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RFP: Commercials–The Best, The Boldest, And The Zombified

When my wife and I moved in together, we decided not to buy a TV—we figured we could do without, what with most of our favourite shows available online.  It’s been more than a year now, and I really don’t miss the old boob tube.  Well, that’s not entirely true—I do miss the commercials.  Don’t get me wrong, I could happily live the rest of my life without ever seeing another spot for Tide laundry detergent, or Froot Loops, or Bad Boy Furniture.  But what about the Old Spice Man, or Dos Equis’ Most Interesting Man In The world?  Surely these commercials are worth remembering.

Like many things, the first advertisement was broadcast in the United States in 1941.  It was an ad for the watchmaker Bulova that ran before a baseball game between the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Philadelphia Phillies.  It was the first commercial, but it sure wasn’t the last.

As the years went by, networks began airing more and more commercials between and during programs.  In the 1960s, an hour-long show would run for 51 minutes, leaving nine minutes for advertising; today, however, an hour-long show rarely runs longer than 42 minutes.  Indeed, if a 1960s show is rerun today, it’s often edited or recut to allow for the additional ads.

For many today, commercials are a bother—tolerated only because they must be.  We often don’t look too favourably upon the ads that are sandwiched between our favourite television shows.  But maybe we should…at least some of the time.  If you ask me, I think that some of the most creative minds are those creating the television ads we see everyday.  Below, are some of the commercials that I find most striking:

THE BEST: Bold Choices
Commercials try to persuade us to part ways with our hard-earned money.  The worst commercials leave us feeling manipulated and used.  The best commercials, however, leave us feeling connected, often through a shared experience or emotion—in this case, a longing.  If you read The 168 Turnaround, then you’ve already seen this ad, but it’s worth seeing again.  Jim Beam’s “Bold Choices” ad works so well because it doesn’t centre on the product, but on a shared emotion—a longing to be where we’re “supposed to be.”


THE BOLD: Prevent It
I’ll go on record here as saying that I disagree with the tactic the Prevent It commercials used to promote work safety.  Fear is a poor tool to motivate safe work habits; indeed, fear can often cause accidents.  Nevertheless, the Prevent It commercials, and this commercial in particular, are some of the most striking TV advertising I’ve seen.  Be warned, this spot contains some rather disturbing imagery.


For one reason or another, not all commercials are deemed acceptable for the viewing public—at least not the North American public.  Turns out, our friends across the pond make and watch TV ads that are sometimes a little too racy or controversial or just plain old politically incorrect for our tastes and sensibilities.  Sure, we have our own share of banned commercials, but the European ones are often far better.  Case in point, the ad below:


THE FUTURE: Hell Pizza (Deliver Me To Hell—Real Zombie Attack)
Like I said at the outset, I don’t own a TV, which means if there’s something I want to watch, I have to watch it online.  And it was online that I found this: a choose-your-own-adventure zombie story.  It’s an ad for Hell Pizza, a New Zealand pizza chain, and it just may be the most fun I’ve ever had from an ad.  Word to the wise: this contains course language and graphic violence.


Rowing For Pleasure is a weekly opinions column written by Z S Roe.  Please leave a comment or question—all opinions are welcome, and all contributions are greatly appreciated.  If you like what you read here, please subscribe.


One thought on “RFP: Commercials–The Best, The Boldest, And The Zombified

  1. Because commercials have such a bad rap, I for one have written them off. Unfortunately I end up missing the ones that are true art. If only companies would realize that the content and quality of their commercials reflects who they are as a company. Thanks for sharing…maybe when I watch my ‘boob tube’ next, I will pay closer attention to the artwork!

    Posted by Rev Scott | March 10, 2011, 1:52 pm

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