I know you probably think I've been spending these romantic early days of motherhood experimenting with organic, gluten-free baby food recipes so I'll be prepared when the little bundle of joy starts on solid food, but the truth is that what I'm mostly doing is watching television while I wait for someone to stop by so I can hand them the baby and go take a shower.
One of the problems with watching so much television is that you end up seeing the same commercials, over and over again. And when you get a a bad one, it starts to drive you nuts. Like this one:
Can you spot what's driving me mental?
Veet is owned by Reckitt Benckiser. Wikipedia tells me that Reckitt has a market capitalization of 31.6 billion pounds. That's 31.6 billion. I feel certain that with this kind of money, and their global market penetration, Reckitt could have afforded to create an English-language spot and avoided this trainwreck that voiceovers forgot.
The original ad appears to have been in French:
Sadly, I can guess what happened here: Some navy-blue-suit type in the global head office noticed that the Canadian operations were about to spend a shedload of money on a media buy and said "Whoa, Nelly! That's a lot of money, and Canada only has, like, 127 people. So don't go wasting all kinds of budget shooting a new commercial. Everyone in Canada speaks French, right? Right! So let's just run that French spot we did last year."
And then the masters for the ad arrived in the Toronto office of the ad agency. The account director sighed, had a fight with the media buying company, finally managed to extract $5k from the media buy in order to get the French spot dubbed into English, and reflected, not for the first time, that being the advertising account director for a packaged goods client was not nearly as exciting and creative as she thought it was back when she was a junior account coordinator.
The other day, my friend and former ad agency comrade Alanis and I were talking - via Twitter, of course - about the dismal state of television ads for yogurt, with specific reference to that terrible 'Find Your Source' series.
Alanis was referring to a fresh new disaster in this line, featuring a bizarre fruit-surrounded woman DJing her way to yogurt happiness, but I can't find it online. No matter, because the one I could find is just as representative of the genre:
However, the yogurt commercial that's been driving me nuts lately is the one for Yoptimal yogurt, which uses what must be the oldest trope in the commercial business: The star of the spot keeps 'ruining' each take because she's enjoying the product so much that she can't stop eating it.
Unfortunately, everyone involved with this spot is apparently so embarrassed by it that the best I can offer you is the thumbnail above - even the production company (Spy Films) doesn't have it on their website, and the ad agency (Bos) doesn't have it in their portfolio.
Why did this one stick in my mind? Because I remember this actress - Natalie Brown - starring in one of the most 'iconic' tv commercials of my youth:
(I do give her credit for looking almost exactly the same as she did 20 years ago. I don't know what she's doing, but it's clearly working.)
Those of you who are a certain age will no doubt remember this Heinz commercial. Slightly cheesy, but with a little story and a nice idea and decent casting.
But that's the thing: 20 years later, we can still remember this spot. When I went looking for her current yogurt commercial, it took me ages to figure out it was for Yoptimal - I finally had to find a list of Canadian yogurt brands and search each one of them until I got a hit. When people can't remember the product, and can't find the spot even when they're looking, your commercial has failed.
I know that television advertising has had to change in the past 15 years: When I first started working in ad agencies, 15 years ago, clients didn't blink at forking over $350,000 for a commercial or two, because everyone was watching tv and that's how you reached them. And everyone knew that, between ad agency fees, ACTRA contracts, and studio time, the costs just mounted up.
These days, everyone has a high-quality digital camera and iMovie on their computer, they're watching tv shows online where they can avoid commercials - so what company is going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a tv commercial when they can crowdsource something for $1000? But while 'crowdsourcing' your commercial sounds like a fantastic idea when you're in the boardroom trying to impress everyone with just how iHipster you are, it very rarely translates into an iconic ad in the end.
Don't worry - I haven't turned into a curmudgeon here. There are plenty of interesting commercials happening - they just aren't making it on to television. They're living on the internet:
But it's kind of a shame, because it's making television even more annoying to watch than it already is.