Five For FRiday: Commercial Appeal

Commercials.  An integral necessity of broadcast art, an incessant interruption throughout any sporting event of note.  In this era of economic lethargy, they’re even more a reminder that near none of us have the wherewithal to possess the consumer goods we desire–desires driven, of course, in immense part by those very ads.  But sometimes the medium transcends the meaning.  On occasion, we can’t help but be entertained, though we know we’re being sold.  On rarer occasion, we’re genuinely startled, be it to laughter or genuine emotion, or basic admiration for the stylistic talent on display.  It’s a tricky business, the business of advertising.  With that in mind, FR this week highlight those commercials that stuck in the craw.  Somewhere, on hiatus between seasons, Don Draper is taking notes.

Tyler: Reebok’s “Terry Tate, Office Linebacker”

It’s been a long, long, long time since the promise of SUPER BOWL COMMERCIALS truly delivered on the premise I’m clearly attempting to evoke with the all-caps and whatnot.  The last time I recall being knocked truly sidelong by a Super Bowl ad, astounded at what I was seeing and, in the minutes afterward, had just seen, was the astounding, unexpected, gut-busting spectacle of “Terry Tate.”  Back when Office Space (then still a cult hit that the commercial explicitly references) was still being discovered, long before a lousy economy full of overeducated underachievers begat a cottage industry of ads depicting Wacky Goin’s-On Between Frustrated Young’uns At Desks (I’m looking at you, Taco Bell, Subway, and the American Office)–the sudden, absolutely unpredictable spectacle of a former NFL linebacker (“Lester Speight”; thank you, Wikipedia) knocking lame-o tie-clad coffee-sippers senseless drove me and many, many others to hysterics.  Hell, I still laugh like a bastard when I watch that original ad.  “That’s a long-distance call, DOUG!”

Nathan: Kill Bill, Vol. 2 Teaser Trailer 

Confession. I don’t watch TV much. When I do watch TV, I intentionally try to focus my attention away from commercials. I might read a little bit of a book or talk to my viewing partner. Therefore, I will cheat in this edition of Five for Friday. And I’ll cheat right away.

The teaser for Kill Bill, Vol. 2 was almost a stand alone item. You could enjoy it completely without ever having to see either of the movies. Consisting almost entirely of Uma Thurman driving against rear projection, the teaser tells us absolutely nothing about the movie, but does everything to get us in the mood. The wink at the end seals the deal.

Tyler: Dirt Cheap

If you spent any amount of time in the last decade with a television at your behest, you got to meet “Fred,” the late proprietor of a discount vice chain called Dirt Cheap.  You might think that the most memorable aspect of Fred’s low-budg’ local ads would be the knowing minimum-wage worker in a mottled yellow chicken dress-up (…are chickens yellow?), but you’d be mistaken.  There’s the voiceover for the jaundiced poultry, dancing among aisles of marked-down whiskey and scotch, and then there’s Fred himself, imparting that sage, Godly psalm of wisdom:

“And remember: the more she drinks, the better you look.”

Nathan: Old Spice, “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”

My wife, Olivia, is voting in this Five for Friday, and she likes the famous Old Spice commercial with Isaiah Mustafa. The moment when he says, “Look again. The tickets are now diamonds!”, always slays me. Also, this commercial is pretty amazing in terms of production value, which makes it endlessly enjoyable to watch as you ponder how exactly they did all that nonsense in one take. In fact, the production was so interesting that TWiT made a “making of” video that has now been blocked by NBC due to copyright issues. For shame.

Tyler: Minute Maid Orange Tangerine, endorsed by an unlikely advocate

I have no idea how this thing ever got made.  As things go, though, it’s one of my favorite things in the history of all things, ever.

“Well then, who would you believe?”

Nathan: American Express, Wes Anderson

Inspired, obviously by Francois Truffaut’s Day for Night, Wes Anderson’s American Express spot actually condenses all the lessons of that great film into about 30 seconds. If you want to have any idea at all of how a movie is made, you have it. And, like the Old Spice commercial above, it’s fun to think about how they pieced all of it together.

If you’re not a Wes Anderson fan, stay away.

Tyler: Levi’s & The Elevator

I had a sense in recalling this ad that it was directed by some kinda Hollywood big-name.  Upon rediscovering it through YouTube, I was stunned to be reminded that it’s the work of–seriously, are you kidding me?–fucking Michael Bay.

That admitted, Im happy to aver that the thing is a fucking masterpiece.  Ignoring the commercial-closing tagline (“Levi’s Wide-Leg Jeans: They’re wiiiiiiide open”; eugh), I remain struck by the lusty romanticism (romantic lusticism?) that makes this ad a through-and-total classic.  I doubt Bay himself has ever progressed mentally past the sexual aspect of the fantasies displayed here, but for those of us who like a little sugar when we catch eyes with someone, random, this tiny little work of art tops the charts.

Nathan: Limp Cigs

There is no record of this commercial on the internet, at least not that I can find. And I’ve only seen it once, circa 1999.

A young, attractive woman is at a fancy ball or dinner party. She scans the room, which is full of handsome men in their tuxedos. Every man she sees is smoking. And every man she looks at also looks back at her; she is, after all, attractive. Their cigarettes go limp. Are they enamored of her beauty? Are they nervous? Yes and Yes. The attractive woman, however, does not engage any of these men. She instead hooks up with a cig-less dude. What she knew, that apparently all those other men didn’t, was that by smoking cigarettes, they were guaranteeing that sex would be all but impossible.

I don’t know that they commercial is great, but it did leave an impresion on me. At 18 years old, in an age before commercials for impotence pills ran rampant on TV, I hadn’t given even the slightest thought to the idea that any man wouldn’t be able to get it up for any reason, let alone smoking. I didn’t smoke, but the commercial still blindsided me into wondering about something I’d never imagined before. In short, it was effective.

Tyler: A Sir Charles Night Out

Inexplicably unavailable on YouTube (or anywhere online), my favorite commercial of all time is a Coors bit, directed by Spike Lee, featuring the man, the myth, the Round Mound Of Rebound Charles Barkley enjoying what likely represents a typical night of Chuck-rousing, minus the six-figure gambling.  Barkley dines, hits the range, cruises in a limo with fine ladies, and all-in-all has what would be the time of most of our lives.  Coors beer is swill, but this commercial was sublime.  Or, in the vernacular, not turrible.

Nathan: Geico – Tiny House

Geico is hit or miss, for sure, but this little ditty, released during the height of the reality TV craze, was absolutely perfect. Its evocation of reality TV tropes was so accurate that it had the power to fool the viewer not only the first time through, but maybe a second and third as well. Above all, I enjoyed Tiny House, because it was a smart-ass commentary on the absolute absurdity of most reality TV. And, quite frankly, I’m surprised that Geico didn’t sell the Tiny House concept to a network so that we could have a real world counterpart. Sigh.


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