Tag Archives: TV

Sorry…I Was Eating a Milky Way

Today at the Storytime we are going to have a special talk for the Admen! Squeeze in tight so everybody can fit, there’s room for everyone at Aunt Mary’s!

Guys, I understand you are under a lot of pressure. Your creations have the ability to last forever now thanks to the internet and I’m betting your clients are asking the impossible from you. I’m sure they want an iconic campaign that reaches every target market and spans different media all while sticking to a tight budget. I’m guessing you got to hear all about your client’s neighbor’s nephew who is just a wiz with that social media stuff.

I really feel for you. It’s hard. But I wanted to give one small, gentle piece of advice from someone who loves advertising:


milkyway ad road

Yes, I get it, assholes are really in vogue right now. We might even we living in the golden age of the Jerk-Almighty.  But here’s the thing: nobody wants to buy stuff from a jackass.

Currently the biggest knuckleheads in my book are the folks in the campaign for Milky Way candy bars. These commercials feature workers accomplishing terrible results at their jobs (misspelled tattoos, poorly painted street markings, hair burnt off client’s head) and when called on their poor work retort with an eye roll and snotty “Sorry… I was eating a Milky Way” not unlike a spoiled valley girl who was caught in her parents liquor cabinet.

My best guess is they were trying to edge in on Snickers brilliant “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry” campaign, but just not hitting the mark. The characters are rude and dismissive and truthfully not anyone I would want associated with my brand. I suppose a case could be made that the candy bars are so on point your forget about everything else…but I’m not buying it.

What’s more, none of these incidents are particularly creative. Misspelled tattoos happen and the “No Regerts” tattoo was featured in the movie “We’re the Millers.” Especially eyebrow raising is the cruise ship scenario which hits a little too close to the 2012 crash of the Costa Concordia in Italy which resulted in the death of 32 people. Not  exactly a gold mine of hilarious content.

We’ve talked about the choice of weird spokespeople before in the Liberty Mutual ads, making me wonder if the anti-hero is a trend with some legs.

But, Aunt Mary must give credit when due, I have to admit I find the print ads for this campaign creative and attractive, even though the sentiment is the same. Perhaps the stylized cartoon imagery makes it a little less dismissive? hmm…



My God, That’s Good Lamb!

Kids, the Storytime is a space that welcomes all faiths! Reasonable minds can agree that great ads are here for everyone to enjoy, no matter what day, if any, you set aside to ponder the mysteries of life.

It’s been said that if folks could just break bread together there would be a lot less misunderstand in the world, but that leads to another problem…what to serve? With many creeds’ dietary restrictions this is no easy feat.

Good News! The Aussies have figured it out; lamb is the answer! No beef? No pork? No problem! (You vegetarians can fill up on sides)

The PR ad shows divine figures at a dinner party, mingling with mortals and joking around. Finally they realize that lamb is the one meat they can all agree on. The commercial is fun but at the same time respectful, though there is a slight poke at Scientology. I especially like the appearance by a Jedi.

Still, not everyone’s a fan. The Australian Hindu community has taken issue with the image of Ganesha seemingly drinking wine and eating meat, which are no-nos.

The commercial runs a little long, clocking in at well over two minutes, but the in-joke gags give it remarkable rewatchability.

I’m also impressed by the Australian commercials in general. Aunt Mary’s first Friday Ad Spotlight was for the achingly beautiful spot for Boag’s Draft Beer.

Evidently, whatever the Aussies are selling, Aunt Mary is buying. I must be a sucker for that dreamy accent.

Crock dundee
Actual image of Aunt Mary writing this post

It’s Great Advertising, Charlie Brown!

You guys, “It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown” is on TONIGHT! What’s more, this is 50th anniversary and I’m totally geeking out. I love “Great Pumpkin.” It’s sweet and classic and they say “tricks or treats.” But there is another reason why I’m so fond of the show, watching “Great Pumpkin” is where I realized that maybe I enjoyed advertising more than the average kid.

You see, for me Peanuts holiday specials and their years-long sponsor, Dolly Madison, (makers of fine snack cakes) are inextricably linked. 1980’s Aunt Mary greeted the Dolly Madison ads as a welcome part of the show, an old friend that was as much a part of the tradition as every pumpkin in the patch or ghost costume.  Even now when I watch a Peanuts show I have a deep sadness that they no longer run the sponsor card for Dolly Madison. “Can’t they just add it in for nostalgia’s sake?” I think, even though I know they can’t.

When “Great Pumpkin” first aired in the 1960’s, the opening sequence included a shout-out to their sponsors. The nod was edited out for later viewings, though Dolly Madison continued sponsoring the show into the 1980’s.

Dolly Madison used the Peanuts characters in their advertising and packaging from the 1960’s through the 1980’s. Hostess, makers of Dolly Madison cakes, announced plans to stop producing snack cakes in 2012, though subsequent communication indicated a plan to relaunch in the future.

Happy watching! May your pumpkin patch be sincere and your rock treats be few.

I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying – Thanks Subaru

There are some truths in this world.

It takes longer to choose a Netflix movie than it takes to watch a Netflix movie

That person in front of you at the grocery store self check out? They have no clue what the’re doing.

Hot caramel apple cider is delicious.

Anything that has a dog in it is probably going to make you cry.

Being a dog lover, I was happy with Subaru’s addition of adorable dogs in their commercials.

Whatcha up to, Dog?

And then I realized the dog in this commercial is dying.

The list of happy dog activities, the owner’s look of enduring love and knowing grief, the dog’s joy…

Hold on…


And yet, I can’t hate this ad.

An estimated 65% of Subaru drivers are pet owners and Subaru has brilliantly curated their advertising to this niche market. From this mensch of a guy treating his dog to one last road trip, to fleshing out the shower thought of “where would my dog go if he could drive himself” campaign, they really have figured out how to speak to the dog lover’s spirit in a respectful and knowing way.

That is the key to good advertising, find out who your potential customers are, figure out what they value and tell them you get it and this is how your product fits in with their life.

Now, if you will excuse me


Big Otis is OK

At some point in the 1950’s, an exasperated marketing exec in Battle Creek said “I don’t know. Make the mascot a giant Scotsman?” and OKs cereal’s Big Otis was born.

I get it, oats, oatmeal, Scotland. Sure. Why not? How else was Kellogg’s going to elbow in on that smug Cheerios? What kid doesn’t love a burly, bearded man in ethnic garb telling them what to eat? It’s like we’re printing money, baby!


Big Otis
Don’t look up, kids!

Big Otis spent two years basking in the cereal mascot sun before he was replaced with Yogi Bear in 1962. In 1963 OK’s was scraped in favor of Fruit Loops. It was grand while it lasted, wasn’t it, Laddie?


Thanks to Dan for suggesting today’s topic! Let me know if you have an idea for the Ad Storytime!

What’s Happening on Sunday Sunday Sunday?

Aunt Mary’s here to help you make small talk at your next cocktail party or awkward family dinner! Instead of politics or Game of Thrones, fill that weird dead air with this little tidbit: Hey! Did you know the “Sunday Sunday Sunday!” from those old school Monster Truck ads actually had a purpose?

That, ma’ friends, is called an icebreaker.

Jan Gabriel was the voice of auto racing (and later Monster Truck) radio and TV ads from the late 1960’s to the 1980’s and the originator of everybody’s favorite cliche tag line. He had been working as a motor sport track announcer in the Chicago area when the US 30 dragstrip in Hobart Indiana wanted to get the word out that they were open on (wait for it) Sunday. Gabriel believed the announcer was part of the show and he was sick and tired of boring announcers. His signature style was enthusiastic and loud. When the US 30 track owners needed a unique sound for their radio ads, Gabriel stepped up.

The copy for the ads was dense with a lot of information to cram into a 1 minute radio spot. At the time, commercials were recorded on tape in one take. There was no editing. The announcer had to get it right and any mistakes or running long meant starting over. Gabriel made it work, including the needed Sunday Sunday Sunday!” the advertisers demanded. They were determined to let folks know they were all about exciting family fun on SUNDAY! Originally, it was thought two voices would be needed to get the Sundays in, but Gabriel managed it on his own.

The ideas behind the Sundays is this:

First Sunday is to inform. (Wait, When?)

Second Sunday is to confirm. (I’m free! I could go to that!)

Third Sunday is to excite. (This is going to be awesome!)

Later, Gabriel had a syndicated TV program The Super Chargers Show, which is credited with bringing NASCAR to TV and Monster Trucks into 1980’s popular culture.

Gabriel died in 2010…on a Sunday.

I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke


Let’s be clear, this is an ad trying to get you to buy a soft drink.

It’s also an ad with a message of hope and reaching out to other people in the spirit of friendship and caring.

As we mourn the loss of so many in the past days to senseless violence, let us vow to do what we can to help each other. To erase the “us vs them” mentality from our hearts and minds.  To live with charity, positive action and kindness. To never, ever NOT EVER read the comment section of a news article.

So gather ’round kids, because we are all in this together. We can be better.


Administrative notes: This ad is called “Hilltop” and first aired in 1971. It was reprise for the 1991 Super Bowl with the original singers being joined by their children. It is considered by we ad nerds to be one of the best commercials ever created and Don Draper of Mad Men had no part in its development.

Those Angry Insurance Ads

You know that weird cousin or drunk uncle no one wants to sit next to at Thanksgiving? The one that makes you think “Yeah, I’ll just bring another bottle of 2-Buck-Chuck to Grandma’s today?”  I’m wondering if some advertisers have decided these folks are an untapped market. I mean, conspiracy theory nephews need car insurance too, right?

And none are better at tailoring their ads to Facebook-fight aunts than Liberty Mutual Insurance. Their current campaign, filled with angry, put-upon people is enough to make the most ardent ad-lover scramble for the remote’s mute button.

Let’s pretend you are the new beloved of a wonderful person. They have brought you to a family gathering where you will get to meet the whole damn clan.  Suddenly, your cousin who is no longer allowed at the golf club isn’t so embarrassing, is she?

First up is cousin Lily. She’s…um…well, she’s really into her car. Please, whatever you do, don’t mention Brad Pitt at dinner. Trust me on this.

liberty insurance ad Brad

Oh look! It’s Aunt Justine and Uncle Phil. Their native tongue is passive aggressive. If we’re really lucky we’ll get caught in one of their fights, but have no idea they have thoughtfully put us in the middle until the drive home!


And now we meet Aunt Kat. We politely refer to her as “organized”. A potluck at her house is no less orchestrated than a military invasion. Want to know why my brother isn’t here today?  He brought the wrong spoon for the potato salad to last year’s Forth of July picnic and hasn’t lived down the shame yet.

coffee lady

Mutual Liberty, I get it, folks hate paying for insurance, it’s weird and expensive. I even applaud you for understanding this fact! I’m just trying to figure out your game here. Your competitors’ spokes people include a charming, personable and (I think Australian ???) gecko, the adorable and approachable Flo, the golden voice President from 24, and the now super buff JK Simmons, and you, what? decided to go with an anti-hero?

Yet, Mutual Liberty isn’t alone in this. It seems more and more groups are going for the angry crowd. Blue Buffalo dog food’s ads had characters who were ready to sharpen pitch forks because their dogs’ food wasn’t gourmet. Now University of Phoenix has released an incredibly pissed off commercial that promises we will all be sorry for underestimating their students, to the tune of “If I Only Had a Brain” from The Wizard of Oz.

There is no doubt we are living in a hayday of the angry person, I just never expected Madison Avenue to grip this derision for profit. What does it say about our society when the sizzle we are selling is burning anger?


Those Gawdaful Charmin Bears

Gather ’round, my children, for as it has been written in the prophesy, the time has come for Aunt Mary to speak the truth.

My philosophy in writing the Ad Storytime is that creative work is hard, marrying the ingenuity and psychology needed for advertising is harder and we should acknowledge this process. I try to praise the great and fun efforts and respectfully inspect the ones that miss the target.

But, Y’all, I can.not.stand those damn Charmin toilet paper bears.

This long running campaign is obviously doing something right because Charmin trots them out time and again, but if it were up to me it would be hunting time and Charmin bears would be in season.

I cannot imagine the hubris it takes to actually answer the smart-ass hypothetical of “Does a bear crap in the woods?” with “Yes! And he uses our product to wipe his butt.” How does an Adman walk into a pitch meeting with this in their wing? Were they drunk? Were the clients drunk? Was everybody just really super crazy drunk?

My loathing is three-fold:

1 It’s twee. Toilet paper is a pretty straight forward and honest product. Everyone needs toilet paper and really there’s not a huge difference from brand to brand, so I get the need to set your product apart, but the cuteness is too much. In a savvy marketplace that loves nothing more than irony, Charmin decided to go the baby talk route. Furthermore, implying the mother bear is checking her family for dingle-berries is gross. One ad even references skid marks. Not cool.

Mamma Charmin, the pinnacle of Helicopter Moms.

2. It smacks of building brand loyalty with kids. It feels to me that children are the target market here. It is an old trick to engage a population when they are young so they are comfortable with the product when they are adults (Joe Camel anyone?). It certainly is playing the long game here, hoping kids will have the warm fuzzies 20 years hence. I can also see parents buying Charmin while shopping with their kids because Junior thinks the dancing bears are funny. P&G even prints the bears on the Charmin packaging making it easy for kids to pick out and has created stuffed animals of the bears.

I acknowledge this may be a “Bitch eating crackers” point on my part. Building brand loyalty is a respectable strategy if it is done with care. For fun, here is an example of it not being done with care.


3. They replaced Mr. Whipple with this?

Sure, Mr. W. had his issues, including a fanatical need to keep housewives from squeezing his toilet paper selection, but he had heart and the commercial landed where it needed to. This here is some comfy toilet paper and a goofy slogan was born. I like to think he spent a lot of time on those TP pyramids and had witnessed one too many folks tipsy from cooking sherry use it as a soft place to land.

To prove they were once capable of awesome advertising, here is a great Charmin ad. Simple and classy, it’s an elegant appeal to a higher sense. This fine lady would never shake her booty in your face.

charmin flowers ad

With this  public reproach I’m sure the Charmin accountants have a better idea of why they are $10 short each month as Aunt Mary refuses to buy this product. You can do better, we have faith in you!



The Taste of a Scandalized Generation

It’s Friday. Spring is here. Let’s party with some vintage Madonna!

The year is 1989, and a titillated nation awaits the new Madonna album. Pepsi Cola, still riding high from the success of the their previous spokespeople, Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson,  thoughtfully gives my homegirl $5 million to let them use the title song in a super special commercial. Pepsi even produced a commercial which promoted Madonna’s commercial. Pretty meta.

Two hundred and fifty million people around the world tuned in to see the premier run featuring her song Like a Prayer.  Madge, looking stunning, brings her A-game and everything is all nostalgic and wistful, with just a hint of Madonna edge for street cred. I imagine Pepsi execs pumping their fists into the air, slapping each other’s backs and adding a little more rum to their rock glasses.

The next day Madonna’s official video for Like a Prayer premiers on MTV. (Please insert sound a record scratch here)

Madonna crosses

In her video, Madonna makes out with a priest in a church and dances in a field of flaming crosses. Pepsi execs realize they never thought to preview her actual video for the song.

People FREAKED. Religious groups the world over called for a boycott of Pepsi. The soft drink maker was declared the worst of heathens and peddlers of the smut.

Pepsi terminated their contract with Madonna allowing her to keep the $5 million as long as she didn’t stand too near a Pepsi machine. Our world narrowly missed a total breakdown in law and ethics. Whew!

In the end this much hyped commercial only aired the one time and in the past few years the pop maker and pop princess have made nice with Pepsi even referencing the song in their 2016 Superbowl commercial. We truly live in magical times.