I’ve been watching a lot of basketball lately, and between the channel-flipping and occasional single-game windows, it has not been possible to use the DVR to avoid seeing commercials. Which means I’ve seen a lot of the current paradigm of advertising in America, which seems to consist of two main modes:
- Smug and “dickish”: The main exemplar of this is the Fidelity commercial in which a smug Fidelity customer at a cafe sneers at another customer for not knowing the wonders of his commercial invetment advice provider, but really, just about any investment commercial would do. Sam Waterston for TD Ameritrade is smug personified, although, to be fair, that’s pretty much his character on “Law & Order,” too. The quotes on “dickish” are to indicate that it’s a behavior category not restricted to those with external genitalia, as the horrible women bartenders in the Miller Lite campaign demonstrate.
- Horrifying: The singing NAPA commercials just creep me out, and they’re everywhere. Lots of CGI-heavy ads fall in here, as do those Subway spots with adults dubbed in little-kid voices.
There’s some overlap between these categories– the “talking baby” spots for ETrade being a prime example– but that covers 90% of the national advertising I’ve been seeing. The remaining 10% are boring and forgettable, with the possible exception of the Old Spice guy spots, which make no sense, but are at least amusing.
Really, if you want to know what’s wrong with us as a society, that tells you everything you really need to know: the best way to appeal to modern American consumers is to be either smugly dickish, or horrifying. Or both.