by Tom Gower and Mike Kurtz
Tom One of the staple sections of Scramble for the Ball when we first started writing it was a segment where we mocked (or, on rare occasions, actually praised) one of the commercials that aired during football games.
We now no longer discuss commercials weekly or almost every week, but they are still a big part of the experience of watching football and worthy of discussion.
Thus, this week's column is all about some of the commercials that were a part of the 2014 NFL season.
Kate Upton Freemium War Game
Mike: I love the combination of extremely generic game title with nonsensical commercial title: "Game of War: Fire Age" and ... "Reputation?"
Tom: I don't know what I like the most, that Kate without any serious armor is riding her horse quickly on a solo charge toward the enemies, or that they're charging and abandoning their defensive positions to attack these big scary monsters. I mean, if that's a conventional army of any sort and they have bowmen or slingers, she's dead as a doornail.
Mike: She is apparently Athena, so I suppose she doesn't really need armor. Being immortal.
Tom: If she's immortal, what's she need the army for?
Mike: That ... is a very good question.
Tom: When I got my iPad, I did download a freemium game, just to see what the experience is like. In that, the answer was that enemies did respawn, so you needed more than the hero to win battles.
Mike: The only freemium game I've played is the Doctor Who-branded Puzzles & Dragons clone, which is actually really great, you should try it.
Tom: I know my gaming tendencies, so I actively avoid freemium games in the same way I actively avoid MMOs.
Mike: It's an odd freemium game in that spending money on the game really doesn't do anything. Other than unlock largely identical characters. So fanservice. In any case, I have no idea how this weirdly named game plays, nor do I really care.
Tom: Yes, I was just about to note that. All we find out about the game is its title. It may just be a knockoff of some other really popular Generic Freemium War Game.
Mike: I do like the "...other than what's about to come out of those trees" bit, though! Upton is a bad enough actress to infuse just the right amount of cheese to make it work.
Tom: For some definition of "work."
Free Yeast Rolls!
Mike: I would be wary of the value of any food a buffet lets you take home. Also that they are so strenuously emphasizing that they are really letting you walk out the door with bread.
Tom: This commercial sounds like fanservice as much as the Dr. Who freemium game premium products. I admit I've never eaten at a Golden Corral, and the appeal of all-you-can eat restaurants has generally passed me by, so I'm not likely to eat there. But the implied logic of this commercial is that free yeast rolls occupy roughly the same place in the Golden Corral iconography that cheddar bay biscuits do in Red Lobster's.
Mike: Also, what is a yeast roll? I'm not sure I actually want to know the answer. Because we already have a term for "dough with yeast in it." The word is "bread."
Tom: A sort of dinner roll made with yeast?
Mike: So, a dinner roll. Except emphasizing the yeast component actually makes it sound less appetizing.
Tom: Our special occasion meals, like Thanksgiving or Christmas, typically include a fancy sort of dinner roll with yeast, so it's easy for me to conceive of free yeast rolls as a special attraction. It seems like a niche commercial, or maybe Golden Corral is one of those things that's really popular among people we just don't tend to talk to.
Mike: Probably a little bit of both. Still a really odd thing to advertise so breathlessly.
Tom: Eh. It's probably a cheap item to make, and taking yummy yeast rolls home sounds like a much better idea than it probably is.
Cadillac + That Guy
Mike: No, not the actual That Guy. Tom needs to brush up on his terminology.
Tom: That Guy is apparently named Stephen Merchant, who has been in a lot of things I haven't watched. (No, this does not distinguish him from everybody else on TV.) Also, the message of this commercial seems to be that this car is popular only with women, since the men, e.g. in the coffee shop, pay it absolutely no attention.
Mike: They liked their commercial so much they showed it twice in one YouTube video! And your point about men is actually not true, there is a brief bit where two men are staring and Merchant shrugs open-mindedly.
Tom: Yes, which is why I mentioned the men visible in the coffee shop. I guess it's attractive only to straight women and possibly homosexual men.
Mike: Well, they have their conceit. And they're sticking to it. Even if it is a waste of Stephen Merchant.
Tom: I'll take your word for it being a waste of him. Then again, beyond its waste of him, I don't know what stands out about this commercial. It's mostly a generic "our car is attractive" plus That Guy.
Mike: This is actually the worst we've seen of the "people staring at cars" trope. Usually it's somewhat tolerable because the presentation accentuates the "looking at cars" aspect. Whereas this one goes for a joke that gets old about 10 seconds in. It's amazing when your joke overstays its welcome in a 30-second commercial. So well done, I suppose!
Tom: Also, one thing about this commercial is Raiderjoe doesn't like it, as you'd know if you saw his Twitter feed. See here, for instance.
Mike: Well, then, the only option is to burn it with fire.
Pumping Up Aaron Rodgers
Mike: These commercials are unique in that they are actually pretty funny the first time or two. I have no idea why State Farm thought it was a great idea to bring back Hans and Franz, but I do have a soft spot in my heart for them.
Tom: I admit it, I chuckled at "Not with those puny arms."
Mike: Rodgers' initial "wait, what?" also took a while to wear thin. The problem, as with the other Rodgers State Farm commercials, is that they're on every other commercial break.
Tom: By now, we've had about 19 weeks of these commercials. And, as you noted, they're on all the time. Unlike you, I was never a fan of the Hans/Franz shtick either.
Mike: After the second game or so, they were old. 18 weeks later, they are just grating.
Tom: Grating, but not like they're "Our Country." They're just tired.
Mike: I don't think we'll ever see another "Our Country." Thank god.
Tom: Yes, but each season brings its own incredibly annoying commercials.
All of the Rob Lowes
Tom: Take, for instance, DirecTV's series of Rob Lowe commercials. Please.
Mike: Be careful, with humor like that I might believe you are actually responsible for the Rob Lowe commercials.
Tom: I do applaud DirecTV for not running the same commercial over and over. It's an idea that lends itself to variations on the theme. Unfortunately, the theme is terrible, and the variations just make it so you can't inure yourself to seeing the same annoying commercial over and over again. Instead, you get a new annoying commercial just as soon as you're used to the old one.
Mike: I agree, I know that when I am being stuck with red-hot pokers I like them to throw in the occasional branding iron to change things up and keep it fresh. That is true, it's odd that we have such ability to become used to really obnoxious commercials.
Tom: Yes, and you don't even have Twitter to distract you during commercial breaks!
Mike: I have small children, which are much more coherent than twitter.
Tom: Sometimes, at least, judging from my holiday experiences. And that -- Small Child Rob Lowe -- may be DirecTV's Super Bowl ad, for all we know.
Mike: So you DO write those ads! Get 'im, boys!
Tom: If that ends up being their actual Super Bowl ad, I may just quit.
Nest-Brand Corporate Espionage Systems
Mike: I think making fun of old people not "getting" technology will never truly go away.
Tom: By now it is, or at least should be, a TVtropes entry of its own. (No link to TVT for your own good. We learned our lesson in 2012.)
Mike: Although I should note that Allstate did have an amusing commercial with a teenager patronizingly lecturing his mother about their claims app while she was in the process of completing her claim. A subversion, in TVT parlance. This is a particularly terrible example of that species, however. It's a thermostat. If he were talking about, say, a Roomba, then sure, you can play it for laughs. The scary technology controls the local climate within a given range.
Tom: Zombiepocalypse would have been a much better scenario than the nternets coming to life and taking over, what with The Walking Dead being one of the most popular shows on television in the 18-to-49 demographic.
Mike: The premise is just too far removed from the credulity required to carry the joke.
Tom: Nest's college kid commercial is the same way. Or maybe I'm just befuddled why you'd want a smart thermostat. I manage perfectly fine with a basic programmable one running a set cycle I can manually adjust.
Mike: It's a fancy tech thing you can have and show off. And it even comes with some free spying on you! Ain't technology grand?
All I Want for Christmas is for Microsoft to Shut Up
Mike: You'd think Mike Golic would be able to afford his own Surface.
Tom: You'd think Bob would've beaten him up over that already.
Mike: This whole series of commercials (of which this is the worst) is mind-boggling to me. It follows closely in the steps of Samsung's extremely obnoxious "make fun of Apple marketing" marketing, but somehow does it even worse while hawking a much better product. By all accounts, the Surface Pro 3 is amazing.
Tom: Watching the commercial, I see it does some potentially useful things. But the commercial is still bad!
Mike: I have yet to read anything resembling a negative opinion from anyone whose opinion I would actually care about.
Tom: That's pretty remarkable, making your product look more useful than the competition but still leaving a negative impression.
Mike: Indeed. It's just too cute. And it's trying way too hard. "Look at this awesome thing we made. Yeah, we know the first two Surfaces were terrible. This is basically a really awesome super-portable laptop/tablet hybrid that will actually run everything you have." It doesn't quite sell itself, but that is a really attractive product. Instead we get sly comments about how it has a USB even though the MacBook also has a USB port! It's not even mocking the correct Apple product!
Tom: Well, it's like they decided they could shift seamlessly from the making fun of the MacBook to making fun of the iPad, and no, that just doesn't work.
Mike: I don't hope for or usually call for people to be fired, but everyone behind the Surface Pro 3 campaign needs to be fired immediately. Stop attacking Apple while also trying to imitate them. It's annoying and the opposite of endearing.
Tom: Just show us how awesome your product is. That seems like a winning strategy. You're not going to win the hipster crowd, so stop marketing to them.
Mike: Perhaps the hipster crowd are the only ones still buying tablets? That would confirm my ugly prejudices against hipsters and tablet owners in one fell swoop!
Again with the Chryslers
Tom: In case you were not sure about the relationship between Chrysler and foreigners, they made a not interestingly different version of this commercial in German as well.
Mike: I suppose the question is: How long does Korean and American auto manufacturing have to be on par with Japan and Germany before this stupid trope goes away? For reference, Hyundai ran similar ads about five years ago, although with a much more amusing punchline about the firm's name.
Tom: Well, I think this could've been a novel and interesting commercial maybe 20 or 25 years ago, when there was a real perceived quality difference and maybe even a big difference in the location the cars and their parts were made. I haven't done my car research lately, but last I checked even American-assembled cars and Japanese-assembled cars sold in the United States had plenty of parts from other countries. And of course foreign automakers have plants located in the United States.
Mike: Exactly. I understand that there may still be some lingering doubts by some ill-informed people about the quality of American cars, but I can't imagine that population is large enough to base a national ad campaign on. Particularly airing during NFL football, a league that has tried so hard to wrap itself in the flag and deep fry itself in jingoistic fervor.
Tom: Nothing's more American than deep frying everything you could ever want to deep fry, and some things you couldn't possibly imagine deep frying. Eventually, I will try a deep fried Oreo, just to see what it's like.
Mike: Deep fried things are delicious, that's why.
Tom: Remind me to figure out a way to deep fry a football before our next meeting.
Mike: I'm sure you just described thousands of Bama fans' consolation meals.
Tom: S-E-C! S-E-C! S-E-C!
Oh, by the way, congratulations to you on the national championship won by your beloved alma mater.
Mike: This is the second national championship I have been vaguely aware of in my time as an alum. So truly a momentous occasion. I even watched the game!
Tom: I'm sure they were inspired to victory by your newfound dedication to watching
them the commercials in preparation for writing this column.
Mike: I will say, even though I do not particularly enjoy watching college football, I am glad that the playoff format has been so thoroughly validated in its first year. A team that never would have had a shot at a national championship in other years just beat the snot out of the two teams that likely would have been handed a championship game berth otherwise. A big win for the Ohio State University, and maybe the first step toward respectability for the NCAA.
Tom: And on that punchline, which of your most notable commercials of 2014 did we not mention? Voting for the Football Outsiders reader awards is coming up soon!
Staff Playoff Fantasy Update
Tom: Aaron streaks into the lead after the Divisional round of the postseason despite mediocre production from his running backs, and seems to be in good position to win the title with seven of his nine players remaining. Mike falls to second place and has only Reggie Wayne, he of just 1 point through two games, remaining. Tom is in third, but may need a Packers-Colts Super Bowl to pass Aaron.
Mike: Please stop talking about Aaron streaking.
|FO Playoff Fantasy Update|
|QB||Tom Brady||Russell Wilson||Aaron Rodgers|
|RB||Marshawn Lynch||Shane Vereen||Eddie Lacy|
|RB||Jonas Gray||LeGarrette Blount|
|WR||Jordy Nelson||T.Y. Hilton|
|WR||Brandon LaFell||Doug Baldwin||Randall Cobb|
|WR||Reggie Wayne||Julian Edelman|
|TE||Coby Fleener||Rob Gronkowski|
|K||Adam Vinatieri||Stephen Haushcka||Stephen Gostkowski||Mason Crosby|
Best of the Rest
Another week, another week where surebrec holds the lead, now with 170 points. Tied for second with 158 points are justanothersteve and bballer2294, but puffbronfman is in good position with 155 points and Andrew Luck still around to add to his total. Full Best of the Rest standings can be seen here.
Keep Chopping Wood: One of the greatest quarterbacks of all time did not just finish last in passing DYAR this weekend, he looked helpless in doing so. In a weekend without any foot-shootingly awful moments from unexpected sources (c'mon, Rashaan Melvin was always going to be exploited by the Patriots), as much as it pains your Scramble writers to so, Peyton Manning launching missed deep throw after missed deep throw and throwing a fourth-down pass short of the sticks hoping for enough YAC to convert in the fourth quarter down two scores is KCW worthy.
Mike Martz Award: All season long, Jason Garrett seemed to forget at key times that his team had an incredibly good rushing attack in short yardage. After DeMarco Murray converted third-and-1 three times, Tony Romo fumbled a shotgun snap and threw a pass in the final minute of the second quarter. Dan Bailey's ensuing field goal was blocked, the Packers scored, and the game went from 17- or even 21-7 to 14-10 at the half. Third quarter, Packers cut it to 21-20. A good Murray run the first play, then the next first down is a sack to make it second-and-18, followed by two more pass plays. Key fourth-and-2? Dez Bryant nearly made a spectacular catch, but why not use your most consistently effective player when the run game has been effective all day?