World’s Sexiest Commercials anything but

The things I do for you. Just the other night, when you were down at the bar, I was still in harness. Working my fingers to the bone. Slaving over a flickering TV screen. Tirelessly tracking trends in international advertising for...

The things I do for you.

Just the other night, when you were down at the bar, I was still in harness.

Working my fingers to the bone.

Slaving over a flickering TV screen. Tirelessly tracking trends in international advertising for your amusement and edification.

The program I’d spotted in the TV guide was heaven-sent for an ad columnist 24 hours away from a deadline and devoid of inspiration.

It was called Banned in America: The World’s Sexiest Commercials. Perfect. A column-in-a-tube. Ominously, it was to be hosted by someone with the unlikely name of Carmen Electra, who turned out to be a bubble-breasted, construction worker’s wet dream, and who I believe is mainly notorious for getting drunk and being arrested in the company of Dennis Rodman.

Carmen’s contribution to the show was to bulge out of skin-tight Spandex and introduce each of some 50 spots with a salacious, double-entendre-laden little spiel intended to convince us the next one was totally filthy and then give us the same, identical I’m-such-a-cute-little-slut giggle and kind of undulate while the audience cheered and hooted. Fifty times in a row!

Overall, you’ve got to think America is a better place for banning the stuff on The World’s Sexiest Commercials. Most of the off-colour ones are puerile and embarrassing, and most of the funny ones aren’t very sexy.

You had your jiggling breasts spot from Portugal, of all places. Anybody here from Portugal? Yeaaa! The actress’ breasts jiggled because her cell phone was vibrating. Next time she’ll buy a cell phone that doesn’t vibrate.

And the vibrator spot from Finland where the farmer picks up a package at the post office for his wife and it goes off in the box when it hits the counter and starts moving around making buzzing sounds. We think it’s a sex toy until we see the wife whipping up a cake mix with her new battery-powered kitchen beater. Shot of husband, bummed out. Sponsor is a package delivery outfit.

There was a condom commercial from Argentina where a little boy is driving his father nuts by insisting on playing with Barbies rather than army guy action figures. Cut to kid, now post-pubescent, waking up in bed with two snoozing babes who look exactly like Bar

bies. He’s straight, but all his male friends are now gay. Slice-of-life stuff must be huge in Argentina.

One more condom-based spot from Brazil has a teenage guy picking up this lovely young girl to go on a date. Her father asks him what he intends to do with his daughter, and the kid goes into a long and cheerful description of how they’ll go make love but not to worry because he’ll use these new condoms he’s purchased which are great because they’re ribbed and so on. A voice-over says some people can only speak the truth and for them there’s only one job which is writing for such-and-such newspaper. Wow.

Another newspaper spot from South Africa has a flasher opening his trench coat on unsuspecting victims, with the voice-over saying Something small to advertise? Call such-and-such newspaper.

Confessional spots were big, too. A village lad tells a Catholic priest he’s just had sex with two nymphomaniac twins. The priest invites him to confess. He says he doesn’t want to confess. Then why are you telling me this says the priest. I’m telling everybody says the kid. Foster’s Lager sponsors, and the line is He who drinks Australian thinks Australian.

A rival Australian beer shows us three guys who’ve just arrived in a sleepy outback town. One goes into a church to take confession. He tells the priest he’s slept with a local girl. The priest says It wasn’t so-and-so, was it? No. Was it so-and-so? No. Could it have been so-and-so? No. Well, say 20 Hail Marys and don’t do it again. Guy leaves church, goes back to friends.

I’ve got three names for us! he says.

A spot from New Zealand stars a bored, hostile, middle-aged married couple, apparently going on holiday, because they’re sitting two empty seats apart at the back of an aircraft with a sign that says toilet over their heads. They don’t even look at each other when they speak. The guy is munching on something, though. Did you stop the paper he barks. Yeah she says. I’m seein’ another woman he says. Me too she snaps. Product is Peanut Slab, which is described as Good Honest Chocolate.

For those who believe erection metaphors make for compelling advertising, we have a spot from France that shows a guy having difficulty making a deposit at a sperm bank. He finally achieves dramatic success with the help of a magazine turned to a motorcycle ad. Your kind of bike, right? No?

Also, an outfit called New York Sports Clubs solicits memberships with an elderly couple in bed. To their mutual delight something is happening to the guy under the covers! Then a super comes on: Too bad there’s not a pill that makes the rest of your body hard. Another club I’m not sure you want to join.

Next time somebody tells you sex sells, give me a ring and I’ll loan you my dub.

Barry Base creates advertising campaigns for a living. He writes this column to promote the cause of what he calls intelligent advertising, and to attract clients who share the notion that many a truth is said in jest. Barry can be reached at (416) 924-5533, or faxed at (416) 960-5255, at the Toronto office of Barry Base & Partners.

From Karen Howe’s dining table: Creativity, COVID and Cannes

ICYMI, The Township's founder gathers the best of the best campaigns and trends so far.

Cannes Base Camp

By Karen Howe

I’m attending Cannes from the glory of my dining room table. There’s not a palm tree in sight, yet inspiration and intel are present in abundance.

Cannes Lions is a global cultural pulse check. The social course correction in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and BLM has delivered far greater diversity in the judging panels as well as the work. And we are all better for it.

I’m proud to say that creativity defeated COVID, which speaks to its power. Great work and big ideas flourished, despite unimaginable odds.

The work from the past two years spans a vast emotional range. From the profundity of Dove’s “Courage is Beautiful” to the hyper exuberance of Burberry’s “Festive,” they are opposite ends of the spectrum, but each answered a need in us.

Take note, the ascendency of gaming cannot be understated. Smart brands have embraced the channel. It makes sense, because gamers participate to meet others around the world, not just to play. And they represent a huge and powerful community. That’s why QSR Wendy’s gamified their iconic gal in RPG’s Feast of Legends.

Burger King sponsored the unknown Stevenage Football Club, transforming the team into online heroes and vaulting BK into the fray at the same time. Once again, the brand embedded itself in culture.

The birth of gaming tourism arrived when Xbox snuggled up to travel guides and created a brilliant baby: a travel guide for gaming worlds. It, too, embedded itself in culture.

From the standpoint of social good, Reporter Without Borders showed how it worked with Mindcraft for its “Uncensored Library” to bypass press censorship, with Minecraft providing a loophole to a space where young people could be educated. It provided youth with a powerful tool to fight oppression: truth.

COVID changed us in unexpected ways. We learned how to pay attention again and there was a notable lack of 30-second commercials. Instead, longer format content thrived. Apple’s WFH was seven minutes long. Entertainment reigned king, so we find ourselves returning to our advertising roots.

Seeing competitive brands form partnerships was one of this year’s other great surprises. The brilliantly simple “Beer Cap Project” by Aguila to reduce binge-drinking saw the brand reach out to competitive beers to join in. Aguila put incentivizing (keyword: free) reminders to drink water, eat food and get home safely on its bottle caps from all sorts of fast food chains, ride-share co’s and H2O brands.

On a personal level, I’m so proud of Canada again this year. Given that it was two years of work from all over the world being judged, even making the Cannes shortlist was an accomplishment. Canada is herding in the Lions in tremendous numbers – and it’s not even over. Fingers are crossed.

KAREN-HOWE-PIC-higher-rez-300x263Karen Howe is a Canadian Cannes Advisory Board Member and founder of The Township Group