By In Stuff

Three Commercials

A few really pointless thoughts about three television commercials we are all seeing again and again during the NFL playoffs:

1. Aaron Rodgers State Farm commercial (State of Detention)

I’ve been troubled by the structure of the Aaron Rodgers/State Farm commercial where he’s in the classroom talking to those kids on Career Day. I like the commercial a lot, actually … it’s funny. Rodgers is a likable guy, and the kids are hammering him:

Rodgers: “I play football.”

Cute little girl: “That’s not a job.”

I think what makes the commercial work is that, in some ways, we are WITH Aaron Rodgers there. I have spoken to little kids’ classes before and … it’s really like that. You feel utterly overmatched. The kids are not impressed by the same things older kids or adults are impressed with. I have found myself, in various moments, saying things like:

“Yes, I HAVE talked with Jimmie Johnson.”

Followed by:

“No, I never got to drive his car.”

“No, I didn’t get to change the tires.”

“No, I never got to wear one of those fire suits.”

So, the commercial works with Rodgers as the overwhelmed and likable star who in almost any other setting would be the most beloved guy in the room, but here with these kids is just the quarterback who has to sort of pathetically mention that he won the NFL MVP award last year.

But then, like I say, I think the commercial takes a wrong turn — to me the ending is inconsistent with the rest of the commercial. Rodgers says almost pleadingly, “I was MVP last year,” which is a funny line, and then one of the kids says, “Mr. Hubble says that trophies are for people with self-esteem issues,” which is also a funny line.

Then, Rodgers says: “Who’s Mr. Hubble?”

I guess Rodgers is supposed to say this in a threatening way … because what follows is the kids pointing at a guy, who immediately rips off his name tag and points to another guy and says “That’s Rod Hubble” (to which the guy goes, “No it is not”).

So I guess the point is that Mr. Hubble was supposed to be AFRAID of Aaron Rodgers? Afraid that Rodgers was going to … what … beat up him up? I think that note plinks off-key. Rodgers is not a threatening guy, he’s not playing a threatening guy, and the way he acts is not threatening. If that had been Clay Matthews in the classroom, yeah, the joke works. But I think Rodgers’ is at his best when he’s the butt of the joke — like at the very end when the little kid with the cheesehead pounds on the door and shouts, “Hey Rodgers! Discount Double Check!”

And, yes, I have parsed that commercial way, way, way too much.

* * *

2. Bud Light Visitor commercial

Man: “Who’s that?”

Wife/girlfriend: “Oh that’s Rob.”

Rob: “When I lived in this apartment, the 49ers won the Super Bowl. I used to watch every game from this exact [he moves couch] … this exact spot. [He moves couch again.] This exact spot. I didn’t know what else to do. This is my lucky seat, man.”

Man: [shrugs].

OK, a couple of things. One, the 49ers last won the Super Bowl in 1995 — so 18 years ago. The guy on the couch is probably in his young to mid 30s — so he was, what, 15 when watching football that season? Was it his parents’ apartment? Was he living with his older sibling during that time? Was he some sort of Doogie Howser-type genius who was out on his own, in a tony San Francisco apartment, when he was 16 years old? Did he go to a fair and ask the Zoltar Machine to make him big for a while?

I guess you could construct this kind of storyline: He lived in that apartment as a kid, he left home, went to college, moved to another city, got a job, lost it, got another, lost it, tied his life failures to the 49ers and their inability to win the Super Bowl, moved back to the city, found his life still drifting and finally decided he had to come back to the apartment of his youth where the 49ers of Steve Young and company found a way to win. I could write it as a novel.

The apartment doesn’t really look like a place where he lived as a kid, though.

Second: What would you do if this guy showed up at your place? I mean, let’s say you’re a huge 49ers fan — or this guy is a huge fan of the team you like — and he showed up at your house and asked if he could watch the game in your place because his lucky seat is in there. Obviously this would not work if he was a Browns or Chiefs or Lions or Bengals or Eagles fan, because they haven’t had any lucky seasons when they won the Super Bowl.

But, assuming the facts are in order, would you let that person into your house to watch the game?

I asked the question on Twitter — and got answers ranging from “I would let him in until the 49ers started losing” to “It depends what kind of beer and food he brought” to various violent responses.

* * *

3. Samsung Galaxy Note II commercial (Office Upgrade)

Woman: These new phones they got us are great.

Man: Yeah, it’s the Galaxy Note II.

Woman: You can do two things at the same time. You can watch videos and text. Ha! Puppies…

Man: Or you could watch the earnings report and take notes, like we’re supposed to.

Woman: Or you can make it look like me and Paul from accounting are dancing…

Man: Or you could be doing some work … and some other kinds of work.

Woman: Or you could draw a picture of you sitting at your desk. Look, I’m Mike! I’m working…!

Man: Or you could get fired.

Woman: … and I’m boring.

Man: No, when it’s all done, you can share it instantly.

Woman: So, can I get it?

Man [hesitates, then nods ]: Yeah.

[They tap phones.]

Boss: Either of you put together the earnings reports yet?

[Man raises his hand. Woman cuts him off.]

Woman: Yes, me, totally, 100 percent.

Man: What?!

Boss: You’re fast! Why don’t you tackle the next quarter… [turns to man] and, um, you eat yet?

Man: Polynesian?

Boss: Pu Pu platter?

Man: Yes!

Woman: [stammers]

Man [whispers to woman as he exits]: Keep up the good work.

Woman [disgustedly]: I WILL keep up the good work.

OK, this commercial really shouldn’t work … but I have to admit it gets me every time. I think it’s the performances — of the genial guy who is too serious about work but is willing to share and, especially, of the woman, who is over-the-top and ridiculous but somehow likable too. Her “I WILL keep up the good work” snarl is the best-delivered line I’ve seen in a commercial in quite some time. I don’t know if they give out Oscars for best performances in a television commercial, but she absolutely should get a nomination.

I wonder if the “share information by touching your phone” feature will become big — obviously the Samsung people are really playing it up. Mostly, I don’t see the value. I guess I could see it if you could touch phones and just exchange contact information, that could be cool, I suppose. It isn’t a lot of fun just waiting around for the other person to type your contact information into their phone.

But I THINK that the “Bump” app on the iPhone is meant to do that — to exchange information with a simple bump — and I’ve never once used it. I don’t even know how to use it. Then going to the next level — exchanging videos and earning reports and playlists and stuff like that with a bump … I don’t know. Sounds cool. Doubt I’d ever use it.

Then again, I will readily admit … I’m not a person anyone would want to ask about future technologies. I utterly whiffed on camera phones. Thought they were a complete waste of time.

As I’ve written before, I was once talking to some people who worked at Sprint, and they were talking about improving their phone cameras, and I gave this long, boring soliloquy about how I thought the camera phone was a dumb fad that would disappear. It was not unlike the classic Albert Brooks scene in “Defending Your Life,” when he mouthed off about why he wouldn’t invest his money in the Casio Corporation just as they were about to start making watches.

In other words: This phone-touch technology might just be the biggest thing in the world in the next five years.

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47 Responses to Three Commercials

  1. Jeff Hysen says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Jeff Hysen says:

    In the Samsung ad, there is justice for the guy that actually did the work as he gets to go to lunch with the boss (and enjoy the pu pu plater). Still, the reason he goes is flawed–he’s going because the boss thinks that the woman is doing “good work” so she has to stay behind and work on the reports for the next quarter.

  3. Jason says:

    Is *that* what the “Rod Hubble” bit is supposed to mean? I never could figure it out and that commercial always seemed to end on an awkward, unfunny note.

    (Kinda like the Packers’ season! Ha!)

  4. Shaun says:

    1. I also feel the same way about these three commercials. I think you could also write a post about the guy talking to kids about faster being better than slower (as well as the one about 2 things being better than 1). It gets me every time that kid talks about taping a cheetah to his grandmother’s back.

    2. I also feel the same way you do about mobile phones. I didn’t think a camera on your phone would take off (mostly because I thought they’d stay so far behind digital cameras in quality that no one would want to use those pictures for anything). Now that I see I was wrong, I might come around on the bump thing just so I don’t look so out of touch again.

    3. I am glad someone else has seen Defending Your Life, one of the better movies that Albert Brooks has made. He, Meryl Streep, and Rip Torn put on amazing performances in that movie. Every time someone asks for recommendations for funny movies, I go straight to Albert Brooks, and mention Defending Your Life and Lost in America. I inevitably get blank faces from all around me, as no one else seems to have ever heard of them.

  5. RedsManRick says:

    Joe, you miss the biggest problem with the Samsung commercial. It makes no sense — at all.

    Firstly, if the report was being presented and not just being delivered over a conference call, then surely there is a document that can be accessed by management via the company intranet.

    But let’s assume for a second that a company that gives its employees new smartphones doesn’t have an intranet or make their earnings reports available (despite being legally required to do so).

    If your job it to take notes and provide your boss a summary seconds after the report has been presented and you’re sitting a cube with a modern desktop PC (or laptop) with a full monitor & keyboard, why in the world would you a.) be watching the earnings report on your 5 inch cell phone screen and 2.) using halve that screen to scribble notes using a stylus?

    It’s less efficient and less comfortable. I get the commercial; girl who’s filling that role of “person who takes credit for your work” gets her comeuppance in a comical way — and delivers a great line in the process. But I simply cannot get past the horrible conception; it makes me think less about Samsung as a company, as they clearly haven’t considered that the office monkey types who this commercial might appeal too are probably all reacting negatively to the idiocy of the setup.

  6. Oyster says:

    This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Oyster says:

    Love, love, LOVE that you went to Defending Your Life. I went there myself. If the Germans start making watches….

  8. Richard says:

    “You probably shouldn’t watch it on the plane.”

    • Matt says:

      The best part about that commercial are the faces the couple make at the end. Especially the guy’s face. Makes me laugh every time.

    • Eliza says:

      My favorite part about this particular commercial is that they never explicitly say that the woman is the man’s wife, or even the girls’ mother.

      I find the commercial so much more enjoyable when I pretend that she’s the nanny.

    • David in NYC says:

      I happen to think that the DVR is one of the greatest inventions of all time, mostly because it means I can skip the commercials. Hallelujah!

      But, truth be told, not only have I watched that commercial, I have actually backed up the DVR so I could watch it again.

      And, speaking of awards for acting in commercials, the woman deserves one just for the raised eyebrow look, and the guy for his “What the hell…” look as his cab drives off.

      Also, too: as long as I am here at Joe’s place, I probably should add that it puts me in mind of a scene at the Posnanski household as Joe leaves on one of his seemingly-endless trips.

  9. Now for your take on the endless “Had a bad day” commercials for the NFL’s playoff fantasy football contest.

    • brhalbleib says:

      My kids, who have no interest at all in my football games, absolutely love those commmercials, so they definitely are catching the attention of the casual watcher.

  10. brhalbleib says:

    Despite the fact that I was less than 1 year old in January, 1970 (and now am depressingly 43), I do know, by rumor and legend, that the Chiefs do have that lucky Super Bowl season and shouldn’t have been lumped in with those other Super Bowl-less teams that you named.

  11. Rob Galarza says:

    See, I’m pretty sure the reason that Rob (if that is his real name) ends up watching the Niners on that couples’ couch is because he follows that woman home BECA– USE she has Bud Light. I don’t know if we are ever supposed to really believe he has lived there in the past. The point is that he’s a Niners fan, she’s a Niners fan, and she has beer.

    “I didn’t know what else to do.” – Why is he suddenly desperate to watch his team? Is it the playoffs in that world (they’re all wearing t-shirts in January…)? If so, why wasn’t he there last year, too? What’s the urgency for this game, at this moment?

    It’s the beer.

  12. Wade Jensen says:

    I was really hoping Joe would write about the “Things can always be better” commercials for the new Honda Civic. Not that there is much in the way of deeper meaning to the commercials (perhaps aside from Honda admitting that the prior generation Civic was a debacle), but mostly because I wanted to read 3,000 words on the awesomeness of the waterfall swingset featured in the commercials.

  13. Nick O says:

    I love the Samsung ad because of the actress as well, who happens to play the funniest character on a surprisingly funny Comedy Central show called ‘Workaholics,’ where she also plays an incompetent office person. The show is meant for a younger demographic but it’s worth checking out.

    I can’t stand the commercial for the Nissan Sentra that’s been playing. Why does driving a nice, affordable car lead people to believe that you are the VP of accounts?

  14. Brian says:

    I don’t think Rod Hubble was afraid of Aaron Rodgers, as Joe states. I think he was embarrassed that he was being called out in front of him; the implication being that he had just finished making fun of something Aaron Rodgers was about to brag about moments later. Anyone would have been embarrassed in that situation.

    Yes, we’ve all broken down a commercial a bit too much. But this is fun.

  15. Dinky says:

    WRT Rodgers: I doubt Mr. Hubble fears Rodgers, I think (like probably any teacher in any school Aaron Rodgers would visit) he is a fan and doesn’t want to seem in any way negative towards Rodgers. Because like all us fans WHO DON’T GET TO HANG WITH KUIPER et al we fantasize that our stars would like us and our lives would improve so much from the new BFF Aaron Rodgers would want to be.

    Like almost all the Bud Light commercials, this one does not survive detailed analysis.

    I suspect that Rob already texted the boss that he’d finished taking notes on that earnings report, which is why the boss asked Rob for the pupu platter lunch. What bothered me about this commercial is that earnings reports are quarterly, and if they are getting taking notes from this one, what other quarters would they care about, and why? But I guess that’s too much the investor in me.

  16. Regarding each commercial:

    1. Regarding the Aaron Rogers commercial, I think it works, because it shows the difference between the child reactions (no reverence whatsoever) and the adult reactions (mortification over what’s transpiring).

    2. There are a couple different versions of the Bud Light commercial. The one that ends with the woman saying something like, “What took you so long?” works well for me. It’s funny to have not only the guy but the couple agree with the premise.

    3. The woman’s reaction is great in the Samsung commercial. I think the commercial works, because I like to think that the boss sees through the woman’s ruse.

  17. Music Guy says:

    I had the exact same thought about the Aaron Rodgers ad. And not because I “parsed it too much,” but because at first I didn’t even get it. That last line fails so badly that it’s not even clear the first couple times what’s even going on. And then once I did figure out what was going on, it was easy to see why it hadn’t worked.

  18. Kansas City says:

    I can’t believe Joe can write about this and carry it off.

    The Rodgers commercial is on constantly. It must get great feedback. I thought Rod Hubbel was afraid of Rodgers, but I did not care. It was still funny. The other follow up ads also are funny. Rodgers is quite good.

    The Samsung commercial also is good. I think Ryan above is right that the boss is supposed to know she was taking credit for something she did not do. I was always taken by the ledy’s “I WILL keep up the good work” line, but I never understood what it meant or why she said it. Even now, I don’t know. In my mind, it seems to mean she has decided to actually do good work while they go to lunch. Don’t know why it works in commercial, but it obviously does.

  19. Kansas City says:

    Also, I never liked the Bud light ad much. I never understood the wife’s line about why did you wait until now (or something like that), but I assume it is an inside football joke about the woes of the Niners since the last Super Bowl.

  20. GSOAT says:

    This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  21. GSOAT says:

    Can’t stand the Samsung commercial. Here is a woman who didn’t do her work, and her coworker helps her out, and then she submarines him and takes credit for his work? I’m supposed to like her?

    If someone stole your column and then took credit for it, would you be so easy to laugh it off? Speaking of which, I have a column on Tony Gonzalez coming out on my blog.

  22. Great stuff, Joe. I created a blogger account specifically to encourage, nay, demand more commercial breakdown posts.

  23. nyloco619 says:

    The women in the Samsung commercial is one of the funnier characters on the show ‘Workaholics’. She knows her way around comedy.

  24. jdub says:

    One of the best commercials on TV right now for me is the VW Passat commercial with the average businessman air drumming to Fly By Night by Rush. It’s funny, depicts something many a man has done (air drumming, that is) and has a spot-on payoff line: Careful, you’re no longer invisible in mid-sized sedan. The ad is entertaining and nails its key message: Mid-sized sedans don’t have to be boring. VW makes them with eye-catching design.

  25. The Stork says:

    Everyone knows the main point of the Aaron Rogers commercial is to count the number of “cheeses” you can see. In some shots they magically appear where there had been none. So far me and my son have counted 10.

  26. Luis says:

    I thought somebody would mention that we can’t see the kid at the end of the Rodgers commercial do the “discount double check” move. It really bothers (in a very anal retentive way) me that the window isn’t larger, and I’m always thinking ways how to fix the commercial. Please kill me now!!!

  27. lunatic96 says:

    The most annoying part about the Rogers commercial is that the little girl is right, playing football isn’t a job. There’s no major or even class in college that will prepare you to be a NFL qb, but there are plenty of places where you can learn to be a firefighter, writer or teacher or whatever.

    • clashfan says:

      Does he get paid? With regular paychecks/direct deposits?

      Does he have specific times he needs to be at his place of employment? Are there penalties for not being present on time?

      Is there a dress code? A standard of behavior he is expected to maintain?

      It’s a job.

  28. Grover Jones says:

    How would you look to be the poor casting agent who had to make sure the State Farm commercial was a politically correct as possible?

    (gets on phone) “okay, can you find me an asian girl? Okay, what about black? And make sure she has big hair. And of course a cute boy of the same race, as well. have any hispanics on tap?”

    • clashfan says:

      Or, they just announce an opening for a classful of kids, pick the ones they want for the speaking parts, and then fill out the rest from the cattle call. They don’t have to order up kid actors like a pu pu platter.

  29. Nathan Mize says:

    The Super Bowl is more than just football and food. It has become famous for the commercials. That is why the Super Bowl is so popular for all age groups, from little kids to elders. Entertainment has taken over the TV world and I agree that the commercials plays a big part in not only advertisement, but in the overall way we think and act.

  30. Team Sweeney says:

    I have two issues with the Rodgers commercials and, frankly, I’m little surprised they haven’t been brought up yet.

    First, why is a single, childless 20-something appearing at an elementary school career day? Bigger issue (and it undermines the ONLY possible explanation for my first complaint) – the entire premise of the Aaron Rodgers/State Farm trilogy of commercials, while funny in execution, is that a seemingly large section of Green Bayians (yes?) HATE Aaron Rodgers!! (Or, at the very least, are oblivious to who is – but they treat him like crap.) This is so patently ridiculous, I can’t excuse it. They even have people WEARING CHEESEHEADS IN EVERY ONE OF THE ADS so it’s not like it takes place on some Bizarro world where the Packers don’t exist… and he’s having to explain who he is??? (“Oh, you’re a dancer?”) Is it really possible that ANYONE in Green Bay doesn’t know who Aaron Rodgers is?

    Again, they make me chuckle – but that thought always trips me up.

    • clashfan says:

      Re: Why Aaron Rodgers is at Career Day–Either the teacher is an old high school buddy, or he’s the uncle of one of the kids. Easy-peasy.

      I got nothing on why none of these Green Bay residents know who he is.

  31. KCJoe says:


    I have loved most of your writing for a very long time starting with your column in the KC Star about the birth of your first daughter.

    However, I will be forced to quit reading your work if you don’t formally retract and apologize for your lumping of the Chiefs with the Browns, Lions and Bengals as non-winners of the Superbowl. You lived here for years!!!

    Look, I know as well as anyone that Kansas City sports (besides MLS) have been horrible for years (decades for the Royals) but you can’t take away that which is recorded in history. Its all we have right now.


    KC Joe

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