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Commercial Break
The Case of the Bad Advertising
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on August 24, 2005   |   Episode 3 (Show Archive)  

While digging through all of my old magazines for inspiration and reference I discovered that there are a lot of awesomely great advertisements that have been completely forgotten. Instead of keeping this gold mine to myself I decided to talk about four of these old advertisements each and every week. And so was born the Commercial Break, a place where I can really let them know what I think of their adverts! Looks like we have four of them right here ...
Power Clutch SG
When your product is nothing more than another joystick sitting on the shelf, it can be kind of difficult to come up with a creative ad campaign. Unlike the games we normally cover on this page, the Power Clutch SG doesn't have the luxury of cool graphics or character artwork. Instead they had to come up with something to show off how cool the joystick was ... and as you can tell by looking at this advertisement, they failed in every way possible.

Let's get the obvious out of the way, you're looking at a person that, for no good reason that I can think of, is split between two extremes. There's the side that is wearing jeans and a tee-shirt, while his other side appears to be what that leather guy from the Village People would look like if he was turned into a vampire. These contrasting sides are strangely sewn together to make one very disturbing advertisement. It kind of reminds me of those half man/half women acts you would see in the traveling freak shows. Unfortunately, this is nowhere near as sexy as those circus freaks.

This advertisement demands that you "grab the clutch and feel the power," yet I'm struggling to get that out of the half boy/half biker imagery we're presented with. He's clearly grabbing the joystick (he's not playing, nobody can play a game like he's holding it) and feeling some kind of effect, but from the looks of it it's not a very pleasurable one. If anything I want my joystick to make me look like an athlete or movie star or something, not an extra from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. When you're selling a control the only thing you're required to do is make it look useful and fun, but the Power Clutch SG looks like it's going to infect your body and eat your soul. And I think I'm going to pass on that today.

Turbo Express
When NEC released the Turbo Express back in early 1990s it had a lot of things going for it. The color display was gorgeous, putting forth graphics that no other portable on the market could even come close to matching. It played all the TurboGrafx-16 games (minus the CD titles), giving it an amazing library right from the get-go. And its technology was light years ahead of anything Nintendo was putting out at the time. So why was it that only a few die hard gamers actually bought this amazing portable? Perhaps it had something to do with ad campaign.

I can think of a lot of great places to picture taking your Turbo Express - up a mountain, on a boat, on a roller coaster, in space - but a Port-O-Potty does not make the short list. Heck, it doesn't even make the extremely long list. I would rather take my Turbo Express to a ritual suicide than even think about one of those Honey Buckets. Anybody that has come within even a mile or two of a portable toilet knows how terrible they can smell.

Even more perplexing his the strange pro-Honey Bucket message this advertisement seems to be sending. It states in large text that "some of the most enjoyable things in life are portable," yet the picture is of one of the least enjoyable locations of all time. They might as well have put a picture of an Iraqi torture prison or Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch in the advertising, the Port-O-Potty just isn't a good way to represent your overpriced portable game system. It makes you wonder if the Turbo Express stinks as much as one of those Honey Buckets.

M.C. Kids
Of all the bad advertisements we have looked at in the last three episodes of Commercial Break, this one-page spot for M.C. Kids has to be the single worst one we've seen yet. It's atrocious on so many levels that it's hard not to admire the audacity of the game's marketing department. To say that it's misguided and pandering is almost a compliment; this advertisement is so bad it could probably be linked to eating disorders and certain types of skin rashes.

The first thing you notice about M.C. Kids is that it's a little wordy. It's also not very objective. It starts its promotion by stating that it's the "way wildest game ever" and that we should trust this guy because he "invented it." And what's not to trust about this guy; after all, he looks like an upstanding member of society - what with the ridiculous makeshift Mohawk and wholly unhip sunglasses. Of course, not all of the advert requires you to put that much thinking in, just look at the line that ponders what the M.C. could stand for - "that's M.C. as in Major Cool, Mega Challenging, Mondo Crazy." Somehow I doubt a McDonalds game is going to be challenging OR crazy, perhaps they meant to write fattening and low-quality ... a simple mistake.

But what's really offensive about this advertisement is how hard it tries to be cool. This commercial throws just about everything they could think of at you all at once, making it especially hard to focus on anything. There are all these little pictures and icons and words that seem to be going for a "hip" vibe, but come off feeling like a bunch of fourty-something's trying to appeal to the youth. Look hard for everything from a weird reference to "Psycho" to upside down words to some of the worst slang you will ever see. And to make matters worse, they have pictures of animals just in random locations, for no reason at all. And what can resist a game with the progressive environmental message, "It's a radical new world." It's cool to be the person to make a video game, but if your claim to fame is a McDonalds game, then I would probably tell your friends and family that you're unemployed.

Thunder Spirits
Where would we be without the graceful art of vomit humor? You know what this Thunder Spirits commercial is lacking is a good, old fashioned fart joke. Perhaps they were saving that for the TV commercial. All joking aside, this Thunder Spirits advertisement has turned me several different shades of confused. Should I be excited to play a game that promises to make me hurl? Is vomiting really a good selling point for anything? And doesn't that guy look an awful lot like Jason Alexander??

This Thunder Spirits advertisement came out around the same time movies like Wayne's World were leaving their cultural mark, which could go a long way to explain why someone would consider "hurl" to be a buzz word. Nothing about the thought of vomit is appealing, and it ultimately ends up with me wondering what that red-headed freak had to eat moments before letting it fly. Hopefully it was a milkshake or something light, not the McDonalds food those M.C. Kids above are promoting. Apparently somebody thought it would be a good idea if every time you thought of Thunder Spirits the first thing to pop into your head is some guy vomiting up a Big Mac. I don't think you need to see Super Size Me to know how disturbing that can be.

The commercial's greatest sin is not its immature humor, it's the outrageous hyperbole found in the small print. Although the game is a straight forward 2D shooter, it claims to offer "horrific 3-D creatures." To say that this featured 3D enemies is a lot like saying that Night Trap was a cartoon. And the exaggerations don't stop there; it also states that it's an "arcade classic." Unfortunately Thunder Spirits was never an arcade game, nor was it especially worthy of being considered a "classic." Talk about something that makes me want to hurl.


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