An Advert That Made Me Laugh Twice
Find out which one below – plus a falsetto Norman Wisdom in a bacofoil suit, Kid Rock machine-gunning beer and Jordan Peterson's Chinese fellatio factory.
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From The Vaults: Robin Thicke’s Blurred Lines
Apparently it’s ten years since Robin Thicke’s musical neutron bomb landed on an unsuspecting public. It’s described in an entertaining long read on Pitchfork as a ‘poisonous time capsule’ and it reminded me of how utterly hateful the whole affair was.
I wrote about this at the time – the first example of something I’d covered that wasn’t an advert, but something so utterly compelling it was impossible to not do, like rescuing a child from a burning building. Apologies for reminding you of it – but like appalling things in history, it’s important we never forget…
Is it the rampant misogyny (not remotely excusable under any sort of ‘irony’ defence) that sees Thicke blow smoke in a woman’s face to make her cough, explain that he knows ‘you want it’ in a threat of sexual assault that’s not even concealed, call women ‘bitches’ and boast about having a large penis? All of those things – and much more. Robin Thicke even makes me hate the name Robin – and that’s my name.
While I like looking at women with no clothes on, the unrated video for Blurred Lines is just indefensible. If you attempted to defend it on any grounds imaginable you’d just start uncontrollably dribbling and quickly fall into unconsciousness – that is to assume you’re not dribbling or unconscious already, which I think you’d have to be.
Speaking of tits, Pharrell is a tit. Stronger swearwords just don’t work as he’s not actively obnoxious, just a tit. He’s a tit. A twerp. A berk. A dick. A fanny. A knob. But mainly he’s just a little tit. He’s a falsetto Norman Wisdom in a bacofoil suit.
Anyway, Robin Thicke has since split up with his missus, who presumably tired of him prancing around with topless models, sticking his fingers up the bumholes of adoring female fans and grinding his crotch against the asses of teenagers.
So Robin Thicke has had an idea. He’s devoted his entire album to her – it’s called Paula – and revealed a ghastly song called Get Her Back in which he purports to reveal a series of creepy text messages between him and his wife. It’s basically stalking across the medium of Youtube and MTV: the virtual equivalent of hiding in bushes and pushing illegible tear-and-jizz-stained scribbles – varying between declarations of undying love, sexual longing and sexist passive aggression – through the letterbox of an ex.
The whole Robin Thicke story is so appalling because it’s validating a kind of objectification, emotional abuse and sexual control thought eradicated decades ago. It’s normalising the behaviour of men who cheat on their partners, degrade their partners and control their partners and think they can make it up with a bunch of flowers and emotionally illiterate apologies. That’s down to how these men are marketed and how they portray themselves – what’s so fascinating about it is that it shows you can essentially sell misogyny to women, which is some going.
Perhaps you’re wondering what this is doing on a newsletter about adverts. You’ve got me there. No, this is not an advert. Unless you count it as an advert for how awful Robin Thicke is. Which it is. And he is. Utterly fucking awful.
Findus Crispy Frisbees
Which ads worked their magic on you when you were a nipper? Enraptured by the adverts in the late 80s I begged my Mam for Findus Crispy Pancakes for weeks, until she relented on the basis that I had to eat them all of them if she bought them.
From the first bite of the ham and cheese ones I had a horrible sinking feeling - they seemed to consist of molten yellow plastic paired with small lumps of hard, red plastic inside, all underscored by the reek of onion, my most hated foodstuff as a child.
Aware of my side of the bargain I realised I had to get rid of them another way – binning them would definitely have been discovered – so I gradually frisbeed the fuckers over the garden wall until they were all gone.
I still wonder what the people four doors down must have made of these strange offerings, turning up on their lawns over a period of weeks.
All because of adverts.
Adverts I liked: Trainline
I actually laughed out loud on two separate occasions when I first watched this advert – it’s this #iamtrain spot for the outfit formerly known as thetrainline.com – subsequently rebranded as Trainline.
Before that, a caveat. I’m not especially fond of Trainline – the best of a bad bunch of websites that are clunky, confusing and rarely deliver on the kind of savings they shout about. In a former life I regularly had to rely on these apps, which were frequently incorrect, to travel from the north west to the north east. Weekly I had to travel on a benighted Pacer train – a train so depressing it’s what Thom Yorke would be, were the Radiohead singer a character in Thomas The Tank Engine [incredibly this later became a reality, thanks to Jim’ll] – and would enjoy long, cold, miserable stopovers at stations consisting solely of windswept platforms.
If Kylie Minogue had ever been on one of these journeys she would never have sung The Locomotion, she would have written a concept album about entropy. I could go on about the insanity of our privately-owned, publicly-subsidised, fragmented, cramped, slow, unjoined-up, shagged-out rail service but what would be the point? Even Tories agree the trains should be renationalised – sadly a tiny elite of evil warlocks have decided that such a thing is Beyond The Pale so everyone has to abide by the same lunatic failed system. No, I’ll restrict myself to a brief discussion of the joys of this advert instead.
It’s the execution. The narration is barely more ludicrous than the sort of slack-jawed eulogising frequently heard in spots for travel and leisure but it’s got a keen eye behind it. It doesn’t feature that deliberately overblown impression of Patrick Allen that infects virtually any It’s-Ironic voiceover in the last two decades – and it’s so mch better for it. It doesn’t scream ‘this is whacky’.
The notion of a man whose superpower is essentially to use public services efficiently may be innately funny, but the turns of phrase are lovely: “I have a little banana in my bag” (and the little rise in intonation that accompanies it) perfectly catches the everyday, little-victory drudgery of a British commute. And the notion this man is so incredibly excited at the prospect of his journey that he might belt out a rough approximation of the warning blast of an approaching train – to the general diffidence of his fellow commuters – similarly delightful.
That this passes off with barely a flicker of interest from fellow commuters and with a slow zoom onto his face – raised in triumphant expectation, open-mouthed and quivering slightly with the unalloyed joy of it all; thrilled at the mere arrival of a train – genuinely made my day. If only all adverts could be this good. And if only British rail travel in the 21st Century – and the UX of Trainline’s website – matched it.
Right-wing zombie and Kid Rock fan, Kid Rock, is so incensed that Bud Light has sponsored a trans activist to do some promotion for their
undrinkable filth Diet Beer Drink he video’d himself machine-gunning some packs of the stuff, even managing to hit a few of them.
In some ways I guess this is a logical extension of writing a newsletter about dislike of advertising, marketing, brand promotion generally, but then Kid Rock is a man whose masculinity is so threatened by people choosing their own gender he fires bullets into beer.
🤡 Anti-woke beef consumer Jordan Petersen mistook an April Fool’s about a bike lane on a 5000-km motorway for real, but in reading said article I discovered that he’d also become incensed by an image he mistook for a Chinese dick-sucking factory. This sublime story from Vice contains one of the best ever leads I’ve ever read: “Psychologist, former professor, and self-help author Jordan Peterson retweeted a fetish video of a penis milking porn clip on Saturday—seemingly duped into believing that it was footage from inside a Chinese communist sperm-extraction factory.” And this is without any AI whatsoever.
💩 I’m singularly unimpressed by brands indulging in April Fool’s nonsense. At best an almost-always unfunny, uninspired and blindingly obvious PG riff on the product; at worst an attempt to humanise industries and practises that are leading to the destruction of the world. If you’re not convinced you can read some allegedly funny ones from 2023 here.
🍖 Old people threatened by change have demanded that Sainsbury’s adds more plastic to its packaging because they’re reminded when buying meat that it tends to consist of dead animal. “Like I’ve just bought someone’s kidney to cook at home,” said one appalled shopper of mince in vac-packed packaging.
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