Sometimes you wonder what’s running through the heads of those guys and gals over on Madison Avenue. Admittedly it has become harder to make an impression and engage people in our overly saturated multimedia world, but creating weird, sinister or downright creepy TV commercial mascots isn’t necessarily going to do anything other than have people cringing in their seats, even if they are fascinated by the obviously poor choice of spokesperson. This is a resurgent trend, one that has been growing again steadily throughout the last decade, as the following list attests. Some of these mascots might be more effective as horror movie fodder rather than commercial pitchmen.
THE AXE CHOCOLATE MAN — Oh, there’s so much to be said about a caucasian male who sprays on Axe cologne and magically transforms into a chocolate man that women literally want to eat up. Some argue that its racist — not sure I totally buy that one, more like racial envy — but how could any man with bug eyes and a sinister smile be misconstrued by any woman (or man, for that matter) as being sexy? One big theme that pervades this entire list is creepy smiles (the other is food). We haven’t seen as much of Axe Chocolate Man lately. Or maybe I’ve been lucky enough to not catch the commercials.
THE KING — Who seriously believed that a guy wearing royal robes and a plastic mask with a weird smile would sell burgers? Some newer Burger King ads have taken a page from Viva La Bam by featuring The King waking people up in their bedrooms by clanging together two big cymbals. They’re unfunny and a little disturbing. The recent Star Trek tie-in depicting a group of Kings as glass-stealing Klingons was spot on. But did it inspire anyone to run out and devour a Whopper? As it turns out, the campaign isn’t working. But evidently The King has his own Halloween mask, so perhaps BK is profiting from him in other ways.
LEVI’S SINGING BELLY BUTTONS — Back at the start of the decade, the CG effect of animated belly buttons seemed cool, so commercials with women’s bare midriffs become a focus for Levi’s. If I saw my bellybutton singing, I’d think I was either on drugs or that I had one of HR Giger’s alien babies inside me, trying to get out. Regardless, I’d freak out, and if I was drunk, probably take a knife to myself. Thanks, guys.
DIGGER THE DERMATOPHYTE — There are just some products that should be marketed with care. Or perhaps not marketed on television at all. This yellow-skinned devil — literally, a toenail infection — certainly won’t win anyone ever. I don’t care how good Lamisil’s product is — every time this guy literally bores his way onto the screen and under someone’s toenails, I just recoil in revulsion. Funnily enough, he’s got his own MySpace page.
SMILIN’ BOB — The man behind the Enzyte empire recently was tossed in jail for 25 years and fined $5 million for scamming unwary consumers who were too afraid to complain about the impotent nature of this so-called “natural male enhancement drug”. First of all, who in their right mind thinks any of that stuff works? Second of all, who in their right mind would watch Smilin’ Bob, a fictional Enzyte user who always has this scary smile plastered across his face and looks like a living mannequin, and think that women would be turned on by him? Evidently boatloads of gullible men and zero women. Ah, the power of fantasy and men’s mid-life crises.
GEICO “KASH” — “That’s the money you could be saving with Geico,” one person tells another in many Geico commercials where this eeriely still pile of money with eyes stares at them. That stack of green doesn’t look too friendly. In fact, it might bite. Adding the rhythm track to Rockwell’s Eighties hit “Somebody’s Watching Me” doesn’t help. Note to self: Never buy car insurance from a carrier with ridiculous mascots like a gekko and cavemen, because what company would worry about paying your claim when they’re shelling out millions upon millions of dollars in relentless advertising?
QUIZNOS RODENTS — A few years back, Quiznos tried using cross-eyed hamsters (or rats, depending upon your point-of-view) to sell their sandwiches. Ok, being a New Yorker, the last thing I want to see at a Quiznos shop is a rodent. Or bugs. I mean, why not just animate a roach and have it talk about how even the crumbs are tasty? Or have a bunch of insects sitting at a table munching on a sandwich? Even the hi-tech roach spy in the new G-Force movie fails to convince me of the need for such pests.
FUDGEMS — From a marketing perspective it’s understandable that Domino’s Pizza wants to promote tasty food. (That’s debatable in their case, I know.) Sure, chocolate appeals to both the kiddies and their sugar-craving parents, but dude, a brown mascot that soils you whenever he hugs you? Seriously, why not just hire Mr. Hanky the Christmas Poo? Heidy ho, kids! Domino’s certainly fudged up this campaign.
THE SLAP CHOP GUY — Being a charismatic salesman is important in moving units of product, especially when it comes to mind-numbing infomercials. Of course, the late Billy Mays proved that being loud and brash works on people, too. But The Slap Chop guy? He just looks sinister and delivers disturbing double entendres like, “You’re going to love my nuts”. I wouldn’t trust this guy — real name, Vince Shlomi, aka the ShamWow pitchman — with anything sharp, like my kitchen knives. I sense he’s got a lot of anger management issues. Just watch how he slaps the Slap Chop! And in real life he has had a series of woes, including charges (later dropped) that he assaulted a hooker. Creepy.
ANY LIVE HUMAN PITCHING A PHARMACEUTICAL PRODUCT — Don’t you love how people trying to sell you Lipitor or any other serious drug nonchalantly and even cheerily warn you about the potentially hazardous side effects? They’re being forthright — and let’s be honest, they’ll be in legal hot water if they’re not — but you know, things like strokes or heart attacks aren’t exactly minor side effects. They’ll freakin’ debilitate or kill you!
THE STAY PUFT MARSHMALLOW MAN — Ok, this one was made up for Ghostbusters. But man, what an image they concocted: an enraged marshmallow giant — really, a gigantic, pissed off Pillsbury Doughboy clone clad in a sailor’s outfit — tearing up Manhattan. He’s not super scary, except perhaps to some small children, but he made a cool action figure and would have been a great real-life ad mascot. Respect the marshmallow.