Commercials. We love ’em, we hate ’em, they give us a chance to hit the restroom and for the folks who own the networks and produce the content, they pay the bills. Some commercials are great. Many are downright annoying. Some are annoying because their premises are flawed. Some are annoying because their corporate campaign has run its course and devolved from edgy or hip to become old and annoying. Some are just annoying because they’re based around spokesmen who are annoying, who are made to do annoying things.
Here’s my list of the commercials that annoyed me most over the past year.
10. Mayflower’s Ginormous Puppet
Moving is stressful, expensive and annoying. Perhaps moving is more bearable when you’re a gigantic, lifeless puppet on strings. That’s what Mayflower seems to think. Add in a blandly folksy soundtrack and you’ve got yourself one of the weirder, yet more hypnotic, ads of the year. I suspect that the art director behind this ad set spends a lot of time at anti-war protests.
9. Every Kiss Begins With Kay — “Storm”
Every kiss begins with “k” — but so does “killer.”
Jewelry ads are huge around Christmastime. This campaign aired every five minutes in the weeks before Christmas, and suggests that your loved ones’ affections can be bought for baubles. The guy here is supposed to be comforting in the midst of a storm, but he comes off as creepy. Maybe that’s because Kay used a convention that every horror flick uses — startle the characters with one thing, let them settle down after the fright, only to see them hacked to pieces by the killer at the moment of lowest tension. That sets up the audience in these ads to suspect that the guy will either have to fight off an ax-wielding killer, or he’ll be unmasked as a killer whom the girl will end up having to escape from, probably killing him along the way. Sadly, his only crime ends up being the attempt to buy his girl’s unending loyalty with some jewelry. And he succeeds.
It’s only less annoying than the Zales campaign, below, because it did not ruin any classic rock.
8. Pajama Jeans
George Costanza would wear these jeans. ‘Nuff said. Though I do love the line about the “struggle to fit into ordinary jeans.” We’ve gotten to the point now where blue jeans, themselves an icon of the dressed down culture, are just too much for us.
7. Lexus for Christmas
Let’s be honest. Sticking a full size car in your house, just to surprise someone on Christmas morning, is begging for trouble. For one thing, in most homes just installing a flatscreen TV requires drills and noise. How does one go about getting a car under a Christmas tree? Some walls are gonna have to move. And then..who picks up the payments? What if the thing leaks a bit of fluid on that pristine floor? Those tires are bound to track in a little road gunk.
6. Audi’s Green Police
This was Audi’s 2010 Super Bowl Ad. It’s extremely well produced and even fun to watch, which is part of the reason it’s so annoying. Audi seems to be celebrating the onset of Green Dictatorship, as long as its cars are part of the escape. But that will never work. First they came for the Hummers…
5. Staples’ “That’s a Low Price”
Awful. Just awful. It kept me out of Staples for a month, just so I wouldn’t run into that guy. I’ll pay a few cents more just to avoid all the shrieking.
4. AT&T’s Orange Blankets Take Over the World
I’m a happy AT&T customer, but I hate their ads. To be fair, I despise all cell phone ads that use folk music, which was one of 2010’s more noticeable and annoying ad trends. They’re all selling us some Utopia of total connectivity, using the folksy folks to make it seem natural like wood. Apple was the trendsetter with its iPhone ads, but the whole folk-music-to-sell-cell-phones has long outlived whatever edginess it once had. This particular AT&T ad takes it a step further and deploys both folk music and hippy dippy performance art. The first time you see it, the effect is kind of cool. Everything’s silky and orange! The thirtieth time, you want to smash a guitar, steal from a subway singer and take scissors to everything in site. Or maybe that’s just me.
3. Zales’ Christmas campaign.
Pick any ad at all in this campaign. They’re all annoying. In the run-up to Christmas they aired every five minutes, ruining the Black Keys’ “Girl Is On My Mind” forever.
2. Progressive Man-Purse Guy
Most of Progressive’s ads are a little weird, but this one’s just cringe-worthy. We’re presented with a man who is forced to carry a purse by his wife, who also drags him off to do insurance shopping “even if it takes all day.” The captive eunuch even seeks sympathy from the trippy Flo, who runs Progressive’s bright blight netherworld. He only wins because Progressive lets you see what other companies charge. But he’s still going home to endless domestic tyranny. You just know that his sister-in-law is the self-centered diaper bag forgetting Sienna van mom, and she’s constantly over at the house going on and on about how hot she still thinks she is and how awesome her van is, and how hot she thinks she looks driving it. Christmas for Progressive Purse Man must have been just a total joy. The tryptophan in the turkey cannot bring on the sweet release of sleep fast enough.
1. State Farm Guy Talks Over Cute Insurance Agent
I don’t know who thought this ad up, but it’s horrible for many reasons. One, the spokesman is world class annoying. He’s smirky, smug and just…meh. Urban, slightly foppish, just a little too much in love with himself. Two, the entire campaign of which this ad is a part is totally inconsistent. Sometimes State Farm Guy is part of the universe and interacts directly with its inhabitants, sometimes he’s apparently outside the universe and doesn’t interact with it while commenting on it, and sometimes even the camera man who’s following him is observed by the inhabitants of the universe, as in the Figaro Cafe ad. In that ad, he tells you not to call State Farm until you’ve tracked down one of their millions of customers and talked with them first. Like anyone’s going to do that. Is this some sort of hipster mind trick, or just a campaign that was poorly thought through?
As for this episode, the idea that the cute agent should just stand around while State Farm Guy won’t let her get a word in edgewise is just…weird. It’s part of a two-parter, with the twin ad featuring cute agent Carrie getting her revenge by talking over the exasperated State Farm Guy. Watching both ads, you see two pretty people who have no manners and are incapable of carrying on a normal conversation. Sign me up to join that! Who thought this ad and its twin would do anything other than irritate viewers? In a campaign that is among the most annoying currently on the air, this ad takes the prize for most annoying of the bunch.