I hate this commercial with the fire of 1,000 suns
“I don’t have pet peeves, I have psychotic fucking hatreds.”~~George Carlin
You know, I’ve been talking a lot on here recently about politics, not saying anything that a dozen other people haven’t said already, many of them much better than me. So let’s take a break from all that and discuss one of my favorite subjects: petty hatreds. Maybe it can be turned into a semi-regular column, ‘I Hate [Person/Place/Thing] With/Like [Something Very Strong or Intense, i.e. the fire of 1,000 suns].’ It could be sort of like VH1’s Best Week Ever, only, you know, filled with hate, and no B-list celebrities.
The current object of my hatred seems innocuous at first, in fact, rather a silly thing for me to loathe, and yet I do. I hate everyone involved in the creation of it, and wish upon all of them shingles, followed by excessive body odor that resembles the pungent smell of sauerkraut. May they be haunted till the ends of their days by my hatred, let it become embodied in the form of a ghost covered in chains and wearing a rag tied around his head.
What is the object of my hatred? This commercial.
Haaaaate. If I could actually shoot daggers out of my eyes, I’d aim them towards the advertising department of Optimum Online. I don’t even know if Optimum or its commercials are nationwide, if not, I apologize, but I need to get this out of my system. This commercial is so loathesome I often change the channel when it comes on, switching back once approximately thirty seconds has passed. If I leave it on, I often swear at the actors in it out loud. It actually turns me into a ranting lunatic, and this is exacerbated by the fact that it seems to air roughly seven to eight times a night.
Each detestable portion of it needs to be separated and examined individually, like forensic evidence at a crime scene. A family, husband, wife and young daughter, sit in a movie theater waiting for the show to begin. A second family enters the row in front of them loaded down with so much popcorn, candy and soda they look like they moonlight as vendors at Yankee Stadium. Seriously, the husband is carrying a veritable barrel of soda. “Whoa, check out the Von Snack Family!” Husband #1 remarks, with enough derision in his voice to suggest he doesn’t actually like the second family very much (which makes you wonder why they sit near each other). Being that this is a totally douchebaggy thing to say, how do you think the other family would react to it? You have three choices.
a. Ignore the comment and go about the rest of their evening.
b. Laugh it off and tear into their jumbo-size box of Sno-Caps.
c. Give an unnecessarily elaborate explanation of how they got free movie tickets, even though nobody actually asked, in the same manner as in other commercials, when someone talks about a product and continuously refers to it by its full name (“I use new Mr. Clean Spray & Wash With Super Germ-Killing Action!”).
If you picked anything other than c., clearly you’ve never seen a commercial before, and thank your lucky stars for it. Husband and Wife #2 explain that they get free movie tickets because they’re members of the Optimum Rewards Club, though considering they apparently spent the money they would have put towards the tickets on a shit-ton of food, I’m not really seeing the savings. As they’re explaining this, Husband #1 shifts uncomfortably in his seat, and for good reason, because Wife #1 gets a look on her face that suggests she’s just been shown photographs of her husband getting it on with his secretary. After telling them about the club, Wife #2 grins patronizingly at them in a “gee whiz, you didn’t know about it?” manner. Wife #1 turns to her husband and says “They see movies for free,” in a tone that suggests the next words out of her mouth will be “What have you done for your family, you miserable prick?”
Approximately ten seconds is dedicated to explaining what the Optimum Rewards Club is, and the explanation is essentially “go online and find out yourself.” For the sake of pseudo-journalism, I checked out the Rewards Club. It’s basically a savings/discount club for Optimum customers who use all three of their internet, cable and telephone services. The free movie tickets the second family gloat over are available to club members one day out of the week, Tuesdays, and are good for only one theater chain, Clearview Cinemas, which happens to be owned by Cablevision, the parent company of Optimum. There’s also discounts offered on theater tickets and other special events. That’s it. It’s not some golden key that allows you to have the best seats in the house whenever Barbra Streisand is in town, or a secret membership that requires acceptance by a committee. It’s about as remarkable as winning a free order of French fries from McDonald’s.
Because of this, the ending of the commercial is particularly maddening. After the announcer goes through his little spiel, Husband #1’s daughter tugs on his sleeve and asks “Can I go sit with Katie’s family?” Clearly she is embarrassed that her father had the audacity to pay for their tickets. The last shot is of Husband #2 sucking on his storage drum of soda and smirking in such smug self-satisfaction you just never want to stop punching him. Success! He has humiliated his rival, who will have no choice but to immediately go home and sign up for the Optimum Club if he ever wants his wife to fuck him again.
If I had any intention of enrolling in Optimum Club Rewards before, I certainly wouldn’t after seeing this commercial, because who would want to be part of a club that has these people as members? Can Optimum seriously want to portray one of their club members as a total dick, encouraging others to join by mocking them? The entire ad campaign for the program is curious at best. They seem to be suggesting that by enrolling in the Rewards Club you now have the right to be an insufferable snob. This is evidenced in another, only slightly less annoying commercial in which a couple is so busy enjoying the benefits of the club (including, improbably, the services of a private jet) that they no longer have time for their friends, or even, ha ha ho ho, their own son. Fuck your lame friends, you’re getting ten dollars off tickets to see Blue Man Group, that’s living the high life, baby!
The Optimum ads are merely part of a larger trend of commercials that seem to be less about selling a product than actors facing off in duels over who can be more obnoxious. The “PC and Apple” commercials are a good example of this, with rumpled, dorky “PC” getting invariably pwned, as the kids say, by younger, cooler, snider “Apple.” Cell phone carrier Alltel has an ad campaign in which a group of unattractive nerds, representing Alltel’s competition, gang up on Alltel’s representative, who resembles a Ken doll, and hurl insults at him with almost hysterical fury. The Geico “cavemen” campaign seems completely removed from anything having to do with car insurance at this point, the gimmick of each new ad mainly being what kind of sour, pithy remark the caveman is going to make to yet another person who doesn’t understand why they don’t like Geico. One suspects this is marketing geared towards a younger, edgy demographic, one that is perceived, largely incorrectly I like to hope, as being able to communicate with each other only through sarcastic quips and biting rejoinders. “Nice” has become “weak” in the advertising world, if you want someone to see things your way, making them feel like crap is somehow a good start.