Title photo credit: Walters Art Museum
I’m going to go out on a wild limb and assume that most people reading this have seen commercials before. I’ve certainly seen plenty in my day. When I was a kid, they broke up my TV shows, and today, they bookend my YouTube videos.
I’ve had a love-hate relationship with commercials. In other words, I love some, and I hate a whole bunch more. There’ve been some gems in the world of filmed advertising, but for every one good commercial, there’ve been a ton that have annoyed me or even straight-up enraged me. If I were to do a list of my favorite commercials, it’d be a list of specific commercials. For this list about hated commercials, however, I’m going with broad categories. For each type of commercial listed here, there’ve been so many examples over the years (plenty of which would fit more than one category) that I could never possibly list them all. I’ll provide at least one example for each type of commercial that I hate.
5: Jewelry Commercials
With the holidays right around the corner, you can probably expect to see a lot of these. Not every jewelry commercial has the hidden message that I’m about to describe, but many do. When I see these commercials, I’m pretty sure that the implicit message is, “You don’t really love her if you don’t buy her diamonds.” I’d say Kay Jewelers is particularly guilty of this, but I can’t ignore Jared. You know—those commercials where everyone’s like, “He went to Jared!” Either the proud recipient of a piece of Jared is saying that with absolute pride, or all of the non-Jared recipients are saying it with utter shame and humiliation. Fuck Jared.
I present here for your edification the true message of many jewelry commercials:
If you don’t buy her diamonds, you don’t truly love her. If you don’t buy her diamonds, you’re a bad husband. You’ll end up a sad loner with nothing to your name but your shriveled, deflated skin after she divorces you. Your hair will be gone, and your prostate will be the size of a watermelon and as hard as an anvil, but you won’t be able to get it treated because every doctor will hate you. Your kids will spit on you and steal your wallet on the rare instance that they actually see you. When your sad little life is finally ended by a coronary, your ex-wife’s new husband, who’s better than you in every way and does buy her diamonds, will piss on your frail corpse just before some garbage men fling it into a landfill because there’s nothing left in your estate to pay for a proper funeral.
Buy her diamonds this year and every year.
4: “Everybody Loves…”
Some commercials, generally those advertising some kind of food, will proclaim their product’s guaranteed success by saying that “everybody loves [insert something here].” My general reaction to this is, “Screw you! You don’t know me!” The above example is from 1990, but I just saw a commercial like this last week at the gym. I saw “Everybody loves…” right there in the closed captioning. It was there, man!
A big part of my disdain for commercials that make this claim stems from how often I’ve encountered the belief that, “Everybody loves cheese!” I’ve talked about my experiences with cheese already. Those memories alone are more than enough to make me feel a general distaste for the “everybody loves [something]” logic. The principle does apply to any food, however, as opposed to only foods I don’t like. I’d still be annoyed if I saw a commercial claim, “Everybody loves bacon jerky,” though admittedly, I might be a bit less annoyed.
3: Fearmongering Commercials
I hate it when commercials use fear to motivate people to buy their product or service. Life insurance commercials are an obvious example. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t buy life insurance, but on principle, I still hate many life insurance commercials. In general, I’ve never liked it when a person or group tries to use fear to influence others in any way (except for Batman—he gets a pass). Of course, I can make the obvious allusion to terrorism. It’s not a point that I want to beleaguer, though, since there’s a big difference between AIG and ISIS. Terrorists in general, however, do count as people who use fear to get what they want, obviously.
There’s a specific type of fearmongering commercial that I also want to pick on—the germaphobe commercial.
Again, I’m not saying that we should all wallow in filth, but I’ve always found it ridiculous when I see people who are apparently terrified of any sort of dirt or pathogen. Unless they or someone they care about has a compromised immune system, they’re worrying way too much. Although the above commercial fearmongers a bit (“Protect your family…”), it’s not even the best example. I remember a commercial where a mother is in her kitchen, and her kid(s) are tracking in dirt, spilling food, and doing all of the typical things that the apparently very clumsy kids of Commercial Land do. That mother looks absolutely terrified by the unclean stuff, but she’s got [some product] to help her. I can’t remember which company made that commercial, and I could only stand searching though so many germophobe commercials on YouTube.
2: Linking A Product With ‘Family’
Here’s another type of commercial that I’m biased against for personal reasons. Any sort of commercial that tries to increase appeal by depicting archetypal scenes of family gatherings, situations, or anything pertaining to the concept of “family” leaves me feeling indignant at the very least (if not almost ready to pick a fight).
You see, I have issues with my own family (one side, at least). I’ve alluded to this (and alluded to past allusions) tons of times already. Frankly, it seems like I can’t go more than a few posts without mentioning my issues with just about anything pertaining to family. One of these days, I’d like to write all about why, but I still don’t have the writing balls for that level of self-disclosure.
I will give one fact about that evil side of my family, since it pertains to this entry: They desperately want to believe that they’re a good family. Back before I became estranged from most of them, I watched them repeatedly jump through tons of mental hoops to convince themselves that they’ve never been anything but some perfect Leave it to Beaver family. The kinds of idyllic family scenes that commercials use to sell their product depict exactly the kind of family that my estranged one tells themselves that they are. As a result, it’s hard not to associate such commercials with them.
1: Medication Commercials
Here we have them—medication commercials. They seem to make up approximately 90 percent of all television ads, and I’m sick of them. (There’s probably a med for that.) Many of them are so formulaic. Someone’s life is simply horrible until they get a certain med, and that one pill makes all the difference. Suddenly they’re enjoying a new, brighter life. Plenty of medication commercials might throw a bit of fearmongering in, as well.
And medication commercials are so long! I’d peg the overwhelming average length of other kinds of commercials at 30 seconds. I don’t see many medication commercials that short. The 90-second ad above isn’t even as long as they get. Lots are around two minutes long, and I once saw one that lasted four goddamn minutes! These commercials are hogs. Granted, a factor in their length is probably the need to list all of the side effects.
Additionally, once the patient gets the medication that they need, their new enjoyment of life also seems very formulaic. They’re always social butterflies out in the sunny, bright world, enjoying walks, bike rides, boat rides, picnics, jazz clubs, etc. There’s nothing wrong with any of those things, but again, the sheer, endless rote repetition of what seems like the same long commercial over and over has worn thin with me. It’s not like there aren’t other activities that can be sidelined by some kind of illness or ailment. How about an arthritis medication commercial where the med returns a sufferer’s ability to play video games and text, with only the possible side effect of mild mutation?