We all knew that one guy in college who would say something truly horrible and then raise his hand for a high five, unaware that not everyone in the world thinks domestic abuse or casual racism are hilarious. Ever wonder what happened to him? Well, turns out he went into advertising, and now he's raising that hand to an audience of billions. Here are six ads that assume all consumers are terrible human beings.
A time-tested technique of TV commercials is promising their product will allow you to solve some uncomfortable predicament, like your boss showing up for dinner unannounced, or your favorite dress being stained right before a party, or being surrounded by black people, or ... wait, what?
In this Australian KFC ad, a very white dude finds himself sharing bleachers with a bunch of considerably less white dudes, who are being all loud and nonwhite-like. The protagonist covers his face with his hands to indicate his displeasure, as if his look of quiet panic wasn't eloquent enough already.
The man addresses us to ask, "Stuck in an awkward situation?" And then, with the supreme confidence of his colonialist ancestors, he produces a signature bowl of deep fried chicken out of nowhere and holds it up as a silent offering to his captors. Suddenly, the crowd is soothed. "Too easy," he tells us.
When the clip went viral, KFC apologized unreservedly and explained that it wasn't really racist at all, because they were unaware of the "black people can't resist fried chicken" stereotype and would never, ever demean minorities. We'd be more willing to believe this if 1) this hadn't aired in notoriously-racist Australia, and 2) this was the only time KFC tried to tell us that the only way to communicate with black people is through chicken. In a completely different KFC ad, we see a little black girl having trouble fitting into her new school in China. A classmate takes pity on her and leads her to a KFC, demonstrating the universal language of "original herbs and spices" and "racial stereotyping."
When Ford announced their new F-150 truck would be made out of an aluminum alloy, their rivals at Chevrolet decided to run a series of ads reminding everyone that they're still using steel. Not only that, but Chevy wanted to make it clear that aluminum is for pussies -- dead pussies.
In this deranged psychological experiment passing itself as a car ad, a bunch of people whom we're assured are not actors are put in a room with two cages: one made of steel and one made of aluminum. After interrogating these non-experts about the properties of each metal, the Chevy representative releases a live freaking bear into the room, giving the volunteers a few seconds to pick a cage in which to shit themselves.
And yes, according to Chevy themselves, that wasn't CGI or two little people in a suit. It was a real "known Hollywood bear" -- a phrase presumably indicating that this bear is a regular fixture at cocaine-misted after parties on the Sunset Strip.
All the volunteers picked the steel cage, which Chevrolet presented as indisputable evidence that steel is superior to aluminum, ergo they make better cars than Ford. Except, as you probably guessed, that isn't even true. It turns out aluminum has a range of advantages when it comes to auto construction. Being a lighter element, it allows for more flexibility without necessarily compromising the strength (incidentally, it's also what they use for real bear cages). In fact, after spending considerable money making fun of aluminum in various ads, Chevy's parent company, General Motors, ended up announcing that they're switching to aluminum themselves beginning in 2018. The point is, the only reason you should ever lock yourself in a steel cage is if you're a professional wrestler.
You don't have to try too hard to sell macaroni and cheese. It's the perfect food for people who are too busy and/or lazy to spend more than eight minutes cooking dinner, which accounts for roughly 90 percent of the population. One of the only ways you could make mac and cheese seem unappealing is by suggesting that eating it will force you to destroy your family. Which, of course, is exactly what Kraft did in an entire series of commercials.
In this first ad, presumably written by an unmarried behavioral psychologist who poisons stray animals, a dad is casually hanging out in a living room when he gets a text from his (very) pregnant wife upstairs, asking him to make some mac and cheese. The dad promptly goes to the kitchen, as the too-smart-for-his-age son (we know that because he's reading a book) turns to the camera and recites a lesson he has clearly come to learn all too well: "Kraft Mac & Cheese will make a man do questionable things."
The dad sits back down on the couch and eats the entire box of mac and cheese himself, then texts back "Sorry. All out." He does all of this without a trace of emotion, like a soulless automaton murdering scores of striking factory workers because that is all it is programmed to do. Kraft's logo then pops onscreen as a chipper voice says: "You know you want it." The "it" in question being to starve your pregnant wife.
It's clear from his wife's reaction that he does this kind of shit all the time, which at best means their marriage is doomed, and at worst means she's the victim of psychological abuse. And like we said earlier, it's not just this one ad. Kraft's entire marketing strategy is to convince us that their macaroni and cheese will bring out the worst in you. From a cruel grandma, to a neglectful mother, to a dad with a secret family, to a lady who steals a truck, the main characters -- those who get to enjoy the product and are supposed to represent the target audience -- are always irredeemable sociopaths.
They even have one that uses mac and cheese as a hilarious metaphor for drug abuse and domestic violence, because this company is run by goddamned aliens.
Snickers is kind of like an old racist relative. They might usually mean well, but every now and then they confuse "punchline" and "witty observation" with "hate speech" -- as evidenced by this mildly homophobic gem from 2008. Time has only strengthened Snickers' resolve, as we see in this more recent ad starring a group of construction workers.
The construction workers are shouting polite compliments at passing women, inverting the tired old stereotype that any man who works in this field must have a second penis inside his skull instead of a brain.
The men continue expressing their admiration and respect for women in increasingly elaborate ways, culminating in the whole lot chanting about gender equality (otherwise known as "basic human decency"). So far, so good. But then ...
PSYCH! It turns out these men were just suffering from starvation-triggered delirium! For those who haven't seen a Snickers ad since 2010, most of them show normal people turning into bizarre things like a Gremlin or Betty White because "You're not you when you're hungry," but naturally, a bite of chocolate-covered nougat is always enough to break the undesirable curse.
So not only is the ad telling us that construction workers are misogynistic ogres by nature, but that Snickers bars are the catalyst for perpetuating sexual harassment. Have a Snickers, the commercial screams, and return to your natural state of objectifying terrified women who want nothing more than to walk outside by themselves in peace.
Getting terrible service from your cable company is one of the specific hells of modern society that no dystopic writer could have predicted. You know what sucks even more, though? Spending time with your loved ones.
Or at least, that's the premise of this ad from Time Warner Cable. It starts with a couple finding out that their cable doesn't work -- at which point the man can barely mask his excitement over getting to play video games instead of having to waste time watching movies with his dumb girlfriend. Right away, you have to admire the balls it takes for a cable company to begin their ad by pointing out that the service they provide is unreliable, and trying to convince us that that unreliability is a benefit an actual human being would be excited about.
Unfortunately for our hero, the Time Warner announcer then says that "We no longer offer you an excuse to get out of Friday romantic comedy nights" -- they are now "committed" to getting to you within 24 hours if there's an outage. The ad ends with the voice saying "Sorry, buddy" as the man sinks into the couch in despair, his cruel girlfriend looking on without pity. Human interaction is torture!
Of course, promising to fix the cable within 24 hours is nothing to boast about -- that they consider this an improvement speaks volumes. How long was it taking them before? A month? All of this is but another chapter in Time Warner's ongoing advertising saga of "We know we suck, but we're trying to suck less, for you." On a similar note ...
It seems that ad agencies in charge of car commercials are particularly unhappy people. For example, they are possessed by the singularly baffling notion that suicide sells Hyundais. Hyundai sales must have gone up considerably that year, because Dodge decided to get themselves a piece of that action by releasing an ad to forever link their brand to existential depression and douchebag entitlement in the minds of consumers.
The ad consists of a series of static shots of miserable-looking men looking at the camera as the narrator lists a number of hellish chores they'll have to suffer through today (like "cleaning the sink after shaving" or "getting to work at 8 a.m."). We're not sure what the DSM-V classification for the perception of common politeness and regular human behavior as torture is, but it's somewhere between "Andie MacDowell being forced to fly in coach" and "Patrick Bateman."
Why "Patrick Bateman," you ask? Well, because the complaints we hear narrated over these sad-ass dudes bizarrely shift from focusing on petty day-to-day work/life annoyances to being specifically angry at a female significant other. They're not even reasonable complaints -- literally the first one is "I will take your call," as if deigning to answer your phone when your partner calls you is going above and beyond the scope of what should be reasonably expected in an adult relationship.
Then, as the list of grievances begins to narrow in scope from "I will listen to your opinion of my friends" and "I will be civil to your mother" to "I will put the seat down" and "I will put my underwear in the basket," the camera suddenly begins zooming in to the strained, suffering eyes of a man in an expensive suit as he struggles to retain his grip on sanity. This is a man who is a remark away from killing someone with his bare hands, and as Dodge's helpful narration has informed us, that someone is definitely a woman.
Not to worry, though! Dodge defuses the situation by announcing that, because of the litany of noble sacrifices these droopy-faced men are making, they will be allowed to drive the car they want to drive. BOOM! A Dodge Charger speeds into view, coming to save everyone's penises as the slogan "MAN'S LAST STAND" explodes authoritatively on screen
It's disturbing enough that "getting to work on time" and "cleaning up after yourself" are presented as acts of heroism, but the fact that the ad abruptly shifts gears to start ranting about women being the source of all men's misery is downright chilling, because the only consumers who fit into both the "have enough money to buy a new Dodge Charger" and "have an irrational hatred of women" categories are wealthy opportunity killers.
Tanya Lukyanova does not have a Twitter account, so that was a link to their homepage.
Zoroastrianism used to be one of the biggest religions in the world, but their idea of heaven had a slight twist on it: To get there you'd have to cross a bridge, sometimes rickety, sometimes wide and sturdy. If you fell off, you'd go to the House of Lies for eternity. Fun! Not terrifying at all! This month, Jack, Dan, and Michael, along with comedians Casey Jane Ellison and Ramin Nazer discuss their favorite afterlife scenarios from movies, sci-fi, and lesser-known religions. Get your tickets here, and we'll see you on the other side of the bridge!
For more insanely questionable advertising, check out 10 Awesome Ads (For Traumatizing Children) and 7 Insane Ads That Have No Clue What They're Selling.
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