Sunday, September 7, 2014

U.S. Open TV commercials: The good, bad and ugly

   Just wondering: Who has appeared on television more during the U.S. Open, commentators John and Patrick McEnroe or Tina Fey for American Express and that IBM Cloud guy?
   Ranking the television commercials during the tournament from best to worst:
The good
   1. Geico -- I saw the one with former Cincinnati Bengals running back Ickey Woods for the first time on Friday, and it immediately shot to the top of my list. If you haven't had the pleasure, click on http://ftw.usatoday.com/2014/09/ickey-woods-geico-commercial-ickey-shuffle.
   While treating a man, a dentist sees a Geico ad on the television and mutters, "Fifteen minutes can save you 15 percent or more on car insurance." The patient then mumbles through the instruments in his mouth, "Everybody knows that." Responds the dentist, "Well, did you know that former pro football player Ickey Woods will celebrate almost anything?"
   The scene shifts to a supermarket, where an overweight Woods waits at the deli counter with two women. "No. 44," the clerk calls out. "Woooo!!!" Woods shrieks. "Forty-four -- that's me," he adds excitedly, as if he has just won the lottery.
   Woods, letting out a few more "Wooos," does his trademark "Ickey Shuffle," spikes a pack of lunchmeat, gives the clerk a high-five and closes with a line destined for advertising immortality: "Gonna get some cold cuts today!"
John McEnroe, shown in February, stars in
a Chase commercial. Photo by Paul Bauman
   2. Chase -- This was No. 1 until the Woods commercial came along.
   As Andy Roddick endlessly bounces a ball while preparing to serve, returner John McEnroe chirps sarcastically, "Take your time, Andy. No rush." When the bouncing continues, McEnroe -- surprise -- loses his patience and whines, "C'mon ... " He then whips an iPhone out of his pocket and conducts a Chase transaction.
   When Roddick finally serves and the ball is ruled an ace, McEnroe -- surprise again -- erupts. "Wait a minute," he yells at the chair umpire. "That serve was out. Help me out here. ... " While McEnroe argues incessantly, Roddick takes out his iPhone and makes a Chase transaction.
   McEnroe does a great job of playing himself, and Roddick isn't bad.
   3. ESPN SportsCenter -- Victor Cruz of the New York Giants and Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints sit at a boardroom table with coaches, mascots, cheerleaders and, as one online pundit put it, "the dude who holds that audio microphone dish thingy on the sideline," and the group conducts its fantasy draft of SportsCenter personalities.
   As one broadcaster saunters by on the other side of a clear partition, Cruz gushes, "There's my boy! Bring the heat this year!" Then the broadcaster trips over a vacuum cleaner cord, landing with a thud. "And there goes my season," Cruz sighs.
   4. BNY (Bank of New York) Mellon -- This is reminiscent of the 1990s Charles Schwab classic featuring Anna Kournikova and Mary Joe Fernandez -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1EqZywfGg6A -- though not as funny. Fernandez says of Kournikova's technical comments about investing: "It's like she's speaking a different language."
   In this one, Joe Montana sits in a living room and says pensively: "Third and 3, 58 seconds on the clock. What am I thinking about?" The Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback pauses and adds animatedly, "Foreign markets. Asian debt that recognizes the shift in a global economy ... "
   Then a woman's voice says, "If you've had to become your own investment expert, maybe it's time for BNY Mellon, a different kind of wealth manager." 
   Who knew Montana could act, too?
   5. American Express -- The talented, cute Fey goes back-to-school shopping for her daughters and parodies shallow values and clueless clerks. What's not to like?
The bad
   6. DirecTV NFL Sunday Ticket -- Fans are shown with superhuman powers because they can watch any game anywhere. "Become the world's most powerful fan," a voice intones.
   The motto should be, "Become the world's biggest jerk." These nimrods need to get a life.
   7. Farmers Insurance -- This ad hits you with a double whammy.
   First, Nathaniel Burke, the elderly professor of the University of Farmers, tells customers, "At Farmers, we make you smarter about insurance, because what you don't know can hurt you."
   What hurts me is listening to this pompous ass. Hey, professor, go back to teaching Econ 1 at Party U. and leave us alone.
   Then there's that jingle that makes you want to smash your TV with a baseball bat: "We are Farmers, bump-a-dump-a-bump-bump-bump."
   8. AT&T -- Lily, the supervisor, is becoming more ubiquitous than Progressive's Flo. At least Lily is a heck of a lot more attractive. However, this series of commercials takes political correctness to a new level.
The ugly 
   9. IBM Cloud -- Viewers have been assaulted with several versions, all featuring a smug guy with a British accent. The burrito and hamster spots are especially nauseating.
   First of all, Mr. Macho, get a shave. You're on national TV, for crying out loud.
   In one commercial, Mr. Hotshot holds a piece of food while surrounded by chefs and informs us: "This is a burrito made of chocolate, soybeans and apricots. What kind of chef comes up with this? A chef working with Watson ... on the cloud."
   Later, he tastes the burrito and nods approvingly to one of the chefs. I'd give anything if he threw up instead.
   In another ad, Mr. Cocky holds a hamster in his hand and says: "Cute little guy, huh? This guy could take down your entire company. Stay with me. ... " At this point, you hope the hamster bites him and he contracts bubonic plague.
   And what's with the British accents in commercials? That Geico lizard has one, too. Is it supposed to be distinctive? Lend an air of sophistication? Both?
   Memo to ad agencies: The United States declared independence from England 238 years ago.     
   10. USTA -- There are two of these gems: "Tennis makes you happier" and "Tennis makes you smarter." Both are incredibly annoying.
   In the "happier" version, a male dork with an apparent IQ of 3 smiles with a racket in his hand, frowns when the racket is taken away and cackles when it's given back to him. In the "smarter" version, a female nerd answers questions while they're being asked.
   I'd like to see them both get clocked by a John Isner serve. Then we'll see how happy and smart they are.
   If the USTA is trying to drive people away from tennis, it's doing a fabulous job.
  11. BP (British Petroleum) -- For sheer chutzpa, this load of propaganda might be unsurpassed in advertising history.
   Pristine images of an Alaskan snow-covered mountain range and a salmon flopping in front of crystal clear gushing water are shown, and a chipper BP executive goes on and on about the company's "commitment to America." She points out, "Across the United States, BP supports more than a quarter million jobs."
   Somehow, there's no mention of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion that caused the  largest accidental spill in history (Iraqi forces intentionally caused a bigger one in Kuwait during the 1991 Gulf War). Nor are there any photos of dead fish covered with sludge.
   Eleven people were killed in the disaster, and 4.9 million barrels (210 million gallons or 795 million liters) of oil were spewed into the Gulf of Mexico over almost three months. Five states bordering the gulf have been affected.
   As of February 2013, criminal and civil settlements and payments to a trust fund had cost BP $42.2 billion. On Thursday, a federal judge in New Orleans ruled that the company acted with gross negligence, which could cost BP up to $18 billion more under the Clean Water Act.
   BP wants to talk about jobs? OK. The spill eliminated or hurt hundreds of thousands of them in the oil drilling, commercial fishing and tourism industries.
  The company's name should be BS.

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