Commercial Break: 5-Hour Energy Might Help You Do Stuff, But We’re Not Saying It Will   Leave a comment

Broadcast: 28 October 2012
Program: Bigfoot: The Definitive Guide
Channel: H2
Conglomerates: Hearst Corporation & Disney

Advertiser: 5-Hour Energy
Owned By: Living Essentials/Innovation Ventures
Pitch: Our caffeine distillate will help you be more productive except when it doesn’t, which might be always or might be never.  Just buy it, will ya?

There are a lot of ways to mainline caffeine into your system these days, from old fashioned black coffee and Coke to elaborate cappuccinos and Red Bull.  All of them bill themselves to one extent or another as a way to refresh yourself without actually resting, but none of them put that pitch right into the title of the product the same way as 5-Hour Energy.  The name says it all: we’ll keep you moving for five hours if you can swallow our goop without booting. 

Marketing a simple product like that doesn’t require any great feats of imagination or clever sales tactics.  All the commercial has to do is get out of the way, and in this case that means showing you what you want to see while, for legal reasons, declaiming even the very notion that their product does what they’re advertising. 

We begin with a yuppie looking doofus walking across various scenes of people working (and nevermind that everything’s done with sub-soap opera level production values):

Dramatized Actor Portrayals

Hi, I’m the evil work fairy.  Your boss conjured me to spy on you when you yawn.

The small print there reads “Actor Portrayal” and “Dramatization”, so at least we know that Douchebag McYuppie here isn’t bothering actual people.  He is however, promising that should you ever find yourself tired, 5-Hour Energy can help:

Two-thirty in the afternoon, a lot to do, and you’ve hit the wall.  But you’ve gotta get stuff done, so take 5-Hour Energy.  Just open it up, knock it back, and roll up your sleeves.  5-Hour Energy is faster and easier than coffee, and, man does it work.  You’ll get that alert, energized feeling you need to get stuff done. 

As he’s telling you to “knock it back”, we get a helpful visual cue:

Chug, Chug, Chug!

No fair, he already rolled up his sleeves!

As always, the devil is in the fine print:

Provides a feeling of alertness and energy.  Does not provide caloric energy.  Not proven to improve physical performance, dexterity or endurance.

So, while 5-Hour Energy will perk you up and let you “get stuff done”, that doesn’t include any of the things that might actually help.  You’ll just feel a little different, even though you’re actually exhausted, clumsy and barely awake.  But wait, there’s more!:

World's Least Organized Box Factory

Package sorting as done by idiots.

This set of small print reads:

Contains about as much caffeine as a cup of the leading premium coffee.  Limit caffeine products to avoid nervousness, sleeplessness and occasional rapid heartbeat.

And now we’ve gotten to the “active ingredient” portion of our story, wherein we have to remind you, as unobtrusively as possible, that caffeine isn’t something we can legally recommend that you ingest in gargantuan quantities.  Once we’ve seen how all those nice people became instantly revived and productive (albeit with no change to their physical performance, dexterity or endurance), it’s time for the final disclaimer(s):

Order Now, Supplies Aren't Limited!

If you aren’t too jittery to click something, like us on social media!

There are three (3!) different pieces of small print dissembling here.  First up is the always true “Individual results may vary”, which is practically catechism for advertising.  Next comes the industry standard “These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration”, just so you know that while we are selling you a powerful drug, we can’t be held responsible in case you have an adverse reaction. 

Finally comes “No crash means no sugar crash”, which seems a little out of place since the word “crash” isn’t spoken during the commercial.  It’s there because the bottle reads “Hours of energy now – No crash later!”, which is funny because usually commercials only have to cover up their own bullshit, but in this case it also has to cover up the bullshit that’s actually on the packaging as well. 

All of that is just window dressing though.  None of the text, spoken or shown, is really important to the message here, which is that this bottle of expensive crap will wake you the fuck up and help you work.  The actors, the dramatization, and the seemingly endless parade of 4-point font aren’t really meant to be informative, because 5-Hour Energy doesn’t need or want you to do any deep thinking or contemplation about what they’re actually pitching.  You already know what it does, this is just their way of reminding you while at the same time covering their ass to the fullest possible extent. 

Posted October 29, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Commercial Break

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