Popular Culture 20101217: Christmas TeeVee Adverts

(2PM EST – promoted by Nightprowlkitty)

Those of you who read this column know that from time to time I write about TeeVee adverts.  It seems as if some of the worst ones come out during the holiday season, many but not all connected with extracting money from you for gifts.

Before we get going on these new ones, please remember back a couple of months when I wrote about the Tide laundry detergent advert that featured the daughter asking her mum if the mum had seen her green shirt.  The mum thought back to wearing it and stained it with food.  Then she lied to her daughter saying, “Honey, that’s not my style”.  This advert has been modified and now the mum says nothing to the daughter about it.  I consider this a small victory for decency in advertising, and credit this column with at least a bit of influence.  Thank everyone for the support.

OK, before we start I admit that not all of these are specifically Christmas adverts, but many of them are.  There are just so many bad adverts out there that I could not resist including some that are not really Christmas ones.

Now for the current crop of adverts.  The Federal Express one tops my list of annoying ones, this time the one where the manager combines office parties with work when they are short for time.  The boss is leading songs for a birthday celebration for some coworker, and in the midst of For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow sings to some other worker, “… I need to speak with you privately; I found your resume in the printer.  Everyone!  I found your resume in the printer…”.  First of all, except in extremely rare cases I dislike singing adverts.  Second, there is comedy and there is stupidity.  This is more like the latter.  This is just a very poor advert.

Perhaps even more offensive is the one for BMW that has the petulant, disagreeable ingrate of a little boy rejecting his parent’s offers for gifts.  First, when he is smaller, he does not like the toy train set that his mum suggests for him.  Rather than having a bit of gratitude when she says that the set that she probably come closer to affording was still pretty good, he says, “No, it’s NOT!”  Later in life, when his dad is with him at the musical instrument store and suggests a different guitar than the Les Paul that the son wants, the dad stupidly says, “…it’s just as good as the one that you want.”  Again, the petulant little ingrate says, “No, it’s NOT!”

This part is wrong on several levels.  First, the petulant ingrate part.  More importantly, what I call the stupid man persona in adverts.  Of course the cheap instrument is not in the league of a Les Paul!  My mum, actually a feminist before there were any very much, hated the stupid man persona theme in adverts.  I think that her lesson to me was that sexual stereotypes that involve negative images are inherently evil, and I agree.

The saving grace of the advert is that the snotty nosed little ingrate, once he could buy (lease, rent, whatever) an automobile for himself picks out a BMW.  That begs lots of questions, such as these:

Did the ingrate make his own money to get a status symbol?

Does he have deep psychological issues that forces him towards blatant consumerism?

Finally, and this hit me immediately, did he inherit the funds necessary to obtain this particular automobile because his mum and dad were careful with their money when he was young?  I used a lot of space for this particular advert because I think that actually shows the worst things in people who buy things because they are only satisfied with what they perceive to be the very best, especially in the snob appeal category.  BMW should reconsider the ramifications of this advert, and find a new agency.

There are a plethora of adverts that air during this season that have nothing to do with Christmas, but rather to do with the health insurance companies jockeying for market share for Medicare enrollees to move to their plans.  Because there are so many of them at this time, they all offend me, but the one that starts out with

I made a very important telephone call today

The “little old lady” goes on to explain that she needed additional coverage than Medicare provides, and so saw an advert for AARP and its insurance products.  AARP is blatant here, implying that that organization is the one that actually provided the insurance (unless you read the extremely fleeting fine print at the bottom of the screen).  It goes on and on, singing the virtues of the plan and glossing over the fact that a major health insurance carrier is actually providing the coverage.  At the very end, the three actors form some sort of a bizarre chorus, the first saying

When I found out that AARP endorses these plans

I had only one thing to say

Sign me up!

Personally, I think that FTC should examine these claims and the implied falsehoods in them.  The fine print, as I said, explain that Big Insurance underwrites these plans, but the implication is that the sainted AARP does.  This is, in my opinion, as close to false advertising as can be found.

Another advert that I find offensive is the automobile one that glorifies felonious destruction of personal property, and by extension even  manslaughter.  I can not recall the automobile company behind it, but it the one where the folks from next door throw snowballs at a guy who obviously works with the father of the snowballers, and says, “See you at work”.

Then he gets up on a hill and rolls down a snowball, obviously intending for it to grow and do damage.  He has to take his snazzy car and push it to the limit on frozen roads to outrun his creation, and finally it crashes into the car of his neighbor, embeds it, and throws it off of a tall precipice.  Then the thrower takes the parking place.

This is just wrong!  I know that adverts are supposed to be funny, but that is NOT funny.  In court, if this fantastic scenario were actual, the person would be accused and convicted of premeditated destruction of property, and if the driver happened to be in the vehicle that was bowled over, first degree manslaughter if not murder.  This is not an advert, it is an indictment on the hearts of the agency folks who created it.  They need a new agency.

What is with the Joseph A. Banks adverts?  This is not only a Christmas phenomenon, but the adverts are more common lately.  Every single advert indicates that prices are, for only a day or two, slashed to unreasonable levels.  I just saw one where gloves that sell for $79.99 will be available tomorrow only for $19.99, and that “everything in the store is 50% to 70% off.”  Now, I do not know about you, but unless they were Kevlar blast gloves, $79.50 seems high for gloves.  Now, $19.99 is a little more reasonable.  Perhaps they are loss leaders, but when a store can discount EVERYTHING from 50% to 70%, I tend to think that the store is very much overpriced.  This continuous sale goes on all of the time, sometimes for a more restricted set of items.  For a while they were running “buy one, get three free” for men’s suits.  Let us say that a given suit costs $750, and you get the three extra for an average price of $187.50.  Now, if they are not losing money making these sales, those $750 suits are really less than $200 suits.  Once again, it is snob appeal for these “designer” suits that drives people to buy them.  However, I would think that folks who really can afford $750 suits would not be satisfied  with a $200 quality suit, even if they get four.

That reminds me of Fink’s Jewelers in Fort Smith, Arkansas many years ago.  About every three of four months they would advertise a “going out of business sale”  where everything had to go at what they indicated were ridiculously low prices.  For some reason, they took several years to go out of business.

How about a couple of adverts from the past?  I assure you that all but one of them are Christmas themed.

First, the 1987 Budweiser one.  I like this advert very much, and even though it certainly pitches a product, the pitch is minor.

Coca-cola has a long history of really good Christmas adverts, dating back to the 1920s and 1930s.  Here is a relatively recent one.  Yes, the Geek in me realizes that penguins and polar bears do not share hemispheres except at the zoo.

Ii looked for the classic “Mother, please, I’d rather do it myself!” Anacin advert, but could only find a very poor quality copy.  Here is a different one for the same product.

Personally, I think that she was taking something different than an OTC pain reliever, but that is just me.  I know when I take aspirin for aches and pains it NEVER puts a smile on my face like that.  Perhaps it was really something mentioned in The Geek’s Drugs of Abuse series from a year or two ago.

Well, enough for now.  I have Christmas cooking to do and need to find a good recipe for English toffee.  I have a pretty good idea, but if any readers have a really good recipe, please send it to me in the comments.  The twist that I am going to use is to substitute hickory nuts for almonds, since I got quite a good supply of hickory nuts this fall.  I have to get everything cooked by Monday so I can ship it then.

If you have any favorite of despised adverts, let us know about them in the comments.

Warmest regards,


Featured at TheStarsHollowGazette.com.  Crossposted at Dailykos.com


  1. pointing out bad adverts and sometimes even getting a little change?

    Warmest regards,


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