Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Why is Grandma Eating off the Ironing Board?

I watched about 19 seconds of the championship Monday night. No dog, no fight – an incurious concern for UCLA - an unspecific and disobliging attitude toward any Florida university – general weariness. Pick any of those reasons and they could all fit for my sports-fan negligence. Also, the one guy I know who went to Florida was defused when I told him I didn’t see the game. But there is a deeper reason, one that has nothing to do with basketball or brackets or college. The Super Bowl commercials stunk this year.

Come the end of the football season, much is said of the money advertiser spend on the Championship game. However there is little said of how the most popular of these spots meet their demise come the Final Four. I don’t mean the end of the ad campaigns, of course, I mean the public willingness to stomach them. The natural reaction when an agency has hit commercial or catch phrase on their hands is to rush follow-ups, guaranteeing buzz for at least a few weeks. These campaigns usually culminate in the week between the Sweet Sixteen and Championship with beer commercials usually most at fault. Quick examples: The Budweiser Frogs and the Whazzz-up guys and those chicks who wrestled in the cement and the fat guys who trannied up for cheap beers on Ladies Night.

The problem with this advertising philosophy is that is often means the death bell for actual creative campaigns. There is only so much you can do to stretch some of these gimmicks. Maybe not the best one, but an example is the Doctor Galakowitz beer commercial from about 10 years ago. A man approaches a limo driver at the airport and claims to be the man named on the placard. He naturally butchers the name Doctor Galacawiczch. When corrected by the driver, the weasel answers “Yes, I am!” and is allowed entrance to the limo to savor the good doctor’s Bud Light.

Hilarious at the time, both the name Galacawiczch and the punchline “Yes, I am!” enjoyed a few weeks of popularity and retelling in high schools and workplaces. Nothing funnier than a mangled Eastern European last name. Or so we thought until Budweiser redid the commercial for the Final Four and disastrously featured the name and amazingly unfunny persona of Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski. Having Coach K squeak his name out of his tiny, puckered lips was dreadful. The campaign appropriately ended shortly after.

Unfortunately, this same fate fell upon the genius Slacker/Holiday Inn commercials as well. Although the product (Holiday Inn) and the punchline (What does this look like, a Holdiay Inn?) are things I will/have never use/d, the characters in the ads were a favorite of the Pygs. It may be that the main character Mark Harvey shares some striking characteristics with a guy I know.

I can't stay awake. I get in bed and it's like "sssssst." Out.

One of the first ones is here, featuring the reaction phrase “Why not?” performed in a tone I still mimic whenever asked about the misguided action I am currently undertaking.

Ill-advisedly, Holiday Inn decided to full court press the series during the Final Four and Mark finally moved out of his house and into the hotel. In a set of commercials shown during March, he did things like snaek out of his door and steal the room service meals from other hotel guests. It transformed Mark from lovable slacker to unkempt thief. Bad form, Holiday Inn, bad form. In the only humorous spot from the series, Mark asks the front desk if he can use their fax machine to send a copy of his book manuscript. When the accommodating concierge inquires about the title, Our Lazy Hero answers “It’s called When the Wheels Fall Off.” The impressed hotel worker asks if it’s a self-help book but a confused Mark answers “No. It’s about a bike.”

Like the Galawakitz commercials the series ended shortly after the Final Four. But unlike the Bud Light commercials they were actually good. I am unaware if this was a calculated last huzzah for Mark or just a blunder by the ad agency, but either way it left a bitter taste is many people’s mouths. The wheels, indeed, did fall off.

I did a little research and found the actor who played Mark is named Ross Brockley and he lives on a farm in Nebraska. He’s also apparently a conspiracy theorist. Here’s a cached article about him from some now defunct magazine. I also found another blog from a guy who seems to be friends with Ross and tells us of some of their adventures. Some of the other Holiday Inn commercial are there as well.

I say we need to bring Ross Brockley back. In fact, I’m going to watch anymore college basketball this season until the do. Rock on, brother.


The Governess said...

you understand my love for those commercials. Ross Brockley: american hero.

dudemanhey said...

Dude, that Coach K ad was freaking hilarious! If you didn't laugh at that you may not have a sense of humor at all.

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