Sam McMa­nis The hum­ble com­mer­cial is far from an en­dan­gered species, writes

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Tv -

T is fash­ion­able, in this age of the DVD recorder, to pre­dict the demise of the 30- sec­ond television com­mer­cial. Well, don ’ t be­lieve it. The TV ad, like the prover­bial cock­roach af­ter a nu­clear melt­down, is un­kil­l­able. It is a curious pop- cul­ture dy­namic, this fas­ci­na­tion with TV spots, ex­em­pli­fied in the US, at least, by that cel­e­bra­tion known as Su­per Bowl Sun­day.

As usual, some­one some­where will air a world ’ s best TV com­mer­cials pro­gram. Peo­ple will ac­tu­ally watch a show about com­mer­cials, in­ter­rupted only by . . . com­mer­cials. Last year, five mil­lion US view­ers tuned in to

Fun­ni­est Com­mer­cials cable- TV chan­nel TBS ’ s of the Year: 2006 . Not bad for cable, and it ’ s a good bet that just as many watched this year ’ s in­stal­ment on Wed­nes­day.

Though judg­ing by this year ’ s top 10 com­mer­cials — as voted by fans at very­fun­nyads. com — it was not a vin­tage year for TV spots. We won ’ t give them away here, but we will say this: five of the 10 most pop­u­lar ads in the US were for­eign.

Doesn ’ t that lend weight to the the­ory that the qual­ity of US TV com­mer­cials is wan­ing? Not at all. It ’ s just that the best ads this year were on­line, not on TV. This was the year when vi­ral ad­ver­tis­ing came into ma­tu­rity.

Check that: maybe not ma­tu­rity, as many of the spots were sopho­moric and of ques­tion­able not

‘‘ safe for work ’’ taste.

But vi­rals were by far the most buz­zwor­thy, the kind you just had to share with the dude in the next of­fice cu­bi­cle.

For the unini­ti­ated, vi­ral ads mean those clev­erly dis­guised as funny YouTube videos or tricked- out interactive web­sites meant to be passed from viewer to viewer like, well, a virus.

Here are some of the mem­o­rable ad­ver­tis­ing hor­rors of 2007. First, the vi­ral.

Columbia Records hyped Bob Dylan ’ s latest great­est- hits col­lec­tion by al­low­ing users to write their own mes­sages on cards that a young Dylan is hold­ing up from a scene in the doc­u­men­tary Don t Look Back . Then, users could email the

’ per­son­alised mes­sage to friends, whose in­box would flash: Bob Dylan has sent you a

‘‘ mes­sage. ’’

Though you can ’ t get your name in a video, you can get an email from Paul McCart­ney in the same heart- stop­ping way just by be­com­ing a mem­ber at his web­site.

Who would ’ ve thought a pitch for a blender would be a YouTube sen­sa­tion? Well, Blendtec ’ s

Will it blend? ’’ videos, fea­tur­ing a geeky guy in ‘‘ a lab coat us­ing a blender to grind up such items as an iPhone or golf balls, was a retro- type hit.

The Simp­sons Movie a user could To pub­li­cise make his avatar ( com­puter- gen­er­ated dou­ble) us­ing body char­ac­ter­is­tics from the show. Plus, who didn ’ t want a ring­tone of Homer crow­ing,

So long, losers’’ ? ‘‘

Even politi­cians ven­tured into the vi­ral realm. Long- shot Demo­cratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Mike Gravel posted a 2m 51s crudely shot home video of him­self star­ing into the cam­era at a lake­front. At 1m 20s, he turns and walks to a tree, picks up a big rock and throws it in the lake. Then he walks down a path into the sun­set. A halfmil­lion YouTu­bers watched it. That could be about half a mil­lion more than will vote for Gravel.

Lo­cally, who among us could for­get the con­tri­bu­tions to YouTube in the re­cent fed­eral elec­tion, with our em­bat­tled lead­ers slug­ging it out on the web­site for the yoof vote? Prime Min­is­ter Kevin Rudd no longer has friends’’ on his Face­book page: he has fans’’. ‘‘ ‘‘ At last look, th­ese amounted to 19,851 search­able pro­files, most of them declar­ing them­selves mates of Kev.

Dex­ter , about a The Show­case chan­nel ’ s se­ries foren­sics ex­pert who hap­pens to be a se­rial killer, spawned a ghoul­ish faux- TV news re­port. A user could have a friend fea­tured in the video as the next tar­geted vic­tim, com­plete with his name spelled out in blood on a wall.

IIt ’ s just the type of sick, twisted idea that draws scads of in­ter­net eye­balls. And now, for old- school tele­vised com­mer­cials.

Dex­ter vi­ral, the TV ad­ver­tis­ing As with the in­dus­try seem­ingly op­er­ated on a sim­ple premise: the weirder and grosser, the bet­ter.

Ads for fem­i­nine- hy­giene prod­ucts are never go­ing to be ap­peal­ing for men. So ob­vi­ously the crowd who dreamed up the one about the boyfriend who wants to know ev­ery­thing about his girl was hop­ing to amuse. And this? What’ s

‘‘ this for? ’’ he asks lov­ingly, only to be told it ’ s a tam­pon for a heavy day. Fine. Ex­cept he then hides in the bath­room, promis­ing to stay there un­til she stops talk­ing about it. What a hero.

Of course it’ s not just the ladies whose health

is­sues seem to man­date re­volt­ing ads. How about those re­ally jolly fel­lows who seem to al­ways be pop­ping up on SBS and on pay- TV chan­nels to play the pi­ano with their penises, ad­ver­tis­ing an im­po­tence treat­ment. This is not a new idea, by the way, as the in­ter­net will clearly at­test.

Then there ’ s the prostate ad where the man strains at the toi­let but pro­duces only a tin­kle. Don ’ t you love the way the wife lov­ingly puts her head on his shoul­der at the end, when in re­al­ity she ’ d likely be feral with sleep de­pri­va­tion?

Men love beer. If that ’ s stat­ing the bleed­ing ob­vi­ous, why are we still sub­jected to that re­volt­ing ad where the tongue leaves its owner in bed and hops out for a night on the town? It skit­ters across the road and into a party, scales the bath and drags home a Tooheys Ex­tra Dry. The tongue ’ s owner is con­fused about where the coldie came from, but one might bet his mouth tastes like a cocky ’ s cage.

In the US, there ’ s a cake- taker for Volk­swa­gen. A man so loves his Volk­swa­gen Jetta that, when he no­tices bird drop­pings on his car, he licks them off. Then he walks up to his girl­friend ’ s door and gives her a kiss. She pauses, only mo­men­tar­ily, then blithely fol­lows him to the car.

The demise of com­mer­cials? Af­ter a tongue you couldn ’ t kill with an axe, a man who hides in the bath­room at the very idea of men­stru­a­tion and an on­go­ing ver­sion of Pup­petry of the Pe­nis, where does ad­ver­tis­ing go from here?

We ’ re afraid to spec­u­late. Agen­cies, with ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Ian Cuth­bert­son

Mar­ket­ing mad­ness:

Clock­wise from top left, Tooheys Ex­tra Dry; an Ex­tra Dry Plat­inum ad; an award- win­ning com­mer­cial for Har­ley- David­son

above, bi­cy­cles; a Burger King ad and excerpts

‘ sins’ from the Mag­num seven deadly cam­paign

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