my own personal network
i'm mad as hell and this won't change a thing!
by mike julianelle
Two grown men are having orgasmic reactions to every bite of their breakfast cereal. A herd of kids is bouncing off the walls in anticipation of having frozen pizza for lunch. A young couple is screaming in terror at the sight of an empty six-pack carton.
Welcome to a world where nothing is as it seems; a world with no relation to reality. A hall of mirrors where a stick of gum can change your life, and the right brand of soda will grant you success, sex and happiness, with no strings attached. There is no limit to the importance of image. Utility and need are outweighed by status and desire, and pop tarts are the epitome of heavenly bliss.
God I hate commercials.
Now I’ve had corn flakes before, and aside from them being mouth-wateringly bland and tantalizingly soggy, they’ve never turned me on. Not once. Now, some strange things have turned me on in the past, believe you me, just not cereal. And while Dr. Pepper is quite clearly the world’s greatest soft drink, drinking it has never done much in the way of brightening my outlook on life.
Truth be told, nothing is capable of making me feel as happy as the people in those commercials. Except heroin. And crack. And the life-changing power of true love.
But that’s it, nothing else. Not frozen pizza, not Toaster Strudels, not Heineken, not Juicy Fruit, not Virginia Slims. Nothing.
We all know this.
Commercials are inherently bad. Nobody likes them. They interrupt our favorite programs to pitch us useless things, wielding hyperbole like a sledge hammer to the groin, with the subtlety of John Lithgow; the tact of Stuttering John; the business sense of John Travolta…you get my point. Television commercials insult our intelligence, exploit our greed and pound us into submission until we buy what they tell us to buy, often out of sheer reflex. I don’t care how often you claim that commercials don’t influence you, you’re wrong. Over-saturation works. Most brands you know about, you only know about them because of their commercials. Their endless, repetitive, bludgeoningly banal commercials. But I don’t want to get into that. Yeah, we’re all lemmings, blah blah blah, who gives a shit?
Let’s move on to something more important, namely, petulant, self-righteous indignation.
Have you seen the Pontiac Grand Prix commercials where they give some lucky bystander a free car for a week? And then the winner goes white-water rafting, or drives cross-country, or takes off for Vegas with his buddies? Am I missing something here? I mean, driving cross-country? If I won that car, I wouldn’t be jumping for joy. I would be asking for gas money, and then I would be going home and going to bed. Because about the only place I’d be driving that thing was to and from my job. What, did the car come with a free ticket to the No Responsibility Zone? Was it full of paychecks from the job you would surely lose after you drove your free Grand Prix to Alaska for no apparent reason? (I wish I’d win, I’ve always wanted to drive across the Great White North). (That’s a lie.).
We know that commercials are, at best, tolerable. If we’re really lucky, maybe one or two are a bit clever or amusing. But the majority are paralyzingly, blindingly, shoot-yourself-in-the-head bad.
And yet we still can’t help loving the good (for lack of a better term) ones.
On Super Bowl Sunday every year, the country’s biggest companies present 30-60+ second spots designed to create a stir, generate discussion, and get their products branded into the public consciousness. And we all stay riveted to our seats as the Budweiser frogs steal our brain cells, Michael Jordan and his sneakers stomp all over our bladders, and Jason Alexander hocks pretzels, KFC, and whatever is left of his self-respect after Bob Patterson. We don’t leave our seats, at least not until the increasingly ludicrous halftime show. God forbid we should miss the groundbreaking commercial in which Shaq dunks on the moon, or the Bud Light bottle beats the Budweiser bottle on a last-second naked bootleg in the Bud Bowl. What the hell else would we talk about at the water-cooler the next day?
And that is why people love commercials.
This column has officially stopped making sense.
How about those new Camry ads? The ones that show crowds of people, usually in the rain, being seduced by the siren call of a nearly subliminal advertisement that flashes a picture of the latest car along with the words “You Want It.” When I see that commercial, I want something alright, but that “something” has more to do with a lobotomy, a machine gun and a ball-gag and nothing whatsoever to do with the new Camry.
Don’t condescend to me, Camry. I’ll fucking kill you.
The art of the commercial has become so important that they warrant their own award, called the Clio. And there is even a televised awards show where the little statues, usually presented by Kelsey Grammar, or Kelsey Grammar’s coke dealer, or Kelsey Grammar’s colostomy bag, are given to the advertising agencies who did the best job brainwashing millions of us into screaming “Whaaaaaaazup!” or “Where’s the Beef?” or “Wolverines!” Does anyone watch these awards when they are broadcast? Probably. I mean, people watch Oprah. What?
The reason I am writing this is because, recently, I’ve noticed a few commercials that have really been pissing me off. So I thought I’d take a break from my usual happy-go-lucky attitude and let off some steam by spitting some venom.
And then there’s the charming new Goldfish crackers commercial that sings a little song to kids about how friendly the crackers are, with their adorable smiley faces and all that. Adorable, the song says, until you decapitate the helpless snacks with your teeth. Talk about encouraging violence. Buy these crackers so you can experience the god-like power of genocide! If your local aquarium gets razed, don’t blame Hollywood, blame Pepperidge Farms.
Above, where I wrote “recently, I’ve noticed a few commercials that have really been pissing me off,” I was just being diplomatic. Almost every commercial of all time pisses me off. But if I wrote about all of them, this article would never end. And as much as I know you want to keep reading, I can’t continue to write about such a loathsome topic. So, since this column is little more than a free-form rant on yet another topic that incenses me (or at least, incenses my inner author), I might as well just stop here.
Let's get real here. You don't want to know about me. You want to know about "me".
ABOUT MIKE JULIANELLE
more about mike julianelle
IF YOU LIKED THIS COLUMN...
lee anne ramsey
12.4.01 @ 4:05p
I have too much to say about this - from both sides of the spectrum.
First, I threw a pillow at the tv this weekend over the new Jeep spot where Jeep takes credit for participating in WW2 and then some shlocky voiceover copy about "being there" for america. Talk about trying to take advantage of world events!
Secondly, there are about 400 advertising awards (I know, I just won one yesterday from a very bizarre source. From the number of pictures they took, you would've thought I won a pulitzer.)
Thirdly, most of the horrific reaction shots are a result of clients saying "I want to make sure they know that using my product is a pleasant experience!!" or other such moronic statements that they learn in business school.
12.4.01 @ 4:14p
Congrats on the award, I think...
This article has no real point, I just spit it out a few days ago after seeing a few commercials I hated, so I dropped it in the gallery. It's better than it sitting in my computer. But it's just a rant, pure and simple.
12.4.01 @ 4:24p
I'm not going to completely defend commercials. I mean, I actually write them for a living. And it's a statement in itself that the people who make commercials are usually the ones who hate them the most.
But I disagree that commercials are inherently bad. Commercials have the same opportunity to entertain as movies, plays, opera and books do.
They just don't.
When I come up with an idea for a spot, I approach it as such: I'm interrupting something you're doing for 30 seconds. So I better make it worth your 30 seconds to listen to what I'm going to tell you.
Does it always turn out that way? No. Does it ever turn out that way? Rarely. I could easily write 1000 words on why, but that'd be even more boring than an eternity of commercials.
But Michael, why are you more upset at 30 seconds of banality that allow you to watch television for free versus 2 hours of your life $9.50 on a bad movie?
12.4.01 @ 4:28p
All valid points. Like I said, tho, it's a rant, and not entirely thought through. As for the movie question, well, I spend an awful lot of time reading about movies and etc. that I rarely see something SO bad that I am mad about spending money on it. Once in a while some piece of crap sneaks through, but most of the time I know exactly what I'm getting into.
12.4.01 @ 4:34p
I agree though. Those Camry ads suck.
michelle von euw
12.4.01 @ 4:50p
There's a car commerical where the result is definitely NOT a pleasant experience: it's the one where the kids are told to sell candy, and the winner gets a weekend pass to some amusement park. And the kids get out of school and all rush the (Lexus? Jetta?) car that only LOOKS expensive.
That ad kind of scares me.
But there's an ad that's so good, I want to write a short story or a screenplay about. It's another car commercial. The wedding one. & it would be really cool if either of you came up with it.
12.4.01 @ 4:52p
I came up with it. Oh wait...
That ad is a rip-off/homage to The Graduate, but the think that makes it work is the song, "One Million Miles Away" by J. Ralph. I LOVE that song.
12.4.01 @ 5:58p
Technically speaking, I LOVE the Volkswagon wedding spot. My favorite on TV today. The one where you think it's the groom running late, but it turns out to be some ex who is there to yell "Stop the wedding!" Then a simple title comes up that says "Fasten your seatbelts."
It's simple, beautifully done, great music, great subtle reactions (especially from the bride) and edited perfectly.
And I've always wanted to bust into a church right when the priest says "speak now or forever hold your peace..."
lee anne ramsey
12.4.01 @ 8:12p
I too LOVE that Volkswagon wedding spot. I've also heard some people say that they don't get it. Those people are the reason that there aren't more spots like the wedding spot out there.
Interestingly enough, the candy kids rushing the car is also a Volkswagon spot.
12.4.01 @ 9:03p
Forgot to mention this, but I met the woman behind a lot of those Volkswagon spots. Hill Hilday in Boston is responsible, I believe...I met with the woman for some career advice, she is the daughter of a colleague of my father's. None of this means anything, but she was cool.
And I hate the rushing the car ad too.
12.4.01 @ 10:24p
It's actually Arnold Advertising that does the ads, not Hill Holiday...
12.4.01 @ 11:22p
VolkswagEn. Remember, it's German. They spell it with an E. Just like Kelsey GrammEr. Why am I so anal about this? Because I just bought a Jetta. Volkswagen has the only cool car ads. I loved "Little Fluffy Clouds" for the New Beetle a coupleof years ago...
As a matter of weird coincidences, I'm working on a new website that wastes far more bandwidth than Michael's rant, but with little or nothing new to say. There's nothing to look at yet, but AdNausea.com will exist one day. And I'll be desperately seeking solicitations. My first target: fast food chains that show you one thing and serve you another.
12.5.01 @ 1:35a
Russ, I'm assuming you've seen adweak.com. It's a great anti-ad site, although full of a lot more inside jokes.
12.5.01 @ 10:42a
Did you know that, I believe, the name Volkswagen was actually sanctioned by Hitler? Not that I wouldn't buy the car, but he had a lot of influence on creating an automobile for the people (or Volks, in German).
The only adds that actually, I think, affected me so strongly that I was spurred to action were those crappy, crappy, crappy Old Navy spots with the Jeffersons, Morgan Fairchild, et al. I still actively refuse to shop at Old Navy just because I don't want my consumer dollars going to produce such a waste of electronic coding.
12.5.01 @ 10:56a
The one that makes me sick is the Rogaine commercial where they pretty much flat out tell men "Your girlfriend will leave you if you lose your hair."
Oh, yeah. Fear and arbitrary superficiality are the pillars on which all great relationships are built.
Just for the other side of the coin: Sprite commercials and Snickers commercials rock. It's a shame I don't really love either product because I do want to support the creativity of a "Slug Slide" or "Who are the Chefs?" kind of campaign.
12.5.01 @ 11:15a
Adam, more than good commercials will get me to buy a certain product. bad commercials will definitely persuade me not to buy something.
12.5.01 @ 11:27a
Definitely. Bad commercials can breed hate for the brand.
How about those Bud commercials with that horrible song, "Policeman, fireman, guy on the truck...this Bud's for you...and you and you and you!"
Shoot me now.
michelle von euw
12.5.01 @ 12:39p
Everyone likes my commercial! Although I don't think the ad is very "Graduate" at all, Mike, because for 90% of the ad, you think the guy in the car IS the groom. It's brilliant. And thanks for telling me what that song is, because that helps make it, too. That, and the look on the bride's face at the end. Yup, here comes a story.
But first, I am going to run right out and buy a Volkswagen.
michelle von euw
12.5.01 @ 12:41p
Jael, not pretty much, they DO tell you that! There's one where the guy says, "Do I think my girlfriend will still be saying when I'm bald? Yes. But I believe that she'll be saying them to someone with hair." ACK!!!
michelle von euw
12.5.01 @ 12:44p
That last post should have read:
"Do I think my girlfriend will still be saying NICE THINGS when I'm bald? Yes. But I believe that she'll be saying them to someone with hair."
Once again, wacky HTML hijinks ensue.
12.5.01 @ 12:47p
Michelle, good point on the Graduate thing, but I have seen that commercial so many times, that the misconception due to its misdirection has lost its effect(ion). The first time you think he's the groom, but never again once you've seen it all the way through.
12.5.01 @ 12:49p
I'm too anal, but: "Will she still feel this way when you're bald?" "Sure, she'll just feel it about someone else."
Is that not the suckiest pitch you've ever heard?
Not that I was going to buy Rogaine anyway, but if I were, I'd boycott it based on that. (Of course I also boycott products whose advertising uses an apostrophe in the possessive 'its' so I'm hardly one to talk.)
Is it the Lancer with the "c'mon c'mon put your body in motion" song? I want that car.
12.5.01 @ 12:58p
Actually, I thought that Rogaine ad was funny as hell. But, then, I have hair.
12.5.01 @ 12:58p
I dunno what car that is, but I like that ad, solely because it showcases hot chicks lip-synching. I really like seeing hot chicks lip-synch.
I am now prepared to reap the whirlwind.
12.5.01 @ 1:07p
I was only going to say it's a damn shame you're not coming to NYC then.
12.5.01 @ 1:49p
I think my wife would buy a Mitsubishi just off the strength of the music in their ads. I had to download the MP3 for "Start the Commotion" for her. I couldn't find a good one for "20th Century Boy" for her, but it was nearly as hard to tell her who T.Rex was unti I brought Power Station into the discussion.
Do beer commercials even talk about the beer anymore?
12.5.01 @ 1:52p
Amstel Light does. And I love the spot where the brewers are apologizing because they didn't realize that light beer was supposed to suck.
12.5.01 @ 1:57p
I was only going to say it's a damn shame you're not coming to NYC then.
Now I'm intrigued.
12.5.01 @ 2:42p
Y'all should read "E" by Matt Beaumont. Friggin hilarious book about a London ad agency pitching Coke, written entirely in inter-office emails. Sex, drugs, and bad, bad commercial ideas.
From someone who writes commercials for a living...and doesn't mind it...a key insight: Commercials are bad because the people who write and film them are, for the most part, directors and writers who are either very young or very bad. The advertising industry is staffed with youth, people on their way to bigger and better things, getting all their crap ideas out now, in commercials.
There are exceptions, of course. As in any industry, there are several firms who excel, have all the good people, and who's product is amazing. Those few agencies win all the awards (and God, you wouldn't believe how many awards shows there are for advertising).
12.6.01 @ 6:13p
Commercial bitch of the day: Hyundai, for their spot using an instrumental version of "Thick as a Brick" by Jethro Tull. Grrrrrr....
lee anne ramsey
12.6.01 @ 8:06p
All the "i got the urge" commercials for Herbal Essence shampoo (bunch of guys washing hair of some chick) make me want to puke. That's the brand I boycott most. Next to Jeep and the new Liberty campaign. But I already mentioned that.
12.6.01 @ 8:51p
The creative team who came up with Snuggles the Bear must be hunted down and shot repeatedly in the eyeball with a nail gun.
12.7.01 @ 10:29a
I am so frightened. I was actually going to write a column similar to this for next month (No. Really. I was.) but scrapped it because I was going all over the place with it. Zounds. Get outta my head, Mike.
Lee Anne, I SO agree with you on those Herbal Shampoos. Especially that one chick - "WORK it WORK it."
One of my favorite commercials is still the Toyota mini-van one with all the adorable kids - "would you wun into a bwuning bwiding?" "would you stand in fwont of a chahging gwizwee beah?" Just cracks me up every time. (Although I don't think it's in rotation any longer.) I also like another kid one - where all the kids say adult phrases "I wanna be a Yes Man!" "I want to get paid less for doing the same job" "I want to be stuck in middle management" and so on...but I can't remember what it was advertising.
And what's the worst part of advertising? When you remember the ad, but not the product. Oooo. Bad.
I write for advertising too - not as much as I used to, but some. I finally boycotted creating anything for political ventures and strip joints. A girl has to have her priorities.
12.7.01 @ 10:32a
Oh, I would so love to write advertising copy for strip joints.
12.7.01 @ 10:35a
Not only did I have to write them, but voice them, too. voice drops an octave and gets all breathy"Nice boys, it's time to be naughty. Natalie Nockers wants you to stuff her stocking."
Yeah. I can think like a guy when I have to.
12.7.01 @ 10:42a
And I think you spelled "Knockers" wrong. Or Natalie did.
12.7.01 @ 10:44a
Nooo, I didn't spell "Knockers" wrong - Natalie was going for alliteration. She was, um, clever that way.
12.7.01 @ 11:04a
The "I want to be a Yes Man" spot was for Monster.com.
And if you're not writing for strip clubs anymore, do you have a contact number I can call...
12.7.01 @ 11:09a
To probably misquote last night's "Friends" - "You know the SATs? She took 'em."
12.7.01 @ 2:46p
Tracey, you can stuff my stocking with a CD full of your breathy voice-overs.
Regarding those Herbal Essences commercials: How come you don't hear about women's groups all over them like they are about products marketed to men by using women as sexual objects? And to which women are they trying to market their wares? Offering shampoos and body washes as a panacea for the sexually unsatisfied woman? Freud applauds, but does Joycelyn Elders?
12.7.01 @ 3:00p
Adam - ha! That was funny.
Russ - the commericals are totally repulsive. Although I will say having my hair washed by my husband is quite, um, pleasing.
HA! Joycelyn Elders! "Opportunities is[sic] like a hair on a bald-head [sic] man - it only goes around once." Wonder what favor she did for Clinton to get that appointment?
12.10.01 @ 10:37a
I need to add another commercial here to my list. Or actually a type of commercial. There are two I've seen recently, one for Lexus and one for Jaguar, where the luxury cars are nonchalantly gifted to a relative. WHO JUST HANDS OVER CARS AS GIFTS, besides Bill Gates? Makes me sick, it does.
12.10.01 @ 1:48p
So about 3 years ago I'm with a new girlfriend and her friend going to her friend's house. We drive in the motion operated gates and sitting there are two Mercedes, an Audi A4 and a Range Rover, and the friend says "Oh, Daddy must have just bought everyone new cars!"
12.10.01 @ 2:02p
And then you opened fire, right? Please tell me I'm right.
12.10.01 @ 2:33p
Actually, I asked for a Grand Cherokee.
12.10.01 @ 4:34p
michelle von euw
12.11.01 @ 9:01a
OK, now I have to buy a Volkswagen AND a Mitsubishi. I forgot how much I love that ad. Perhaps I need Matt's (former?) girlfriend's father to adopt me?
Which car uses the BNL song for their commercial? I'm torn about that one, because on one hand, I'm angry at BNL for selling out "One Week," and on the other, the people in the ad remind me of me.
I will never buy a Ford Focus, however. Because of the hideous Detroit Techno ads that played in the movie theater. Ads are for TV, not for my $10.50 features.
michelle von euw
12.11.01 @ 9:03a
Mike, I'm not buying a Jaguar either, because that commercial disgusts me. Especially the one with the woman who complains that her husband never likes her gifts when he opens a model car. I hope they lost all their money on lousy .com stocks and had to hauck the car.
12.11.01 @ 9:38a
We were talking the other day about the ad for Chrysler Condorde where the 12-year-old asks how she got her name (Savannah) and her mother says, "we named you after the place you were conceived." I think it's clever, but it fills me with kind of an icky feeling. It still bothers me that I know the date I was conceived; I really don't need to know where.
12.11.01 @ 11:11a
Y'know, at least here (I'm guessing it was changed nationwide) they're running an alternate version of that commercial, where (just before the daughter can come to her "ewwww" conclusion) the mother says "You know, New Hampshire..."
Talk about wussing out. I hadn't heard any kind of furor about the ad, but chances are that someone somewhere got scared of the sex, and censored it.
12.11.01 @ 11:41a
Actually, she says "Massachusetts," which I find particularly dumb, as Concord, MA is spelled without the e.
12.11.01 @ 3:15p
Couldst be. I've only seen the "alternate" version once. But yeah, I noted the spelling distinction (if not the geographical location) immediately. I think "Concord" and immediately think NH. Comes from being a West Winger, I guess.
12.11.01 @ 3:18p
You'd be amazed at what the networks do to spots. One commercial I did for a shower gel, the networks said they wouldn't run it unless the people in the shower were wearing bathing suits.
Uh...we weren't really planning on shooting THAT low, but OK.
12.22.01 @ 3:29p
Gee. All I ever watch on TV is the commercials. I can't watch regular programming. I mean, come on: 30 whole MINUTES on one topic? Who has that kind of attenti...look! A bee!
12.27.01 @ 5:01p
I actually have a sign over my desk that reads: "Help me to keep my mind on one thing - Look! A bird! - at a time." Juli, thank you for understanding.... :)
9.25.02 @ 3:59p
Resurrecting this to mention a few of the most recent, most painful commercials.
Those Coors ads. With the tweeeee-ins!!!!!!! NO ONE CARES ABOUT THE TWINS. I mean, I do love "eating way too much" and "burritos at 4am", at least as much as the next braindead MidWestern Shlitz drinking fuckface. Those songs sound like shit, the lyrics are repulsive, they're on all the time, I want them dead.
The new Pringles commercial with the rock/rap jingle "Where's Your Head At?" Holy shit it sucks. It's at least funny tho, since it sucks so bad.
The only product I've seen that has predominantly good, even great, commercials, is ESPN.
9.25.02 @ 4:12p
Re-reading this whole thread. I forgot to mention that I did billboards for strip clubs when I was down in Florida. Lots of 'em.