5 'Inspirational' Ads with Secretly Horrible Messages
Aside from porn and kittens, the thing we love most about the Internet is its ability to make us cry hysterically. Whether we're cruising TV Tropes' database of tackily written pseudo-heartwarming bullshit, scrolling through the last day of an adorable dog's life on Imgur, or sucking down the violently intellectually poisonous horseshit that Upworthy publishes, there's a perverse pleasure to be had by crying at the beauty of the world and then feeling better about ourselves because of it.
The problem is that the gremlins who work in marketing know this, and they've hidden some really terrible messages in their so-called "inspiring" commercials. For example, did you ever notice that ...
Canon Endorses Stalking
I'm just going to be preemptive here and admit that there are a shitload of Thai ads in this article. I dunno if this is because Thailand is fucking crazy, or because I'm racist, or some weird combination of the two. Also, is there a real difference between "Thailand" and "Taiwan," or are they secretly the same, like elk and deer? Ya know what? I'm gonna stop talking about race and just get to the ad.
In it we meet a charmingly awkward young photographer who develops a crush on a girl after he accidentally snaps her picture while he's chasing bubbles. They flirt, their relationship grows, and at the end they fuck in his dorm room.
What I just described is the story the ad thinks it's telling. You can tell by the music. The real story of this ad, intended or not, is that of a burgeoning serial killer popping his murder-cherry. All that "flirting" I talked about? A more accurate word would be: "he follows her everywhere without her knowledge and discreetly snaps photos," but that's not a word, so I'm just going to say "stalking."
"Yeah, let's market to THIS guy!"
But it's cute, see, because after he snaps all those pictures and makes a crazy-wall of her face, he invites her over to his murder-closet. Those words describe a cute thing.
This is less an ad and more a warning to anyone who plans on dating the director in the future. Wait, no, you won't even have to date him. You won't even know he's into you. You'll just get an invitation, and when you arrive at the address scrawled on the inside of the envelope, he'll emerge from the shadows and ... well, we can't actually know for sure, but it most likely ends with him wearing your skin as a suit.
Porsche Is Trying to Ruin Childhoods
Children are adorable. Bam: got your attention. Now check out this little shit:
Scientifically speaking, you're already riding high off his childlike wonder, because our scientists long ago discovered how to project concentrated adorableness through computer monitors. It just so happens that the little dude is captivated by a nearby Porsche 911. After school, he rides his bike over to the dealership, and the guy who runs the dealership even lets him sit in the driver's seat. Even though it seems like this is about to cut to the kid sobbing in the ER and become a PSA about sexual predators, it takes a far darker turn: as he leaves, he smiles and tells the guy who let him in that he'll "see him in 20 years."
Ha! Joke's on you, kid! That guy will surely have been promoted to a better job or killed himself by then, and you'll be living in an entirely different town. The stupid little shit has no concept of how much can change in two decades. But that's not the real problem here.
The Real Problem Here
The monologue at the end of this commercial lovingly says, "It's a funny thing about a Porsche: there's the moment you know you want one, there's the moment you first own one, and for the truly afflicted there's the decade or two that passes in between." So it's advertising the fact that kids fall in love with these sports cars and then carry that love into adulthood.
This is a minor point, but I don't think they really float across the water like an automotive Jesus.
Am I wrong? Someone let me know in the comments.
Hey! Did you know that doing that is illegal in some countries? The U.K. has passed fucking laws saying that advertising can't "take advantage of the natural credulity and sense of loyalty of children." Because it's like brainwashing, because children are stupid and emotionally vulnerable. I hate them so much.
I couldn't be less impressed.
Porsche isn't just doing that in this commercial, they're fucking celebrating it. "We brainwashed your kid to want our product," says Porsche. "We own them now, body and soul. The illusion of free will is a bitter memory," says Porsche. "Your flesh and blood lines our ranks. If you cross us, you will be destroyed at the hands of those you love most, and your last thoughts will be heartbreak at their betrayal. And when our blood-armies cover the Earth, the Reign of Our Dark Word shall commence," says Porsche.
When you read between the lines.
Best Buy Targets the Emotionally Vulnerable
There's nothing worse than a long-distance relationship, especially when you're going to college. Not only are your hormones and ambitions pulling you in totally opposite directions but your GF is totes going to a different 'llege than you. Which causes hella emos, right? I might be using these terms wrong. The point is, maintaining your high school relationship through college is tough -- but luckily, Best Buy is here to help.
Somehow, a Best Buy sales rep who knows you exist isn't the most unrealistic part of this commercial.
This probably seems like small potatoes after that whole "Porsche shall bring about the apocalypse" thing, but this ad bums me out. I mean, just look at those poor, naive bastards. They're clinging to a doomed relationship out of a childish sense of loyalty and permanence. Their innocence is about to be dashed, they can never go home again, and Best Buy is profiting off that.
Ever notice that dudes all be going to schools with square lamps, while chicks are always going to schools
with round lamps? Ha! Men and women are different.
Basically, this ad bothers me for two reasons: one, we see a Best Buy customer-service rep actually helping a customer, and brother, there's a Best Buy right near my house, and I promise you that never fucking happens. Second, it just seems cruel to emotionally vulnerable teens. Maybe I'm overreacting but -- OK, bear with me here, right? Best Buy can't possibly be in business due to the service they provide, right? The only advantage a real store has over Amazon.com at this point is customer service, and that train has sailed right on over the tracks. So maybe -- just maybe -- Best Buy is a doomsday machine powered by human misery.
I know it's a bit of a stretch, but how else do you explain this ad? There's no other way.
Guinness Targets the Emotionally Empty
A bunch of men in wheelchairs play basketball to sappy music. One of them falls over, but he pulls himself up, because that's inspiring. Finally, at the end of the game, all but one of the men stand up and head to the bar. Surprise! Turns out most of them can walk, but they're just pretending they can't so that their poor disabled friend has someone to play basketball with. Isn't that inspiring?
Awkward question: who's inspirational in this ad? The guy in the wheelchair, or the able-bodied dudes who would dare debase themselves by being his friend? As this blog points out, it's the latter, and that's super fucking weird. Because, as the post goes on to say, ads are "aspirational": they show you something that you want to be and then say that you can be that thing by buying the product. In this case, the product is a beer milkshake, and the aspiration is to be the kind of person who makes friends with people who are less than you. According to this ad, the only way to do that is to cut yourself down to their sick, broken level and then be applauded for it (probably by other people whose legs work). "So, what? You're saying that disabled people are less than?" No! The ad is saying that. If you disagree, then tell me, just what the hell is the ad saying? What is the message if not "you're brave for being friends with a cripple"?
When you look at this ad, the ad also looks at you, and it sees a wimp that wants to be tough. It wants to give you the easiest possible way to make yourself tough. And the easiest way is to go find a disabled dude, become his friend, and then totally creep him out when you offer to ride around in a wheelchair with him.
And what about the guy in the chair (that is, the guy who stays in the chair)? What does he want? No one cares. He barely counts as a demo.
This Fucking Ad
If I tell you anything about this ad, it'll ruin why it's so awful. But spoiler alert: if you watch it, you're gonna cry. This ad is even more heart-wrenching than all the jokes I'm going to make about disabled people later. It starts with a guy getting diagnosed with cancer:
He comes home to his family, and then immediately shaves his head, because if you don't do that no one will believe you have cancer:
Then he throws up and hangs out with his daughter and shut up, I'm not crying, I just have that disease the guy from Casino Royale has, only instead of crying blood it's tears, and instead of being a tell for when I'm bluffing it's a thing I do when I'm sad. But in the commercial he beats the cancer! I feel so inspired and rejoiceful! We see him jogging, hanging out with his friends, teasing his daughter, going to barbecues, and ...
... did he just fucking choke on a hamburger?
He did. He did, and now he's dead, right after beating cancer. How ironic.
The Fucking Shit Was That?
Guys, what the hell? I admit that there's a fine line between "bringing awareness to a tragedy" and "making me feel uncomfortable and manipulated," but this shit is all the way into "Nicholas Sparks fucking my dead puppy" territory. There's no irony, no clever twist. It's just awful.
And it's not even good advertising! This is meant to be promoting first aid. But people don't learn first aid because they're scared of their dad choking on hamburgers, they learn first aid because they want to be a hero. If you're making an ad about first aid, go the tried-and-true route: point out that if you're at a party and save someone's fucking life, you are super getting laid that night. The sexiest person at that party will put their tongue wherever you want -- and you won't even have to ask. Just point, and they'll start a lickin'.
That's what "aspirational" means. Give us something wonderful to try to be -- don't just remind us that our existence is governed by ineffable chaos and that our entropic lives will end in a pointless and cruel extinguishing of our consciousness. That's the kinda shit you put in comedy articles.
What This Means for You
You think you're pretty smart, don't you. You think you've got it all figured out, like the world doesn't have any more tricks for you. Well, I have bad news, and that bad news is an advertisement.
Not enough? Here are two more. These are all ads that tell inspiring, heart-warming, touching stories and then arbitrarily tack their own product on the end. Think you're above this shit? Think you're not being tricked by it? You're wrong.
The Part Where I Tell You That You're Wrong
Ads tend to work like this, according to science: they use either "logical persuasion" (like "this whiskey is made with fine ingredients") or "non-rational influence" ("when you drink this whiskey, titties"). And the scary thing is that if one doesn't get you, the other will.
People who try to make rational decisions in their purchases are more likely to impulse-buy when they are exposed to non-rational influence. So even if you always read the labels on shit, if you see an ad for Gushers with a bunch of sexy people in bikinis rubbing olive oil all over themselves (or canola oil, or vegetable oil -- it doesn't really matter what oil, honestly) then you're more likely to go, "Ah, just this once," and toss that candy right in your basket without even checking to see if it has any high-fructose corn syrup in it. Because the marketers have planted eggs of irresponsibility in your brain, and those eggs have now hatched and are eating your credit score. This world belongs to the marketing spiders now. Join me, and perhaps we can find a new home among the stars.
So is my point that all advertising is evil? No, I would never say that, because literally every cent of my paycheck is paid for by Cracked's advertisers.
For more from Sarge, check out 5 Movie Tie-In Ads With Subversive Anti-Capitalism Messages and 6 Obviously Terrible Things Movies Always Portray as Great.
Advertising is just the worst, except when it keeps us fed. Click the Facebook 'share' button below!