NB. Skip the next thousand words if you're just here for the funny stuff
Four hours. That's how long, if you're an average Brit, you spend watching television every day. And, if you're not watching the BBC, that means one whole hour of adverts every day.
There's a popular misconception that you don't pay anything when you're watching ITV or one of the free satellite channels. This is bollocks since you pay what amounts to a television tax at the checkouts when you buy the products you see advertised on television. Of course, if you subscribe to Sky you're not only creating the very adverts in the first place, you're also paying for the privilege to watch adverts: a double whammy that seems to be strangely overlooked by licence-fee whingers.
So, an hour of advertising every single day that you're paying for and also paying someone else to watch. Imagine allowing a door-to-door salesman into your home for an hour a day - and you pay him for the privilege. Or standing in front of a load of billboards for an hour every day - you bought them. Or switching on a television channel for the express purpose of being brainwashed by advertisers for an hour every single day - at a fiver per half hour. 365 hours a year. 16 days. Two weeks. Half a month. Every Sunday you might as well go to the cinema for seven hours just to watch adverts and pay for the privilege. Insane.
I wrote this after a walk through Hartlepool's town centre - a north-east conurbation that has been shat on from a great height by government policy, town planning and profiteering private landlords grown fat on the benefits of the feckless, ill, terminally unemployable or luckless.
Shorn of any meaningful industry or trades much of the north-east produces virtually nothing of value these days. Jobs mainly exist to service people and in this environment the requirement to sell stuff - necessarily goods of little or no value bought by people with no money on tick - becomes even greater, because without even this meagre trade even the hellish shopping centres and retail parks would be turned into rubble-strewn £2.50-a-visit parking lots.
Pound shops, value marques, charity outlets and even food banks make up much of the town centre. A friend of a friend runs one of those shops that sells food supplements and herbs. Recently his main supplier told him that he couldn't sell to him any more as he'd become an approved supplier to Holland & Barrett, a place whose clients are nothing if not eclectic, seemingly consisting solely of doormen seeking muscle protein and arthritic pensioners buying St John's Wort. The whey-protein vendors told him that he would not be allowed to supply anyone else within a certain radius. So another independent retailer is crushed into the dirt, the town becomes a little more homogenous and what little money there is is concentrated in the pockets of multinationals and spirited out of the town.
A job for a job, you might think. But that really isn't the case. Some jobs generate less value, per capita, than others and it's the big beasts who create the least value. An indie might generate, say, £20,000 a year. A McJob might create only £15,000. So when one of these places boasts of creating 20 new jobs the chances are there's a net loss in value to the region. Remember that, next time Tesco comes a-calling.
Why is this relevant? Because this system we live in relies on buying more and stuff. Stuff that we don't need. Stuff created abroad by miserable people for buttons, of material that's designed to become obsolete within months, requiring us to replace it with more shit. That the end of the line for these 'goods' is a place like Hartlepool, full of people with no money, is particularly perverse but it's become one of the prime money generators in our utterly fucked economy. Buying shit. It's a little like the last days of Rome, but with a TOWIE onesie instead of a Bacchanalian orgy.
The fuel for this ghastly engine is, of course, advertising. It's become utterly imperative that we keep purchasing, well beyond our needs or even meaningful desires. Thusly television adverts take on a greater significance. They must make us buy things we neither want nor desire. Our out-of-control demand drives down prices, which means everyone along that chain earns a little less. In doing so we perpetuate a system that destroys jobs, money, value and choice. We're all racing to the bottom; a fevered, insane dash to pay ourselves less, rob ourselves of hard-fought rights and salve our bruised personalities with holidays, cars and cheap shit - palliatives to block out the horror of it all.
Look around you the next time you're in a shopping centre, a supermarket or fast food joint. If you're particularly unlucky you might experience a chilling moment of clarity; a horrible insight into what lies beneath the facades. The Amazon warehouse, the Asian sweatshops, the palm oil plantations, the mines that provide the precious metals for electronics, the vast mechanised slaughterhouses. We're all complicit in this; we're born complicit. But we don't have to like it.
Adverts are the devil on our shoulder, whispering that we deserve it, that it's Christmas; a can of pop, a smartphone, a 12-month subscription to Netflix will complete us. Only adverts are done whispering. Adverts will mislead, pester, guilt-trip and annoy in their efforts to encourage us to cough up, barely stopping short of a metaphorical skull-fucking in terms of the aural assaults adverts increasingly lob at us. Adverts will inveigle and batter their way past your personal spam settings. They're not simply unskippable on a DVD these days, they're unskippable in your head. As a concept I find that objectively sinister.
Advertising doesn't have to be bad. It's just that advertisers have cottoned on to the fact that bad adverts frequently work better than good adverts. Remember that old maxim about a bad meal, and how you'll tell ten times more people telling their friends about a negative experience than a good one? We're wired to remember those details: the slap in the face, the finger in the door, the hair in the soup and that bloody awful tune that we can't get out of our heads. To be in your heads in what advertisers want, cooing that you deserve a new satnav or imprinting their url on your mind like cattle being branded.
Advertising pretends to be your friend. It is not. I can't tell anymore whether it is a symptom of our slavery to the worst excesses of the market or something more sinister: something that is leading us further down to the road to our own anaesthetic stupor; a wanton shoulder-shrug, idle channel-hop and a listless wank.
Ads may sometimes be a bit of fun, they might even be amusing and cheering occasionally. But they are not benign. They are precision-guided missiles aimed directly at your sense of guilt, unhappiness, esteem, self-image and alienation.
You choose to watch them for an hour a day while they try to fuck you up.
In that context, they're all bad. But these are the worst. Merry Christmas.
Women get wet while humiliating a man.
• Read the original Diet Coke AdTurd
Oh, hai rapey man with a modern-day Swatch Watch. Even though you look, sound and act like a twat I'm going to give you access to my vagina cos I like your wristphone.
Bean vendors try to convince us that the minimum-wage slaves they employ give a fuck about your Americano that you actually want milk in.
• Read the original Costa Coffee AdTurd
A bank makes stalkers live with sportspeople. Most of them seem to have some sort of alarming crush on said sportspeople now; at the beginning it was the other way round. There's some relationship dynamics right there. Expect Jessica Ennis' head to be found in a bucket soon.
• Read the original Santander AdTurd
Simply the worst advert of all time. Or, if you will, a shit ad.
• Read the original Andrex AdTurd
Emotional blackmail with your sugar-flavoured gakburger, sir? Nah, you're alright.
• Read the original McDonalds AdTurd
"I'm sorry to say the tests show you have a zingy, Mr Brown. You've got six months before your eyes fall out."
• Read the original EDF AdTurd
Celebrity cunts tell lies for money.
• Read the original Sky AdTurd
The 'ordinary voice' meme is, perhaps, 2013's most aggravating. No doubt it's relatable. It's also horrible.
A rap about a Vauxhall Corsa. KRS-ONE would turn in his grave, if he were dead.
• Read the original Vauxhall AdTurd
So try-hard you can imagine an ad exec wanking in the background while this got shot.
2013's most annoying noise - another appearance for the 'ordinary voice' meme - has returned for Christmas to mop up any viewers who may have luckily escaped thus far, like a battlefield executioner dispatching wounded soldiers with a bullet to the head. Oo-wack-a-doo-what-a-loada-crap.
This carnivorous fish was vaulted a long time ago but watching these once-amusing adverts devolve into late-era Only-Fools-And-Horses drivel has been painful. The only sane response is to hope for a cobra attack on the whole troop followed by twitching deaths, like when Flower got offed in Meerkat Manor.
You might not think there's much that's particularly hateful about this, apart from its syrupy, sickly chicken-soup-for-the-soul bullshit and that awful kids' choir. But look closer - this is the Irish version of the advert and it's more notable for what it doesn't include than what it does. Compare it with the UK version below, which features a happy - and gay - couple. Seems Coke can conquer anything - apart from homophobia. And tooth decay, obviously.
• Want more? Read the lists from previous years...
Now vote for the worst of 2013
I've no great issue with Diet Coke adverts, which have made a virtue of women damply watching male hardbodies carry out some hard, sweaty labour with their shirts off.
The arousal of these women is clearly conveyed using a number of none-too-subtle visual metaphors, which see wet lips parted and ring pulls fingered - and only just about stop short of seeing nipples hardening under blouses and hands heading downstairs for a surreptitious fiddle. The coda to all of these ads is quite obviously the gaggle of ladies running to the closest toilets for a furious bout of lavatorial frotting.
All of this is undercut here by a bit of Etta James, the kind of rumpy-pump music that indicates that these women are Liberated and In Touch With Their Sexuality, but also that the ad is A Bit Of Fun. Which, arguably, it is. I don't really care much about them; for obvious reasons, as a straight man, I have very little interest in any Diet Coke advert.
Just imagine a load of blokes leering over a woman who's going about her daily routine, though. And then they roll a can of soft drink towards her in the full knowledge that she'll sprayed with its contents in a manner not wholly unlike a cumshot. Look! It did! Hahahahaha! She's humiliated! And wet! Dumb slut!
Wait, no she's not! She's going to take off her t-shirt! Fuck! YOU CAN SEE HER TITS AND EVERYTHING! The men gulp down their carbonated vegetable extract in sexual hunger, their eyes telling terrible stories about their intentions. She's asking for it, the dirty little whore! Look at her pouting and posing - she's loving it!
There's something deeply ambiguous about the power dynamic here: the narrative of the ad suggests that the man turns the tables on the group of women, but the girls' delight at the their plan working and the glances of sexual desire from them make this rather troubling.
Do they intend for the gardener to become soaked in coke when he opens the can? In which case do they intend for him to remove his clothes? Or, as seems to be suggested, are they just happy that he coated in gooey gak? Either way it's not especially benign.
The obvious response to all this is that there's plenty of objectification of women in the media and, indeed, there is. But not so much in advertising. Generally the only sexism you'll see portrayed in adverts these days is directed at men, who are frequently portrayed as stupid, ugly and emasculated. While women got a bad rap in advertising - absurdly so - until the 90s, this is a trend that has all but died out.
No doubt this ad is being forwarded to email addresses all over the country and gawped at by ladies enjoying the sort of washboard not seen since The Waltons was last on television. Fair enough, but transpose the genders of all involved and it's slightly grubby and a bit sad.
Meanwhile I'm left to ponder why the protagonists in cola adverts are all boorish twats - lest I mention the Pepsi Max dicks. The Diet Coke witches seem fairly interested in dicks, perhaps they're made for each other.