One of the most interesting things about the holiday season is all the strange commercials that start popping up on TV. You can usually count on some doozies from Lexus, Kay Jewelers and Folgers and this year is no exception. Here’s my take on the strangest commercials out there this year.
The number one slot for weird goes to the “Brother Homecoming” commercial for Folgers (an update on the classic “Peter Comes Home” commercial from years ago). The older brother knocks on the front door (weird already) and his sister answers it. Only you have no idea she’s his sister based on his reaction – he’s says, “Do I have the wrong house?” meaning, “You’re one sexy lady!” and she points to herself and says, “Sister! Ha ha ha.” What? I expected them to start making out. She says something like, “I waited up for you all night.” Huh? Really? And then he says, “It’s a long way from West Africa.” Notice he says West Africa, which is nice and vague and not at all threatening so people don’t become sad thinking about DarfurÂ or upset thinking about Somali pirates.
The impression is clearly meant to be that he’s in the Peace Corp or maybe Doctors Without Borders. Once they’re in the kitchen sucking on their cups of Folgers he gives her a wrapped gift, complete with African-patterned wrapping paper, and she looks at him, quite dreamily, and sticks the bow from the present on his shirt. He says, “What was that for?” and she says, “You’re my present this year.” And they exchange this look that’s… well, if they were cartoon characters, steam would be coming out of his ears and his hat would fly off. What I always wait for her to say is, “Remember all those good times we had in the attic?” a la Flowers in the Attic. Seriously, the vibe is that skeevy. If you haven’t seen it, check it out here.
Kay Jewelers has turned out some great ones this year. One started airing before Thanksgiving – a couple is standing in a cabin watching a rain storm and a giant crack of thunder makes the woman jump into the guy’s arms. He says something like, “I’m right here,” presents her with a cheesy diamond necklace and says, “And I always will be.” I’ll be right here with ugly necklaces, baby. I so wish this was Commercial Noir and suddenly he would turn sinister. Is she really safe with him? Sure, he plies her with diamonds and she believes he’s her safe, dependable, sweater-wearing lover (or husband?) but is he? Could there be a Dateline Mystery in the makings here?
Then there’s the Kay Jewelers commercial with the deaf woman and her hearing boyfriend. They sit down by the Christmas tree and he says he learned a new sign for her. It’s “Merry Christmas.” Wow. Way to go out of your way there, champ. I would take something like, “You complete me,” over that. I guess kudos to Kay for featuring a deaf woman but subtract points for her actually liking the ugly necklace he hands her.
Kay is also rocking the Jane Seymour Open Hearts necklace this year. The commercial shows the former Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman sitting around in her palace brushing painted squiggles on a piece of paper and talking about the whole theory and aesthetic behind her open hearts symbol. Celebrity artists always seem to be quite taken with symbolism. I always see this commercial in the morning before I leave for work and it doesn’t win me over – rich lady sitting around in white cashmere making line drawings, sipping teaÂ and blathering on about keeping one’s heart open while I’m off for another day at the office? Screw you, Dr. Quinn.
Chase is running an ad for its credit card in which a woman wearing a very bunchy-looking dress comes into the living room and her husband starts yammering on about all the crap they could buy with their Chase credit card points – things like vacations, boats, etc. He’s practically getting a hard-on talking about all the stuff they can “spend” their points on. Then she smiles, looks very knowing and says, “We can’t get all that stuff,” then he says something like, “Yes, we can. We finally have 12 trillion points,” (which in reality would get you, um, maybe a cooler?) and she says, “No, we can’t,” and she shows off the bunchy dress. And he looks happy! WTF? Wouldn’t he be sad because he wanted to buy a power boat and she spent all the points on a dress without asking him first? But he’s ecstaticÂ and they fall into each others arms. Yuck. Is this really going to sell people on the Chase card? Or is it really just a lesson: spend the points before your spouse does or you’ll get screwed.
This has little to do with the holidays (other than that the holidays often make depression worse) but every commercial for anti-depressants is just so silly. They’ve tried it all – sad, cartoon lumps, testimonials, friends sitting around talking – and it’s all goofy. But these, “Where does depression hurt?” commercials that show people looking completely sad and staring at the wall have to be the worst. How about all the functional depressives out there? Anyway, there is one now, and I don’t even know what the name of the medication is, in which there is a sad woman who starts anti-depressants and then is all chipper, with these perky bangs, working her waitress job at some hipster cafe. “Wow! I feel great! Great enough that I’m back to serving vegan ham and eggs at Funster Cafe while I continue to hunt for a real job and start paying off loans for the graduate degree that got me nowhere!”
Don’t get me wrong – I think that anti-depressants definitely can work – but a TV commercial is the wrong forum in which to address it. Anything you do is going to be either too maudlin (even the dog is depressed when you’re too depressed to walk him… or feed him) or just an oversimplification.
And I despise the new ad series for Chevy featuring Howie Long. There are about five different ones running but the one I can’t stand the most features a precocious red-haired girl discussing passenger space in a minivan. This little girl is the best birth control ever. Considering having unprotected sex with that new boyfriend? Or drunk sex with that guy you just met at the bar? Spend 30 seconds watching this ad and listening to her say, “I’m a big girl,” while pouting and you’ll rethink that right quick. Of course, she is smarter than Howie – both onscreen and in real life.
The most depressing commercial? It’s a local one for Pawn America… pushing pawned DVDs for the holidays. Some guy had to go pawn all his DVDs of Lost, or cage fighting bouts, and it’s your gain! Susie got foreclosed on and now you can get her copy of Hope Floats or Sweet Home Alabama! Hooray!