Is Mankind Terrence?

I’m a huge Terrence Malick fan. So, this ad feels very familiar. Tone, lighting, angles, rising music, disembodied possibly subconscious stilted yet poetic internal dialogue leaking out, etc., all are Malick-esque. One of Malick’s recent films was called, “To the Wonder,” which could easily have been (and maybe should have been) the title of this ad.

As a consequence, my experience of this ad is that it feels borrowed. Which might be perfect for AirBNB.

The pull to the great unknown bright light beyond the window isn’t merely impossible to resist, it’s also the aspiration. It’s growing up. It’s meeting the unknown with an outstretched hand of friendship. It’s empathy borne of direct experience. It’s the enormity of possibility we never fully grasp. It’s the richer life cultivated through better understanding others. It’s completely up to us to define.

These themes are lovely, and might work for AirBNB if they were permitted to emerge without the action-step suggestions in the dialogue (and tweets) that seem to be distracting to so many viewers. They’re limiting, and seem out of sync with the breadth of the visual possibilities. The turns of phrase meant to sound profound come across as gross underestimations of what it would take to make them truly meaningful.

“Go look through their windows, so you can understand their views.” Yuck. This doesn’t mean the panoramic vistas beyond the glass, it means the potentially different belief systems deeply held by those living on the inside. Those whose belongings you’re renting. And with whom you may never interact personally.

How will I find out if Man is Kind by slurping a latte while planted at someone else’s breakfast bar in Toronto? If I’m using the portion of AirBNB that’s all about sharing a room when the owner is also home, I could see it. But it’s a real stretch to connect, and if I’ve never heard of AirBNB, I’m not going to know anything more about it after this spot. More importantly, the people who share the ethos of the best possible take-away messaging of this ad are probably already AirBNB users. AirBNB needs retirees and Baby Boomers and non true-believer/ dreamer/ travelers to start using the service. And some AirBNB providers just want more bookings, not self-selected opt-ins for transformative cultural exchange. So they’re not optimally served by the ad.

Why is using AirBNB instead of a hotel or time-share or all-inclusive resort any more likely to fulfill the ad’s goal of discovering if Man is Kind? It might be faster to learn that “no” is the answer by observing the poverty surrounding the gates of a Dominican Republic destination resort. Some of that is up to me, and what I’m willing to see. No matter whose windows I’m looking through.


#Never Forget

The anniversary of September 11, 2001 continues to seem like a golden opportunity to cash in on the raw emotions felt by many Americans. If you’re tone-deaf and completely idiotic.

This tweet went out on AT&T’s account this morning. Naturally, it’s subsequently been removed.

AT&T 9/11 Advertisement

Thanks to the Huffington Post for the screenshot

“Never Forget” requests the tweet.

I’m willing to bet someone forgets how bad an idea this is before 365 days have elapsed.

Education Rejection

Mmmmmm. Corn Dogs.

Alas, not an ad for corn dogs.

Education Connection sells… something. It’s not clear. But they apparently will connect you to “the right” online college so that you can take classes “on your own time.” The imaginative lyrics, rhyming “bye” and “bye” at the end of the first two lines, really makes a statement about the quality of the education to which you’re going to soon be connected. Not a very good statement. The song is awful.

One wonders what demographic population would be attracted to the popular ’80s look of the singer and unpopular early ’90s sound of her song. From the video, it is safe to assume that those targeted include owners of comfortable metal-tube futons who alternate between ergonomic greek revival column standing desks and said futons when doing homework.

Oddly, our tour guide songstress seems change careers from corn dog hawker to website shill to professional singer during the ad. This is the logical path to fame for an American Idol contestant, but not really the normal (or abnormal, or even outlier) road to becoming a college student. It’s a shame, because she’s got some sweet herky-jerky dance moves that would really benefit her in class.

Do tell, what does Education Connection offer? “They matched me with the right college for me, for free!” (note: a little introspection and a web search will also work) But, now I’m forced to wonder (because you’ve just said you’ll do it for free) – does… getting matched up… with the right college for me… usually… cost money? If so, this Education Connection sounds like a value! Whoa! If I “log on” now, I’ll get a free “Success Kit” which is worth $100!!!

Yep, it’s worth $100 to the for-profit colleges and universities that will soon receive their own success kit: the names, addresses and emails of lots of people who have identified themselves as interested in taking online classes. Such a deal. Almost like they planned it that way. Good thing they don’t have a celebrity spokesperson; I might have not seen through their slick scheme.

Oh, wait.

Both ladies seem to think that “Logged On To Education Connection” means “Walked On To Education Connection.” Perhaps that’s why they are still seeking that elusive degree?

Brand Power

You’ve seen these ads.

You’ve wondered if they were Saturday Night Live sketches.

Nope. They’re for real.

But wait. There’s more.

This company has successfully convinced various manufacturers that their 1950s schtick will actually attract customers. But everything about these ads is bad. The awful supermarket set, the plastic Stepford wife spokesmodel and the small-market TV news graphics package combine to make for 30 miserable seconds of viewing.

But if you listen closely, you’ll hear what makes these ads transcend mere weak fluff. While informative “facts” are written across the screen, hear the attending video game machine gun typewriter sounds. This is an action-adventure movie trick usually used to provide small details of the setting of a scene. It’s most frequently employed when the director is too lazy to provide contextual details sufficient to inform the viewer of the setting. You’ve seen it – a computer-y sounding printout at the bottom of the screen: “08:00 GMT Scotland Yard” or “Moon Base Delta – 3 Days Before Impact.”

You’ve been trained to hear that noise and make sure you don’t miss what’s being written on the screen. So you perk up, and find out that Brand Power is dropping some of their sausage “Facts and Value” on you. What facts can be learned about sausage? Well, did we mention that Johnsonville Chicken Sausage (which one can rightly assume is made by Johnsonville Sausage Company) has 100% Johnsonville taste. Whoa. Profound. So glad I tuned in.

Fortunately, Brand Power has been lampooned properly all around the world. Here’s my favorite, from Australia.

Super Bowl XLVI Ad Preview

With a little over a week to go before the Super Bowl, advertisers are busy ramping up the expectations for what promises to be a slew of violence and/or misogyny-themed (Go-Daddy!, anyone?) commercials. Of course, there are always exceptions. A few of the early sneak-peaks have got me intrigued. Yep, I’m a sucker for this stuff. Why might that be?

I’m now the target demographic.

I’m a thirty-something male. I grew up in the ’80s and ’90s. So, naturally, I must be nostalgic for all things ’80s and ’90s, right? Madonna is the half-time show performer. (Disclosure: Borderline is one of the best songs ever, but she’ll instead be singing Holiday) Ferris Bueller promises to return, selling, well, Hondas. And Star Wars will be represented too, sort of. What more could a guy ask for?!? How about those flying cars they were promising us back in the ’80s. Hondas are great and all, but c’mon!

First up: Save Ferris

Please. Save Ferris. He should have taken Sloane and driven off into the sunset. What’s that? He did? Oh, and they had a few dozen kids? And now he’s driving a Honda. Wait – I drive a Honda! I’m just as cool as Ferris! Everything’s coming up Milhouse!

What if I’m anti-Ferris? I don’t want to drive a Honda. Maybe I went backpacking in Europe in the ’90s and learned about sweet, reliable German cars. OOOoooooohhhh! Cute Doggies!!! AND STAR WARS!!!!!

The dogs are barking the song from Star Wars (Nerds: Yes, I know it’s the Imperial March from The Empire Strikes Back) that featured prominently in last year’s excellent and enjoyable Gen-X targeted ad. But now, it’s being rendered by a menagerie of ill-mannered barking dogs, and mini-Darth is nowhere to be seen. VW has produced some exceptional ads over the years, so I’ll reserve judgment on this one. However, this ad is evidently just a teaser for the actual Super Bowl ad, so the eventual ad could stink. We shall see. But if you’re impressed by auto-tuned dogs merely barking… you should see this (it’s not an ad):

Whew, that was fun.

And now a quick look back at my favorite Super Bowl Ad of all time.

Executed with a deep commitment to the bit, “Cat Herders” will always remind me that genuinely creative and smart people are still out there trying to sell me something. The ad is a big metaphor for the many elements that go into providing the services rendered by EDS, and to the dedication that their people have to “managing the complexities of the digital economy.” Little details stand out: camaraderie between herdsmen, an allergic sneeze, the use of a pet-hair roller and a ball of yarn being re-wound. It’s flawless, and never fails to lift my spirits when I see another terrible Go-Daddy! ad.

Now, let the Super Bowl Ads begin!

Mute, Every Time

Confession: I rarely watch commercials. Like many semi-technically adept TV viewers, I’ve got a DVR, and prefer to watch a select few shows on my own schedule. This enables me to fast-forward through the ads plugging up 1/3 of the run time so that I can spend less time watching TV and more time playing Penny Can!

But sometimes I’m curious. I’ll play the commercials. I’ll wonder what clever idea some young ad executive has come up with to lull the drooling masses into giddy submission. And I’ll be subjected to this.

This pig got his start in a prior campaign, in which he was named Maxwell.

Ha ha, did you see? How clever! The pig did go “weee, wee, weee” all the way home. Hence, GEICO can really save you… blah blah blah.

But Maxwell is now destined to become another tired retread GEICO character competing with the caveman and the gecko for most annoying GEICO spokes-creature. Here, he’s on a zip line, for no good reason. He defies physics, passing a guy on a parallel zip line while accelerating and decelerating at will. He’s still carrying the pinwheels from the first ad (although they are now blue instead of green – Maxwell is a big pinwheel collector). Apparently pinwheels are the most fun thing anyone at GEICO can come up with to distract everyone from the annoyance of the pig continuing to go “weee, wee, weee” all the way everywhere. GEICO’s ad team doesn’t even know what to do with him, so they use him to promote their new GEICO mobile app.

Maxwell’s insistence on “weee”-ing everywhere actually undercuts the argument made in the initial ad. Clearly, he’s not on his way home, but rather enjoying some solo recreational time. If his “weee”-ing in the initial ad was actually a quotation taken out of context, GEICO may indeed NOT really save you… blah blah blah. But I suppose no mention was made in the nursery rhyme of the little piggy’s verbosity during times not homeward-bound, so it’s impossible to determine if GEICO can really save you…

Clearly, the boss’s mom really liked Maxwell, and word came down from on high that he better make another appearance. Get a hobby, boss’s mom!


What could be more social than tailgating? Beer, brats, bros – the elements are all there for a wonderful day of sports enjoyment.

If you watch a sporting event on TV, you’ll see an average of 4, 362 ads during the course of the event. At least 200% of these ads will be staged at a tailgate party or at a viewing gathering at a bar or house. The announcers of the game have a 92% chance of giving you 5.2 useless and inane statistics per breath while saying, “…you talk about the X…,” and, “…from the standpoint of…” in 55.8% of sentences during clear weather – unless it’s the playoffs, when the number drops to 44.8%.

But if you’re actually at a tailgate party, surrounded by merry friends, monomaniacal fans and a misappropriated feline, AT&T has a best-practices guide for your behavior. Be a jagoff.

The basics:

Your Friend: “Hey, buddy, I care about you and like for you to feel included. Did you hear this really interesting news I just heard?”
You: “Um, yeah, jackass – heard that already – Where have you been?”

Advanced cases:

Your friend: “Hey guys! I respect your knowledge and would like to learn how to do something. Can you help me?”
You: “You’re dumb – we already know how to do that and won’t help you learn.”


Your friend: “I love you and don’t want you to be eaten by a tig-”
You: “Dude, the tiger is already full.”

All of the sweet, thoughtful people in the ad are dismissed as behind-the-times, and we’re supposed to want to emulate the only two d-bags.

This isn’t the only version of the ad. Though the heroes are now women, the same “emulate the a-hole” dynamics are hard at work here too. Terrible.