Review 10 – The 3 Worst Ads on TV

Apparently, the average person is exposed to somewhere between 3,000 and 20,000 commercial messages per day.  Sadly, I would estimate that between 2,999 and 19,999 of them are absolute dirt. However, it’s heartening to notice a few golden nuggets peeping through the confusing, lying, exaggerating pile of poo that is the vast majority of the advertising industry’s output.

These are not those nuggets.

In fact, these three examples are among the worst ads on TV at the moment.  I’ll tell you why.

 

Nicabate Minis/Nicorette Lozenges

Why it’s a crap ad: false advertising.

This ad commits the most basic of advertising no-nos: it portrays its product as something it’s not.  The benefits of Nicabate Minis/Nicorette Lozenges would seem fairly straightforward to me: they relieve cravings for nicotine without the harmful effects of cigarettes.  The idea behind the ad is straightforward too: every time you resist a cigarette, you celebrate a little win.  And while there are plenty of creative visions that could convey either of these messages, Nicabate/Nicorette have chosen to present their product in an entirely false way and confuse the viewer.

The ad in question, embedded above, is simple enough.  Man 1 asks Man 2 if he would like a cigarette.  Man 2 says “I’m good”.  What he should have responded with was “will those cigarettes give me the confidence to perform karaoke in an empty bar while hallucinating that a miniaturised Maori funk band is playing a cover of Rare Earth’s 1971 classic I Just Want to Celebrate on a serving tray?  If not, then I’ll be fine with these sweet pills from Nicabate/Nicorette.”

I’m not a smoker, and am therefore not a Nicabate/Nicorette consumer either.  But I’ve done the research.  I’ve described the intended effects of the product above: they help kill ciggy cravings.  But even the most severe side effects are limited to fast or irregular heartbeat; and swelling of the face, lips, mouth or throat resulting in difficulty swallowing or breathing.  Nope, that’s not hallucinating or confidence enhancing.  So, somewhere in between turning down a cigarette and hallucinating/performing karaoke, the man has obviously consumed LSD and drunk five to seven beers.  It’s the only logical explanation.

But hey, he’s not smoking, so I guess in a roundabout way the ad does settle on the right message.  4 ciggys out of a pack of 24 for this one.

 

Jeep

Why it’s a crap ad: no mention of product benefits, presents a vague and unrealistic scenario.

Jeep is one of those brand names that has become so deeply embedded in society’s language that it has almost become a descriptor for vehicles suitable for use on rough terrain, just like Mackintosh’s raincoats have inspired an entire product category, the Mack raincoat.  They’ve reached this enviable position through precision engineering that combines the benefits of an off-road vehicle with aesthetics and luxurious interiors suitable for inner-city and family transport.  Recently, they’ve become surprisingly affordable too, and you can get a low-end Jeep, The Patriot (also the subject of this ad) for just $25,000.

So for their latest campaign, did Jeep focus on affordability, luxury, precision engineering, or the fact that their name is one of the most famous and highly-regarded in the world?  Your guess is as good as mine.

What unfolds above is some sort of awkward dialogue between Michael and an unnamed woman, presumably Michael’s wife or at the very least mother of his children.  I’m assuming they have kids because they’re cleaning up plush toys while they talk.  When unnamed woman tells Michael that she bought a Jeep, he repeats the question several times to confirm the information he’s just heard, before looking impressed.  Then the ad descends into the advertising cliché that is four-wheel-drives driving on an array of roads.

This wouldn’t happen.  These are more likely scenarios:

A:

Michael: so what did you end up getting?

Woman: I bought a Jeep.

Michael: You bought a Jeep?  Why?  I’ve told you I don’t bloody like that brand and I’d prefer a smaller, cheaper car since we only have one child, and said child is a tiny newborn that can travel safely in virtually any vehicle given the right safety seat.  It’ll be years before we need a bigger car than a hatch like the bloody Volkswagen Golf, which has awesome ads, by the way.

 

B:

Michael: so what did you end up getting?

Woman: I bought a Jeep.

Michael: Wow, I thought you were just going out to get a pack of almonds, 12 eggs and a tub of yoghurt like I asked!  What about our mortgage?  The kids we have to raise: there are so many doctor’s and dentist’s appointments involved in that.  The older one, he’s just about to go into high school… now we’ll have to send him to a shit one and he’ll end up making rash decisions and expensive impulse buys like you do.

 

C:

Michael: so what did you end up getting?

Woman: I bought a Jeep.

Michael: You owe me $25,000.

 

D:

Michael: so what did you end up getting?

Woman: I bought a Jeep.

Michael: You bought a Jeep?  Well so did I.

Woman: Fuck Michael, I knew we should have discussed this at greater length.

Ultimately, I guess the point I’m trying to make is that at the end of the ad, and I’ve seen it a lot, I still have absolutely no idea why I should buy a Jeep, or what Michael is really thinking under that seemingly impressed grin.

1 wheel out of a four-wheel drive.

 

AAMI

Why it’s a crap ad: it had big shoes to fill, it’s more overplayed than Stairway to Heaven at guitar shops.

How the mighty have fallen… the glory days of Ketut, Rhonda and the overweight yet charming Balinese foot massager are but distant memories for AAMI and viewers now, played out of existence by this dismal excuse for an ad.

This is actually an ad for the AAMI Skilled Drivers Course, a course for under 25s that’s included with any AAMI comprehensive motor insurance policy.

The initial idea and execution for this ad is decent enough.  A woman reflects on her past driving experience when she catches a glimpse of her former self at the traffic lights.  But it was never going to be as memorable as the internet phenomenon that was Ketut’s romance with that loveable redhead Rhonda, and to a lesser extent, her Balinese foot massage.  The characters are nowhere near as endearing and the humour is mediocre at best.  If AAMI were hoping for this to spread like wildfire like their past ads, their hopes were misplaced.

Perhaps knowing their new campaign wouldn’t be as catchy as the old, AAMI took a different approach.  Instead of actually making a good ad that would stick, they have seen fit to seemingly buy up every single 30-second slot on every network at every time of every day to force it to stick.  Seriously.  This ad gets played all the time.  I have actually seen it play back to back in between goals during an AFL game. It should be illegal to play an ad this average this many times.

Every time it plays, I feel a little piece of my heart dying, never to return to me.  Sure, you can say change channel, but it’s like the taxman, death or Liam Neeson in Taken: you can’t escape this thing, it will find you, and it will destroy you, no matter where you turn.

0 out of 12097497654986, which I think is the number of minutes of my life I’ve spent watching this ad that I’ll never get back.

Review 7: MasterChef Season 5 – Episode 1

I used to love MasterChef.  I loved sitting down in front of the idiot box at 7:30pm on a nightly basis, watching people trying to put together restaurant quality meals for three portly men.  I loved the joy on their faces when they succeeded, almost as much as I loved the tears when they failed miserably. It was comforting TV.

But it quickly became boring TV, routine TV, repetitive TV.  Subsequent seasons stuck to the same formula.  You could almost rattle off contestant monologues before they happened (“I really don’t think I can get this done in time!”).  You could call the episodes before they happened: (“I bet they travel in this one!”).  The judges said the same shit every time, and you could predict the infuriatingly timed ad breaks to the nanosecond. Even spin offs like Celebrity, Junior, and The Professionals did little to mix things up , with dropping viewer numbers a clear indicator that my feelings were shared by viewers across the nation.

So Season 5 has arrived, with its battle of the sexes angle.  The advertising campaign was tiresome, but maybe it was actually a disguise.  Maybe Ten were deliberately setting the bar low so I could be blown away by awesomeness.

First impressions weren’t good, but they weren’t crap either.  It was all just a bit… expected.  22 contestants, 11 male, 11 female, split into teams based on gender and given the task of putting together a three-course menu for 14 on a tight budget.  This was MasterChef by the numbers.

After being put to the kitchen knife in the ratings by 7’s My Kitchen Rules, I thought Ten would open with a gun celebrity chef presenting a borderline impossible challenge.  Put together a dish that’s raw.  Make an Asian dish without any kitchen utensils.  Turn this chicken into a foam.  I don’t know, something different, something outrageous, something that’ll turn heads and cause people eagerly anticipating another “just waiting for a mate” moment on Highway Patrol to change channels.

A challenge that limits contestants by budget hasn’t just been done before in every season.  It discourages exotic ingredients and dishes with multiple complex elements, instead forcing contestants to come up with things that are a bit mundane.  Chicken pie?  Lemon tart?  Sure, executed well the simple things are beautiful for the tastebuds.  But this is television; I can’t taste, smell or feel, so I have to find interest elsewhere.  The basics can’t really excite on the small screen, at least not to the extent something revolutionary could.  The challenge is a missed opportunity for a season opener, that’s for sure.

While I understand that getting the contestants’ thoughts on the on-screen action is essential, it’d be nice if they were more insightful.  For the most part contestants are describing word for word, almost frame by frame, what’s taking place, much like an Arnold Schwarzenegger DVD commentary (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TjvSGSPAcPs).  “Look at what is happening.  And just in case you, the idiot viewer, can’t understand what is happening, let me describe it to you at length”.  You could easily edit out this filler and halve the show runtime.

Emphasising the superfluous nature of the above is the lack of focus on the actual food; the finished dishes.  Now correct me if I’m wrong, but the contestants’ survival on the show depends entirely on the end product they give to the judges.  So why, when it comes to tasting time, are we shown a handful of shots of the food and some token comments before it’s all over?  This is where time should be spent.  Instead of showing someone whisking sour cream, then showing someone talking about how they were whisking sour cream, commit those five minutes to letting the viewer know how the bloody thing presents, feels and tastes.

Giving more time to finished dishes would also lead to greater input from judges Gary Mehigan, George Calombaris and Matt Preston, a trio who I’ve actually come to appreciate more as seasons have passed, but away from MasterChef.  I’ve seen them in interviews, Can of Worms, columns in magazines and the like.  These are three unique, respectable individuals who are definitely experts in the field of food.  They can crack a pretty good gag too; they’re funny guys.  If you give them more time on-screen they’re inevitably going to show this personality, rather than rattle off the same lines they always have.  They’re serviceable though, and nothing they say seems forced; these are obviously blokes who can genuinely tell a brûlée from a brisket, are happy to give credit where it’s due and don’t hold back if something tastes like old bath water.  My sources tell me Calombaris has dropped 20 kilos too, so there’s that.  Speaking of judges, if this is a battle of the sexes season, why do I only see male judges?  Pretty glaring omission if you ask me.

The battle of the sexes angle adds a little bit of friendly banter between the two teams.  It’s actually pretty entertaining, but this is only episode one.  I feel like the boys and girls are going to have to come up with some absolute pearlers if they’re going to keep things fresh over a whole season.

It’s hard to get an early read on how the contestants will be, but the spotlight seemed to be on Jules and Nicky of the girls and boys respectively, who captained their teams in the main challenge.  Jules is a headstrong “take no shit from nobody” kind of gal, which is a breath of fresh air after the crybabies of past seasons.  Nicky is a bit of a weirdo, with a military background, and while he seemed to be quite good at delegating, he was shit at actually doing any cooking, which seems crucial.  But at least he wasn’t a cardboard cutout.

Overall, I think this season of MasterChef has potential.  The battle of the sexes angle could add intrigue and conflict.  Limited glimpses of contestants show promise that there’ll be some real characters among the 22.  The judges are going through the motions but are nonetheless decent, despite the fact that there’s NO FEMALE AUTHORITY IN A BATTLE OF THE SEXES-THEMED SEASON!  There are plenty of ways it could fail and instead become another irritating exercise in repetition.  If the banter’s going to continue, there are going to have to be some absolute ripper calls in there, or it’s all going to get real annoying, real fast.  The challenges need to up the ante too, because episode one’s was simply underwhelming.  And can you show us more food please?  That would help.

I give it a six-course degustation out of ten.

Review 4 – Celebrity Splash Episodes 1-3

“Holy shit. It’s finally here. All of my favourite celebrities together in an action-packed competition, performing dives that may be either incredible or disastrous, much to my great amusement.”

The people behind the big budget, much-broadcast TV ads for Celebrity Splash may have expected the above reaction from viewers. What they got was more along the lines of “Huh?”

I thought it was some kind of tongue-in-cheek promo for Dancing with the Stars. My friend Cat Marmody said he thought it was just one challenge within a larger whole, some sort of multi-stage, Wipeout-esque competition. But no, it’s definitely celebrities (debatable) diving (just as debatable).

Nevertheless my curiosity was sufficiently aroused to draw me to Channel 7 with an ice-cold beer on Monday May 29 and Tuesday May 30. And believe it or not, things actually started pretty well.

Episodes start with a showcase of people who can actually dive doing some pretty spectacular stuff; presumably they’re divers in training. It’s not Olympic-level Chinese diving team precision, but it’s more than what I could do, and far more than what the celebrities pull off, so it’s nice.

The hosts are okay. Larry Emdur plays Larry Emdur to perfection, but that doesn’t change the fact that he’s 100% interchangeable with Andrew O’Keefe, Eddie McGuire, Grant Denyer or Karl Stefanovic. What I’m saying is he’s a male Australian TV personality, and behaves EXACTLY how you’d expect him to. He’s not exactly breaking the mould here, but he chips in with a few harmless zingers. His female co-host doesn’t fare so well.

What Kylie Gillies says isn’t boring or offensive; it isn’t really bad in any way – in fact her enthusiasm is pretty endearing. The problem is how she says it. Her delivery is much like a blend of Puberty Boy from the Simpsons, and an over-excited, shrill middle-aged woman who could burst into tears at any moment but instead constantly teeters on the edge. You may as well cheese grate your eardrums, and I feel bad saying that, because she seems really nice. Unfortunately for Kylie, this is the Reviewman, and I’ll bloody well call it how I see it/hear it.

The judges are Greg Louganis, Matthew Mitcham and Alisa Camplin. While two of those are legitimate diving champions, in particular Louganis who is regarded by some as the best diver in history, Alisa Camplin is, quite literally, a skier. She’s not a crap judge, she’s got innocent charm and charisma to spare, but so do the other two. There’s no Simon Cowell here, no variety, no truly humorous or “damn that was harsh” moments. It begs the question – you could’ve brought in a token mean person or outrageous comedian to lend a bit more personality to the cast, so why choose a skier? It’s like making a BLT, but instead of putting in bacon, the best bit of the BLT and the thing that primarily makes you want to eat it, you substitute that shit for cucumber, which is just another vegetable and pretty lame in and of itself. Sorry Camplin.

Onto the contestants, the beef mince of this entertainment Bolognese. According to my calculations, they vary from the D-List (Josh Thomas, Andrew Symonds, Leisel Jones), right down to those who could probably benefit from more letters in the alphabet. But status shouldn’t matter; if they entertain me I’m all good. Results vary.

Some people are downright boring. Renae Ayris, Nick Bracks, and Andrew Symonds are spectacularly dull. But at least they’re not desperately annoying. Those duties are left to Josh Thomas, who I’ve never rated, while Brynne Edelsten has no redeeming qualities and makes me angry whenever she speaks. But there are highlights. Adam Richard is a funny guy and could teach Josh Thomas a few things, Denise Drysdale has cute moments, and Derek Boyer is suitably intimidating without actually being scary. The rest sort of float around like flavourless croutons in mediocrity soup. Thankfully, Paul Fenech is absolute comedy gold.

He truly is the star of the show, and if it were up to Australia alone you could’ve given him the title of best Celebrity Splasher before the series started. He’s full of beans, overflowing with the stuff, and is prone to impromptu dives mid-interview, out of nowhere karate moves, pretending to be a shark and saying ridiculous stuff like “This stooge is going to give it 100%!” or “We’ll be like two subwoofers pumping together”. He can’t dive that well though, and was eliminated before his time. And there’s the problem with the show.

There’s a very good reason why a YouTube video of Matthew Mitcham’s gold medal-winning performance in Beijing of ’08 has around 112,000 views, while “Indiana Diving Bloopers” has more than six million. Love it or hate it, society loves to see unfortunate people failing at things. That’s what gets the viewers. Channel 7 has ignored this PROVEN SCIENTIFIC FACT, and has instead devised a scoring format that awards two scores out of ten, for Technique and Courage, for a total of 20. Channel 7 has forgotten that this isn’t the Olympics; this is a group of down-on-their-luck celebrities who will do anything they can for their moment in the spotlight.

Encouraging actual effort is wasting an opportunity. Why not add in a third category: Hilarity? Biggest Splash? Outrageousness? The diving is the essence of the show, so it pays to make it entertaining. Sadly, it doesn’t entertain consistently. Because these people are actually trying, the worst dives aren’t hilariously crap, they’re just poorly executed. And the good dives are actually kind of good, but not spectacularly so. On the whole, they’re uniformly average, so it becomes like watching the same sort of dive, time after time.

So far there’s only been one dive highlight: Derek Boyer’s astonishing belly flop, which probably took more guts and mental and physical strength than a gold medal-grade Olympic dive. But he was eliminated in episode one, losing the interest of people like me who want to see Richter Scale-rattling belly flops. In subsequent episodes he’s been joined by Leisel Jones, Edelesten and former Essendon footballer Andrew Welsh who one can take or leave. But 7 also lost arguably the biggest celebrity on the list in Josh Thomas, the funniest in Paul Fenech, along with Renae Ayris and Demi Harman: the token eye candy (Laura Csortan, Miss Universe 1997, pulled out before her first dive due to injury, but she’d also fit in this category).

So if you do the math, just halfway through the series, Channel 7 has lost the guy who did the funniest dives, the biggest star of the show, the funniest bloke and the best-looking female contestants. That’s a lot of viewers down the drain, including 99% of the straight male population. And guess what? They went largely because they weren’t technically sound at diving. With its judging system, Channel 7 shot itself in the foot, then reloaded and aimed a bit higher.

While Celebrity Splash is undeniably hilarious in terms of concept, it falters in key areas, and delivers a fatal blow to itself where it counts most – the diving. I struggled to bring myself to watch episodes two and three after the initial promise of one (Derek Boyer’s belly flop, specifically), and won’t bother with four to six, since everyone half-decent is gone. Is it irony if a show that should have been based on belly flops is itself a flop?

3 belly flops out of 10