I usually don’t read Entertainment Weekly for advertising news, but the June 4/11 2010 issue (100 Greatest Characters of the Last 20 Years) contained an absolute gem about our industry. In his guest column (The Pop of King), Stephen King reveals that he almost followed another path instead of becoming the most successful horror writer of all time. His high school guidance counselor told him that results on an aptitude test revealed him to be well qualified for a career on Madison Avenue. Not a surprise given F. Scott Fitzgerald, Elmore Leonard, James Patterson, and many others got a great creative foundation as copywriters, then went on to become accomplished novelists. I would have loved to see Stephen King’s take on ad classics. A demonic Pillsbury Dough Boy. Some bloody good new uses for Heinz Ketchup. Kathy Bates comes to the aid of the “I’ve Fallen But I Can’t Get Up” lady.
But I digress. Stephen King’s column was dedicated to “The Most Obnoxious TV Commercial. Ever.” He offers some historical examples before sending readers to the Huffington Post to cast a vote for favorite of “The 17 Most Annoying Commercials Of All Time.”
There is definitely plenty to annoy here, although this grab-bag doesn’t do justice to the many stupefiers and wince-inducers from decades of badvertising. The Meow-Mix cat food jingle is here. Clap-on, Clap-off, The Clapper. Plus Toyota’s “Saved By Zero” sales event, which wasn’t bad until they bought a continuous loop media buy that ensured by the time people had seen the spot for the 4,057th time, their heads would explode like in Scanners (I’m sure on Stephen King’s all time list of cult classic horror movies).
As for Stephen’s hands-down choice, it’s ShoeDini, which combines the extended broadcast time of an infomercial with the voiceover of an over-caffeinated Gilbert Gottfried:
My own choice for most annoying commercial? It’s a whole mini campaign arc that annoys me less for the productions than for the business decisions behind them. It’s Microsoft’s lead-in to the Windows 7 launch and their response to the Apple ads (PC and Mac) in which all Windows PCs take a licking, then another licking, then yet another licking, then a full-blown piñata bashing, then, well you get the picture.
Any agency would kill for the budget that teams Bill Gates and Jerry Seinfeld in their own reality show sitcom to connect with real people. But not many agencies would deliver this loopy approach as a reason to buy a Windows PC. These spots succeed in humanizing Bill and putting Jerry in some forced comedy moments, while failing in their mission impossible — distracting PC buyers from Apple’s growing technological domination, as evidenced by last week’s news that they’ve overtaken Microsoft as the world’s biggest tech company.