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8Sep/172

Head Games: Arnold Schwarzenegger PPI Advert

Government information films have come a long way eh? Rather than employ a continuity announcer with a familiar voice to impart instructions over some footage of someone frowning at a piece of paper we now have this: a disembodied Arnold Schwarzenegger head rolling around on a pair of tracks barking at people to decide whether to submit in a PPI claim, like Total Recall crossed with 1984 in an episode of Robot Wars.

But that's not even the weirdest thing about this advert for the Financial Conduct Authority, a quasi-governmental body (as opposed to a quasi-bodied Governor) that oversees wrongdoing in the finance industry.

Quite what a bunch of side-parted middle-aged white men in suits did when they saw this advert is an intriguing question - and probably involves an emergency pair of navy blue Marks & Spencer's suit trousers. But I digress. The most frightening thing about this is the soundtrack, quite clearly commissioned at great expense from Ennio Morricone.

Aphex Twin's entire body of work isn't as alarming as the menacing early 80s synths evident here that everyone recognises as shorthand for something very unpleasant erupting from your every orifice simultaneously. Here we're mentally prepared for the sort of jarring explosion of violence that would see bodies splattered all over the walls in the flicks the soundtrack evokes.

On top of this aural nightmarescape we have Schwarzenegger himself barking furious instructions at us: 'make a decision!'; 'come on, come on!' and 'do it nooooow!'. The combination is instantly unnerving - a shot of adrenaline on top of a Jagerbomb. Arnie has got your attention.

But there's more. It's funny. It's so wildly odd that it can't help be funny - and it's played for laughs. Instead of blowing everyone away - even while delivering bad-guy despatching one-liners - Arnold chides them for failing to decide whether they're going to make a claim for missold payment protection insurance. The effect is like someone punching you in the face while tickling you.

Arnie PPI deadline

"Bye-bye to the PPI," sings Carnold in his ludicrous East European accent that sounds like his entire lower jaw is made from rubber bands. Then an authority figure in the shape of a stern-looking blonde, sitting incongruously behind a big desk and treating the whole situation as she might a Tuesday afternoon in the dole office

What sense can we make of this, once we get past the genuinely disturbing dissonance of the whole affair? Well, I applaud the fact that it exists. It was paid for by the 18 firms who represent over 90% of all PPI complaints over the last decade or so and I'd like to think the people heading those banks will be blowing lumps of swanburger across their TV sets when they see this FCA ad.

This is, of course, yet another example of the nostalgia mining we've seen in recent ads, including the Halifax Top Cat adverts, EpicSkeletor advert - and more evidence that your childhood is up for grabs in the world of advertising boardrooms.

But in those adverts it's wrong-headed, smug and inept. It's just X (ironic thing) + Y (horrible financial thing) = advert. This Arnie advert is so incredibly odd I can't help but to admire it. What works here is the people in the shop look genuinely alarmed and disturbed, rather like the civvies in a series of excellent PaddyPower adverts from a few years back, who looked terrified when the likes of Des Walker and Bruce Grobbelaar turned up unexpectedly in their houses and being weird.

In the utterly shite Skeletor advert for MoneySupermarket everyone's in on the very naff joke; in the terrible Top Cat / Scooby Doo Halifax adverts no-one ponders why cartoon characters want a mortgage or a current account or whatever the fuck they're going to the bank for. What are they good for? A yawn, a shrug or vague irritation.

But the Schwarzenegger PPI advert has the courage of its convictions. All the participants are actually frightened - and being angrily berated by an animatronic Governator. And so are we.

Yes there are adverts out there designed to irritate and annoy us - this website is devoted to them. But to have the balls to deliberately shit up your audience and shout in their faces? Bravo, FCA, bravo. I take my hat - if not my head - off to you.

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14Aug/170

KFC Whole Chicken DMX Advert

I kinda like the new KFC 'The Whole Chicken' advert which features the dulcet tones of DMX. There I said it.

I'm not a fan of dissonance for the sake of dissonance generally and it's become a shorthand for lazy campaigns - seen, more often than not, in adverts for the likes of price-comparison websites, betting companies and insurance outfits. If you want a good example look no further than the cast-iron bollocks of the Epic Skeletor advert or deleterious Halifax ads starring Everything You Liked From Your Childhood.

They can largely be boiled down to X + Y = advert, where X is a horrible company selling something boring and Y is an 80s meme. On that basis the KFC advert would seem to fit squarely within that bracket, but whereas most of these adverts look no further than one of those "Do You Remember The Last Decade But One?" programmes or an episode of Top of the Pops from 1985, this one goes all out to include one of rap's most aggressive and in-your-face artists of the 90s, a man who once made an ex-girlfriend of mine screw up her face in horror at one of his lyrics while his music was playing in my car.

DMX doesn't do a lot for me but I've always admired the straight-up aggression of X Gon' Give It To Ya, a song - if it can be called a song - where the X issues three minutes of threats, boasts and general menace. This is not a track for the faint-hearted. Add it to some visuals of a dancing chicken and it's sufficiently striking and odd that it can't help be engaging. Simply, you have to admire the balls. Were the soundtrack to me some ironic use of an 80s hit, dayglo 90s pop or disco shite and it would be so lacking in imagination it would go straight into the shit pile.

Of course, raising the lulz is the basic currency of the internet these days. Attention - whether positive or blazingly negative - is something to be harvested, like the entrails of the hens strutting around wherever KFC buys its Live Meat Bits. Not they would be strutting, in all likelihood either, as KFC doesn't source free-range chickens.

And call me an embittered, professionally-disgruntled website (many have) but there's a whiff of 2016 about this. It's a bit Trumpy in the way that the orange-faced twat has lent legitimacy to all manner of horrible behaviours and views. To me this advert says 'go on, eat us - it's OK, we're virtually asking for it'. By making that connection explicit - that an animal died for you to stuff your face full of greasy chicken - it's almost abnegating any guilt you might feel. They want to be eaten.

I'm ambivalent about this. On one hand I find that deeply disquieting - from the same mode of thinking in advertising that people deserve and should have whatever they want. It's a mantra of deep selfishness and narcissism and I hate it.

On the other hand I have no sympathy for people who don't want to be reminded of the cost of their various appetites, whether its sweatshops for clothes, animals for food or mass killings of brown people for Class A drugs. If you can't handle the idea of cute animals dying so you can gorge yourself then stop eating meat you moron.

Not that there's much honesty on show. If your mission is to show the unexpurgated truth of what makes KFC such a finger-lickin' good experience then you should really show these hens limping around with one foot, featherless, pumped full of steroids and antibiotics and with an eye pecked out. I'm going out on a limb to suggest there's no hip-hop soundtrack wherever hens live their short lives before fed into a grinder either. In keeping with what is probably a profoundly miserable existence it's probably Catfish and the Fucking Bottlemen.

PETA are up in arms about it - claiming that it's a lift from their own playbook, which makes the connection between living animal and dead animal. But PETA are a bunch of cunts so while I'm inclined to agree that this is deliberately flirting with - and subverting - their messages I've little sympathy. There's a kid of evil genius in that.

So a brave, bold advert then. Kinda horrible, but it made me laugh. And in these heady times, isn't that all that matters?

NB. Needless to say I won't be venturing into KFC any time soon. I'm not a fucking idiot.

NB2. Also I'd like to add that KFC's slogan should probably be 'The Whole Chicken - and some faecal matter'

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