Like most folks, when a commercial intrudes on my evening’s TV watching, I take the opportunity to make a quick dash to the kitchen or the bathroom to add or subtract ballast, or at the very least, I take careful aim with the mute button on the remote. It is a point of personal pride to avoid listening to even one word of the this unwanted interruption of my entertainment. It doesn’t have to be this way, to be sure. Every year at Super Bowl time, people stay glued to the television especially for the commercials, as they are among the major highlights of the show. Volkswagen, one of this year’s sponsors, leaked their Super Bowl entry early this year, a charmingly hilarious close encounter between a young Darth Vader and the new Passat, and it has amassed some 6 million hits thus far on YouTube.
This level of quality in advertising is nothing new for the rest of the world, both in print and on the tube; if it is not quite the norm, it is certainly not the exception. I actually find myself looking forward to commercials in Australia, France, the UK, Italy and Japan (to name but a few); here are a few favorites from over the years.
A series of whimsically nostalgic VW ads ran in Mexico the final year of VW Beetle (known in the US as the Bug) production. One showed an empty parking space, fairly small; several large cars tried to fit in, but couldn’t. Then a sign appears on the space saying (in Spanish, naturally): “It is incredible that a car so small can leave such a large void.” My favorite of the series showed the rear end of an early Beetle in the left side of the ad matched up to the front end of the final model in the right side of the ad, with the concise and elegant caption underneath: “Once upon a time…The End.”
The perils of being a one car family: The Turtles’ tune “Happy Together” overlays a weird and wonderful TV ad for the the Toyota RAV4, as a suburban couple duke it out for the day’s first opportunity to play with their new toy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NFnhAZUYB_w
An Asian company called Sealect Tuna is responsible for some of the funniest commercials I have ever had the privilege of watching. Here are a couple of choice examples from the Mysterious East:
France’s CulturePub showcases a strange (no, make that capital-B Bizarre) series of Japanese ads for among other things, blood pressure medicine, felt pens, and a chiropractic office. Check this out, but be ready to be a bit surprised at what is allowed on TV in an otherwise buttoned-up society:
These are, of course, just the tip of the iceberg. A look through YouTube, using the search term “Funny Japanese Commercials”, or “Funny International Commercials” can easily keep you entertained for hours. Here’s one final one, the Top Ten Commercials of 2009; the one of the kids with elastic eyebrows is priceless; I can pretty much guarantee you’ll have no idea what product is being advertised until the last moment or two of the commercial: