Popular Culture 20101022. Really Bad TeeVee Adverts

Most of you know that I try to keep in touch with popular culture.  Also, many of you know that I appreciate a good advert.  I also really dislike what I perceive to be bad ones, that this week there were a lot of them.

Now, I recognize that adverts are essential to keep the cost of mass communication low, so I welcome any and all of them.  Welcoming them does not mean that I have to LIKE all of them.  Tonight we shall take a look of some of the worst that are currently circulating.

Note:  I would have covered the brilliant King Crimson tonight, but as I researched that band, it became obvious that more time would be required.  I think that I can be ready to do it next time.

Before we get started, I want to report a very rare find.  Many of you know that I am a numismatist, and Tuesday I found a very rare US cent, one dating from 1867.  The colloquial term is “Indian Head”, but the creator of it, James B. Longacre, called it “Liberty with a Feathered Headdress”.  This is the oldest coin that I have ever found in circulating cents.  Doing the maths, it is at least 143 years old, and still pretty clear.  The Red Book tells me that is worth around $50 or more, but is much more valuable to me just for finding it.

There were only about nine million of them minted that year (all of them from the mint in Philadelphia), so to find one in circulation is extraordinary.  I estimate that cents have an attrition rate of over 5% annually, so finding this one is a once in a lifetime thing.  I strongly suspect that it came either from a stolen coin collection, or from an estate that, after the owner died, got cashed in using the CoinStar machines.  Anyway, I digress.

Back to the adverts.  Usually I like the Geico ones, but the “Bird in the Hand” one is not very funny.  I understand that it is a parody on that show that looks at what some folks might believe are valuable antiques, but it just falls short.  With a better subject, it might have been better.  I do not call it horrible, but only people who watch Antiques Roadshow would understand it.  Since the cavemen have departed, I think that the Geico ones are pretty good, but this one falls far short.

There are at least three series of adverts that I think are just really bad.  The first one is the series from Progresso Soup, where folks take a can with a string and instantly call the “chefs” at Progresso.  There are so many things wrong with this that it makes it hard to begin.  First, I know of no one who uses a can on a string to talk.

Come on, admit it!  We all tried to do that as kids!  It NEVER worked!  As soon as the string was long enough that we could not hear each other over the air, it failed.  The idea of chefs in kitchens cooking the soup in a stockpot is ridiculous for a brand that sells millions of cans of soup.

Then there is the series about buying gold.  The convicted felon G. Gordon Liddy tells us how the US dollar is being ruined because of current fiscal policy.  Now, if you think about it, this is actually conservative Republican fiscal policy, but no matter.  Then he pulls the plugs out of plastic, inflated things to make his point.  He claims to be patriotic.  G. Gordon Liddy is, in my opinion, a traitor.  There are lots of other gold adverts, and just about all of them are deceptive.  They all imply that gold is a good investment, and it is more of a speculation than an investment.  Why would one buy something when it is at an all time high on a noninflation adjusted basis?  My mum always told me that when something is higher than it ever has been it is really not a very good time to buy.

Speaking of gold, The SOBber, always eager to capitalize on crisis, is at it with an advert for, instead of gold this time because of the coming financial crisis, is pitching freeze dried food for an outfit that I will not name for the coming disruption in society.  Each backpack of food is supposed to be good for two weeks for one person, all self contained and ready to go…….except they forget the water.  (Freeze dried water is NOT a good thing).  If society were so disrupted that you could not obtain food, the chances are pretty good that potable water would be unavailable as well.  I estimate that the bare minimum of water that one requires for drinking (and reconstituting freeze dried food) and for the most basic hygienic activities would come to about a gallon per day, so when you add in the 14 gallons of water that you would need, at 8.3 pounds per gallon, you add another 115 pounds or so in your neat little backpack.  Little details like that never bother The SOBber, which is obvious from the nonsense that he prattles every day.  Gloom and doom are both his message and his medium, and I will have to give him credit for one thing:  

The Xerox series is just silly to the point of being offensive.  They are trying to pitch their cost saving systems, but whoever designed the campaign got it wrong.  In one for some hotel chain there are two actors dressed up like bellhops working on computers to do invoicing, but they never get around to actual invoicing because they keep doing favors for each other, like making waffles and smoothies for one another.  The concept of bellhops doing invoicing is ludicrous on its face, and then to keep putting it off to do favors for each other is pretty dumb.  In another one some guy at Notre Dame comes to a cutout of the Fighting Irishman and asks him to help cut printing costs.  They he pretends that the silent cut out is arguing with him!  Just too silly for words.

Then there is the Alka Seltzer Plus cold remedy with the skier (Lindsey Vonn) who is purported to have a bad cold, but still wins the race, thanks to the product.  Now, Ms. Vonn may be a very good skier, but an actress she is not.  She dissolves the product in water, looking all feverish and ill, and brings the glass toward her lips.  Miraculously, by the mere smell of the product, she brightens up and is all better, even before drinking any of it!  As a matter of fact, the advert never shows her drinking it at all.  On a positive note, they have brought back Speedy Relief, their mascot who has been away for a while.  Speedy first appeared in 1951 and pretty much was phased out after 1964, but he is back now.

The Korean Air advert is just spooky.  It is the one with the giant people who are shown sitting on the wings of a jumbo jet, looking into each others’ eyes over the fuselage.  This is just creepy and really does not do much to get their message across to the viewer.  I do not know what the agency was thinking when it came up with this angle.

I almost forgot the Tide advert where the daughter asks her mum is she borrowed the green blouse.  The mum commits of lie of omission by telling her that “that’s not my style.”  Then the advert shows the mum on girls’ night out with her friends, wearing said green blouse.  She spilt something on it, then buried it in the hamper.  From how deeply she had to root into the hamper, it obviously had been some time since she had taken it.  Of course, the product cleaned the stain perfectly, and the mum put it back into the daughter’s closet covertly.  Then she feigns surprise when the daughter shows up wearing it, “You found it?”  I find this advert to be particularly distasteful because of the glorification of deception betwixt parent and child.

I am not even going to mention political adverts, which are particularly vile this year.  Local TeeVee is almost unwatchable at present because of the multitude and the nastiness of them.  November 03 will be a joyous day!

Well, enough for now.  Please let us know about the adverts that you find particularly bad in the comments.

Warmest regards,



  1. really bad adverts?

    Warmest regards,


  2. …. so I don’t have to listen/hear political ads, which have very little reality to them.  I don’t watch much television anyway so I’m not familiar with any of these.

    Your calculation of how much water needed to hydrate that food is very funny.  

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