Previously published by The Irish Independent.
Has anyone noticed that Aldi’s Christmas ad? It seems to be about Santy delivering a carrot back to his family so they can all be boiled and devoured together in some sort of Tarantinoesque familial masochistic reverse cannibalism? That Kevin the carrot is giddy with excitement at the prospect of being eaten, along with his mum and dad Katie and Jasper, sister Chantenay and the youngest Baby Carrot?
Maybe I’m overthinking it too much. You bloody well are, screams Aldi’s marketing department.
Perhaps. I am watching a lot of TV ads. I like TV ads. In fact, as regular readers know, when I’m not shaking an impotent fist at our political system I’m a bit of an amateur TV history junkie, and I find TV ads can be a fascinating insight into a period in time, in that they’re not as rtepeated as TV shows are and so tend to be much more of their time.
I grew up in an era where it was perfectly normal for a squarejaw in a black poloneck to swim through shark infested waters with a briefcase(A briefcase!) to deliver a box of chocolates, and don’t get me started on the simmering filthfest of coy “wait ‘til mother goes to bed and I’ll show you buttered spuds” looks that was the KerryGold ads.
Funnily enough, in the time we are living in (“These challenging times” is, I believe, the official description) watching ordinary TV with its ads and the rest brings a strange sort of sociability and connection.
You can’t go to the pub, or restaurants, or your local car-keys-in-a-bowl party if you live in Enniskerry, but you can feel part of something just that little bit bigger watching terrestrial telly as opposed to binge watching “Suits”.
By the way, if you haven’t watched “Suits” it’s about a group of beautifully dressed beautiful lawyer people who are constantly too busy to talk because they’re going to a meeting or being unhappy in their beautiful apartments pondering how hard it is to be beautiful all the time. “Suits”? Should be called “Ungrateful Feckers”, but I digress.
We’re getting very accustomed to the Covid take on ads: the lonely piano playing as we are shown someone’s granny looking sadly through a window at her grandchildren. People learning new skills on lockdown, like how to speak Serbo-Croat or dismantle a tactical nuclear weapon. A lot of exercise. And that “we’re all in this together” thing.
We don’t see much of the granny delighted the little feckers aren’t wrecking her house. Or the couple in their pyjamas hoovering through a box of Celebrations. Or the odd murder. Wait and see: when this is all over we’ll be digging people out from under the rosebushes: You can’t be showing locked down people “Midsomer Murders” on a perpetual loop without consequences.
But that’s all OK. The Covid ads show us a glimpse of where we are and also our technical abilities, with so many ads now filmed by people in their own homes, showing customers of X or Y talking Christlike about the company if only because they’ve nothing better to do.
Some ads do get me roaring at the screen, I’ll admit.
Those ads for men’s and women’s fragrances, which have gotten so po-faced.
Take that one where Thor strolls very handsomely through some city announcing that “Success without integrity means nothing”. What does that even mean?
If he’d said something like “Slamming your lad in a car door will make your eyes water” I’d at least nod at the accuracy of the statement. The women’s ads are even worse, the montage ones showing her laughing with friends, storming away from a man, driving a car erratically, having a good cry, giving some other fella a good seeing to. You can’t move for sharp cheekbones, and that’s just the men..
Then some vacuous saying, and the bit that makes me explode: where they announce the name of the product in a deadpan matter-of-fact but-of-course voice. It’s the fake profoundity of it that kills me, that buying a bottle of “Tumescence. Chanel” is some sort of statement about who you are.
But that’s not where I reserve my leap from the couch in finger-pointing denunciation moment: that’ll be for the bank ads.
Please. Spare me the “Brave” or the “we’re just like you” from the banks.
You know we’re not. We know we’re not.
Just for once I’d love to see a bank ad that tells an unvarnished truth that is at least authentic.
“We at Consolidated Bailout Bank really like making profits, which we try to make by lending to you for a cost higher than the amount of interest we pay to people to let us mind their money. We like making profits, but we get that if we make too much, you might go to some other bank, so we promise we’ll charge you as much as we can but not enough to make you go over to those other guys at Unified Golden Parachute Bank. And we won’t try that usual Rubik’s Cube account charges thing where we try to bamboozle you by varying the charges using variables like whether Gemini is in line with Jupiter, Sine and Cosine from your Leaving Cert log tables, or dividing the fee by the span of an African elephant ear if it’s Tuesday or Thursday.
Consolidated Bailout Bank: Moneylending, but without ending up in the Sunday World.”
The ad I’m really waiting for is one full of really tired non-cheekboney people with grey hair giving a thumbs up to the camera, then the slogan.
Vaccine. By Pfizer.