Peanut Butter Knife

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Commercial Interruption

Let me just get this straight: I despise advertising and in particular broadcast advertising. Its shrill. Its insulting. Its repetitive. And its inescapable. I try not to watch too much television, but at the same time I'm not going to be one of these "I never watch TV" elitists either. After a long day of looking at tiny numbers on spreadsheets at work, a little vegging out in front of the boob tube isn't such a bad thing. To be fair, there is some quality stuff out there. I'm quite partial to "The Office" on NBC, "Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations" on the Travel Channel and VH1's pop culture snarkfest "Best Week Ever", not to mention the occasional PBS gem. And no matter how much I may try to block the commercials out from my mind, they still find a way to implant themselves in my brain.

One advertising genre I find particularly loathsome are the "dumb guy" commercials. You know what I'm talking about. Usually some dumb, unattractive "dude" comes on screen grunting like an ape and/or yelling about sports or red meat or ugly inefficient American trucks and often he has a young, hot, smart wife/girlfriend to point out just how dumb he is, but its OK because "boys will be boys". If you want to know how much these ads bug me just ask Ms. PBK what I think of those TGI Friday's spots where a bunch of "bros" all order meat dishes and feel the need to scream about it and look at the guy who ordered "vegetable medley" like the queen of the prom until he stabs some other guys sausage link and screams about that. And its not as though I'm a vegetarian (although this commercial makes an awfully strong case) or that this offends me as a man or anything. Its just stupid and obnoxious and after the 54991st viewing of it, I'm convinced that I'm going to lose brain cells by being within a 1000 foot radius of any TGI Friday's establishment. Secondhand Sun had a great post about another one of these "dumb guy" commercials last month that pointed out a more sinister anti-female message being conveyed.

Having said all that, its not often that I find a commercial that actually offers some sort of meaningful and entertaining commentary on any aspect of society, however trivial. So I've got to hand it to the ad wizards who came up with Fruit of the Loom's latest campaign. In it, the various fruit-costumed underpants salesmen (last seen ogling supermodels in various states of undress backstage at a fashion show) decide to form a band and write songs extolling the virtues of Fruit of the Loom brand underwear in various musical genres. The first ad had our guys singing in a pitch perfect imitation of whiny Brit mopesters Coldplay and their soundalikes in Keane, Snow Patrol, etc. The new ad spoofs the jingoistic, cloying, Wal-Mart populism of modern "country" music with terrific aplomb. What both ads do (even if this wasn't the intent) is highlight the overly formulaic approach to modern popular music. I mean, if a bunch of guys dressed up as fruit trying to sound like Coldplay can write a song about underwear that sounds better than anything on the last Coldplay album, then exactly what elevates the work of Mr. Gwyneth Paltrow & friends above anything other than meaningless ad copy? Contemporary popular music becomes nothing more than a soundtrack to finding a parking spot at the strip mall or eating some processed slop at TGI Friday's. You can hear/see both songs here.

Years ago, Neil Young wrote a song called "This Note's For You" satirizing artists who sell their songs to corporations for advertising. Now, Neil Young's song has gone from funny to prophetic as bands stop pitching singles to radio and MTV and instead hire PR people to work their tunes to ad agencies. These days, when you hear the opening riffs to Led Zeppelin's "Rock and Roll" you don't think about how awesome Jimmy Page is on the guitar, or some time in your life when Led Zep's music meant something to you, you think of buying a Cadillac. What I love about the Fruit of the Loom ads is that they've brought this full circle. Who needs artists anymore? The Fruit of the Loom guys can do it better and I don't have to shell out $18.98 for the privilege of hearing it.

DISCLAIMER: My socks are Hanes and my boxers are from whatever generic brand they sell at JC Penney.

Now back to your regularly scheduled blog, currently on a summer hiatus.

The above link only has the video/mp3 for the country Fruit of the Loom song, the Coldplay parody is not online yet, but hopefully it will be soon.


  • At 1:59 PM, Anonymous Dennis said…

    I like the Man Law ads, and most ads that play up the stereotypical difference between men and women. I think they're almost always funny.

    What I can't stand are the ads that turn into "Stomp." Just because you can make "music" by popping potato chip cans or by slamming car doors doesn't mean that it's pleasant to listen to!

  • At 3:47 PM, Blogger 54cermak said…

    I agree about the "Stomp" commercials.

    If you mean that those ads are funny in the way that say, "Two of a Kind" was funny I could concede that, although through sheer repitition evebn the ironic value of these ads wears thin quickly.

  • At 12:53 AM, Blogger Anita said…

    Uh, yeah what you said.

    The Fruit Of The Loom ad Totally. And that underwear is quite ugly.

  • At 8:27 AM, Blogger 54cermak said…

    I agree, the underwear is ugly.

  • At 3:22 PM, Blogger Another Salty Lemon said…

    You know, a few years back when I worked in the evil advertising world,I read an article regarding the stupid boyfriend type commercials. Apparently, the trend started when media 'experts' were trying to appeal to feminists. Women have more buying power. You know, 'hey, we get how you have to put up with stupid men...think for yourself and go by your own crap...roar, women!'

    Of course, it got way overdone. They bug the crap out of me, too. And I stand firmly behind you regarding watching a little t.v. I want to smack people who are all, 'oh, I don't even own a t.v.'. Because, you know, PBS and a little dose of pop culture will melt your brain faster than sitting in a bar.


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