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.

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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.

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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.