I don’t usually watch a lot of network television, but I watched a good deal during the period beginning around the Superbowl and running through the Olympics. I was thus exposed to more prime time advertising than usual.
Based on what I saw, I developed a theory: prime time ads are being written by 10th grade boys.
All you have to do is check out the humor — it’s all based on what guys in high school laugh at. There’s a bit of word play, mock seriousness about silly stuff, exploiting feelings of insecurity, making fun of nerds, etc. Watch an evening of prime time without Tivoing out the ads, and you’ll think you’ve stumbled into the local high school.
For instance, Nationwide is in the middle of a campaign about “The World’s Greatest Salesman – in the World.” I can just hear the 10th graders snicker as they repeat World for the second time. And I admit I thought it was clever when I did it with my buddies back before the moon landings.
Or take the talking baby who’s a stock trader — he saved a “pantload” with automatic stop-loss, and his infant buddy thinks the pilot’s voice is “Dad.” Not even all sophomores would find that funny.
One commercial element that was apparently too “old” was also one of my favorites. When the round asthsma inhaler (is it Advair? Some genius advertising 15-year-old thought up the name, too, undoubtedly) launched its current campaign last year, the first actor to appear was a white, bald guy who looked like Lou Grant from The Mary Tyler Moore Show (ask your grandparents if you are a 15-year-old). Sitting in front of some kind of round thing, as everyone does in those commercials, he looked Lou Grantishly into the camera and said bluntly, “I’ve had asthma forever.”
I can’t be the only one who saw it for the first time and heard him say, “I’m Ed Asner forever.”
I can’t be the only one, because Ed disappeared from the cycle almost right away, even though the others have continued through the Olympics. The guy who’s had asthsma forever is now a round-faced, bald, black guy who doesn’t look anything like Lou Grant.
Lou must have appealed to the wrong demographic. We old guys don’t usually buy asthsma medicine that we have to talk our doctor into based on instructions from a 15-year-old.