Then And Now

I don’t watch TV now as much as I did as a kid, during the years when The Simpsons was still the best damn show on the tube, Ross and Rachel were trying to wrap their heads around what being ‘on a break’ meant and Kenny was meeting his maker in a variety of truly twisted ways but if there’s one thing that I’ve noticed on the rare occasion that I tune in now it’s that the quality of TV ads seem to have plummeted faster than whatever credibility Ja Rule had left following the Fyre debacle. I hate to sound like an old-timer but back in my day TV ads were far more memorable and some even reached iconic status and quite frankly I don’t see any of that happening with many of the commercials circulating on the airwaves lately.

No disrespect intended towards anyone. Save the hate mail for another day.

Four ads from my youth and teenage years come to mind when I think about the most memorable TV commercials that I’ve ever seen, the first being two old TV commercials for Tim Tams that made the rounds on TV during the 1990s. Back then, Tim Tam ads normally involved a muscular, dark-skinned male genie or magician summoning a pack of Tim Tams to satisfy their co-star’s sweet tooth and if said co-star happens to be a woman he will usually share the chocolates with her in a rather seductive and intimate manner. Woe be to her significant other if she happened to have one because that poor guy is usually made to be some type of sacrificial lamb, hilariously vanquished at the woman’s request before she and that hot, strong hunk of burning love (I can’t believe I wrote that!) are free to share the biscuits together.

A hunky black male in a rather sensual and provocative advertisement for chocolate? Geez! No points for guessing for which audience those ads were geared towards.

The first ad involved a young couple sharing a pack of Tim Tams together and stumbling upon a genie’s lamp that is rubbed by the man, awakening a genie decked out in black robe and cap plus a gold neck chain and earrings, giving him the appearance of an African prince. The man immediately surmises that they are both entitled to three wishes and so he rather abruptly commands the genie to set him up on a date with 90s It Girl Kimberley Davies, prompting the genie to summon her from out of thin air. Kim then rudely snatches the last Tim Tam from the pack held by the girl, causing her to spitefully wish that she and her now ex-boyfriend ‘take a hike’ and so the genie instantly banishes them both. Now alone with the girl, and perhaps sensing that she will wish for his freedom the way Aladdin did for the genie at the end of the Disney film and then perhaps a date, the genie smiles as the girl prepares to make a third and final wish. Much to his chagrin, it is simply for a never-ending pack of Tim Tams.

Maybe next time, Bud.

The second Tim Tam ad was for Tim Tam Fingers, a thinner variation of their famous chocolate biscuit – and one that would most likely be banned if it was in circulation on TV screens today. In this ad a girl and a shirtless and muscular magician are seductively sharing a pack of Tim Tam fingers that he had summoned from out of thin air. Just as things are about to head towards the early stages of foreplay between the pair they are suddenly interrupted by the girl’s livid ex-boyfriend (who was most likely banished in an earlier ad that I might have missed), who returns home dressed in full Siberian gear after having spent the last year or so exiled in Vladivostok. Finding his now-ex being flirty with the magician (who, in this ad, resembles a young David Haye), he sarcastically tells her (or rather, shouts at her) that Vladivostok was a blast and then, upon spotting the Tim Tam fingers, takes one and angrily bites into it while asking, ‘So what is going on here? And since when did Tim Tams come in fingers!?’

My young, dumb self might have been too naïve to catch onto the sexual connotations in those ads back then but I still remember them today. Well played, y’all. Well played!

Another ad that I remember is a commercial for Rolos chocolates that circulated on the screens in 1995. The first half of the commercial is set in bygone years (probably the 1960’s) and in it, a young boy is taking a stroll through a zoo while chomping on some Rolos when he spots an elephant calf following its mother as they wander about in their enclosure. With a mischievous twinkle in his eye he approaches the enclosure and tempts the calf by holding out one of the chocolates. Just as the calf is about to take it into its trunk the boy suddenly shoves it into his mouth before taunting the dejected calf.
The second half projects to the present day. The boy, now a man, is watching a circus street parade while chewing on Rolos when he feels a tap on his shoulder. Upon turning his head a massive elephant’s trunk swats him across the face, comically knocking him to the ground dazed and confused. The elephant, an adult version of the calf that he had taunted many years before, mockingly roars in his direction before marching on with the rest of the parade.

The tagline for that ad? ‘Rolos….too good to share.’ Bravo, message received and many laughs had. Extra points, too, for playing on the ‘elephants never forget’ saying.

The third ad was one for Heinz baked beans from 1996. In it, a teenager and his younger brother are home alone for the night and the older brother is preparing a late afternoon snack for them both while also chatting on the phone to his girlfriend (side note: he was talking to her through a chordless landline, not a cellphone. It was the 1990s and so cellphones were still reserved for professionals and rich folks). As he is speaking his brother is sitting on the dining table, bored out of his mind to the point where he thinks that his brother is speaking to him.
Big Brother tells his girlfriend, “I was thinking of making something special for dinner tonight.”
Little Brother, believing that Big Brother was addressing him, responds with, “Cool, what is it?”
Big Brother then places a bowl of baked beans with sausages on the table. An excited Little Brother exclaims, “Heinz Baked Beans with sausages? How special is that!?”
Big brother continues to talk on the phone as he places a bowl of baked beans with meatballs on the table. Little Brother’s eyes light up even brighter.
“Heinz Baked Beans with meatballs too!? Um, which one is mine?”
Big Brother, on the phone with his girlfriend, tells her, “Oh I don’t mind we can share.”
Little Brother, still thinking that his brother is addressing him, asks “can I have both of them?”
Big Brother, on the phone, responds to a random question from his girlfriend with “Um, YEP, SURE THING!”
That was all that Little Brother needed to hear. He begins eating from both bowls as his brother wraps up the phone conversation. Big Brother then snatches one of the bowls from Little Brother and angrily asks, “What are you doing, you pig!?”

Absolutely hilarious!

And I feel hungry for a bowl of beans every time I watch it, too.

The fourth and final ad is for McDonalds that I recall from my high school years, in the years 2000 or 2001. In it, Ronald McDonald is a participant in a karate class with a group of children and the Sensei presents him with three tests; the first is to break a board, which he accomplishes by flying towards the board as though he is going to kick it but instead flicking it in half with his finger. The next is to ‘crack the code’, which involved rearranging magnetic letters on a whiteboard to spell ‘McDonalds,’ and then finally to crack some walnuts which he accomplishes by picking up the nuts with nutcrackers in each hand and wielding them around while whooping and hollering as though he were Bruce Lee playing with nunchucks before cracking the walnuts open.
Yeah, that one always had me in stitches but I did also wonder how Ronnie could have scored a pass when he clearly cheated on the last test.

Me thinks Sensei is running a McDojo.

There were many other ads that I remember fondly other than the four I’d mentioned, a list of ‘honorable mentions’ if you will. Decore shampoo and conditioner and The Good Guys sampled the hit songs ‘YMCA’ and ‘Good Vibrations’, respectively, for their TV ads back in the day. Austalian Bananas came up with a catchy tune that promoted the golden fruit as ‘Making Bodies Sing’. Yellow Pages added the catchphrase ‘Not HAPPY, JAN’ into the Australian vernacular. The ad for M&M’s have evolved from involving a duo of anthrophomorphic Red and Yellow M&Ms trying to avoid being eaten by humans to the pair and their different colored friends still on the run from those monstrous humans, and after all these decades the ads for Aeroplane Jelly and Vegemite from way before my time, as well as their catchy songs, have not faded from the public’s consciousness. Not all may remember the lyrics to the songs but ask just about any grown Australian adult (even from Generation Y) about the ad for Aeroplane Jelly or Vegemite and more often than not they will know exactly what you are referring to.
Such is the power of effective TV advertisements. When done correctly they not only effectively promote the product and grab people’s attention but they can also become synonymous with the brand, withstand the test of time and even go all the way to reach iconic status.

That’s the way you build a lasting legacy, Kids.

Which brings us back to TV ads today and my earlier statements regarding a regression in quality is hammered hard into my ears whenever I see – or rather, hear – the TV ad for Allianz Car Insurance. To summarize, the ad informs their audience that their comprehensive car insurance will ‘guarantee all authorized repairs.’ The ad then shows a mechanic handing a woman back the keys to her vehicle, now fixed and restored to good-as-new. The mechanic happily informs her that she is ‘good to go.’
‘Looks great,’ she responds.
That’s when all hell breaks loose.
As he gives her back her keys, the mechanic breaks out into a long, drawn, irritating chorus of ‘AAAAAAHHHHHHHH……’ and is soon joined by his fellow mechanics as though they were singing the opening notes of a Broadway musical. Shoot, even the damn dog in the calendar on the wall joins in.
Once everyone has shut the hell up the woman simply responds with ‘thanks’ before driving off satisfied.

Why the long chorus of ‘AAAAAHHHHH…..’ you ask? Well, it’s because the tagline is that their satisfied customers will get that ‘AAAAAAAAAAAAA….llianz feeling’ and well, you can too.

Bullshit. The only reaction I get is “AAAAAAAAAAAAHHH…….SHUT THE FUCK UP!!!!”

Nothing against the company but yeah, I’m sorry, they lost me with that ad. When your commercials causes one to squirm uncomfortably on the spot as though they are listening to a long, drawn out recording of nails scratching on a blackboard you need to have a good look at yourselves. If they wanted to give that ad more pizazz they should have allowed that ‘AAAAAAHHHHH…..’ to go somewhere beyond sheer infernal noise, maybe into a revised rendition of the opening number for ‘OKLAHOMA’ with lyrics that are geared towards Allianz and the services that they offer. They could have turned the mechanic’s garage into a glittering stage with choreography and dance moves from the mechanics and the satisfied client thrown into the mix.
Hell, even that dog from the calendar could have come to life, leaped out from the wall and then ran around the set in circles. Everyone loves a good dog!
The musical number can end with everyone in some sort of post-dance pose, a position everyone holds for about two seconds before the customer breaks character, thanks the mechanics before driving off. At this point the mechanics and staff are still posing and someone randomly asks “can we relax now?”
“Ok, everyone, back to work” someone responds from the back.
The mechanics then break their poses and resumes their normal duties, thus ending the ad.
THAT would have been a kick-ass advertisement. Cheesy as hell but still a lot more fun than the one that they have on air right now.

Ads like that always have me wondering at what point did the trains run off the rails. I don’t know about y’all but to me, most TV ads today seem over-produced, at times over-acted and there is a lack of memorable taglines and slogans. There has also been a decline in catchy songs, jingles and jokes (although the jingle for the Vodafone ad gets stuck in my head for days whenever I hear it so there’s an exception) and in the case of that Allianz ad, just too weird and irritating although I have to give them points for being unforgettable in some way. I don’t work in the advertising sector but I do know that how a customer reacts to advertisements is kind of a big deal and this is especially important for TV ads as they have a very wide reach and so are an effective way to draw more customers into a business, kind of like casting a wide net out into the ocean to reel in more fish rather than just relying on boring old fishing lines. Even if you attract customers strictly because of the ads that they watched on TV, well, that’s still more money for the business, mission accomplished. You just need to not mess that shit up by following through with what you promised.

Nobody likes a con artist.

You know, my mother used to babysit our family friends’ children when my sister and I were young. What did she say in exasperation whenever they truly acted the fool?
“I think you guys should stop eating too many bananas. It’s making your body sing too much.”
Anyone that has seen the old commercial for Australian Bananas would know exactly what she was referring to and such a line only made them – plus my sister and I – laugh our heads off. If that’s not effective marketing then I don’t know what is.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting that each and every recent TV advertisement sucks. There are some currently on the airwaves that are quite entertaining and three in particular stand out for me. The AAMI Insurance ad that involved a man, his girlfriend and best friend returning home from a concert only to find that thieves had made off with his beloved wall-mounted moose head always cracks me up. Those Compare The Market ads featuring Alexandr The Meerkat are usually quite hilarious even if Alexandr’s Russian accent seems to fade more and more with each ad and that Dare Iced Coffee ad featuring a new father contemplating on naming his newborn son ‘Callum Murray’ before he comes to his senses thanks to the coffee has me giggling and shaking my head in disbelief.

Why do I appreciate these ads? Well, to me they are beautifully acted, funny and had gimmicks to play off of. The protagonist in that AAMI ad was spot on with his facial expressions and reactions throughout, from when he was showing off the moose head to his friend, his wide-eyed shock upon his girlfriend informing him that they’d been robbed all the way to his joyful, Christmas-came-early reaction when an AAMI Insurance spokeswoman shows up at the front door with a replacement moose head. It also helped that he resembled a shorter, chunkier version of Borat, further upping his standing in the ‘funny-looking-dudes’ stakes.
As for Compare The Market, a Russian meerkat as a mascot? Geez, that’s random, who would have ever thought of that!? Combine that with his funny voice and a snappy script (although some of the ads are admittedly kinda corny) and you have an ad with some punch.
That Dare Iced Coffee ad was most likely a jab at celebrities that shamelessly give their children stupid names but also serves as a warning as to what can happen if one makes important decisions while their mind and focus are clouded (in this case, sleepwalking through the day and in dire need of a caffeine hit). The father in the ad (we’ll call him ‘Mr. Murray) thinks of several possible scenarios that can occur for his newborn son in the future with a name like ‘Callum Murray’, including one in which he is pulled over by the police for speeding and another in which his bride laughs in his face upon mentioning his name in her wedding vows. Somehow his mind never ventured towards the strange looks that poor Callum would have had to endure if he worked at a fish & chips shop. After taking a big gulp of the bottle of coffee in his hand Mr. Murray quickly wises up and chooses a more sensible name for his son.

Before closing I thought I’d also throw in a couple more ads for good measure, one that did the rounds on TV about ten or so years ago for the Australian beer brand Carlton Draught and a more recent one for Cadbury chocolates (man, what is it with chocolate ads?). For the Carlton Draught ad, all I have to say are four little words; It’s A Big Ad. Anyone that has seen that ad would know what I am talking about. Go ahead and type those words on YouTube you will find out why I thought it was memorable.
The Cadbury ad involved a young girl entering a corner stone while her single mother, who works long hours to make ends meet for them both, stands outside talking on her phone. This small, blue-eyed innocent little girl asks the rather gruff-looking man behind the counter for a block of chocolate and offers a single coin plus whatever small toys she happened to be carrying in her pockets as payment. The storeowner’s face remains as emotionless as an Easter Island statue as he looks outside and spots the mother talking on her phone but somewhere underneath that layer of menace his heart melts and he accepts the girl’s payment. She then happily runs outside and offers the chocolate to her mother as a birthday gift and they share a tender hug together as a smile finally breaks on the store owner’s face as he watches proudly from behind his counter.
The ad’s slogan? ‘There’s a glass and a half in everyone.’
Man, talk about a real feel-good ad. That one always brings a smile on my face even when I’m having a horrible day.

At the end of the day, this is just one man’s opinion and not everyone will agree. It’s cool, to each their own. But yeah, TV advertisements in general seem to have lost their way, at least compared to those from many years past. I say they should bring back the comedy, the musical numbers via song parodies if need be and of course, the catchy slogans. While there have been ads that were banned from the airwaves due to explicit content (I’m looking at you, KFC) companies shouldn’t be afraid to push boundaries like they did in the past (seriously, those Tim Tam ads were low-key dirty as fuck), nor should they be afraid to let their actors be as loud and quirky where applicable.
Be memorable in a good way. Make sure people remember what they saw and heard for a very long time.
Maybe if all of this happened with regularity then we’ll get more ads that will be remembered long after they’ve been aired.

Ok, now I want some Tim Tams. Which one should I go for?

No Easy Way Out: Thoughts During Lockdown

‘There’s no easy way out, there’s no shortcut home’,
Sung by Robert Teper, real talk with the situation going on,
Sitting here in lockdown, the fast train of life screeched to a halt,
That damn monster’s prowling, that fucking virus, only Lord knows when it’ll stop,
Government ordered a lockdown, it’s risky just to head downtown,
Nationwide curfew threw life to a loop and it ain’t ending any time soon,
Don’t get me wrong, I ain’t whining and complaining,
This born introvert’s sitting, chilling, recharging and thriving,
Times are uncertain, though, can’t deny the presence of nerves,
Squinting and straining to see the future, it’s hazy behind the mist of this virus.

Rewind to Last December, bad news touched down from all directions,
Decade ending on Armageddon, surely, seemed like the world was headed for oblivion,
Spilled into 2020, kicked off in a cacophony of disasters,
Bushfires, drought, floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions,
Continuing unrest in Hong Kong, discord within the royals,

The death of a much-loved baller, innocent lives taken by a drunk driver, it’s one tragedy after another,
But they were merely appetizers before the main course,
A savage monster awoke, hit the air guns blazing, spread faster than bad gossip,
Plundered, pillaged, murdered and conquered like a demonic Alexander,
Brought about a new world order, killed more than Adolf, Josef, Idi and Saddam put together.

Watching and listening to this shit on TV and radio, Gotta stay informed but can’t be passive with these media reports.
Facts and sensationalism can intertwine, conspiracy theorists also fighting for air time,
Time travelled back to the years of plagues and wars, it’s a disaster flick in here and we’re all unwilling actors,
Made doubly persuasive by my vulnerability as the doctor be claimin’,
Embracing my inner hermit, on most days I’m keeping it together,
Strong on the surface, not all the way through, immortal words from Chester that rang true,
Nerves, disbelief and anger, throw in some cabin fever, I’m only human sometimes I’m feeling ‘em,
Dumbbells and punching bag be my best therapists under moments of extreme turbulence,
Fresh air, sunlight, music and books as back up when the mind continues stressin’.

Reflecting while meditating to keep the grip of negativity loosened,
Reviewing the situation like Fagin, thinking ‘bout the people affected,
The death toll surpassing millions, condolences to those hit by losses,
Can’t give the departed their proper send-off, such is the cruelty of that fucking monster,
Jobs lost, schools closed, daily life halted, travel plans and celebrations cancelled, all that planning and anticipation came to nothing,
People stuck indoors, that monster poisoned the outdoors, cops gon’ get you for wandering too far,
Feels like Big Bro’s watching, Orwell was 36 off the mark,
Social and economic status don’t mean shit, kings, queens, paupers and commoners are feeling it,
Feelings of superiority are a fool’s errand, the entire population’s a sitting target.

Tough times exposing true colors, the good and the bad,
Masks and facades slippin’ as that monster continued its destructive path,
Stupid selfish morons clearing supermarket shelves like feds on a drug bust,
Left nothing for the disadvantaged as common sense and dignity bit the dust,
Racists and xenophobes emerged from their holes, Asians seen as the enemy,
“Don’t matter where they’re from, they a part of that monster’s army,”
Words of the bigots jacked up on fear and ignorance,
On the same boat as the ones flouting orders ‘cuz they’re too good for isolation,
Body count’s rising, health care pushed to the limit, front liners are exhausted but these fools stay blinded and self-centred,
Degenerates attacking nurses, cops and customer servers, what low life wastes of oxygen,
Don’t wish death on no one but no tears shed if that monster fades ‘em, they will surely deserve it,
Newsflash, fools, we’re all caught in this mess,
Y’all are part of the problem and not the solution, hatin’ and floutin’ will only hamper progress.

But not all are broken, there are heroes within the chaos,
Restoring faith in humanity, the whole race ain’t yet crushed by the obnoxious,
Led by the doctors and nurses and all others in the front line,
Risking it all to help others, it’s tough and it’s lonely but still keeping up the grind,
Scientists around the world working to bring that monster to justice,
Time’s ticking but they march on fuelled by a warrior’s stoicism and defiance,
Acts of kindness from citizens, they ain’t hard to find, from helping the weary and burdened to sparing a few dimes,
Others in lockdown unleashing their inner entertainers, delving deep into their creativity,
Slick and at times kinda cringy but always has the audience cheering vociferously,
Families come together for an extended period, it’s a full house situation,
Kids still need educating, reluctantly or willingly, parents forced into a crash course in teaching,
The lost and soul-searching can find their paths, gotta grab it with both hands,
All distractions cancelled, time to chase the dream, no more excuses,
Working from home as best we could, no need to get up early,
Changes are happening outside, this you have to see,
Nature’s finally healing, where it was once deteriorating,
Smog is lifted, the air is clear, the stars in the night sky are twinkling,
What a role reversal, humanity’s suffering while nature is thriving,
Rivers clearing up, translucent and crystal-like under that sun,
The rain’s finally pouring, fields finally sporting green, like a new season had just begun,
Can’t call that monster a blessing but there’s some good within the pandemic,
For every dark night the moon still shines, seek and you shall find.

2020 looks headed for the pits, can’t wait ‘til it’s over with,
Stronger minds see a gut check, life’s meaningless without overcoming adversity,
Can’t get hung up on shit I can’t control, when you’re stressin’ you’re weakening,
Strong mind and body, faith and positivity be my own Shield of Achilles,
Got hopes for the future once that monster’s finally eradicated,
Reunion with friends and fam are just the tip of the iceberg,
That shit don’t hit the fan once the powers start blame games and finger pointing,
Don’t want leaders going ballistic, it could take us back to forty-five, don’t want or need that kind of strife,
That personal hygiene will remain a priority, that Mother Nature will be respected,
That the scourges of society will be dealt with, put an end to their bullshit,
That freedom and precious time with loved ones will never again be taken for granted,
That we’ll be kinder and more understanding, everyone’s fighting their own battles,
That the affected can heal from tragedy and trauma before rising back up stronger,
That the heroes throughout will be rewarded for their efforts,
2020 looks like another annus horribilis, but from that fire emerges a new generation of warriors,
This is one for the history books, another story to tell the future generations,
Exhaling now, eyes open, all things come to pass including tough times,
We’ll get through this, that monster won’t last, even the fiercest tyrants fade away and die.