For several years, I did not have a television. I wish I still didn’t, but I live with people, so I have one, and because I have one, I watch it more frequently than I really should. TV shows these days seem to mainly function as short blips to pad out the advertising, and the more ads I watch, the more interested I become in what makes a good, creative ad, and what makes a terrible one. Some ads just bother me. I mean, just annoy the ever living shit out of me, until I start screaming in rage and throwing things at the television set. And wake up in the night, ranting about their horrible writing and inconsistent themes. And finally, blog about them. To wit:
First of all, the sour Skittles ad, where a man is being milked by a milking machine. Now, my objection to this is not, as you might think, that this ad is totally disgusting. Rather, it is because of the imprecise way in which the ad is worded. Next to misogyny, this sort of careless, nonsensical language use is my biggest pet peeve in advertising. It would be bad enough if an advertising agency merely pitched such an ad, but on top of that, when you think of all the work that is done on an ad, all the reviewing and rewriting and shooting and focus group testing, and so forth…when you think that throughout that long, expensive process in which the ad is discussed and worked on by dozens and dozens of people, that not one of those people ever said, ‘you know, this phrasing doesn’t make a damn bit of sense,’ well, that is a very disheartening thought to me, to say the least.
In the sour Skittles ad, the farmer comes in and angrily says to the man being milked, “I’m just saying that maybe if you didn’t eat so many sour Skittles, I wouldn’t have sour milk!”
And the man being milked replies, “Well. That’s a risk I’m willing to take.”
What? No risk was introduced! That makes no sense at all! If the farmer had said, “I’m just saying, if you keep on eating those sour Skittles, I’m going to kick your ass,” the man’s response would have made sense. Or, if the farmer’s dialogue was the same, the man could have said, “Well. That’s a theory I’m not prepared to test.” If anything, assuming that the “risk” is producing non-sour milk by curbing the consumption of sour Skittles, the man being milked has agreed to take that risk! Which would mean he won’t be eating sour Skittles anymore, but we are clearly meant to understand that he is disagreeing with the farmer, and will continue to eat the sour Skittles (and in fact, he does so immediately after delivering his ludicrous reply). So, the risk must be an implied, unspoken risk that the farmer might possibly visit some harm upon the man if he does not agree to test the farmer’s theory, and lay off the sour Skittles. The man has replied to something that the farmer has not actually said.
It’s especially disappointing that this clunker comes from Skittles, as they have had some of my favorite ads in the past: the ‘Taste the Rainbow’ ads, with their beautiful, surreal visuals, and that yodeling rabbit ad.
Another ad in this category is the Kia sales event ad, where a man says to a coworker, after the coworker finishes a presentation:
“Man, you were on fire up there! Tell me, did you ever study karate?”
“No,” replies the coworker. “But I did get a kickin’ deal at the Kia sales event!”
What? What does karate have to do with anything? Especially after the guy led into it with all his emphasis on fire. It might have made marginally more sense if he’d said, “Man, you were on fire up there! Tell me, did you ever escape from a burning building?” And then the coworker replies, “No, but I did get a smokin’ deal at the Kia sales event!”
Okay, that still would have made no sense, but at least it would have made consistently no sense all the way through, for the same general reason. Or, the guy could have said, “Man, you were so focused and aggressive up there! Tell me, did you ever study karate?” Or even, “Man, you were throwing some heat up there! Tell me, did you ever study karate?” I could do this all day.
The other problem with Kia’s ad is that the premise of the ad has nothing at all to do with the product, and could just as easily be applied to any good or service. Another perfect example of this type of ad is the Holiday Inn Express ad where some daredevil in the desert decides at the last minute not to ride a motorcycle through a flaming hoop (or something like that). A reporter asks, ‘What happened? Did you suddenly wise up?’ (Or something like that.)
And the man replies, ‘No. But I did stay at the Holiday Inn Express last night.’
He could just as easily say, ‘No. But I did drink a Yoplait Smoothie.’ Or, ‘No. But I did call Ace Car Service.’ Or, ‘No. But I did just switch to Geico.’ Or, ‘No. But I did just eat a Big Mac.’ Or ANYTHING AT ALL.
I imagine that advertising companies must just have a giant drawer full of such fill-in-the-blanks ads for whenever they either can’t think of a custom-made ad from some client, or aren’t being paid enough to bother.