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Friday, 15 April
Ad Drop

When I watch TV, a big part of it is naturally watching a lot of ads. Which isn't news at all, really, in any sense. Advertising is something that's been with us since the beginning. Courtship is nothing more than an elaborate sort of self-promotion: Seriously, baby, it's in your interest to fuck me. Bad advertising = genetic breakdown lane.

Religion, too: God X is way cooler than God Y. God Y leaves greasy stains on your couch, for God X's sake! Also, I heard that God Y contains emulsifiers. Do you want addititives in your deity? And don't tell anyone, but . . . well . . . the Book of God X? It has some racy parts in the back. It's kind of a secret, you know, but you should check it out. Then have a look at God Y's . . . what? I think it's a pamphlet or something. Cheap card stock, uneven printing. It's just embarrassing.

So if advertising--in whatever form (I know I'm stretching things here, but Jesus, it's just a blog)--is so omnipresent, and has arguably been so for a long, long time . . . why are we so terrible at it still? Why must TV ads be so numbingly ghastly? We've had thousands of years to get this right!

A recent favorite was a truck ad whose tagline ostensibly touted the thing's cargo capacity. On a black screen, in giant white block letters then came the tag:

FEAR NO LOAD

I thought that was astounding, and frankly, really hilarious. I kind of hope some ad exec got that off the cover of a porn video. I honestly think that the porn industry should put billboards up all over Chatsworth in the Valley, just to reassure its nervous starlets. It could have a really nice-looking fellow grinning out at the populace--a nice guy!--with his tumescent cock in hand, and a cheerful lass on her knees giving us a sunny smile and an A-OK sign with her hand, signaling to everyone: She fears no load! Nothing to worry about! It's just like taking out the garbage--not much fun, but after a little wash-up, you're done!

The indefatigable credit card merchants Capital One have been flogging their plastic for quite a while with their "What's in your wallet?" campaign, which is neither the most inspired nor dead stupidest tags ever thought up--it's just boring and staid and slightly annoying. I mean, fuck you what's in my wallet, really. But they had a (apparently, given how long they milked it) successful run with a bunch of thematically identical ads where various schmoes avoided certain death by Mongol hordes, Vikings, C.H.U.D.s, etc., by whipping out a Capital One card at the last minute. Oh, how civilization would be different if only we knew back then what we know now: barbarian conquerors are utterly cowed by low interest rates.

And then Capital One took a left turn. They kept the "What's in your wallet, not that I know you, so this question is kind of intrusive and inappropriate" tag, but the new ads now featured one of the most grating and unappealing personalities to ever achieve celebrity: David Spade. (If you stop and think for even a couple minutes, it's a little astonishing to realize just how much SNL has to answer for.)

In these spots, Spade splints up the legs of his woefully broken one-trick pony yet again to portray a snarky, devil-may-care snotface who routinely tells his callers (all begging for travel considerations or something) "No." The spots all invariably end with the caller threatening to call Capital One, which finally breaks through Spade's veneer, causing him to exclaim, "No!" GET IT?

Leaving aside what you personally think about David Spade--I for one am a complete whimpering wuss, but I do think that even I could be moved to knock his pasty block off--was this a good shift in advertising strategy? Consider: the first spots suggested that the mere aegis of a Capital One card was sufficient to ward off marauding bands of vicious savages. The second round of spots, however, suggested anemically that, eh, if you fail to call Capital One, you might have to deal with an intransigent no-talent douchebag. As if dealing with shitheads on the phone is something new to the public. And what kind of sad boasting is that anyway? We proudly do not hire shitheads! Well, neat, but nobody should hire shitheads! It's hard to give Capital One credit for this.

But really, it's worse than that. Because since all the new spots prominently feature Spade pulling his awful schtick, the opposite effect has been achieved: the viewer now hopelessly associates Spade-as-tormentor with the name Capital One itself (at least I do). Which was entirely the opposite of the inteded effect. So not only has the company (1) abandoned a reasonable (if totally silly) marketing gimmick--with Capital One, nobody will rape and dismember your wife!--they then replaced it with (2) an alternate universe where not only you may be telephonically insulted without reprieve, your wife may also be raped and dismembered by David Spade, especially if you try to call Capital One. It's too late. All it takes is one wrong phone call.

And I don't think Spade cares if she says "No."


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Comments

David Spade should have just left "show business" entirely the SECOND that Chris Farley died.

Comment number: 005215   Posted by: dayment on April 15, 2005 10:27 AM from IP: 64.105.86.146

David Spade was actually funny on SNL for about three and a half weeks. Now, he really just sort of looks like the 40-year-old guy who hangs outside of high schools looking for sophomores to feel up. That is to say: he's icky.

Comment number: 005216   Posted by: Joe on April 15, 2005 02:06 PM from IP: 68.164.39.162

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