The Top Five stupid TV Commercials in 2019

by | Mar 13, 2019 | Uncategorized | 14 comments

You’re probably wondering what commercials have to do with thriller novels. In our case, it has to do with branding. We, the Rogue Writers, are testing out our emerging brand, hoping you’ll be eager to see what we come out with next. Some of our readers might notice a few tiny differences in our blog header, one being the tagline beneath our name: “Kick-ass thriller writers. With Lives.” We dropped the international, because some of us are writing books that take place squarely in the U.S. We’re trying to let people know that the Rogue Women write kick-ass books, but that’s not all we do (hence, the “With Lives.”) Obviously, the goal is that if you see Rogue Women, you’ll identify us with good books. It’ll take some time to see if this branding thing works. 

Geico Spy Commercial

Like books, I’ve always believed that the best commercials are memorable and tell a good story. They draw you in, or make you laugh, or make you cry (in a good way). Think Budweiser Clydesdales and dogs for loyalty and tears of joy. Jack-in-the-Box and Geico have the market on laughter. When the above brands come out with a new commercial, I often rewind the DVR to watch. They succeed, because they tell a story—usually in less than two minutes. (Do you recall the gum commercial where the high school kid left wrappers for his sweetheart? Same concept, but serial installments.) The bad commercials fail to tell a decent story. They lack thematic structure. Or if they have a theme, they fail on plot. 

Keeping that in mind, here’s my list for the first quarter of 2019. These are, without a doubt, commercials that I’d like to never see on my TV screen again:

5.  Burger King (with the plastic head). Okay, I haven’t technically seen one of these in 2019, but they’re so bad it still lingers in my memory banks—especially the one where the king is stalking someone sleeping in their bedroom. I get that Jack-in-the-Box has hit a home run with the plastic-head-thing, but the difference is that Jack is funny. The king is creepy. It makes me not want to eat at BK. Ever. 

4.  Liberty Mutual.  I suppose on the one hand, that because I remember their name, they’ve succeeded. But not in the way they’d hoped. Their jingle (Liberty, Liberty, Liberty…) reminds me that I need to record any show they’re on, so I can fast forward after making a mental note to never buy their product. Face it Liberty, these are not funny. Not even a little bit. 

3. Chevy.  (At least I think it’s Chevy. As far as branding, it’s that unmemorable.) This truck company tries to amaze you (and fails) by showing these “real people, not actors” who are taken into a big warehouse or a desert, or wherever, and get to see a pickup put through the ringer in a way they couldn’t possibly have imagined. Then the twist ending (on some), where they’ve dragged their relative in to witness their amazement. It does nothing to enhance the brand, and only proves that people will do anything to get on TV. (That being said, the Provincial Progressive Insurance spoof of this particular set of commercials is excellent. Branding, however, not so good. My husband had to correct me on insurance co.)

2.  All fabric softener, detergent, or room freshener commercials that brag about fresh scent.  Every one of them shows a person sniffing someone else’s clothes or barging into a neighbor’s house to smell their kitchen or teen’s messy bedroom. One unmemorable brand had an annoying campaign where we actually heard someone sniffing loudly (and which caused me to switch the channel, every single time before I heard the product name). Not only don’t I want people to invade my space like that, I don’t like my clothes to smell like the chemical version of a “spring day” or “clean, fresh scent.” Clothes shouldn’t smell period. (Truth: I buy unscented everything.) My version of a spring day is to walk outside and stand in the sun. If I want to smell a flower, I’ll walk up to one. 
Charmin as far as the eye can see.

And my top choice for worst commercial: 

1.  Charmin toilet paper.  The current ad campaign with the bears is so bad, I had to look up the brand, because I refuse to waste space in my memory banks. Unfortunately, the tagline is firmly burned into my brain: “We all go. Why not enjoy the go?” (Said no one ever.) To the ad agency who came up with this inane branding concept, I get that you need a way to make it memorable—and you have, just not in a good way. For the sensitive readers, just skip down to the end, and let me know your fave or most hated commercial. For those of you who agree that swearing is okay (per Rogue Gayle Lynds’ (2/20) post), I have to say: WTF? There are so many ways to interpret this tagline, and all of them bad. Think triple X rating. Honestly, stick with the bears if you must. We all know what they do in the woods. That was clever. But reality is that the majority of us (and the bears) aren’t “enjoy(ing) the go,” and those who do, I don’t want to know about it. Please, please, please retire this stupid campaign!

So, Rogue Readers, who wins your vote for worst commercial ever? And would you buy one of their products? Or steer clear? I’d love to know!
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  1. Gayle Lynds

    I am in awe that you know commercials, Robin. And your analysis sounds totally right on, and extremely funny. I didn't know whether to laugh or cry half the time! I seldom watch real TV except news shows, and somehow I manage to ignore the commercials. Maybe the commercials on news shows aren't as bad? Hmmm. One reason we watch Netflix and Amazon Prime and any other movie option is to AVOID COMMERCIALS. (I also mute them frequently.) I feel mildly guilty about that, since I believe in responsible capitalism, but obviously not sufficiently guilty to, er, pay attention to commercials.

  2. Rogue Women Writers

    What a clever post, Robin – one that really made me think about commercials, the good and the bad. I always DVR shows that I want to watch so I can fast-forward through all the commercials, of course. However, I will stop and watch a particular commercial that I recall pops up around the holidays — of the service man coming back for a surprise Christmas visit. He sneaks into the kitchen, makes a pot of coffee — his mom wakes up to the fragrant smell of this great coffee – comes downstairs and rushes to embrace her son standing there in uniform. Congratulations Maxwell or whoever came up with that one! …Karna Bodman

  3. Robin Burcell

    For the most part, I wouldn't notice many of them, either, but my husband does watch commercial TV, and he likes to point out how bad they are. Who knew that was a TV sport? We should have an award for bad things, like the Razzies for bad films. We could have the Rogue Rotties!

  4. Robin Burcell

    Karna, yes! I love that commercial! And they have another one, not quite as good, but still very good, where the kids is taught to save in the can (back when) by his father, then recalls that memory and turns the new, modern, plastic coffee jug into a bank so his son can save. (I think it was for a baseball mitt.)

  5. Chris Goff

    LOL. I have to say, the Geico spy commercial is one of my favorites — so like a son talking with his mom — "this is not a good time, Mom" And her question — "what's all that noise? Are you taking a Zumba class." Agree the BK plastic head is creepy. The Charmin commercials should be banned! My favorite commercials — the Allstate commercials with the mayhem guy and Farmers Insurance "Hall of Claim" commercials. I will actually stop the fast forward to watch a new one.

  6. Jamie Freveletti

    Love the Geico one where mom is calling the spy in the middle of his day. And had to look up the Progressive spoof of Chevy and it's quite funny. Agree that the toilet paper commercials are…odd. Nice post!

  7. Robin Burcell

    Interesting that insurance gets the best (and, in my case, the worst) on our lists! "If you're a mom, you call at the worst time." (Love that commercial!) And, yes, Farmers and Allstate are pretty good, too. Just, IMO, not as good as Geico! (I love, love, love the Geico commercial about being in a horror movie!)

  8. Robin Burcell

    I'd love to work for the Geico ad agency. They must have fun coming up with those commercials!

  9. Lisa Black

    The Geico spy commercial is definitely the best. The Charmin ones are definitely the worst. Liberty is the second worst because there arent’ enough of them so we see the same ones ad nauseum. The large insurance companies have ones that are more amusing (I like the Mayhem ones, I know a lot of people don’t) but they annoy me because if they have that much money to spare on advertising then they are charging too much, not paying out enough, and why would I want to buy their insurance?

  10. Robin Burcell

    Very good points, Lisa! Wish adverts didn't factor into cost of insurance!

  11. Gayle Lynds

    Ohhhh, I LOVE the ROGUE ROTTIES! We could have them for cake mixes, and vacation destinations, and comics, and and and!

  12. Thonie Hevron

    I have to say that ALL the Liberty Mutual are my most muted ads. This is why I watch a lot of Amazon Prime and Acorn TV. Love the Geico spy one, though.

  13. Robin Burcell

    Agree with you, Thonie, on the entire Liberty Mutual campaign! I was going to be the other night and caught the first 2 syllables of the ad before I switched off the TV. Noooo! Last thing anyone wants to do is go to bed with that earworm!