The Feelings

Amica Insurance is a repeat offender. They re-use one of two tired music tracks again and again, and frequently run back-to-back 15 second spots instead of one 30-second spot. The back-to-backs will be identical in music, production design and color palette – and differ only in the appropriately diverse sparkling spokesperson and the aspect of Amica awesomeness they wish to highlight.

In an earlier and especially awful 15-second ad, a middle-aged woman looks directly at the camera and confidently decrees, “I’m a value-seeking missile.” Who talks like this? Certainly not vaguely Hispanic women in pants-suits. No, this is the made-up language of Amicaville, a land in which all persons reflect daily – nay – hourly on how amazing it is to have Amica car insurance.

Now, it’s gone beyond something for your co-worker to validate when you bring up your telephone insurance quote inappropriately in the workplace. It’s moved past the knowing approval of a mysteriously clean car repair man when you take your vehicle in for repairs. These days, it’s the feelings you get just having Amica insurance that really sets them apart.

The feelings apparently have nothing to do with blowing bubbles, flying kites with your children, eating ice cream, showering your family with gifts extracted from your Prius, frolicking with your trusted yellow lab, buying your son his first pet fish, taking your daughter to a Halloween party, cruising the highway in your convertible or snuggling with a loved one. Those activities are feelings-neutral. But Amica, well – that’s where the feelings are.


It’s the Most Horrible Song of the Year

It’s the holiday season for several religions. Christians interested in Christmas are subject to the most scorn from advertisers, who butcher well-known seasonal songs for their own profiteering purposes… often without even the courtesy to rhyme or fit the ad copy into the well-known structure of the song. Sometimes there is tired, retro staging and dancing to accompany a bastardized song. And when it all comes together this badly, you’ve got a wickedBADvertising holiday gem.

Contagious earworms are bad enough, but when a brand re-purposes a beloved holiday song for its own purposes, a line is crossed. The theory of such an advertisement is that the viewer will attach the fond memories of the song to the brand. And, when later singing the song, will chuckle pleasantly at the thought of the alternate (branded) lyrics that just popped into mind.

But what really happens is this: new brand loathing. I’m far less likely to consider attending a sales event for a brand that is publicized with a cheap, hacked-up Christmas carol. Rather, I’ll avoid such events on principle so as to properly reward wickedBADvertisers for their failure to come up with a creative original idea. When weighing the pros and cons of a major purchase, memorable bad ads are sometimes enough to tip the scales. After all – if a company believes this sort of cheap stunt is a good idea, what other bad decisions have they made already and how many more will they make in the future? How will they respond if I have a problem after my purchase? Will they issue that recall if only 10 people’s cars have exploded?

In this specific ad, Nissan marries bad choreography with worse lyrics for a total package that begs for increased holiday cynicism. It’s not better to give or to receive – it’s best to buy cars on sale. Despite Nissan’s general target market of Gen X and Y/Millennials, the dancing and wardrobe speaks to the Greatest Generation and Baby Boomers, who are well ensconced in the Buick & Cadillac demographic. Old people don’t buy Nissans in great numbers. And if they do, it’s at an early bird special, not two weeks before Christmas. Old people are done shopping in October, before everything is, “all picked over.” However, it’s possible that they’re actually targeting people who happily and deliberately watch “Glee.” That might make it worse.


Don’t Kid Yourself

Wow, I was dumb when I was a kid. I used a rope swing. Once, I almost landed on my stupid brother! Phew! I’m glad those risky days are over.

I was also pretty dumb in school when I was a kid, because I didn’t learn anything about erosion. I seem to think that the crumbly cliff I’m standing on has been frozen in time, unchanged, for the past 40+ years. This rope swing is the same one that I used to use as a youngster too. The rocks look sharp and pointy. I bet they’ve been sharpened by all those waves over the years, ’cause that’s how waves work!

Today, I’m way smarter. I use medications with lots of properly disclaimed risks including death. I tempt the fates walking my dog without bringing a leash. I go hiking alone, wearing absorbent 100% cotton and denim – what every hiker wears. I rock some long swim trunks underneath my jeans when I hike, so when the opportunity arises, I can go swimming in some heavy river current with my dog… and my clogged arteries… alone.

What’s that? Sunblock? Nah, look – no tan lines! Sunglasses? Retinas of steel. Anyway, diet and exercise didn’t work, so I just do what my doctor tells me. That guy had to be good in school, right? He’s a doctor!


Start with a Classic

In world in which all problems have been solved, Jason Alexander offers the solution to the problem nobody has been having, spawning a major branch of future advertising more frequently associated with pharmaceuticals.

The McDLT. It could be the best tasting lettuce and tomato hamburger (pause for skeptical look) ever!

Accosting eager passersby with a delicious solution to the apparently ubiquitous problem of mushy, warm veg on their (ostensibly) “beefy” meat patties, Alexander sings and dances his way to wickedBADvertising glory.

This is a wickedBADvertisement for several reasons.

1. The song: “Beefy” isn’t a word to sing. Let’s get that out in front. The McDLT is for adults only, based on the childless world in which it is being offered. Everyone is sterile and there are no more children. They have all clearly given up on their hair and wardrobes. All of the non-whites in this town have lost all self-respect (and rhythm), Ronald McDonald is nowhere to be seen, and there is no PlayPlace under the golden arches. The horror. However, people do seem to be awfully chummy and agreeable (despite the intolerable circumstances of rampant soggy lettuce), so maybe the no-kids world isn’t so bad. Interestingly, only a few years after the McDLT was discontinued, McDonald’s introduced the Arch Deluxe… which they marketed directly and explicitly to adults. It flopped. Clearly adults need to be stealthily marketed to with a sneaky strategy such as…

2. Ad Solves a Problem Created by Advertiser: Burgers only previously had the condition of soggy veg due to McDonalds’ habit of having burgers prepared (hours?) in advance and tossed down a tin chute into a heating area. In the ozone-busting Styrofoam confines of the burger clamshell, irony would kick in to create a micro-greenhouse effect – steaming and reducing to flaccid mush the flavorless iceberg and unripe beefsteak. Buuuuuuttttt…

3. Blame the Customer: Clearly, this two-chambered container can’t be necessary due to McDonald’s product or practices being flawed, so it must be your fault, loyal customer. It’s during transit that everything gets all gross – so we don’t serve McDLT sandwiches to customers who sit in the dining room. Except that we do. Ooops.

4. Global Slogan Tie-in: Yep, you remember it, “It’s a good time, for the great taste, of McDonald’s.” This was one of many jingles McDonald’s has used to poison your childhood memories, and it couldn’t be left out of any ad. “Big Mac, fillet o’ fish, quarter pounder, french fries…” Earworm planting is a cardinal offense. McDonald’s current slogan, “I’m lovin’ it!” has been etching itself into your brain since 2003.

Sum: I actually have a fondness for this ad. It’s set in a post-apocalyptic yuppie universe in which Cop Rock is a perennial winner of all Best Drama awards. Bankers and joggers, tradesman and minstrels join in the communal joy, welcoming each other with song and dance and showing no class barriers. I’m lovin’ it.