Take this TV commercial from Hall's Refresh, a sugar-free candy "with advanced moisture lotion." The ad carries a theme that's popping up on a number of TV shows, from ABC's Cougar Townto Fox's Glee : older woman hitting on a younger man (remember the teenage Puck's pool-cleaning service in Glee?). In the Hall's ad, a harried looking mom, helping her son move into his new dorm, is kindly offered a Hall's Refresh by his roommate. What happens next verges into "what were they thinking?" territory. The teen- and the middle-aged mom gaze at each other, mouths wetly moving from side to side as they masticate. "I wonder if she likes it," the roommate thinks in a suggestive voice-over. Sure, it's debatable whetherCougar Town's depiction of that dynamic is pathetic or empowering, but the Hall's ad plays squarely to creepy.
Just in time for the holidays comes this spot for Boost Mobile, which uses the stop-action charm of TV classics like Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer in a less than wholesome way. While some may find the commercial amusing, others may find the depiction of Mrs. Claus as a cheating spouse with a snowman fetish offensive. As one blog asks, "will you forgive Boost Mobile for ruining Frosty forever?"
Mrs Claus - Alternate Ending
Indeed, a sub-category of media blogs have popped up to offer advertising critiques, ranging from Nielsen's AdFreak to the global advertising-focusedAdLand. And then there's the spirited AdRants, not to be confused with the Ad Rant column that runs on DailyFinance's sister publication WalletPop.
The wrong type of shock factor
"Everyone is trying to stand out," says Peter Hempel, the president of DDB New York, an advertising agency owned by Omnicom Group (OMC), which didn't work on any of the ads mentioned in this story. "Every brand makes a decision: are they going to stand out on the merits of their brand or on shock value? We always stand out by trying to astonish. If I astonish you, you like my brand. If I shock you, it's for a moment."
Check out this print ad for an Australian brewery, which turns Snow White into a somewhat less than virginal character (the tagline is that the beverage is "anything but sweet.") A decade or more ago, that ad might never have reached audiences outside the land down under, but bloggers and beer enthusiasts ran with it. One blog, Zelda Lily, wrote "the ad is pretty offensive, especially considering they crowned their sexually promiscuous spoke woman with the title of "ho," while one beer blog said it was "damn funny." The ad apparently was pulled after Disney (DIS) objected to the unchaste depiction of one of its princesses.
And don't forget another recent pistachio ad featuring would-be son-in-law to Sarah Palin, Levi Johnston, with a tag line that tries to poke fun at his apparent failure to effectively use birth control ("Now Levi Johnston does it with protection.") The ad, predictably, led to many nut references, and Web comments ranged from asking whether consumers should boycott the pistachio company to those who found the ad amusing.