked ambassadorial complaints.

Playing with the idea of offensive adverts is part of Geico's style in particular the 'caveman' thread. Generally, those and the lizard ones are well-regarded - despite the failure of the former's spin-off sitcom, which survived for less time than the average subatomic particles. But the 'googly-eyed money' ones seem to be a lot more divisive, with people tending to either love or hate them. Put me in the latter camp, as I find it the advertising equivalent of the Batting Stance Guy - an idea that seemed cute initially, but outwore its welcome in about thirty seconds, and each screening now deserves to be greeted with a picture of a deceased equine being beaten.

Repeatability is key; when you see an advert once, it can seem innocuous or even charming. However, on the tenth, hundredth ot three-hundredth time... not so much. A good example of this is the Qwest High-Speed Internet one for their data backup service - or "So big!" as it's probably better known. Initially cute, the more times it was seen, the more questions it raised. What exactly was the father doing with their laptop over the fishtank? Why is the mother acting like a three-year old? [Mrs. Snakepit reckoned the woman is the star of SciFi SyFy show Warehouse 13, but I've not been able to confirm this] These proved such a distraction, it was hard to remember what company it was for, never mind the product.

Still, at least it wasn't the lame 'animal husbandry' one, with a convoluted tale of some student who lost her thesis and so is forced to take a job, sticking her arm into what can only be described as the "Angus area" of a cow. According to a creative director at the company responsible, "We're able to smile with her, because everyone can relate to a situation where you're not doing something you're good at." That comment illustrates nicely the yawning chasm between those who work in advertising agencies and the rest of us - their idea ot "relateable" is a thesis on Medieval Cooking Rituals.

Can someone stop local business owners from appearing in their own ads? Michael 'I wanna seeya in a Kia' is bad enough, but is about par for car dealers; they operate under the mistaken belief that it helps to foster a connection with the shyster who will shortly be swindling you. However, they do at least appear semi-sincere - several steps above certain ambulance chasers, who seek to convey an impression that they care deeply about your accident and the consequences. Call them after cutting their final check and see how much they care. I also file Express Flooring in this category: I can only presume their singing spokeswoman is the owner, since there's no way she'd have got hired for the part.

However, there is something to be said for the advert in that, much as I loathe it, I can actually say what it's for, and give you the telephone number to the company. Though I'd likely have to sing it, and would aun a mile before actually buying anything from them - not least because Express Flooring had their Better Business Bureau membership revoked in 2007 [and that's pretty hard to do]. Sometimes, the point of an advert is simply to get stuck in your brain. This is where the majority of, say, beer adverts fail, as they blur into much of a muchness. Triple-hops brewed? Is that Coors or Budweiser? Actually, it's Miller. See what I mean? On the other hand, Miller High Life did poll well with our panel, thanks to its judicious use of reverse snobbery: "We're coming for you, VIPs, and we ain't the paparazzi."

I've already rambled on far longer than I wanted to about this topic, though I could certainly go on a great deal further. Just to finish, throw a few random baseball-themed ones that can't go without mention. AFLAC duck: yeah, mostly lame but the one with Yogi Berra has to be one of the best adverts based on the sport ever. I also like the Lou Pinella one for Aquafina bottled water. Admittedly, when the competition is Randy Johnson firing dodgeballs at body odor, or anything involving Derek Jeter, standing out isn't hard.

While the remote control and the Tivo may have made them more easily zapped or fast-forwarded, commercials aren't going anywhere: a license-fee based system, to pay for some television channels without adverts, just seems so.... un-American, somehow. So we might as well get whatever enjoyment we can from them, whether that is actual amusement or merely as a target for repressed rage. And, hey, if you don't like this advert ("Wizard!"), don't worry - there'll be another one along in thirty seconds.

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