There are only two problems with the annual Consumerist poll of the worst tv ads in America. One is that, by its parent organization, Consumer Reports‘ own admission, the poll is “completely unscientific.” Which brings us to problem number two, which is the reason it’s unscientific: Virtually all the voters are readers of Consumer Reports or visitors to its website, The Consumerist, which means people who aren’t exactly thrilled about the very idea of advertising to begin with.
Make your voice heard
As a normal consumer, with no axe to grind, you now have a chance to make your voice heard by voting for the worst tv commercial of 2011. You’ll have a less than total say, though, because (1) since it’s only October you’ll miss out on voting for (or against, as the case may be) the remainder of the year’s advertising – including a slew of holiday retail commercials, which are usually real stinkeroos and (2) your choices will be limited, because thousands of dyed-in-the-wool, Chevy Volt-driving, granola-eating consumerists have already chosen the finalists for you.
A funny thing happened on the way to the nominations
In reviewing all these entries on YouTube, one funny thing became apparent. Consumerists are not exactly typical of normal consumers.
They hated all of these commercials, but if you scroll down and look at the comments, you’ll see that most (buyt by no means all) of the comments, from regular people, are positive. Many people loved commercials or actors that the consumerists hated.
So let’s keep this contest honest. Check out the choices below, then make yours. Be sure to vote by 6 pm Eastern time, Sunday, October 16.
And the nominees are:
For Trend That Needs to Stop Being a Trend
- Copying the Old Spice Man – The point of the highly successful Old Spice campaign wasn’t just its sexy spokesman, but the use of him in social media to respond to consumers on the spot and vertical integration all the way down to the retail level. Two advertisers tried to capture the outer appearance of the Old Spice campaign without grasping its inner logic: Edge Shave Gel, with a creepy sokesman, and Dairy Queen, with a water-skiing spokesman.
- Making fun of Asian accents: DirecTV with Dat Phan, a short Asian man of indeterminate nationality, talking about the big deal he got and Vonage, where a member of a Japanese traveling rock band phones home to say he can now phone on his mobile with Vonage.
- Men Barely Tolerating Their Wives and Girlfriends (See the Men are Lunkheads Who Somehow Manage to Put Up with Their Harpy Wives and Girlfriends below): McDonalds, where a guy drinking McDonalds sweet tea uses the product name printed on the cup to inspire a term of endearment to his girlfriend – Sweetie, get it? (This, incidentally, strikes me as more of a putdown of this stupid guy than bare tolerance for the girlfriend.) – andKlondike, featuring Mark, a shlub who performs the Herculean labor to listening to five full seconds of his wife’s inane prattle to win a Klondike mint chocolate chip bar. (Regardless of what you think of this spot, it does continue the successful “What would you do for a Klondike Bar?” strategy.)
- Surprising Real People (as opposed to Playing hidden camera tricks on “surprised” real people, which, confusingly, is a different category): one of the Ford surprise press conference commercials (not, incidentally, the one that teed off the Obama administration by referring to the government’s takeover of GM) and the Febreeze spot where blinfolded people sit on a smelly old couch recently vacated by dogs and then sprayed with Febreeze tell the camera what they smell.
For Trends That Need to Stop Being Trends
- Playing Hidden-Camera Tricks on “Surprised” Real People (see above) – The same Ford commercial, the same Febreeze commercial, and a Microsoft Windows entry where they surreptitiously “built a PC store in Erica’s house” to give lots of actors lots of chances to spout lots of unadulterated sales lines about Windows PCs.
- Men are Lunkheads Who Somehow Manage to Put Up with Their Harpy Wives and Girlfriends – The very same McDonalds and Klondike commercials as above, demonstrating the effects of perspective, and AT&T, where a wife berates her husband for signing up for unlimited data, not knowing that it was free with unlimited mobile messaging.
For Celebrity Who Could Probably Use a New Manager Right Now:
- Montel Williams for Money Mutual
- The odd couple of Troy Aikman and Hulk Hogan pitching Rent-A-Center as a way to lower monthly payments on things you don’t need (such as a huge-screen HD tv in this case)
- Claire Danes in 20 seconds of commercial plus seconds of side-effects for Latisse, a prescription drug that makes eyelashes grow (!).
(They all needed new managers long ago.)
For Creepiest Commercial of the Year:
- An otherwise ordinary two-minute infomercial for the Pos-T-Vac Penis Pump, a product that gives me the creeps just thinking about its name and the fact that it’s covered by Medicare
- An Arby’s spot that demonstrates how people crave the Cravin’ Chicken Sandwich by having a guy develop a frog-like tongue that licks a drop of sauce off a friend’s cheek
- A Jell-O commercial which shows that only eating the pudding your daughter was saving for herself gives you an exaggeratedly bizarre and phony “pudding smile”
- A Target entry featuring a public-school music teacher who performs and sings a song listing all the denim things your kids need to buy to look cool at school. (He’s wearing corduroy, not denim, so does that mean teachers aren’t supposed to look cool?)
For Original Jingle That Should be Junked:
- Arby’s second nomination, a song about how their Angus Three Cheese & Bacon Sandwich has the miraculous power to bring antithetical people together
- Artificial sweetener Truvia’s 30-second demonstration that lists of sales points don’t sound any more interesting when sung
- Education Connection, which takes twice as long to demonstrate the same thing;
- Farmers Insurance, where the music nominated is not “Another Night” by Real McCoy, which takes up the first 27 seconds, but the “We are farmers” musical sting in the last three
For Worst Abuse of an Existing Song:
- Old Navy’s (mis)use of Night Ranger’s “Sister Christian (See the point above about sales points as lyrics.)
- Honda’s :30 featuring Vampire Weekend’s “Holiday” and cheesy stop-motion
- Swiffer’s use of Heart’s “What About Love” in a spot about how Swiffer is the mop of single women’s romantic fantasies
- Value City Furniture’s use of Queen’s “I Want It All” to promote a Memorial Day sale.
For Most Irritating Actor:
- Blue Tax mixes a cheesy computer-generated cartoon spokesman and cheesy stop-motion and an obnoxious voice-over
- I’m surprised this didn’t make it into the Creepiest category, but Orkin has a commercial featuring a giant termite as a young woman’s blind date.
- Aflac combines their trademark talking duck with a rapping pigeon, the Budweiser frogs apparently moonlighting and a worm doing the worm, so who’s the irritating actor supposed to be?
- Carfax’s Car Fox (get it?) telling car buyers to make sure used-car dealers “Show me the Carfax”
For Most Grating Performance by a Human:
- Flo the Progressive Insurance Lady
- The State Farm Insurance customer who saved enough money to buy a falcon to carry around with him everywhere he goes
- The guy in Grand Central Station who tries to start a flash mob because his non-AT&T network (their second nomination) took too long delivering the message it was postponed
- The Metamucil woman who exercise bikes, works on her labtop, puts on makeup and simultaneuously delivers a standup about how fiber supplements aren’t supposed to do just one thing.
For Group That Ought to Go Its Separate Ways:
- Three office workers discuss Esurance’s multiple discounts and Frank’s online profile.
- In a two-minute infomercial, the McCann twins have a heart-to-heart phone conversation about Consumer Cellarselling points.
- Women at a bridal shower rhapsodize over the Trojan Triphoria Vibrator as a wedding gift. Is this marriage in trouble?
- The men who tell their friend that drinking anything other than Miller Lite is unmanly.
And the winner (or maybe loser) is…
For the Absolute Worst Ad in America in 2011:
- The AT&T commercial with the harpy wife in a coveted multiple nomination (see above)
- A Geico commercial from Richmond’s Martin Agency that’s more about using smart phones to do dumb things than saving money on insurance
- A Luvs diaper animation in which animated babies compete in an American Idol-like contest to see who can fill his or her diaper with the most poop
- A Samsung Infuse 4G spot where the spider on the phone’s screen looks so real, it makes otherwise intelligent business people scream and beat the phone to death.
- A one-minute movie-trailer-like mini-epic that spends 50 seconds showing how a woman’s vaginal scent was the driving force of human history and 10 seconds telling woemn to cover it up with Summer’s Eve