I don’t watch much television, but when I do (and I think most people will agree with me) the most annoying thing is the commercials. Most commercials are loud and flashy. They irritate the senses. They are played at a louder volume than regular TV shows. There is almost nothing redeeming about them. I have specifically avoided buying certain products because they had annoying commercials.
I remember one commercial that I really hated. It was a back-to-school commercial for one of the local department stores. It was played during pretty much every commercial break during the afternoon cartoons. The commercial featured flashing images of products sold in the store, in one scene this kid was wearing an alien mask and holding a ray gun, and an announcer saying, “Are you ready to go back to school?” While the commercial was annoying in and of itself, that’s not what really bothered me about it. What really bothered me about it was that it reminded me that I had to go back to school. Which was the last thing I wanted to be thinking about. This was in between Elementary School and Middle School, and that reminder was all the more stressful for me. It seemed to me like I saw that commercial a million times, each time reminding me of how close school was.
In the past I’ve blogged about specific commercials that I hate, and that’s not what I want to do today. No, I want to declare, that in the vast conglomeration of television advertisements, there exist a few that emerge from the darkness as some of the best commercials of all time. And some of these are on the verge of cinematic quality. Usually I forget a commercial as soon as I see it, but there have been a few that I have always remembered.
None of the truly great commercials that I have seen have been on air recently. Indeed, I think the quality of commercials has gotten worse every year. One that I’ve always remembered was a Coca-cola commercial. This was played around 2001 to 2002, the visuals featured some teenagers riding in a subway car, a girl is asleep in one guy’s arms, and a narrator is describing the night. At one point he narrator used the phrase, “that was the best night of my life.” This was a truly great commercial. Every time I saw it, I thought to myself, how cool it would be to be riding on the train with my friends, not doing anything, but still having the best night of my life. Yeah, I would have liked that. Unfortunately for Coca-cola it didn’t really make we want to buy their product, but I loved their advertisement none-the-less. I was lucky to find the commercial on YouTube, check it out, you’ll probably want to watch it more than once. Even today, I’m still looking for that moment when I can think to myself, this is the best night of my life.
There are a few more commercials that I’ve remembered that didn’t make me want to buy their product, and, in fact, their product wasn’t even meant for me. For example I remember a Playtex Bra commercial where the bra was actually painted onto the woman during the course of the commercial. Admittedly bra commercials, and specifically Victoria’s Secret commercials, might get my attention at the moment, but the painting one was the only one that I actually remember, probably because of the original idea, and the comic value of it.
Now while commercials don’t often compel me to buy anything, there is an exception. My very favorite commercial, and I mean my favorite of all time, has influenced me in a major way. This commercial had the highest cinematic quality of any other commercial that I’ve ever seen. By that, I mean it had action, it had narrative, and it had meaning. This commercial actually made me want to own the product advertised. To this day I still want to own that product, and by the title of this post you might guess that the commercial was for the Volkswagen Jetta. Yes, I want to own a Jetta because of a commercial that I saw back in 2001.
The commercial is entitled (and the fact that it has a known title should at least hint at it’s cinematic value), “Big Day”. It features an intense driver speeding, in a Jetta, down the highway. It’s raining, it’s dramatic. Meanwhile a bride is getting ready for a wedding. The bride sequences are shown in parallel. The rush is apparent. The man down-shifts in a no-passing zone in order to accelerate past a car that is towing more than it can handle. The frustration is clear as this guy screams while he is stuck in traffic. The Jetta finally stops in front of a church. To add to the drama, a song entitled, “One Million Miles Away,” is playing in the background. As I said, the guy finally arrives in front of the church, then rushes in as this minister is saying, “speak now, or forever hold your peace.” The bride looks at him, the groom looks at him. Some words fall silently out of the guys’s mouth. The woman takes a breath, and the commercial ends.
I found this to be a truly fantastic commercial, and I have wanted to own a Jetta since. I don’t own a Jetta now, but that’s only because it is more practical for me to own a pickup truck at the moment. Believe me, though, some day I will buy a brand new Jetta, right off the lot. That is my dream car. Given the choice between a Jetta, a luxury car such as a Mercedes, or a powerful sports car like a Ferrari, I would choose the Jetta, no question. This commercial has affected me that much.
A friend of mine told me he thinks that Jettas are chick cars, and that guys shouldn’t be driving them. All I can say to him is, that the guy in that commercial wasn’t a chick. I don’t care what anyone thinks about Jettas, I’m getting one some day, and that commercial is the reason why. If Volkswagen stops producing the Jetta before I have a chance to get one, I’ll be devastated. I mean, I’d get a used one, of course, but what I really want, is a brand new one. Every car I’ve gotten to date has been used, I don’t want that for my Jetta. I want a new one. I might even lease, so I can get a new one every few years.
Some might consider it an unusual dream car, but I don’t care. Going back to the commercial, I want a silver one like the guy had, and, of course, it has to be a manual transmission. How else would I go about down-shifting to pass by a trailer-towing car in a no-passing zone?