Sunday, July 31, 2011

SUGGESTIONS NEEDED: Commercials for Fixing

So, my piece about the terrible talking babies is not the post with the most views but it did garner an actual comment from a kind, mysterious, and no doubt sexy person, so I figured maybe I would talk about commercials more, because boy there are a lot that need fixing. I figure it's a good thing for blogs to have a couple things they do regularly as sort of reasons to stay involved (Chris Sims had his "Week In Ink," "Dollar-Bin Reviews," etc., for instance) and analyzing bad commercials is going to join my pursuit of scientific, rational state stereotypes.

The only problem is that I actually don't watch much TV. So post about some really bad commercials below.

My only request is that you please not tell me how to fix them. Otherwise what are you telling me to look at them for? You solved the problem yourself.

Classic (Good) Commercials: Grey Poupon

Right, so I've talked about bad commercials a lot recently and, lest you think I just hate everything, I'm going to talk about a commercial I think is actually really good. It especially stands the test of time, unlike, well... other older commercials. "Please don't squeeze the Charmin" comes to mind, but that's mainly the execution. In fact, I find that many popular/classic commercials from olden times only age poorly because of the poor (for today) execution. Most of the ideas for those commercials are still great, as opposed to today, where the popular commercials usually are perfectly fine in their execution but have a terrible idea at their core.

Anyway, here's the commercial.

Honestly, I don't have much to say about this one that isn't, "Now THIS is a good commercial." Because it is. It's brilliant. And what's more, it cost them nothing but the price of renting the two cars and hiring the actors. This commercial pretty much saved Grey Poupon from... well, from not selling so well. It conveys so much in a short amount of time and in this regard, I think, it is one of the most classic commercials. It also illustrates probably the purest example of one of the easiest (yet, strangely, rarely-well-done) ways to sell a more expensive product: tell people it's better. Grey Poupon isn't an expensive thing of mustard, it's a luxury item that shows you have taste.

And everyone ate up. And why wouldn't you? The commercial's fantastic.

In fact, the only thing I'd change--and keep in mind that this is mainly because sensibilities have changed (people liked narrators better back in olden times, hence the creation of fairy tales)--is to cut out the narration altogether or maybe clip the narrator's first bit about Grey Poupon being affordable and move it to the end. That way it puts a point on the commercial and adds a more explicit contrast between the mustard and the Rolls-Royces, implying that while both are equal in terms of class, at least the Grey Poupon doesn't cost you your firstborn child (this ancient financial system is yet another element of past life that can be seen in fairy tales).

That's all for today, I do still have a lot of stuff to do. Tomorrow I'll either talk about another good commercial, another terrible one, Science, or I'll just post a picture of a cute animal.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Fixing Bad Commercials: Etrade's Talking Babies

or: Why I Should Be In Charge of Advertising for Everything Ever, Part One

Talking babies (and talking animals) are used when the commercial has no actual joke. It is literally the laziest thing you can do. I talked earlier about the terrible trend of faux-nostalgia in car commercials, but this is way worse because those car commercials, while stupid and counter-productive like a video game boss with his weak spot on his front, at least had some effort put into them and some pretty neat (but wasted) concepts. This is just pablum.

 This picture is in case you didn't get the joke because I want you to know how clever I am

And there are people who think this is a brilliant ad campaign to run with, apparently. I'd hate to see the ones they rejected. The current title holder for "Most Popular Series of Talking Baby Commercials" is the series of ETRADE talking baby commercials, which are just terribly unfunny. Let me take you through a tour of them.

The First Commercial

Did you get the joke? No? That's because there isn't one!

That commercial aired during the Superbowl, which, I mean, is essentially the Cannes Film Festival of commercials. They thought it was worth paying however many millions of dollars for the thirty-second time slot. And then at the end the baby spits up! Get it? That's the only thing in there they could think of as a joke! Isn't that funny! Because it makes me want to die a little bit!

How to fix it:

You can't.

Anyway, you'll notice that these commercials have a secondary gimmick: the baby is on a (poor simulation of a) webcam for some reason. Now, in the first commercial it's because he clicks a mouse (which you can't see on the camera, so, uh, great work with the visual storytelling, guys) to show you how easy it is to invest in some financially stable group like Enron or Bear Stearns, but it makes less and less sense as time goes on, like in our next entry:

The Golf Commercial

The only thing this is doing is making me hate babies and keyboards

This, by the way, is another Superbowl commercial. For a different year.

So here, they're in a golf locker room, except they really just stand there like they're in front of a greenscreen, even if they aren't (but they totally are) It looks like they also totally added in that keyboard later, which is just lazy. Anyway, you'll notice that for this to make sense they've also added desks of computers, like you'd see at a library.

Except, well, I don't think that many golf locker rooms have those (even the fancy ones I've been in just have TVs and billiards; computers are too unrefined to be allowed in, I'll bet)

America's country clubs needed something new to discriminate against, and it was just a matter of changing a couple letters

and even if golf places do have computers, the computer in the commercial doesn't have a webcam. So, the baby, see, I guess he just... uh... brought a... connect... I don't get exactly what the logic is here. It's like they took a joke from the cutting room floor that was meant for a completely different product and then clumsily reshot it, like a drunk farrier.

The worst thing about the commercial, though, is the alleged punchline: "shankopotamus." I don't know if you noticed through all of the hysterical laughter, but that's not actually one of those pun-insult-type-things. It sounds nothing like "hippopotamus." They lamely try trick you into thinking it makes sense by naming the guy Frank. Which, as you will notice, already could work as the pun-insult-thing setup. So... why not just be satisfied with that? Why go out of your way to randomly slander an incredibly dangerous water creature?

Hippos don't hire lawyers.

Learn how to fix this commercial right after the jump.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Judging States Scientifically: Texas

To understand this noble venture we here (okay, "I here," there's only one person writing these) are undertaking, you may wish to start here.

Now that you are caught up, let us proceed with the business of Science. Our subject today is Texas, and the hard-hitting analysis is after the jump.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Commercials: Old Cars, New Cars, Same Trend

So I don't know if you've noticed this or not, but a new trend in car commercials seems to be "calling back to the days we made cars that looked distinctive and cool without actually bothering to do any of that ever." It's really annoying because I've been saying cars need to look more distinct for a while now (I especially don't understand BMW's strategy there) and now they come out with these commercials that are just plain misleading. More after the jump:

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Knowledge Gaps

You know those times where there's weird gaps in your knowledge that never get filled until long after they should have been? This happens to me quite a few times a year, mainly because my knowledge is essentially just a series of plugged gaps, but I can't think of any instances right now so instead I'll pass this one on, which involves a friend.

Architecture Pictures (featuring South Korea)

So I mentioned focusing on (South) Korean temples here but really there's so many that I haven't even scratched the surface, so instead here is a post of general cool, pretty architecture (featuring Korean temples, among other things). Most of these images are from Wikimedia commons. In fact, I think the only ones that aren't are two from the official site of the Hwa Gye Sa temple. Anyway, the pictures are below the fold, so click to see.

Update Schedule

I'm going to try to update every day, even if it's just pictures of baby sloths or red pandas (don't look them up, that will deprive me of material). As far as substantial updating goes, I don't know. I'm currently trying to establish a "buffer" of articles so that if I ever get writer's block I'll have a little time to get over it, but I'm also trying to start a blog so my buffer of articles currently contains a very precise 0.

This is the update for today, sorry. What's sad is I wrote it yesterday and held it back because I knew I wouldn't have anything for today.

The day's not over, though, there's still a chance.

EDIT: Totally not the update for today! I am currently researching Korean temples and decided to share some of the cool photos, so you're in luck! The internet likes hilarious photos of Korean temples doing crazy things, right?

Monday, July 25, 2011

Judging States Scientifically: An Introduction

featuring Kansas vs. North Dakota

Over at PWoT, there was a trend of saying things like "Oh of course this happened in WISCONSIN" whenever a news story about Wisconsin came up. The thing is, this happened for every state and every news story about every state, so it really didn't make any sense. If Wisconsin was a state founded to house the nation's odd news-makers (like a less deadly and thus slightly more amusing Australia), then it would make sense that everyone reacted that way.

But not every state was founded on those principles. In fact, states like Michigan, the handshake of Wisconsin, were founded on the principle of housing the nation's most boring people. In a time before 24-hour news networks, this seemed like a safe way to never have to put up with people who have sock collections ever again.

Anyway, it was clear that we needed a way to settle, once and for all, what states had which properties. And we would have to do it scientifically, based on a thorough analysis of their state coins--the reasoning being that states would try to represent their best sides on a coin that was going to be distributed amongst all the other states. Think of it like advertising. Would you make an advertisement saying "Come to Florida! We've got sand and also poison jellyfish and maybe sharks!" with neon pink as a predominant color? No, you wouldn't, unless you lived in a combination of Nebraska (the stupidest advertisers) and Tennessee.

Tennessee is where we put all the offensively bad graphic designers

So the theory was that we'd get a conservative reading of how much states sucked or what properties they had--but this was intentional. If bad things slip through in a representation of the best things a state can say about itself, then you know that state has problems. And boy, did a lot of states have problems.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Defending 1977 George Lucas

This essay-type thing was originally posted on the PWoT forums in a slightly altered format.

In answer to the question, "What happened to the George Lucas who said you shouldn't use special effects in place of story?"

It's a combination of a lot of things, but basically the problem is that he doesn't have other people helping him out on these movies any more. The first (or fourth) one was edited by a team of three people (who won Oscars for it, incidentally). The second one was directed by someone who wasn't Lucas, and scripted by two people who weren't Lucas. Lucas is a big ideas guy, and he needs people to help ground the movie, help him translate and interpret his visions and ideas to really get to the meat of the story. Otherwise they're an A.D.H.D.-inspired mess of things that would all work in movies that are not the movie they are being put into.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Why I Should Be in Charge of Comics, part one: Spider-Man and How to Tell Stories

or: The Problems of Marvel

Marvel’s main problem is a misunderstanding of how stories work and progress, how to create characters, and how to write.

Let me take you through this using, of course, Spider-Man, the most poorly-treated flagship character in comics history. Bad decisions (some later reversed) over the years had him:

1) revealed as a clone (reversed due to not only fan rage but the inherent stupidity of the idea: it turned out the guy who was the clone who was actually the real Peter was actually a clone)

2) be such a strung-out weirdo over feeling guilty for his Aunt’s soon-death that he bullied his wife into selling their marriage to the Marvel Universe devil (not reversed: the Editor-in-Chief of Marvel basically hates marriage)

3) Do you really want more examples after those two?

beginning a blog

My problem with blogging is that no matter how many insightful, unique, witty, sparkling, etc. things I have to say, when I sit down at the keys they all vanish. So basically I'll be powering this blog with some old stuff, some previously-written-but-hitherto-unreleased stuff, and hilarious photos of goldfish for the time being until the backlog tricks my brain into thinking that I actually have a blog and that I can then maintain it. So buckle up for the ride! It will be moderately exciting.