Pineapples and Pen Pushers


"You can slice a pineapple in mid-air!" enthused the voice on the TV, advertising Miracle Blade Knives.

I stopped what I was doing and tried to think of a scenario where anyone would NEED to slice a pineapple in mid-air...

Possibly if a poorly-armed Polynesian gang moved into the neighborhood.

Or if I were part of a troop of fruit-juggling circus performers, and the act needed some serious spicing up.

Otherwise, it makes you wonder just a bit what the brainstorming sessions for these made-for-TV products look like.

Ah, picture it... The lead product marketing manager stands at the front of the oval table. "So, people, what sets this product apart from the competition? What do these knives DO? "

A small voice pipes up from the peanut gallery around the table, "Well... they cut food, Sir...?"

"Of course they cut food!" the boss snaps. "All knives cut food. I don't want to market knives that make eating easier. I want to market knives that can... oh, I don't know... cut through concrete blocks, or something."

"SuperMegaChop already does that, Sir," one marketing flunkie points out.

"Okay, then--" continues the lead marketer musing a moment. (I like to think of him as played by Brian Doyle Murray in a bad toupee.) "I want a knife that can... saw through a car hood!"

"MarvelBlades beat us to it, Sir," another lackey says. "They also market the MarvelGlue to put it together again, and the Marvel UltraSuedoShammyPlus to buff it out."

"Fine, fine, fine. Then I want a knife that can--"

"Cut a pineapple in mid-air, sir?"

"Smithers, you're a genius!"

I also always get a kick out of the ad for Gevalia Coffee (or rather, Kafe, for those of us whose finely-tuned tastebuds prevent us from spelling anything in English). Have you seen this one?

The employee is sitting in his office trying to look like he doesn't need to be downsized, when his friend comes in and brings him a cup of coffee. Aw, what a nice gesture, we think. What a wonderful colleague. But this guy, our executive, HE TURNS IT DOWN.

Does he say he's cutting back on coffee? That he's just had a cup?

Why, no. Instead, he says, he's "going to get his own." And he does it in this smooth, cocky tone of voice that makes you think he either skunked his coworker who's been trying to poison him to get that office with the window... or coffee's the keyword for him to go have a morning tryst with Lydia, the office supply girl.

Anyway, he grabs his coat and goes outside, where he completely passes by lovely cafes and well-stocked coffee carts. Instantly, he steps onto the bus (like anyone ever gets a bus that quickly in the city) and...

HE GOES HOME.

Yes, in the end scene, we see him sitting there on his comfy sofa, sipping his beloved Gevalia Kafe in a moment of quiet reflection, the cares of the day washing away. Of course, it also looks like it's about 9am , so his cares were probably related to the bus ride IN.

The irony here is, the next thing Gevalia tells us is how if you sign up to receive Gevalia, you'll get a handy travel mug.

No one has apparently told our executive about the travel mug.

Nope. He's just blissfully unaware that when he gets back to the office after his refreshing coffee moment, clients will be burning mad looking for him...

He'll have missed the entire brainstorming session on kitchen knives....

And Brian Doyle Murray's going to finally remember he'd meant to fire the guy three weeks ago.

It's just as well, because he'll never get another coffee or donut in that office again. And who knows WHAT he'd get for the Secret Santa at the holiday party. I'd imagine it'd be travel mug. Every year for the rest of his tenure.

So, tell me folks-- what commercial have YOU seen which makes you wonder how it ever got on the air? Inquiring minds want to know. :)


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8 comments:

techfun said...

I worked in market research for several years. Most of it involved ad testing and a fair amount of my time was spent moderating focus groups.

You must have had a hidden microphone behind the one-way glass at a few of those to get that transcript since you nailed it. :)

The ads that always cat my eye are for the little kitchen doodads that reseal plastic bags, or drain water from cooked pasta etc... I LOVE how they intermix color and black and white video with the black and white reserved for the person doing it the "old way".

In addition to the sinister b&w video, they often are peopled with individuals who see to be receiving below the counter electric shocks as they attempt to drain their pasta or close up a potato chip bag. I SWEAR I saw one a couple years ago where the woman rolled closed the opening of a bag of potato chips only to have the bag EXPLODE and jump two feet in the air.

Jenn Thorson said...

These are some great points, JD!

I'm in marketing myself, though not in a traditional advertising agency. But I've also been the client having things PITCHED to me. The ideas were often...um... creative.

PS- You've really gotta look out for those exploding potato chip bags. They're DEATHTRAPS. :)

Sher said...

I'm old enough to actually remember the Spic n Span commercials with the lady mopping in high heels. Surely those were put together by a bunch of fat men, sitting back while smoking cigars and sharing their fantasies. Eeew, I just had a visual of that sick world...

Sujatha said...

I'm still trying to puzzle out the inner meaning of the Toro ad with the fighter pilot riding his Toro down to the mailbox.
Help, please, if any of you ad/marketing gurus know the deepest secrets hidden it, or I'll go crazy trying to figure it out!

( Sundar knows instantly when I've just seen it again: "You haven't been analyzing that Toro ad again, have you?" )

Greg said...

I guess I'm a marketing person's worst nightmare. If I like a commercial, I may watch it over and over again, but these days, it's not always hard to miss what the commercial's actually for.

The one that popped into my head was for (I can't even remember this one...not Aleve, but something like that)...with the "Little. Yellow. Different. Better" tagline. I get that the rhythm's better, but can we otherwise justify "different" as anything more than redundant?

So, nobody at the office likes this smug Kafe snook, eh? Not even that tramp Lydia from the mailroom...what a loooser. I don't think I've ever seen this one...he really takes a bus and goes home? That's crazy.

We had a Ginsu knife for a few years (they're supposed to be infinite, but I think ours rusted.)--to be sure, there was NOTHING that cut through clumps of daylilies better!

(Forgive, I'm all over the map here. I need some sleep.)

: )

Jenn Thorson said...

Sher- Mopping in high heels... Oh, I do that all the TIME, don't you?-- TOTALLY realistic. (...I say, thinking about how I don't even answer the door when I'm home on the weekends lest I scare the neighbors with my Crazy Bag Lady look.)

Sujatha- now that you mention it, I think I DID catch that commercial once. Yeah, what the heck IS that about? Are we trying to say Toro is so powerful you'll feel like a Top Gun, but so much fun you'll want to use it at inappropriate moments?

(Hey, I'm trying... Anything to help out you and good ol' Sundar. :) ) (PS-- that makes me laugh, Sundar knows when you've just seen that commercial. That's excellent.)

Greg- having done taglines where everyone at the client's office wants a say (so things end up not fully making sense after all the revisions), I can see where the "Little. Yellow" ad probably got tweaked a lot.

And yes, the Gevalia executive really does go home. I find myself personally disliking him more and more every time I see it. "You lousy employee, what are you doing?! Why didn't you bring a freakin' cup of coffee WITH you, if you're so gosh-darn picky, Mr. Executive?!"

Yeah, that's a Saturday morning with me, yelling at my TV. :)

Anonymous said...

So...if he has his own office...why not have a damn coffee pot with oh-so-special coffee brewing in it? A lot cheaper than all those bus rides.

Hey Jenn!! Finally got around to commenting...tho' I have been reading!

Susan Hall

Jenn Thorson said...

Sue, ha, you've hit the nail on the head! I tell you, if that's his problem solving abilities, then that guy won't be employed there very long.

And thanks for reading! I do appreciate it. :)