The Year in Ads: 2015

As much as I pick on advertising, I do love commercials. Or, I guess I should say I love the potential of commercials. Video is an incredibly engaging medium for content, and until DVR technology came along and let us fast-forward through them, TV commercials were a great vehicle to deliver your brand and product directly into the homes of millions of viewers.

There are two problems with commercials these days. One is the aforementioned DVR technology, and the other is creative laziness. I'm pretty sure that latter spurred the creation of the former. Think about it, if commercials were better, were more like thirty second stories, wouldn't we be more inclined to sit through them? Sitting in front of the boob tube is one of the most passive activities known to man. It burns fewer calories than reading. We have to break from our near-comatose state in order to skip the commercials.

During my maternity leave, I watched a lot of commercials. I've put together a list of the ones I loved, and the ones I didn't.

Love'em List 

So much about this commercial to love. The adorable boy, the wonderful moment of understanding between the boy and the grocery store employee, the suggestion that English may not be Mom's first language but her desire to make her child happy is universal.

Campbell's also had this precious Darth Vader Dad ad ...
            ...which apparently angered a lot of conservatives.

To them I say,
“Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.”    – Yoda

Speaking of angering conservatives, I also totally loved this IKEA commercial.

Not only because it portrayed a same-sex couple, but because it did such a great job making its product part of the story. These two women are clearly meant for each other (no matter what some people say), and you can see it in how they've designed their kitchen for their shared take-out lifestyle. Also, I am insanely envious of their kitchen.

Loathe'em List 

I'm being somewhat unfair to Audi here, because I dislike almost all car commercials. (With the notable of exception of Subaru, which took its already fantastic storytelling ads and added the fantastic and totally appropriate spokesperson Eivin Kilcher.) But the #SeasonofAudi campaign epitomized everything that annoys me about car commercials around the holidays. A dad shoves his kid out of the way because he's blocking the Audi logo for a family photo; a woman who just received a new car (not an Audi) gazes longingly at an Audi rolling by; another woman sighs with happiness, "18 inch alloy wheels ... you remembered." Car commercials at this time of year always focus around the gift-receiving, not the gift-giving.

And the idea of Santa trading in his sleigh for a BMW? Uh. Way to kill the magic.

Fragrance Ads
I have a love/hate relationship with fragrance ads. On one hand, they are unapologetically bizarre. Part Bond movie, part Cirque Du Soleil, these surreal little short stories have next to nothing to do with fragrance, or even personal hygiene. Why is Johnny Depp a rock star, and why is he burying his jewelry in the middle of the desert? And most important, why is there a coyote on the roof of his car? No one knows, but I may start using this commercial as a prompt in my next creative writing class.

On the other hand, fragrance ads also unapologetically promote body/beauty ideals and heteronormative behavior tropes that feel not just out of date, but super icky.  Almost everyone in a fragrance ad is white, young (or young looking) and almost impossibly slender. It's as if every holiday season, the Ghost of 80s Fragrance Commercials returns to haunt our screens. Only, this spirit isn't interested in you changing your ways at all ... just the way you smell. 


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