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Turkeys in Advertising

I’ve been obsessed with advertising since I was young. I love everything about how ads are created.

I think its brilliant how agencies narrow in on that one special thing about their target market, research to find out the exact angle, and how creative teams nail it in copy and art. Media planners determine the best media mix and format for ads to be shown, based on where their target markets will see the most impressions.

I worked at a global agency for two years, in Seattle, L.A. and San Francisco, and got to live out my dream of working in advertising on the big stage. Ever since being in a “real” agency, and learning from creatives, strategists and media planners, I’ve become somewhat of a nuisance to watch TV with or sit next to while looking through a magazine.

My poor husband – I routinely grab the remote from him to go back to the last channel, or jump on him because he’s supposed to know when I want to watch an ad – or not watch an ad. There are some ads that I love – I’ll want to watch them over and over, if they are good. If they are bad, even hearing them is painful, and I want them out of my life as soon as possible. It’s a deeply emotional situation.

So – now that I’ve qualified my obsession, here are a few recent commercials that I believe to be “turkeys.”

Navy Federal Credit Union – all of them.

Each ad starts out with a close up shot of the apparent service member, describing what we’re led to believe is a situation they were in while they were deployed, and in danger. They are always dressed in what seems to be military attire, many times it is, and they are placed in front of their plane, military vehicle, or unit. Then, we find out it’s all about selling memberships to a credit union.


In this ad, dubbed “3600,” the kid talks dramatically about being abandoned without a vehicle, in what seems to be a scenario when he was deployed and in danger. BUT NO! He’s really just a spoiled brat who needed a ride to paintball. But wait! He can finally get his own car now because his sister, who is in the military, is a member of the credit union, so he can join too.


In this commercial, called “Tour,” the shot starts focused close up on the husband, he’s riding what appears to be a military vehicle, he’s saying that this is his first tour, that “he’d seen the images on TV but until he’s in the thick of it…” and that “the guys in my unit who have been here before said just ride it out…” and then it pans wide to the guy and his wife at a theme park on the dinky ride above and how they used points from the credit union to book their trip.

I have a few words for how I feel about these ads: demeaning, disgraceful, belittling.

Maybe it’s just that I have close friends and family members who served overseas in the past few years, and both grandparents were in the military and overseas in WWII, but I believe that serving in the military is honorable and shouldn’t be mocked – especially for this purpose.

Nationwide Insurance – Baby

This Nationwide Insurance commercial shows the owner of……a baby?....washing it…saving it from being hit by a stray shopping cart, crashing it, then waiting at the body shop for it to be fixed – sweating and pacing around. Moronic.

Not only does it take a while to figure out what this giant CGI baby is supposed to represent, but it’s a giant CGI baby. It’s totally distracting. Then, once you realize it’s supposed to be a car, you feel a bit like you’re being pandered to. Apparently American’s are so stupid that we’ll buy car insurance based on cute CGI babies.

Also, Julia Roberts does the voice over for this ad. Random. And sad.


Moral of the story: If you talked to people the way advertising talked to people, they’d punch you in the face!

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