Truffula Tree Certified (and a note on standards)

I’ve been getting emails about this one, so it must be a doozy. Just watched it. Wow.

Truth be told, for an ad to make it onto my radar, I must either witness it myself while watching live TV (very infrequent occurrence) or catch wind of it from a friend. Occasionally, I’ll watch commercials interrupting a show I’ve got in the DVR queue, but not very often. I make a note of these, and attempt to locate them online. Unfortunately for the blog, many of the especially terrible ads I find are not uploaded to YouTube (or they’re uploaded as sloppily edited camera phone videos of a TV). If I can’t find the ad, there is little use sharing it here. However, if there is an ad you find to be wicked bad, feel free to send me a link. Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming.

If you grew up or raised a child in the United States, you almost certainly became acquainted with the work of Dr. Seuss. There’s The Cat in the Hat, Green Eggs and Ham, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, Yertle the Turtle, and, of course, The Lorax.

Published in 1971, The Lorax presented a fairly straightforward gloomy cautionary tale of the over-consumption of natural resources. The title character, claiming to “speak for the trees,” is an early-’70s environmentalist. That was 40 years ago, just before the oil embargo and long gas lines. Naturally, now that the Lorax is looking ahead to the end of his career, it’s time to bank some cash. Time to sell out.

How better to sell out than to start certifying things as Truffula Tree friendly? Or touting the environmental friendliness of an SUV. Maybe it’s time to make up some words too, and make them sound impressive and important without bothering to define them – Skyactiv – that sounds crunchy-friendly. Now, let’s tie all this in to a new movie to make sure lots of people get lots of money and none of it goes to any environmental causes. Sweet. Lorax retirement planning complete.

This ad is horrendous. It’s sure to alienate every. single. human. person. who would otherwise consider purchasing an “environmentally friendlier” SUV. Nary a soul will be soothed by Skyactiv technology with Truffula Tree Certification.

Imagine when the vehicle is 12 years old, sitting on a secondary market lot for $5999. Hopefully some used car salesperson in 2024 will have the good humor to mark “Lorax Approved” on the windshield. Maybe a child watching the movie today will by then be sufficiently jaded and invested in irony to make an offer. “One Truffula seed, not a penny more.”

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?

Drive-Thru Diet

Taco Bell has a long history of fairly fun, interesting ads. Some are funny, because they’ve engineered them to be funny.

Some are funny because, well, c’mon – Drive-Thru Diet?

Christine, imagined as a hipper counterpart to equally unimaginative fast food dieter Jared Fogle of Subway, somehow found a way to eat taco bell food and lose weight. What’s that, you say? Visit the informative Drive-Thru Diet website for more info! Sure Christine! How soon can I click?

Ah, the details. She lost half a pound per week for two years by eating only 1250 calories per day, down from her previous apparent gluttony of eating 1750 per day. But she didn’t have to give up that yummy fast food! What else Christine? What else?

I am totally on board now. I can make a FRESCOLUTION! That’s a Fres-Co-Lution, or FRe-SCol-Ution – no – FRESCO-lution. Maybe they’ll tell me how to pronounce it when they start sending me my “e-couragement” cards!

But I find my eyes wandering. What’s that up there beside the Drive-Thru Diet?

OK, I’m thinking outside the bun. What, pray tell, could FOURTHMEAL be? It’s right there beside the Diet, but eating a fourth meal doesn’t seem to be consistent with the idea of a diet. Let’s click on over.

Aha! FOURTHMEAL is the meal between dinner and breakfast. Surprisingly, no Drive-Thru Diet items are available at FOURTHMEAL. Because, of course, if you’re on the Drive-Thru Diet, you’ll have already consumed your daily ration of calories by the time you’re having SECONDMEAL.

The Drive-Thru Diet campaign could not be more cynical. Taco Bell food cannot reasonably be considered a part of any healthy eating plan. Sure, if you ingest two ounces of neon volcano nacho cheese daily, forsaking all other foods, you’ll soon lose weight. And friends. You’d need some severely delusional rationalization skills to believe you’re likely to lose weight while making a run (for you, fatty, that’s drive) to the border.

Taco Bell’s FOURTHMEAL campaign is, by contrast, the most sincere pitch they can muster. When you have no other options, because sane places are closed, here is something to eat. Oh, and you can also buy it for lunch and dinner, but we won’t pretend it’s healthy.

Honesty. How reFrescoing.

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.

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!