Monday, February 8, 2010

And Now a Word from Our Sponsor

This week we saw the annual Super Bowl commercials rolled out. It amazes me that advertisers will spend up to $3 million for a 30-second ad, but I guess when you consider that around a billion viewers watch the game worldwide, the product exposure makes it worthwhile. What makes for a good commercial is very subjective. I like humor, but humor that doesn't work can be deadly. What's funny to me could annoy you. There were also ads that were not funny, but highly effective in selling product. Here are the commercials that make my "hall of fame". (I've added video links where I could find them.)

Alka Seltzer: "I can't believe I ate the whole thing". In this memorable scene, a man is seated on the edge of his bed, upset at having eaten too much. His wife, who is lying next to him, is trying to sleep and is becoming increasingly impatient with his moaning. He groans: I can't believe I ate the whole thing. Wife: You ate it Ralph. Ralph (groans again): I can't believe I ate the whole thing. Wife (sarcastic): No Ralph, I ate it. Ralph (groans): I can't believe I ate the whole thing. Wife: Take 2 Alka-Seltzer's. Voice Over: Alka-Seltzer neutralizes all the acid your stomach has churned out. For your upset stomach, take Alka-Seltzer and feel better fast. Wife: Did you drink your Alka-Seltzer? Ralph (smiles): The whole thing. This commercial was so funny because we easily identified with Ralph; we've all been there-done that.

Wendy's: "Where's the beef". The phrase first came to public attention in a TV commercial for the Wendy's hamburger chain in 1984. In the ad, titled "Fluffy Bun", actress Clara Peller receives a burger with a massive bun from a fictional competitor which uses the slogan "Home of the Big Bun". The small patty prompts Peller to angrily exclaim, "Where's the beef?" The catch phrase was repeated in television shows, films, magazines, and other media outlets. It became a euphemism for describing anything that fell short. I think the ad succeeded for two reasons: 1) Again we could all identify with the disappointing big bun-small burger scenario; and 2) Clara Peller was born to do that ad. She delivered that line like no one else could. See for yourself.
Where's the Beef

Coke: "Mean Joe Greene" Ad. Coke is not one of the world's most recognized brands for nothing. They know how to advertise and have sold a lot of soda because of it. This ad was first shown at the Super Bowl. It features Joe Greene of the Green Bay Packers, one of the fiercest defensive players in football who had more than earned the nickname "Mean Joe Greene". The ad opens with a battered and dejected Greene making his way down the stadium ramp to the locker room, obviously beaten and exhausted. He looks like a Gladiator exiting the arena. A boy expresses his admiration and gives him a cold Coke. "Mean Joe" then smiles through his weariness, takes off his uniform jersey and tosses it saying: "Hey kid, catch". This ad was priceless. It captures a moment between a boy and his hero, all made possible by sharing a Coke of course.

Fed Ex: "Fast Paced World". This commercial had actor John Moschitta playing a fast-talking executive named Jim Spleen who speed-talks his way through a typical business day. For those of you who share my annoyance at advertisers who give you all the bad news and limitations of their offer at the tail end of their ads, spoken by an announcer at a mile a minute, this guy will sound familiar. Considered to be the most award-winning commercial in the history of advertising, it walked away with six Clio awards. Fed Ex followed it up with several other ads, but none was as good as the original. FedEx commercial with John Moschitta

Some of the best commercials we never see because they are shown overseas. The ads outside the U.S. are much more free about showing things that couldn't get past the uptight American censors. It's a shame we are not as cool as the Europeans for example about showing certain things, but there it is. Check the Internet for "Best Foreign Commercials" to get an idea of what I mean. Here's an example featuring a misbehaving kid and a surprise punch line.
YouTube - Funny Foreign Commercial

Advertising is a very creative medium, and some commercials are far more entertaining than the shows they sponsor. I guess we should be thankful.


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