Ad Report Card: Reader Picks and Pans

Though still rather young, the Monday “Ad Report Card” has quickly become the inspiration for the most interesting e-mail sent to Moneybox. Some write to praise a specific commercial that is a favorite, others seek answers about a spot they find particularly puzzling, and many wish to vent about a commercial they truly despise. I’ve somewhat belatedly realized that I’ll never have time to write about all of them–the thing about ads is, they just keep coming–so I thought this week I’d pause to pass along some mini “Ad Report Cards” from readers.

Domino’s Pizza’s Very, Very Bad Andy. I got a couple of heated e-mails dissing the Domino’s Pizza “Bad Andy” campaign. These spots revolve around an unpleasant muppet-type figure who is supposed to be a poor employee of the pizza chain. You can see three of these spots through the Web site, using the QuickTime plug-in. In one, Bad Andy feigns a fever. In another, he tries to get a co-worker to stretch the pizza dough with a rolling pin, instead of by hand. In a third, he rearranges the letters on a daily-special sign. In each case, the tag line is “Bad Andy. Good Pizza.” Reader reaction to this could be summarized as: Eh? And I agree with that assessment. At least the Taco Bell Chihuahua really wanted some Taco Bell food. Not only is the Andy character annoying and unfunny, but his antics seem unrelated to the product, as if Domino’s had come up with its slogan by way of some Dada word game and worked backward from there. The reader grade: a flat F.’s Weird Science. I also got a couple of notes, one of them quite enthusiastic, about the ads for (a Web site associated with the cable network), which at the time I hadn’t seen. I’ve since tracked them down on the Adcritic site: One features guys in meteor suits, another has guys in fish suit s, a third stars guys in mosquito suits, and that mosquito pair returns in a fourth spot. In each commercial, the costumes and the dialogue are self-consciously bad, drawing attention to the fakery with stiffly delivered lines, frequent glances off-camera, presumably at a teleprompter, and so on. The fish guys, for instance, slosh around in a set designed to crudely represent the interior of a shark’s stomach. “Hello fellow partially eaten fish,” says one. “Have you heard about the Web site called” “Why yes,” his counterpart replies. “It has interesting facts about the world we live in, and lot’s of practical information on stuff like health, traveling, and pets.” “Wow.” And so on. The reader insists that there is a transcendent brilliance about all this, reminiscent of the early Letterman’s sophisticated relationship to irony. I’m not sure if I quite get it, but the ads do stand out and make you wonder about, which is the point. And I do kind of enjoy the second of the two mosquito ads, which seems to consist of outtakes of the two costumed guys, both of whom wear glasses, clumsily failing to “land” as they are jerked about by obvious suspension wires. At one point there’s no dialogue at all for about 10 seconds as one mosquito-man struggles to get his balance. It’s authentically strange. Does it make for great advertising? Well in this case the reader gets the last word, so the ad gets an A.

Gillette’s Dull Logic. Finally, there’s a razor ad that I have not seen and have not been able to track down, but that I can’t resist mentioning. Apparently it’s for a Gillette razor, and is aimed at women, reports a reader in Toronto. “Bouncy women in pink and purple minidresses jaunt around the set, with go-go dancing moves and childlike leg-swinging,” she writes. The ad’s tag ends on ” ‘Just have fun!’ I can’t see any woman saying, ‘Gee, razor burn, what fun!’ So who is this ad for?” asks our correspondent. “Is it misogyny or just plain stupid?” I’m keeping an eye out for this spot. As described, it certainly sounds absurd–and doesn’t seem to be scoring many points with potential customers. I suppose I should hold off on the actual grade until I’ve seen the ad–but I think you can guess how the reader would rate it, and it doesn’t sound promising for Gillette.