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Commercial Break
Saved By the Bad Advertising
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on October 07, 2005   |   Episode 7 (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 ...
Panic (Sega CD)
This is a classic example of a pop culture parody gone wildly astray. Data East is obviously referencing the famous Got Milk? slogan that still permeates our society, but instead of going for a tasteful parody they decided to take it in a direction that would likely turn more people away than anything. Throw in the fact that there is almost no information about the product and you have one of the worst video game commercials of all time.

Panic didn't need this kind of advertising. There's no question that Panic was a hard game to sell, it's a title that features a boy and his dog traveling from one strange situation to another. It features bike-riding elephants, boys with boobs, plenty of landmarks being destroyed, and some awkward sexual metaphors. It's a game where you do nothing more than "guess" at which button to push, and then watch the short animated clip that followed your decision. Despite being a hard game to sell, it would b have been nice to see Data East actually try to come up with a way to get people to buy it. My suggestion would be a large MA-17 rating in the middle of the page with the text "The Journey of a Boy Who Grows Boobs" over it. How can anybody resist that?

But what bugs me about this advertisement is not the stupid way they represented a good game, my problem is solely with the guy and the milk. Why is milk coming out of his nose? One has to surmise that it's because he looked at the "Got Panic?" joke (that's where his eyes are) and found it so damn funny that he had to spit milk out of his nose. The problem is that neither the milk spilling out of the nose nor the "Got Panic?" text is particularly funny, which makes this commercial even more tragic. I tell you, if they had just mentioned the breasts thing we wouldn't be talking about it here.

Blockbuster Video - The Source
Behind the Force
It's frightening how much I hate this advertisement. I've never been a big fan of Blockbuster Video and this "Roast a Few Weenies Tonight" commercial is doing nothing to change my opinion. But it's not about the company; it's about how many mistakes you can find in this simple commercial. On the surface it may look like a simple joke that is nothing more than a play on words, but when you dig a little deeper you'll notice that nearly every aspect of this advert is flawed.

For starters, the advertisement is about getting people to the store to rent a next generation console - either the Sega Saturn or the Sony PlayStation - to test out which one they liked better. Yet neither control pictured is a next generation control. The control on the right is a third party Super NES control, and the burnt control on the left looks to be a Sega Genesis control. If this advertisement was about renting 16-bit games it would be acceptable, but it's clear they are "supposed" to be playing something for the PlayStation or Saturn (the Blockbuster box to the right is a thin CD-style rental case). So why not use the PlayStation or Saturn control?

Even more confusing is why the person on the left caught fire. The commercial makes it look like the poor sucker caught fire due to the other players superior gaming ... but that can't be the case, since we've already established that the controls are for two different systems. Just look at where the cords lead, both seem to be connected to two completely different consoles, which really muddies up the theory that evil-looking Pearl Jam fan just outplayed man on fire. Plus, I can't get the idea out of my head that it seems like Blockbuster Video is advocating setting your friends on fire while they are sitting on the couch. As a fan of furniture I beg of you not to set your friends on fire on the couch ... try doing it outside where nothing else will catch on fire!

Aircars (Jaguar)
Who would have thought that the advertisement for Aircars would be as bad as the game itself? One look at this commercial and you'll understand why we've included it with the other examples of Bad Advertising. Even the catchphrase sucks: "Fly the path of total ... DESTRUCTION." What does that even mean? And what is that Aircar in the picture doing? Are they going to that city in the distance that has already been destroyed, or maybe that's where they came? I know these are "Air" cars, but what makes them so much more violent than the regular cars we have in the world of today?

These are the types of questions you'll be asking yourself when you look at this advert for Aircars. Your mind will spend the rest of the day trying to figure out all of these conundrums instead of doing important things, which will lead you right back to the paragraph-long story that is supposed to explain everything. But this story not only fails to answer the questions you have about the picture, but it actually brings up a few more big questions that deserve answers.

In the short summary of the game, the acronym "E.B.N.E.R.S." is mentioned five times, yet never is it explained what an "E.B.N.E.R.S." is. And not only that, but "ebners" isn't even a word, so what's the acronym for? It's not like this is based on reality, these game designers can come up with acronyms for any kind of situation, why not choose something fitting like "J.E.E.P.S." or "R.I.D.E.R.S."? The advertisement clearly states that these "E.B.N.E.R.S." have "control of the worlds nuclear facilities," so what makes you think your aircar is going to be able to save the day? Isn't that like deciding to put a Hummer H2 up against all of the Chinese army? Hmm ... now that I mention it, that sounds like a much better game than Aircars.

Out of this World Sweepstakes
Imagine entering a contest you didn't want to win. Not one that you had no chance of winning, but rather a contest where the prizes were so lame you prayed that someone else would get them. Thanks to the Software Toolworks Out of this World Sweepstakes you don't have to imagine such a contest, you're about to witness one of those contests that will make your skin crawl and your hair fall out.

When you hear the name Out of this World Sweepstakes you probably think of the Delphine Software game Out of this World, the thrilling 2D adventure game that was released around the same time as this contest. But despite the name this contest has nothing to do with the game that would go on to inspire Flashback. Instead this has more to do with Mario than anything ... well, kind of. Part of this commercial was to advertise Mario's Time Machine and Mario is Missing, two "educational" Mario (and Luigi) adventures that found their way on the Super NES. The only problem is that these are by far the two worst Mario games on the console, which is bad news for this terrible advertisement.

But then, this isn't a commercial for those Mario-esque games either; the prizes have as much to do with Mario as they do Out of this World. The grand prize was a Cynergy MPC computer, which could play the two Mario games in question ... but for some odd reason the Mario games weren't given away with the PC. Other prizes include bikes, rollerblades, and watches ... none of which have anything to do with Nintendo's mustachioed plumbers. Compared to some of the other adverts we've looked at in this episode this Out of this World Sweepstakes commercial seems awfully week, but I can't help but include it because I laugh out loud every time I see how small the "hey kids!" attention grabber is.
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