COLUMN: Sure, the 81st Academy Awards show was a disaster, but millions watched anyway (train wrecks are darn entertaining) so the advertisers reached a big audience. Did the ad messages overcome the stench of the show? There’s no way they could, what with Hugh Jackman’s embarrassing dance parodies and the clusterflock acting award presentations.

Not to mention Beyonce’s lip-synch disaster, John Legend not bothering to find the melody of his number, Queen Latifah’s Auto-Tune nightmare, and a horrid setting that seemed to be constructed from remains of a going-out-of-business sale at the El Monte Lamps ‘n’ Lights Bargain Barn.

Just a side note on the biggest loser of the night: Twentieth Century Fox, whose board must be praying that the young audience for “X-Men Origins: Wolverine” will not visit YouTube to see the putrid “musical performances” by Jackman. Despite multiple shout-outs that “the musical is back,” most viewers had a somewhat different reaction: “the musical is crap.”

On to the hype. I mean the ads.


JC Penney
With seven commercials, the big retailer was in almost every spot cluster. I don’t know much about young women’s fashions other than they are sometimes difficult to unbutton, but the stuff looked good to me and the music video-style production was just fine. My guess is that these commercials resonated with their target audience in a powerful way.

American Express
The credit card company continued its “if it’s good enough for celebs, it’s good enough for the likes of you” campaign, this time using Dave Matthews, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brian Grazer and Tina Turner to flack for the firm. I hate to admit it, but this approach probably works really well. People are sheep, so herd ’em along using famous faces.

A monster truck runs over a bunch of Maytags and they keep right on working. Almost everything inside of me says this is wrong, except it is right on target for their positioning as the “keeps on working” appliances. So, okie-doke, it works. Co-op tie-in with Tide at the end was annoying (oh look, the ad’s over, oop, no it’s not, there’s an ad-within-an-ad).

Four spots, all different, but each with the “cost/priceless” campaign. One had a dog peeing, which seemed a bit off-putting for my living room, but the story of people helping the lost dog cross the country was pretty cool. And their final spot of the evening was a real gem, as it showed how different types of music can transform us every time we listen.

(Sorry, there weren’t enough good ones to make up a “top five.”)


There were eight commercials from Hyundai. Eight! Sheesh, talk about overkill. All right, two of them were entertaining. Or I should say one of them, because it was the same spot shown in two versions. Both featured superb test track footage of their Genesis Coupe hauling ass, first to music by Yo-Yo Ma and later to music by Smashing Pumpkins. Cool presentation, and I liked the look of the car. The other six spots were silly. Yeah, the carmaker won an award. So what. And devoting five commercials to saying please buy one of our cars even though you might lose your job soon (which is what their Assurance and Assurance Plus programs are all about) is just depressing. Coming from a foreign auto company, it also makes me want to say f#@k you, Hyundai.

You know those beautifully photographed spots where the overpaid muckity-muck from Sprint tells us what we already know about our cell phones? This was another one of them.

Diet Coke
Who the hell is Tom Colicchio and what does he have to do with Diet Coke? I could go on and on about the stupidity of using borrowed interest in commercials, but why give any more space to this bit of silliness. There were also a couple spots featuring Heidi Klum in a red mini-dress. Mrs. Seal looked sensational, which I guess is tie-in enough for a diet cola ad, but the ad itself was a mess.

Reminder ads are a whole other breed. You don’t have to show the product, just the logo. If you’ve got addicts, oops, I mean regular customers, they’ll respond to the iconic image.

Carl’s Jr.
Yup, the two fast fooders were back-to-back in the same cluster. The tone is always crass with these guys, so there’s no confusion between the two peddlers of fat-and-sodium, but you’d think they would want at least one bad car commercial in between them.

Great-looking spot. Kind of like the old Target ads that showed oodles of product in a free-from-dirt environment. It’s an attractive approach, but it’s too bad their markets don’t look like the commercial.

Hands in sand, cars on the road. Yup, makes perfect sense to me. Nice music, worthless commercial.

True North
Nuts. Well, they make nuts, but their campaign doesn’t show the product. Instead, they concentrate on mini-documentaries about people doing good things in the world. I admire their backing of worthy causes. But what about their snacks?

The Proposal
New Sandra Bullock movie. I love Sandra Bullock, and I’ll see it when it comes to HBO. Or Showtime. So, is advertising on the Oscar telecast really money well spent? Media buys are important, people.


Hey, nimrods, this is the second month of the year two thousand nine. There is no f#@king way you can be advertising a 2010 model. Idiots. As for the production, it was excellent. Lovely EU locations, a great look, strong editing, and nifty music – all for a useless product (another SUV for peabrained folks who are desperately seeking to purchase a sense of self-worth).

“Look, some jerk is sitting on a building and then the fake helicopter pulls back to show that it’s a really big building.” Yeah, that’s classic advertising, especially since it was produced on the level of a local used car spot.

A silly and annoying spot with an oaf chef badly singing opera. See, it’s an Italian food product. Italian. Opera. Get it? Mental note to self: if the marketing is this lazy, they probably don’t make good food.

Excellent product I.D. in this spot: the GTF logo was everywhere! Unfortunately, the commercial was for the Blackberry Curve. GTF, WTF?

The Soloist
Confusing movie trailer. As I understand it, the plot concerns a crusading writer, an insane cellist, street performers, and instrument maintenance. Yup, it’s a must-see evening of cinematic wonder.

They had a couple spots for an unnecessary SUV. Both mentioned “identity theft” for no discernable reason. One seemed to be about a parking garage stalker, while the other may have been about a mentally challenged kid getting picked up after school. Note to production companies: excellent cinematography doesn’t make up for poor scripts.

The real thing had three commercials, one a gargantuan production that showed someone imagining Coke everywhere he looked, the second dealing with some sort of scholarship, and the third a well-edited but disgusting spot that seemed to say Coke was recycled from garbage. Don’t large companies hire legitimate communications firms to handle their advertising? Apparently not.


Here’s the conglomeration review of the other spots: a “Dancing with the Stars” promo was really well done, especially considering it’s for a show that is entirely disposable; a “Jimmy Kimmel Live” promo with Jimmy and Tom Cruise was actually pretty funny and accurately reflected the off-the-wall humor of the show; a Tide spot had someone doing a parody of Paul Lynde; a Zyrtec commercial showed people enjoying their lives in almost every type of allergy situation imaginable and was therefore pretty darn effective; an Orencia pharma spot had qualifiers that were longer than the pitch message; a Microsoft Windows commercial demonstrated that their product is designed for four-year-olds; a T-Mobile spot proved their product is ideal for lost idiots and losers; and a Hoover vacuum commercial featured a clean freak who was in paradise when discovering there’s a new line of products called the Hoover Platinum Collection.


With just a couple of exceptions, creativity is still sinking to new lows in the communication industry, and what passes for “entertainment” in advertising is pretty disillusioning. This business used to be exciting until the hacks and bean-counters took over.

[tags]advertising, marketing, commercials, Oscars[/tags]