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