The Saratoga Sun -

The 'good, bad and ugly' in commercials


Recently, I have noticed some disturbing (to say the least) advertisements on television. Some advertisers are unnecessarily portraying their services as “good”, some are unintentionally putting themselves in the “evil” category, and more than a few come up as just plain ugly.

ChristianMingle, an online dating site for Christians, uses the tagline, “Find God’s match for you”. While I have no problem with Christians finding a mate and concede that ChristianMingle’s service may indeed be a good one, I do have a problem with them using God to sell their service. First, don’t Christians have some sort of rule about not using The Almighty’s name in vain? I am pretty sure that using His name to sell a service falls squarely under that directive. Secondly, I am fairly certain that God Himself is not signing off on these relationship matches. If he actually is, do their filing cabinets look anything like the ark of the covenant? When do the pilgrimages to the ChristianMingle headquarters begin?

Selling these computer-driven matches as “God’s” tends to lend a certain believability to the guy or girl that pops up at your door. I somehow doubt that the women across the nation allegedly raped by the man using various aliases on ChristianMingle feel that God was involved in their particular matches1.

On the unintentionally “bad” side we have State Farm. I understand that the point they are trying to make is that their agents are pretty much generally available to their clients. I know through personal experience that State Farm is about as good as any insurance company can be. In several State Farm commercials though, the client in distress sings the “Like a good neighbor ...” jingle, causing the helpful agent to pop up out of thin air and grant wishes and fulfill desires.

Does anyone else see this as analogous to summoning a demon?

Lore has it that singing the proper incantation or using a demon’s name will summon it to do your bidding. The beings summoned in this setting are agents of Satan, though (I am only barely refraining from making a comical comparison here—not all insurance agents are evil).

Just so you know, though, singing “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there” does not bring you a ... “Hey, get away from me! Don’t you have work to do?”

Whew! Didn’t need that.

“Ugly” covers a lot of ground in advertising. Most times, I wish the ground was covering the ugly ... but then what would I have to gripe about?

Okay, I’d find something.

Anyway, “ugly” commercials are the ones like some of the perfume advertisements that leave you, at the end, unsure of just what was being sold to start with.

The Sonic ads with the two goofy guys discussing the weirder aspects of their lives, while eating various foods at Sonic, in no way makes me want to eat Sonic’s fare.

Those Sonic ads don’t even come close on the “ugly” scale to the one Quiznos ran a few years ago with the singing/screeching rats (maybe deformed mice or mutated squirrels?). These commercials were so intolerable that I vowed not to eat at Quiznos until they stopped running these broadcast crimes against humanity. Later, when these ads slithered onto my TV, I could not change the channel quickly enough. When they finally stopped airing these offenses, I found a Quiznos and ate there. The food was, by a wide margin, better than their previous advertising.

Geico insurance, for a time, used the phrase “So easy a caveman could do it”. This phrase supposedly offended the modern-day “cavemen” amongst us. It started out sort of funny and devolved into cavemen leaving hot dates just because the women were sitting under a Geico billboard. I ask you, how does this sell insurance? Maybe they finally asked themselves the previous question because now they use a cute English (?) lizard as a spokesman. I suppose this is a step up, but I remain unsure.

Then there are the commercials for medicine. Why would I want to take XylophonozoxeroniumTM to cure my hangnail,when the side effects are anal leakage and loss of what little motor skills I possess?

I understand that the possible consequences of taking prescription medication need to be fully explained, but are advertisers helping themselves by trying to sell medication designed to keep you normal and sane, and then telling you to stop using said medication if you have mood swings, thoughts of suicide, and uncontrollable potty-mouth? How exactly is this keeping anyone sane?

On a side note: When anyone finally pins down just what sane is, let me know so I can convert.

Herein have been chronicled some of the more egregious television sales pitches, and I am sure I missed at least a few. As long as there are companies out there sponsoring your favorite entertainment, there will continue to be good, bad and ugly in TV commercials.

Oh, look! An e-mail to refinance my Viagra ...

1. “ChristianMingle Date Rape Victims Sought by Calif. Cops”, by Russel Goldman. Yahoo! News,—abc-news-topstories.html


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