Television commercials — you love ‘em or hate ‘em.
My reaction often depends on how many are packed into one program break. A few weeks ago I tried to watch a Liam Neeson movie I had missed when it first opened, only to discover that at every single commercial break, the station crammed in 10-12 advertisements — I actually counted — before returning to the film. The ads were all boring and relatively brief, but each was repeated so often I could have recited the lines as well as the actors.
On the other hand, there are some clever commercials out there that are more entertaining than some of the regularly scheduled programs. Curious about what commercials my co-workers have enjoyed, I conducted one of my non-scientific mini-surveys on a recent morning and found these were the favorites:
• Warren Morrison, night news editor, picked the Geico commercial: “Did you know Old MacDonald is a terrible speller?” Asked to spell “cow,” the farmer answers “Cow, C-O-W-E-I-E-I-O.” Warren, who says he once worked at a grocery store, also enjoys the other Geico ad about the grocery clerk who checks out items like an auctioneer calling for bids.
• Both Lisa Chappell, publisher, and Mary Standfield, business manager, love watching the AT&T commercial with the grown man sitting at a child-sized table with four little kids. In a serious manner he asks them, “Do you guys think it’s better to be fast than slow?” or sometimes he queries “Is big better than little?” The kids go off on long, meandering answers involving werewolves and candy islands, as youngsters will do.
• Dustin Morrison, ad rep, picked the Snickers “diva” ad with the crabby, complaining woman (played by Aretha Franklin) sitting in the back seat of a car. When a fellow rider hands her a candy bar, she takes one bite and immediately turns into a calm, male passenger. The ad ends with the voice-over “You’re not yourself when you’re hungry. Eat a Snickers.”
• Editor Caleb Slinkard enjoyed the State Farm ad showing a man talking on the phone, and when his wife asks whom he’s talking to, he says it’s the man from State Farm Insurance. The suspicious wife snatches the phone, listens, and says, “She sounds hideous.” “Well, she’s a guy,” he replies.
• Amanda Collins from classified advertising chose the Budweiser commercial about the man who raised a Clydesdale horse from birth until it finally left to join the other horses with Budweiser. Three years later the Clydesdales come to town for a parade, and the dejected trainer thinks the horse doesn’t remember him. However the horse breaks free to run back to reunite with him. It’s a tear-jerker! Other Clydesdale favorites are the donkey who wants to be a Clydesdale, and the colt who pulls the huge wagon, not realizing he’s being helped by two full-grown horses pushing from behind. Rose Marie Williamson in editorial also cited the Budweiser Clydesdale ads.
• Shelley Morgan. retail advertising, picked the Direct TV ad about “Don’t Let your Dad Get Punched Over a Can of Soup.” It’s one of a series of “Get Rid of Cable” ads showing all the dire, but ludicrous things that will happen if you stay with cable rather than Direct TV.
• Leslie Gibson, retail ads, chose the commercial (AT&T Wireless, she thinks) of the little girl drawing a sign which she and her dad then post outdoors announcing that theirs is the hometown of such-and-such speed skater. Leslie loved the child’s smile, and says she also enjoys all the Allstate commercials featuring “Mayhem.”
• Graphics artist Caleb Manning picked the Nationwide Insurance commercial showing the giant-size baby which — instead of a car as you’d expect — is the object being sprayed with a hose in the driveway, saved from being bumped by a runaway grocery cart, and siting in the garage. “Nationwide knows how you feel about your car — it’s your baby,” says the voice-over.
• Austin Wells likes the Lowe’s “Need Help?” commercial that pictures a man who has just finished installing a ceiling fan in his living room. When he turns on the wall switch, the fan comes loose from the ceiling, falls down and breaks a glass table underneath. In the last scene, we see that the exasperated man has thrown the fan out through his front window.
• My current favorite is an ad for Sears Optical, the gist being that if you’re not seeing clearly, you obviously need glasses. It begins with a woman in her nightgown and robe opening a sliding glass door and calling, “Here kitty, kitty … come snuggle with Mama!” Through the door strolls a raccoon, not a cat. After an announcer’s pitch for buying eyeglasses from Sears, we return to the woman’s bedroom where the raccoon is stretched out across the corner of her bed. As she turns out the light, she murmurs, “Night, Mama’s girl.”
Animals, kids and humor — who of us can resist smiling? But have the ads inspired any of us to go out and actually buy the products they’re selling?
The answer may be no laughing matter.
Ferguson is a columnist for the Herald-Banner.
Television commercials — you love ‘em or hate ‘em.
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