Thursday, October 16, 2008

Local Commercials: What are you guys thinking?

So is there a law that local, amateur commercials have to be terrible? (I know there's a law that Lifetime movies have to be terrible. I'm pretty sure it's in the Constitution.) It would have never occurred to me that local commercials could be better than terrible before living in Maryland. And then we were exposed to the wonderfully bizarre Senate Insurance ads. (I think there was one with heads in a bag like bowling balls, but maybe I'm thinking of something else because I couldn't find a link.)

Local carpet ads seem to be the worst. I mean, "Carpet Carl"? What is he thinking? That's so gross. And then there's one for like, The Rug Store, or something. With a guy in a wagon, talking to a taxidermied bull about getting the carpets to the store. And the bull's eyes bulge and he pulls the carpet salesman out of the wagon and drags a very obviously stuffed shirt and pants to the carpet store. Um, what? And that isn't the only local ad starring a bull either. There's the car dealership (Wilsonville Toyota?) that goes a very long way for a very dumb joke: there's no bull at that dealership. My question is: why use the bull contrivance in the first place? If it's so hard to come up with a reasonable scenario in which someone might utter the phrase, "There's no bull at Wilsonville Toyota," why not try something else?

That's what makes Senate's line ("You can tell those other insurance companies to kiss my bumper - just kiss it!") so brilliant: when would you not say "kiss my bumper?" A friend of my mom's said that they enter the New Yorker cartoon caption contest every week with the same line: "Fuck off." And holy crap if it doesn't always work and if it isn't always funny. "Kiss my bumper" works the same way.

And then there are the ads that are unintentionally funny. In this one, I think maybe they meant to be a little funny, but maybe also a little cool. And the cool part definitely did not work. But they're having fun, so it's fun to watch, even if it is a little cringe worthy. There's another local commercial for a furniture store that I can't find on-line that makes no sense at all. And they think they're being funny - they're aren't - and it is just painful to watch. Well, at least as baffling as it is painful. There's a woman and she says, "Normally I like to dress up for ads this time of year, but my husband said he wanted to do something more serious. Let's go see what he came up with." [cut to woman opening door to office. Inside office is man on phone in a very very bad banana suit. Man shrugs and looks, um, sheepish? Is that what he was going for?] "Well, I guess he changed his mind!" The woman says shrugging the most exaggerated shrug ever. How is that selling furniture?? How?

The Portland "Local Ads Must Be Awful" Ordinance seems to extend to local politics as well. While Earl Blumenhaur, Gordon Smith and Jeff Merkeley (to name a few) have all managed to put together ads that do not look like they were shot on a ten-year old camcorder with a budget of pocket change, some duct tape and a handful of Brach's neopolitains, the same can not be said of Diane McKeel (for county commissioner). Check out the second video in her embedded feed. (I couldn't find a YouTube of this specific ad.) What do you think: does she know it looks terrible and she just wants everyone to know how good she is at following city statutes? Or does she think it's looking pretty awesome? Pete loves how half the 'S' in 'JOBS' is cut off. It's kind of like an SNL bit, but without Scarlett Johansson in a Curly Sue wig (more's the pity).

[Momentary digression: actually, there is an anti-Gordon Smith ad that is incredibly effective on mute. Seriously: hit mute now and then watch this ad. I think the photographs are beautiful - masculine, intense, emotional, even a little gritty - and the words really cut to the heart of the issue. Okay, now watch it with the sound. I think the sound totally kills the impact. The music is maudlin and the voice-over is just a little bitter, a little snide. The first few times I saw it, I saw it on mute, and I thought it was so powerful. "Yes," I thought, "This is how political ads should be. Artful, thoughtful, understated." We watch TV with the commercials on mute so often I don't really notice anymore, unless they don't make any sense without sound. I was so disappointed when I heard it for the first time. If I were the DCC (I think that's who did this), I would have just read the words on the screen so that the illiterate can understand as well and I would have had them read by veterans who feel that Gordon Smith should not keep his seat in the Senate.
--Digression digression: I can't bring myself to hate Gordon Smith. Have I said this before? Maybe so - but it's true. I just don't feel any vitriol. Merkeley seems just as bad, he just happens to share one or two more of my views than Smith does. But Pete put it this way: "No, we need Gordon Smith out so that I can see revenge enacted upon Lieberman." Fair enough.--]

I probably should have embedded some of those videos. ::sigh:: But I'm soooo lazy.... Here, I'll embed the singing furniture ad for you as a parting gift.

1 comment:

Seph said...

There's no appliance... like Mr. Appliance!