Archive for the ‘Commercial Break’ Category

Commercial Break: Multivitamins Will Make You Buff and Healthy (Unless You Sue, Then We Said No Such Thing)   Leave a comment

Broadcast: 23 October 2012
Program: Out Front with Erin Burnett
Channel: CNN
Conglomerate: Time Warner

Advertiser: One A Day
Owned By: Bayer
Pitch: Take our worthless vitamin pill to get into awesome shape you flabby, middle aged tub of guts.

The existence and promotion of multi-vitamins is one of those things that really exposes how woefully incomplete medical science’s understanding of much of human biology really is and how that incompleteness can be exploited to make a buck or two (billion).  Vitamin supplements may or may not actually do any specific individual any good, but it’s very hard to know whether or not you (yes, you!) might benefit from a little more of this or that circulating through your system.

However, since they are vitamins and not medicine, and there isn’t much evidence that taking them will seriously harm you, big drug companies create pills that they can sell directly to the hypochondriac public with plausible deniability about whether or not their customers will ever see any actual benefit from taking them.  Having no sense of shame or proportion, they’ve proceeded to create a general impression that taking a “supplement” or something similar is a good idea.  This commercial nicely encapsulates (sorry) that entire latticework of fear, hope, bullshit and (maybe) better health in a nice, tidy fifteen seconds.

The ad begins with these blue spheres:

Blue Balls!

These Romney campaign ads are getting really abstract.

This being a very short ad, you aren’t given time to contemplate just what these things might be before the strong male narrator comes on:

Research suggests cell health plays a key role throughout our lives.

Those are supposed to be cells?  Get the fuck out of here.  But yes, they are, because they quickly come together T-1000 style:

Liquid Man

Excuse me, are you the legal guardian of John Connor?

Not only were those “cells” part of a guy, they were part of the fittest fifty-year old ever to take a gorgeously lit, probably photoshop assisted dive into a pool:

Ladies . . .

He’s never forgiven Carter for boycotting the 1980 Olympics, that 200-Fly medal was his to lose!

As the man-god dives into his pool, the narrator continues:

One A Day Men’s Fifty Plus is a complete multivitamin designed for men’s health concerns as we age.

This is the really shrewd part.  Look how much emotion and bullshit they can pack into just a few words:

  • There is no definition whatsoever of what could possibly make a multivitamin “complete”, they just called it that because it implies that if you take this you can be confident that you’re doing right by yourself.
  • “men’s health concerns” is a similarly all encompassing term that nevertheless sounds medicine-y.  It could be anything from that occasional soreness in your leg to getting tired a bit easier than previous.  If you’ve got some nagging problem bothering you, and very few middle aged men don’t have at least one, then that statement applies to you.
  • “as we age” not only makes the statement sound friendlier, it’s also just as perfectly non-specific as “men’s health concerns”.  All “as we age” means is that you’re a day older today than you were yesterday.  It applies to everyone without actually saying anything informative or useful. 

Of course, this is a television commercial, so there’s plenty going on beyond the narration.  Check out swimmer man:

Gentlemen . . .

Chest, check.  Neck, check.  Shoulders, check-mate.  We are at full buffness, sir.

That man looks like a Greek statue, and he’s being super healthy by swimming, and he takes that “complete” multivitamin, which the big text helpfully informs you “Supports heart and eye health”.  Meanwhile the small text you don’t have time to read has the standard legal disclaimer that Bayer doesn’t know if the big text is actually true: “This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration”.  Screw that, amirite?  Look at that dude, I’ll bet he gets all the ladies down at the rotary club and I’ve never seen someone with such spectacular “eye health”.

From there we zoom out so that we can see all the things they’ve packed into this one remarkably “complete” pill:

I Am Health Man!

It’s rich in proteans and electromagnetic juices!

As we see this impressive list of stuff, the narrator finishes his pitch:

It has more of seven anti-oxidants to support cell health.

You may note that “more of” doesn’t make a whole lot of sense there since he isn’t comparing it to anything.  That’s why “Compared to previous formula” appears in that tiny type at the bottom along with a second rendition of the standard “not been evaluated” statement, because “support cell health” is another health claim that isn’t to be legally understood as a health claim.

That, in a nutshell, is the multivitamin scam: make bold claims about what it maybe, might could do, and then instantly disclaim those statements in a way you’re unlikely to notice.  All the while, of course, you’re being shown a paragon of fitness, health and senior sexiness being as fit, healthy and senior sexy as you’d sure like to be.  You might not get to swimming in that empty pool every day like he presumably does, but you can take that little pill.

Posted October 26, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Commercial Break

Commercial Break: Fake Doctors Love Crestor   Leave a comment

Broadcast: 23 October 2012
Program: Out Front with Erin Burnett
Channel: CNN
Conglomerate: Time Warner

Advertiser: Crestor
Owned By: AstraZeneca
Pitch: Stave off death (for a little while) by asking your real doctor if the things our fake doctor says may apply to you. 

Ah prescription drug ads, where vile side effects consume most of the screen time, healthy looking actors wander around, and complicated medical information is turned into a pleasant, computer graphics heavy goo of friendly and obvious statements.  Today our ad is for “Crestor”, which is the nonthreatening, easy-to-remember nonsense word that AstraZeneca made up for one of its cholesterol drugs.  We open with an idiot standing next to a mirror in a pleasantly sunny plaza:

Street Art or Medical Professional, You Be the Judge

You can tell I’m a doctor because of my white coat and stethoscope.

Despite his central casting appearance as a doctor, this man is not a doctor.  Oh sure, he says things like this:

I wish my patients could see what I see. 

And this:

And that’s why, when diet and exercise alone aren’t enough, I prescribe Crestor.

But even if the fact that he’s standing around holding a giant, full length mirror like some oddball street performer didn’t tip you off to the fact that this guy might not have finished medical school, there’s also that poorly contrasted text in the lower right that notes, as briefly and unobtrusively as possible, that this is an “Actor Portrayal”. 

So, despite what he says, he’s never had a patient and never prescribed a thing, which means that there isn’t the least bit of medical expertise behind this sentence of his:

In a clinical trial versus Lipitor, Crestor got more high risk patients bad cholesterol to a goal of under one hundred.

Even coming from a demonstrably untrustworthy source, that all certainly sounds good.  It was a “clinical trial”, after all, which helped “high risk patients” lower their “bad cholesterol”. 

These Are Your Arteries on Photoshop, Any Questions

Holy shit, that mirror can do anything!  Make it play Fruit Ninja!

Of course, Dr. Actor Portrayal doesn’t say anything about this “clinical trial”, including who paid for it.  Nor does he mention what happened to the patients, if any, who weren’t “high risk”.  And he doesn’t even say whether or not these patients had high cholesterol before the started taking Crestor, just that they were “high risk” for something or other. 

This is the basic rub of prescription drug ads.  They still have to be at least mildly medically accurate in what they promise, so they’re forced to use omission and misdirection to make a narrow category of people seem as broad as possible.  Note that the fake doctor doesn’t say that only people who are “high risk” should consult someone with a prescription pad, he says that you should:

Is your cholesterol at goal?  Talk to your doctor about Crestor.

That has only the thinnest of connections to the “clinical trial” he mentioned earlier, but nevermind that. 

When the fake doctor isn’t imparting his medical expertise to us laypeople, it’s time for the best part of every prescription drug ad, the horrible side effects:

Crestor is not right for everyone, like people with liver disease, or women who are nursing, pregnant, or may become pregnant.  Tell your doctor about other medicines you’re taking.  Call your doctor right away if you have muscle pain or weakness, feel unusually tired, have loss of appetite, upper belly pain, dark urine, or yellowing of skin or eyes.  These could be signs of rare but serious side effects. 

So Crestor can turn your skin and eyeballs yellow, make your piss “dark”, stop you from eating, make you terribly weak and tired, and cause pain all over your body.  Fun! 

Naturally, no one with yellow eyes and terrible muscle pain is show while this is being read.  Instead we get a tastefully multiracial collage of middle aged people:

No Side Effects Here

Does this prescription drug make my butt look big?

In summary, Crestor might help people who may or may not be the least bit like you according to a guy who’s pretending to be a doctor.  Oh, and it might make your eyes turn yellow. 

Posted October 24, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Commercial Break

Commercial Break: Mega-T Magic Tea   Leave a comment

Broadcast: 15 October 2012
Program: Toddlers & Tiaras
Channel: The once respectable TLC
Conglomerate: Discovery Communications

Advertiser: Mega-T Green Tea
Owned By: CCA Industries
Pitch: Take this to temporarily get your hopes up about becoming thin you disgusting fat ass.

There is probably no class of businesses whose products fail more consistently than the weight loss industry.  Since dieting doesn’t work and extreme exercise regimens are impossible for most people to maintain, they’re basically setting their own customers up for perpetual failure (though that does have the added bonus of keeping them coming back).  In the meantime, they’re happy to take your money for things that even they admit won’t actually decrease you in mass. 

Case in point is this hilariously misleading and empty ad for Mega-T Green Tea.  It starts with a young female voice demanding your attention:

Hey, you!

Yes, how can I help you?

Your muffin top’s showing.

Gee, that’s not very nice.  One doesn’t usually begin conversations by insulting someone.  As she says this, we get to see a childishly poorly photoshopped stomach:

Photoshop Muffin Top

Photoshop has commands for things like “Skew”, “Distort” and “Stretch”, that doesn’t mean you should use them like this.

Setting aside the obvious fakeness of the image, the simple solution to that unfashionable appearance would probably be to try clothing that actually fits.  That’s not what Mega-T has in mind, though:
  It's Not Real Medicine, We Just Made It Look That Way

Hey, you!  Your crappy graphics department is showing.

Mega-T Green Tea’s thermogenic action will help you lose your muffin top.  Come on!  Lose your muffin top with Mega-T.

Let’s take a look at the obvious bullshit on display here.  First of all “thermogenic action” sounds impressive, but all it really means is that something produces heat.  And since your body, Mega-T or not, is doing that at all times of the day and night, all that claim really means is that Mega-T won’t kill you. 

More importantly, the box headlines itself with “Lose Up to 20 LBS”, but has to include an asterisk that reveals that while you may indeed lose weight, any concurrent Mega-T ingestion will be purely coincidental.  It’ll happen over the superlatively non-specified “period of time”, which could theoretically mean after you die and begin to rot.  (Nobody is skinnier than skeletons.)  It also requires the dreaded “diet and exercise”, which are no fun, unlikely to last, and doesn’t involve you forking over any money to them.  The final shoe drops in the fine print as the photoshopped image is shrunk and skewed again:

Cough, We're Making This Up, Cough

Proofreading is truly a lost art.

There it is, the disclaimer that sells all those ludicrously dumb diet supplements (typo in the original):

These statements have not been evaluated by the Foodand Drug Administration.  This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

Translation: We’re not claiming that our product actually works, we’re just saying that it might work, maybe, but we don’t really want to find out.  And even that’s not enough to legally insulate them from claiming that their tea (tea!) will make your stomach trim and taught:

Diet, Exercsie, and Photoshop

Pay no attention to the white text, continue gazing at the fake, red stomach.

With all the bullshit boiled away, all that’s left of this ad is that women saying “muffin top”, the only purpose of which is to make you feel bad about yourself, hopefully bad enough to ignore the fact that drinking tea doesn’t have shit to do with “muffin tops”, fitting into blue jeans, or anything else. 

Posted October 22, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Commercial Break

Commercial Break: Montel Williams Hates Poor People   1 comment

Broadcast: 15 October 2012
Program: Toddlers & Tiaras
Channel: The once respectable TLC
Conglomerate: Discovery Communications

Advertiser: Money Mutual
Owned By: Who knows?  Probably a bunch of scumbags.
Pitch: Solve your crippling money problems with high interest debt.

Montel Williams is a semi-reputable guy.  His daytime talk show wasn’t as bad as some, he’s a Navy vet, and he does charity and political work.  He now also endorses usurious and utterly dishonest payday lenders.  We open on the man himself:

Shame on You, Montel

Can you believe I need money this bad?  Me neither.

In his best sympathetic talk show host voice, he stares solemnly into the camera and intones:

You know, like a lot of people, times are tough for Hector and his family.  Gas is four bucks a gallon; groceries cost a fortune.  So they got a little help.  Hector went to

And what is “”?  Well, for starters it sure as shit isn’t a mutual fund.  It’s actually a hive of short term, high interest, just-this-side-of-legal loan sharks, though that’s not quite how Williams puts it:

MoneyMutual has over one hundred short term lenders who can lend up to a thousand dollars in as little as twenty-four hours.

So what you’re telling me is that a bunch of small time lenders, whose clientele consists exclusively of people who are already on the financial ropes, got together and paid for a website, a bottom feeding celebrity endorser, and a commercial on national cable.  Good to know.  But here’s where the lying really gets going:

Just be eighteen or older with a regular income of eight hundred dollars a month.

As he’s saying this, we see that, as you might expect, things aren’t quite that simple:

We'll Make It Look Easy

Man, I really wish I’d saved more of that talk show money.  I can keep this sweater, right?

That tiny print at the bottom says “Other restrictions may apply”, so apparently being a teenager with an annual income of $9,600 isn’t enough to ensure that someone will repay their high interest loan (or at least enough of the vig to cover expenses).  We then cut to “Hector”, who narrates:

When I saw that money in my checking account the very next day, I could finally breathe again.

As the actor portraying poor Hector says this, we see him checking his phone, but not reading the tiny print that is overlaid on top of it, which reads:

Please Use Short Term Loans Responsibly

Hector Misses the Point

Sweet, free money!

As with other ads for predatory lending, the pitch here is as a solution to ongoing financial problems, hence Williams talking about gas and groceries.  But the very fine and very hard to read print on the final screen reads, in part:

Cash advances should be used for short-term financial needs only and not as a long-term financial solution.

Pay No Attention

Forget all that small print shit.  Free money!

Once again, they’re pitching a way to alleviate serious financial problems but what they’re actually selling is the precise opposite of that.  The rest of the small print boils down to saying that MoneyMutual is not a lender, doesn’t guarantee you anything (ever), and that you should realize that you have to pay this back.  It’s the reverse of every message the commercial has been sending, but covers their asses in case anyone ever complains about truth in advertising.  The whole thing is predicated on the idea that if you need cash bad enough to contact these people, the fine print likely isn’t going to slow you down.  Sadly, that’s probably true.   

On the plus side, it is easy to laugh at their half assed, slap dick operation, because this is how Montel concludes:

Go to or call

This is where you’d expect to hear him read the phone number, but either they need to change it frequently (creditor problems, I wonder?) or they didn’t have it when they filmed the commercial, because the number is very clearly read by a voice that does not belong to Montel Williams.  It’d be nice to think that he ran screaming from the studio, but that happy thought seems unlikely since his smiling visage is at the top of their home page:

Seriously, Shame on You, Montel

Nothing screams quality like the “As Seen on TV” sticker.

No way around it, Montel Williams is squeezing the last few dollars out of his fame by helping a bunch of sharks squeeze the last few dollars out of financially wracked people.  Fuck you, Montel Williams. 

Posted October 19, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Commercial Break

Commercial Break: Jergens Will Erase Your Elbows   1 comment

Broadcast: 15 October 2012
Program: Here Comes Honey Boo Boo: Family Sized
Channel: The once respectable TLC
Conglomerate: Discovery Communications

Advertiser: Jergens
Owned By: Kao Corporation
Pitch: Smooth out impossible to smooth skin with our creamy crap.

In these heady days of cheap computer imagery, cosmetic and, ahem, “beauty” commercials often rely on a simple formula whereby they show you an image of someone’s hair, eyes, skin, or other body part with cartoonish flaw that is magically erased by whatever product happens to be on offer.  This ad for Jergens “Ultra Healing” is a good example that happens to flunk the photoshop and common sense tests worse than most.

As usual with cosmetic ads, we’ve got a model looking woman who is, nevertheless, so beset by physical imperfections that she can hardly live her life.  In this case:

She changed her dress three times, but all you notice is her beautiful, healthy skin. 

Look At My Terrible Skin . . . Oh, Right

Yeah, my skin is blemish free and perfect, but I feel like I’m missing something.

And why did she change her dress three times?  Because while she’s rail thin and looks like she’s never had a pimple in her life, Jergens wants you to think her elbows are uglier than Satan’s taint:

Jergens to the Unnecessary Rescue0

Help me, Jergen-wan Kenobi, you’re my (elbow’s) only hope.

In reality her elbow looks decidedly normal.  Joint skin is never perfectly smooth because it has to, you know, stretch and stuff.  But according to Jergens, if your elbow isn’t as smooth as a baby’s ass then you’re arms are so hideous that you probably shouldn’t go out in public.  Fortunately, crappy computer animation is coming to the rescue as the Jergens “Ultra Healing” bottle slides from screen left to screen right:

Jergens to the Unnecessary Rescue1

It’s as if millions of pores suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced.

As the Jergens bottle completes its movement, we can see that the previously hideous elbow is now smooth (plus several shades lighter) and, presumably, presentable in decent society.  That it now resembles a cartoon more than an elbow is just a side effect that you’re presumably not supposed to notice.  The important thing is that the equally cartoonish blemish has been wiped clean so that our heroine can not only go out to dinner, but can descend stairs to get there:

Elbow Porn 

Yeah, baby, work that Ulnar Collateral Ligament.

The narration then finishes with a typical commercial perversion of the English language:

With beautiful skin from Jergens, you’ll always make an entrance.

First of all, neither my skin, your skin, nor her skin comes “from Jergens”.  Secondly, nobody looks at someone’s elbows when they “make an entrance”.  And third, erasing computer imagery that you created isn’t the least bit impressive.

Posted October 17, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Commercial Break

Commercial Break: IBM Believes Punctual Criminals Should Be Set Free   Leave a comment

Broadcast: 14 October 2012
Program: This Week With George Stephanopoulos
Channel: ABC
Conglomerate: Disney

Advertiser: IBM
Owned By: IBM
Pitch: Don’t Catch Criminals With Us

Ever since it got out of the consumer hardware business and into the more nebulous consulting business, IBM has been fond of keeping its name out there with vague commercials that don’t sell any particular product or idea, but instead paint the company as a brilliant hive of super-smart people who can and will put their super-smarts to work solving the world’s (and, by extension, your) problems.  The ads tend to feature pretty pictures of cities and people and technology without much more going on than a smug voiceover to inform us of how IBM has solved this or helped out with that.

This particular commercial is a more down to earth variant on that same theme, only instead of making the power grid more efficient or letting people conduct business across oceans, IBM is helping the police to spot crime patterns.  There’s nothing really remarkable about that, or about the narration, which in this case is supposed to be a first person tale from this police officer in a nameless city:

Generic Squadcar

Hurry up, Bob, we’ve got to get this generic cop car back to the rental place by six.

I used to think my job was all about arrests.  Chasing bad guys.  Now I see my work differently.  We analyze crime data, spot patterns, and figure out where to send patrols.  It’s helped some U.S. cities cut serious crime by up to 30% by stopping it before it happens.  Let’s build a smarter planet. 

Obviously this is not a real city, and this guy is not a real cop, so right off the bat IBM is making this shit up.  And helping “some U.S. cities” reduce some crime “by up to 30%” isn’t exactly a bold, concrete statement of success. 

The unintentional comedy comes into play because unlike most of these ads, which are blandly pretty and gaudily high tech, this one looks like a failed 1980s police procedural pilot.  Not only do we have Officer Generic, but we’ve also got Shady McCriminal, who, despite checking his watch several times, is straight out of central casting for a TV crook:

Punctual Criminal

Crap, I’ve only got two minutes before they stop serving breakfast!

As the bland, nonspecific narration is going on, we see both of these guys driving in a hurry only to meet at the place where IBM said there would be crime:

Gotcha, Or Not

I’m glad we’re both on time.

As our criminal walks up to the convenience store, conspicuously putting on a pair of gloves but not bothering with a mask or anything, our IBM cop nods curtly.  At that, our would be robber acts scared, turns around, and walks off just as the narration is talking about “stopping it before it happens”.  So:

1.  Even by TV standards, this is a poorly planned robbery.

2.  The would be robber doesn’t think it’s the least bit suspicious to see a cop, panic, and then immediately turn around and walk back to his car.

3.  The cop doesn’t bother to investigate this guy, but just lets him go on his merry way despite the fact that he’s IBM-sure that this guy is a professional thief. 

Obviously there’s a very strict time constraint when telling a story in a 30 second commercial, but this may be the dumbest, least plausible police story currently running on television, and that’s saying something. 

Posted October 15, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Commercial Break

Commercial Break: The Fortress of Investment Solitude   Leave a comment

Broadcast: 8 October 2012
Program: Hardball
Channel: MSNBC
Conglomerate: Comcast

Advertiser: Fidelity Investments
Owned By: The founder’s offspring.
Pitch: Trading stocks and stuff would be so much cooler if it was anything like this commercial, wouldn’t it?

Cable news and business channels are lousy with advertisements for ways to invest, trade stocks, and otherwise play in the great financial casino from the comfort of your own home.  As a group they’re all very similar, with lots of cool graphics that show not only how powerful their investing tools are, but also how much they make you feel like you’re playing a really shiny video game.

This ad for Fidelity is fairly typical along those lines, boasting about how easy their services make it to cut through the clutter and purchase just the stocks that you (yes, you!) want to purchase.  In this case, it’s something called the “Fidelity Stock Screener”, which is just a gussy way of saying that they’ve got a database and you can run searches against it.

As with most of these ads, the graphics are the real selling point, because boring old stock investing is much neater if you can see colored charts that move and resize themselves like you’re in some kind of sci-fi movie.  In this case, the advertisers have chosen as their cool visual hook a bunch of crystal looking columns that rise up out of the floor:

Fortress of Dick-itude0

They can be a great people, Fid-El.  They wish to be.

As we switch from the overhead view to a more intimate, over-the-shoulder look, we peek at how you (yes, you!) can control this fantastic assortment of crystal columns:

Fortress of Dick-itude1

The stock market on Krypton has nowhere to go but up! 

And there, in the lower left, is the punchline that reveals just how dumb this whole thing really is.  They’re selling their little website as the coolest looking thing this side of a Hollywood command center, but:

The Crystals Are a Lie

“All screens are for illustrative purposes”, which means no crystal towers for you!  It also means that there is a chewy and delicious irony here.  Not only is the commercial so full of shit that it has to basically deny everything it does in the fine print; but they’re selling this as a tool for savvy, intelligent investors, whom they think are so dumb that they’ll only make that savvy, intelligent decision after being wowed by cheap computer graphics.

The kicker comes at the end, when a voiceover promises “200 free trades when you open an account”, except that opening an account is very, very expensive:

We Only Want a Lot of Your Money

“Valid only for Fidelity customers opening a Fidelity retail account and funding it with at least $100,000 in case and/or eligible securities”.  In other words, they want more money up front from you than they probably spent creating this ad, but they’re going to give you a few “free” trades (which can still lose you money) in exchange.  Regular video games have never looked so good.

Posted October 12, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Commercial Break

Commercial Break: Salonpas May Not Actually Exist   Leave a comment

Broadcast: 8 October 2012
Program: Hardball
Channel: MSNBC
Conglomerate: Comcast

Advertiser: Salonpas
Owned By: Hisamitsu Pharmaceutical
Pitch: Rub this on your skin and you’ll be pain free and have a perfect kitchen.

This is a fairly standard non-prescription medicine commercial.  It features a guy speaking right into the camera who really wants us to think that he, personally, is a satisfied customer:

Back pain had me suffering day and night.  So I turned to Salonpas, the only OTC pain patch clinically proven to relive my pain for up to twelve hours.

See all the verbal cues there?: “had me”, “I turned”, “my pain”.  Of course, it’s all a lie:

Painful Acting

This is my “grimace” face, but I can also do “sharp pain” and “paper cut wince”.

Right there in the bottom right, tastefully lined up with the edge of the table to really conceal it: “Actor Portrayal”.  But that routine chunk of stagecraft dishonesty isn’t what makes this ad stand out for being crappy.  That comes at the end, when we get the money shot:

Fake Boxes

Among the anagrams for “Salonpas”: Lap Ass On, Laos Snap, and Anal Sops.

Even on the compressed image above it’s plain as day that those boxes have been very roughly photoshopped into that background image, and it looks even worse on actual TV.  Look at that odd dark fuzz at the bottom of the “box”, look how there’s no light whatsoever on the fronts, check out the perfect symmetry of the reflections, even through what’s supposed to be grout!  It’s almost like someone copied and pasted it there. 

This is how contemptuous of the audience many commercials are.  They know that anyone watching this ad is half checked out and not paying attention anyway, so they slap this terribly done image at the end because no one’s going to notice.  The same way they expect you to not read the small print that says “Actor Portrayal”, they also expect you to not care that the image they’re presenting is fake through and through. 

Posted October 10, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Commercial Break

Commercial Break: Chevron Agrees (With Itself)   Leave a comment

Broadcast: 7 October 2012
Program: Meet the Press
Channel: NBC
Conglomerate: Comcast

Advertiser: Chevron
Owned By: Chevron
Pitch: We’re coming to your town to cause earthquakes, poison your water and pay you piddling compensation, but we want to be friendly about it.

A lot of commercials pay actors to pretend to be regular people so that their crap will seem more palatable to you, the actual regular person.  Oil mega-behemoth Chevron takes things one step further in this excellently dishonest advertisement for fracking by pretending that there’s some kind of disagreement and then resolving what wasn’t there in the first place.  This one’s a doozy, so we’re going to have to take it from the top.

We open with a double shot of our two actors:

Chevron Presents - Regular People

Don’t fret, the CG backgrounds will look even worse in a second.

Before we continue, let’s just pause for a second and marvel at the contempt on display here.  The woman on the left is sitting in front of a fake background made to look like a pleasant, middle class American neighborhood dressed like she’s just sitting on her porch, having a talk with you, her neighbor.  The man on the right is standing in front of the two universal images of farming in America, a red barn and a tractor wheel.  He’s wearing a perfectly clean, brand new looking shirt that is exactly what wardrobe directors think farmers look best in.  They speak:

Fake Farmer: We’re sitting on a bunch of shale gas.

What do you mean “we”, white man?  You and the rest of the underemployed actors at the Brentwood restaurant where you work?

Fake Neighbor: There’s natural gas under my town.

Sure there is, and if you go deep enough into the Earth you’ll find plenty of molten rock and liquid iron, that doesn’t mean I want any of it brought to the surface near my house. 

It’s a game changer.

This may be the first time in recorded history a fictional farmer has ever used a vacuous political cliche quite so unconvincingly.  After that, we cut to a title card cleverly photoshopped to look like it’s a homemade permanent marker on cardboard job without anyone ever having to get up from their keyboard:

Fake Sign Font

It’s not a real homemade sign, but an incredible simulation! 

And what might the “right thing” on shale gas be, according to Chevron?  They’re glad you asked:

Oh God, It Looks Even Worse Zoomed In!

My name is Adam, and I think I’d be great for Real World: Des Moines because I keep it real and my shirt is tastefully plaid!

Ignore the fact that “Adam” looks like he’s done about as much farm work in his life as Mitt Romney, and ignore the hideously fake looking background he’s pretending to be standing in front of, and just listen to the authentic voice of middle America:

Fake Farmer: It means cleaner, cheaper American made energy.

Hmm, sounds good.  I immediately trust any man standing in front of a fake compost pile.  Now it’s back to the other side of the set for “Angie”:

Oh God, It Looks Even Worse Zoomed In!2

My name is Angie, and I run a support group for people who arrange porch furniture so that it blocks their front door.  You are not alone.  Help is available.

Her backdrop actually manages to look even more incongruous and fake than “Adam”’s, including the fact that the sun is shining from the right in the background but from the left in the foreground.  The KGB took more care with their Stalin-era airbrushing, and they didn’t even have to worry about people criticizing their work.  She speaks:

Fake Neighbor: But we’ve got to be careful how we get it.  Design the wells to be safe.

As opposed to designing them to be dangerous?  That’s a pretty low bar.  Deepwater Horizon was designed to be safe, after all.  Back to “Adam”, who has now chosen to speak only in sentence fragments:

Fake Farmer: Thousands of jobs.

Then “Angie” returns with her rock bottom standards:

Fake Neighbor: Use the most advanced technology to protect our water.

Note that she isn’t actually advocating that water supplies be protected, merely that a nice try be made.  That tepid stab at public concern complete, we return to “Adam”, who still can’t complete a sentence:

Fake Farmer: Billions in the economy.

Heroin and diet supplements puts billions in the economy too, you know.  After that, this commercial shows how slapdash it is once more because it turns out that “Angie” is a mole:

Fake Neighbor: At Chevron, if we can’t do it right, we won’t do it at all.

Angie Lied to Us!

Oh my god, Angie works for Chevron?!  I thought she was just a concerned citizen who had natural gas under her town!  That’s probably not even her real porch! 

While “Angie” has outed herself as a stooge, “Adam” is sticking to his cover story as “Farmer”, which makes the entire commercial make no sense.  Are we supposed to care about “Angie”’s town?  Or are we supposed to think that Chevron people live in the same places we do?  Does that include the “Farmer”?  I’m so confused, and it’s only going to get worse:

Together: We’ve got to think long term. 

I Often Agree With People Reading From the Same Script

Wait, who’s the “We” here?  Is it “Angie” (Chevron infiltrator) and “Adam” (fake farmer)?  Or is it both of them plus Chevron using the royal we?  Is it supposed to include the audience as well?  Were they supposed to be disagreeing at the beginning?  It’s not entirely clear. 

What is clear is that the giant “We Agree” stamped over those two actors faces isn’t some kind of ground breaking accord between long hostile adversaries.  Nor is it common sense from the heartland.  It’s just the end of a script.  That we can agree on.

Posted October 8, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Commercial Break

Commercial Break: Apple Insults Its Customers (Again)   Leave a comment

Broadcast: 2 October 2012
Program: NCIS: Los Angeles
Channel: CBS
Conglomerate: Viacom/CBS Corporation

Advertiser: Apple
Owned By: Apple
Pitch: The iPhone 5 is so awesome it defies the “laws of physics”. 

The measurements are imprecise, but by most accounts Apple is either the most valuable brand in the world or very close to it.  Far more precise are the basic rules of physics, several of which Apple, in this utterly bizarre commercial, has written on a chalkboard for you to briefly glimpse:

Physics Chalkboard


It’s been a long time since I flunked out of that Mexican physics school, so I can’t claim to recognize all of these, but that is Newton’s Second Law in the very upper left, and you don’t need to know squat about science to recognize Einstein’s most famous equation in the lower left.  A commenter on reddit helpfully lists them:

Newton’s Laws, The Law of Gravity, General Reletivity, The Schrodinger Equation (dimensional and differential forms), Energy Quantization Relation, Heisenburg’s Uncertainty Principle, Conservation of Energy, The Fundamental Assumption of Thermodynamics, The Maxwell Equations, The Ideal Gas Law, Special Reletivity (and gamma factor), The Mass Energy Relation, The reletivistic mass equation, and two other random forms of the schrodinger equation for some reason

So far, so good.  Apple, a company that makes products beloved by many a smart person and physics lover, is sending them a little “we get you” love note.  The problem arises with the narration. 

The chalkboard is quickly replaced by a series of porno shots of the iPhone as a friendly male voice comes on to insult everyone who has ever solved one of those equations:

There are laws to physics, right?

Well, yeah, though generally if you hear someone talking about the “laws of physics” it usually means they have no idea what they’re saying. 

So, explain this.

Here we go.  It’s all downhill on a frictionless surface from here:

How can something get bigger and smaller?

Lots of ways.  Surface area and volume don’t always go in the same direction for one, and that’s not even physics. 

There’s more of it, and less of it?

Bitch, let me introduce you to my good friend density.  Conveniently, “dense” also has a social meaning.  Apple, of all companies, should be able to hire ad people not-dumb enough to know that.

Well, I guess the laws of physics are more like general guidelines. 

No, fuckstick, they aren’t.  And just like that, the trendy simpletons in your marketing department have pissed off a shitload of potential Apple customers, several of them in that Reddit thread, others in the YouTube comments:

Really Apple? You’re bringing physics into the matter and question it? Do you not understand the concept of a three dimensional object?

Your stupid phone got THINNER but it got TALLER.

How does a 5 year old fat kid get bigger and smaller at the same time? He grows up and loses weight, that’s not physics. not even "General guide lines physics"

Here’s more:

Because Apple can break the laws of physics by changing the dimensions of a phone. Are they really this stupid?

And someone goes full Comic Book Guy:

Worst commercial ever. How dare you insult your customers with such horrible logic Apple. Horribly disappointing.

The real gag here is that long before anyone wrote those equations on that chalkboard, some copy jockey ignoramus got the brilliant idea to say that the “laws of physics” are just guidelines because the iPhone 5 is so fucking awesome that it defies the rules that govern the observable universe.  Some time after that, somebody, possibly one of those same ignorant twits, said, “Hey, we need real equations for that chalkboard or we’ll look like idiots”.  Irony abounds. 

YouTube commenter GolfLovesBrett deserves the last word here:

Bigger and smaller? Have you seem my penis?

No, but there’s probably an app for that. 

Posted October 5, 2012 by Charlie Sweatpants in Commercial Break