#3. Stupid or Made-Up Suggested Uses For the Product
Most commercials to give you some idea of what you can do with their product. The Sham-Wow can soak up spills! Comcast can get you more channels than DirecTV! DirecTV can get you more channels than Comcast! The Citi Kitty can teach your cat to use a toilet!
Some commercials however, inexplicably suggest things you can't actually do with their product, or wouldn't do, or both. Like this Nissan commercial, where a Nissan pickup drives onto the runway as a disabled jet attempts to land, and takes the place of its front wheel.
They actually put the fake "news report" on YouTube, with fake interviews and everything, and got a ton of comments arguing about whether it was fake or not, despite the "Fictionalization. Do not attempt." warning right in the video.
Another thing the Nissan Frontier can't actually do that they're using as a selling point for what it can do is push a dune buggy up a hill when the dune buggy gets stuck.
"Are you showing me something the car can't actually do? Sold!"
Probably the worst commercials in this category are the State Farm "genie" style commercials, which at least started out making a modicum of sense, where drivers would get their car stolen or damaged and sing the State Farm jingle, thereby summoning a State Farm agent to take care of their car claim. They would then make more wishes for silly things, like replacement bodies for their significant others, which the State Farm agent tries to ignore while continuing to do their job processing the claim.
However, recent commercials have forgotten the whole original point of getting an agent to quickly take care of your auto claim, and just make them general genies. In this commercial two guys in danger summon a State Farm agent to spirit them away to safety, which I'm pretty sure is neither a service State Farm provides, nor something people are even looking for in auto insurance.
I know when I compare insurers, I always check out their teleportation policies.
And for product features that actually have useful applications, advertisers sure have a way of ignoring all those and coming up with some function nobody would ever use it for. Like having a smartphone where you can talk and surf at the same time. There's a ton of ways a regular person might want to put that to use, none of them being calling trivia contests from home and looking up the answers.
What, she never won a home computer?
And sure, maybe if your wife calls you and you realize you've forgotten its your anniversary, you might want to look up something quickly on the sly, like which anniversary it is ("12 years together, isn't it wonderful, darling?"), but I don't see what good it's going to do to google "fine dining" and then immediately have to hit the road in your car. Is he going to actually find the specific restaurant and make the reservation while driving?
I don't know if it's a good idea to have talk-and-surf commercials made by people who have obviously never needed to talk and surf on their phones in their lives.
#2. What IS the Purpose Of This Product?
Just as bad as giving you a fictional use or worthless use for the product is giving you no apparent use at all. Say what you will about eHarmony, at least their commercials are to the point. "Look at this happy couple that is so perfectly matched! We will perfectly match you too!" True or not, at least they know what point they're trying to make, as opposed to, say, Zoosk.
Zoosk ran this bizarre commercial about a woman looking up men on Zoosk, and suggesting she could go for some "serious romance" with one prospect. She then imagines their evening together, which apparently involves them wanting to have sex and being too clumsy to do so. She then decides on "just a movie date."
Unintentional headbutting, a common dating problem I guess.
This raises a number of questions. Why does she assume that getting heavily involved with the guy will lead to clumsy collisions and injuries? How does Zoosk help her avoid those problems? Does it tell you who is clumsy or not? Or let's just assume she wants to avoid serious romance for whatever reason and only go on a casual movie date. Zoosk is the only method that allows you to do this? You can't message people on any other dating service and specify what kind of date you want to go on, it just automatically betrothes you?
In another Zoosk ad, one girl talks about a disastrous experience where her friend set her up with an "athletic type" who turned out to be a delusional dart-thrower.
Wannabe dart champions, a common type in the dating world.
She concludes she should stick with Zoosk instead. Why? Isn't she more likely to run into people with inflated self-descriptions that she can't check on a dating site? At least with a friend setting her up, she could have had the friend's opinion in addition to the guy's description of himself. It's somehow better to just rely on the guy's own description?
In both cases they do a good job of setting up a terrible scenario, but don't do anything to explain what Zoosk would do to help them avoid that scenario. It's like an Apple ad saying, "It sure is terrible, isn't it, when your house burns to the ground? Buy a Mac."
#1. Have No Idea Who the Audience Is
For this category, I'm going to call out the much-reviled Lexus December to Remember commercials, where some rich asshole surprises their rich asshole significant other with a Lexus for Christmas, while most of us are trying to figure out how to keep our houses.
They also live in a world where apparently everyone recognizes the Lexus Christmas jingle.
What's puzzling is that these ads don't apply to anybody. Obviously the 99 percent can't go around buying a car on a whim. But the people that are so rich they can afford to buy a car on a whim? They're not buying Lexuses for their whims. They're buying Ferraris and Rolls Royces and Land Rovers, and if they're trendy, Teslas and whatever the hot new environmental car is.
Leonardo Di Caprio drives the $100,000 Fisker Karma hybrid because he is way above Lexuses.
And it's not just a matter of money. Car buying is an extremely personalized decision, picking colors, seat materials, wheels, options, etc., even if you know exactly what model they want. Surprising someone with a car is like surprising someone with a tattoo. It's not likely to turn out well.
But these commercials aren't for the rich people that can buy a Lexus with whatever is in their wallet on any given day. These commercials are for upper middle class people who can just barely afford a Lexus, but want to believe they are on par with those rich people that can afford to buy cars as Christmas presents. The actual buyers they are targeting will be buying Lexuses for themselves. The whole present-buying story is just a fantasy to show them the kind of high-class company they'll be in if they buy a Lexus.
But catching up to the Joneses, especially imaginary Joneses, is a surefire way to end up in debt of the kind that's screwed up our country, so if anyone's tempted by that Lexus ad, think twice. Use Zoosk instead.
Or wish for a Lexus from your State Farm agent.
Check out more from Christina in The 7 Most Condescending Sports Euphemisms and 6 Things Everyone Wants To Share And Nobody Wants To Read.