Good Lord, that baby will destroy us all!

So, I’m watching football this weekend when on comes this giant ass baby. I was like What The F—k? There’s a humongous baby in this dude’s garage. Then it’s bawling its eyes out in front of a gushing fire hydrant. A car crashes. And then it’s over.

Is this a trailer for a new movie? “Honey, I enlarged the kids!” It wasn’t a beer commercial. Taken aback, I open up my laptop and search “giant baby TV” or something similar. On YouTube I find the gargantuan infant. He (at least I think it’s a he) is the star of a new commercial for Nationwide Insurance!

I watch it again. And still I’m bewildered. The giant baby is so distracting I miss the point of the commercial. Upon further review, I get the gist of it. The voice over (none other than Julia Roberts) tells us “that’s what’s precious to you is precious to us.”

But I’m still wrong. She’s not talking about protecting your family, of which I assumed the giant baby was a metaphor. They’re talking about car insurance. The baby is a metaphor for this guy’s car. Talk about discombobulating. It took me multiple viewings to sort it all out.

Watch the commercial. Am I crazy or is it just confusing as all hell? I will give it this: the spot got my attention. It also got me to search it out and watch it numerous times on YouTube. So, in a sense, I guess the commercial is a success.

Yet, what stands out to me is the giant baby. It’s just a great, big, weird image and something I can’t associate with car insurance. Maybe if the concept were executed differently? If the VO said “Your car is your baby.” I don’t know. I still would probably have pissed in my Huggies when I saw it/him/her.


Someone’s DNA to watch over you!

Back when my father was starting out as a copywriter, he had this idea for a men’s fragrance called Cash Cologne. I kid you not. Its theme: “Wear Cash and you’ll smell like a million bucks” …or something like that. There was no client or product attached to the concept. He and a buddy had come up with the idea while shooting the shit one day. I believe they’d gotten as far as contacting a perfume manufacturer before the whole thing fell through. Had they continued the next step would have been obvious: a small-space ad in the back of a magazine. Which brings me to the topic of this article…

The last few pages of many national magazines –including high quality pubs like Dwell and Esquire- contain small space ads that are, by turns, ridiculous, naïve and totally cool. Here is the last bastion of old-school American dreamers. They make art from your favorite photographs or shock-absorbing mats to put in front of your stove. Guys like Photowow and Gelpro These are folks who woke up one day with an idea, sunk their nest eggs into it, and then took out an ad.

No bigger than a pack of cigarettes, these ads usually feature a photo, a small paragraph and a website/800 number. No fuss, no muss. They offer little in the way of concept or art direction. Often produced by the publisher via template, they are extremely utilitarian. Even the “roommate wanted” ads in college dorms are more complicated.

From pillow-chairs that enable creative sexual coupling (yowza!) to handmade mailboxes from New England, these tiny adverts offer a great window into the entrepreneurial nature of Man. Inventors and pioneers built this country. Some of them probably started out in ‘small spaces’ like these.

Next time your thumbing through a magazine, take a look in the back. See what they’re selling. I bet you secretly crave at least some of it. Who doesn’t want “modular rugs for (your) stairs” or “beautiful canvas art pieces…made from your favorite photographs?” My personal favorite: wall-sized paintings based on (your) actual DNA. “It’s art as unique as you are!” How cool is that?

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I keep seeing this bizarre spot from US Cellular about battery swapping. Or at least I think it’s about battery swapping. To be honest, I get wierded out by the commercial so I never really pay attention to its message. Even as I write this I don’t actually know what this commercial is about. Yes, I could have studied the clip (I posted it after all) but I chose not to on purpose. Why? My ignorance is relevant to this discussion. I maintain the spot is so odd (and oddly boring) that I can’t (or won’t) discern what it’s about. I am made bored and uncomfortable by this commercial. An oxymoron I know. But that’s my reaction every time I see it.

A monosyllabic robot is playing jump rope with a strangely unresponsive child. As the robot turns the rope he delivers a message. Somewhere along the way the robot malfunctions…I think. The girl then stares at the robot with a look that can best be described as robotic. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure her catatonic reaction is unintentional. I honestly think the child simply can’t act or hasn’t been directed properly or both. I feel sorry for her. It’s all I remember from the commercial. See for yourself. It’s creepy.

Am I missing something? Is this TVC actually charming? Is the little girl cute? Is the robot cool? US Cellular is running the hell out of the spot so they must like it, right?

I’m not hating on this spot… per se. Hate seems too strong a word for this oddity. I don’t loathe it like I did “Saved by Zero” or, for that matter, the Progressive Insurance lady –both campaigns I punched around recently. Yet, with those campaigns at least I knew exactly what they were selling. Not so here.

What say you, Gentle Reader: Is this spot confusing and weird or am I just missing the point?

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Less is more in advertising

If you thought the now-infamous Red House Furniture commercial was controversial and bizarre (it was) wait until you watch this little ditty from Argentina. It does to boy/girl what Red House did to black/white. I don’t want to play spoiler but this seemingly innocuous bank commercial takes a gender-bending turn that, frankly, is an absolute first in the annals of advertising. Take a look and then let’s come back for discussion.

Aye Carumba! Dude look like a lady! Or is it the other way around? It isn’t necessarily the topic that shocks us… but in a bank commercial? And what’s more remarkable is how perfectly straight (no pun intended) they play it. Produced with utter sincerity, it is identical to a Hallmark card commercial.

The plot is ripe with subtext! Who is Mr. Lopez – brother, former boss, best friend? What did he to the hero(ine) that required making an apology? And what about the gift he gives to her? A porcelain ballerina, it must be symbolic of something, perhaps little girl fantasies finally being realized?

The tagline attempts to make sense of it all: “Your life changes when your bank is disposed to change.” So, let’s see if we got this right. Banco Provincia is advertising its progressive policies with regard to lending by giving a loan to a transvestite. Conceding the bank’s corporate heart is in the right place, why on earth does a person’s sexual orientation or body type matter when providing a loan? As long as clients have collateral what’s the difference? Sure, banks are historically conservative but not to money. On the other hand, if the bank had given him/her a loan in order to have a sex change that would at least represent open-mindedness with regard to lending money. But in this spot the lady opens a hair salon.

I think this commercial is weird. I can’t imagine writing or approving it. Still, you have to give it points for chutzpa. In a macho nation like Argentina, it took “balls” to make a spot like this.

Note: Special thanks to Adpulp for finding this commercial.