Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Gripe Juice.

This week, I've been a bit grumpy while watching playoffs.  It had nothing to do with the on-court product (though the Pacers-Heat series did end rather anti-climatically and I'm not really excited about a "LeBron versus the Celtics" storyline for a third postseason in a row).  Instead, it had everything to do with the superfluous crap that comes with watching the playoffs, especially if you don't have cable.  I've been bombarded with commercials for shows I will never watch, shoes I will never afford, ad campaigns I will never understand, and other ridiculous oddities that could only be thought of in our heavy-haunched country.

So while I'm angry I have to watch LeBron carve up the Celtics yet again, I'm more angry that I gotta deal with this crap.  Join me for a tall, chilly glass of Gripe Juice.

1.  A "Big" Failure of an Ad Campaign.

In my opinion, the NBA, historically, has had the best ad campaigns, at least in comparison to the other major sports leagues in America.  Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that NBA athletes, moreso than their counterparts in the National Football League and Major League Baseball, are recognizable by face, and play the most aesthetically pleasing game to the casual eye.  But in most cases, the NBA's ad campaigns, which use dramatic buildup and have almost a cinematic quality to them, have been a resounding success.

The famous 2007 "Where Amazing Happens" commercial was the prototypical ad campaign, and most other NBA campaigns have been a variant of that successful model.  "Where Amazing Happens," which utilized Carly Commando's iconic "Everyday" piano score, launched a number of successful adversisements for the NBA which, for the most part, created an atmosphere that balanced the beauty of the game with the drama of the performance.  Rarely ever does a commercial actually reflect the nature of a given product, but I assert that "Where Amazing Happens" actually did present the NBA as it exists for enthusiastic fans -- the place where the greatest athletes in the world do things that none of us can even approach.

Since then, however, the ad campaigns have not had the same magic that "Where Amazing Happens" did. Most have actually riffed off the "Amazing" theme -- brilliant crossovers and mesmerizing dunks, done in really slow motion, with a grandiose music theme in the background.  But this season, the NBA unveiled the "BIG" campaign.  And since then, everything's gone downhill.

It really isn't that "BIG" is a terrible idea.  It's just that in the seven months since the campaign started, we still don't know what "BIG" refers to.  At the start of the season, "BIG" just seemed to be new name for the oversized head guys, which had been the (underwhelming) focus of the 2010-2011 ad campaign.  But then, mercifully, the heads died, and were replaced by these commercials.  You've certainly seen them  --  lots of words flashing on a screen with music playing in the background, talking melodramatically about a certain aspect of a team, until the word "BIG" appears at the end.  Some have been good, but most have been forgettable.  And as far as I know, these commercials are the coup de gras of the "BIG" campaign.

Seriously, it's driving me nuts.  What is "BIG"?  Is it referring to the length of the season?  Can't be; the season was 16 games shorter than usual because the millionaires and billionaires couldn't work their shit out in time over the summer.  Is it the players?  Maybe, but what's the point in talking about their height?  Is it their salaries?  Perhaps, but that's not really a smart thing to talk about.  Is it Adam Silver's ears?  That's not very nice.  So just tell me: what is so "BIG"?!

No more "BIG" commercials until you explain what the hell is so "BIG" right now.  I mean it.  This is dumb.

2.  You're Dead To Me, Danny Masterson.

Each year in the playoffs, there is one commercial that is designed specifically for the demographic the NBA is hungriest for -- the 18-to-32 cohort.  As a member of this cohort, I can easily spot this thinly veiled plea for my hard earned dollars.  Two years ago, the NBA, ESPN and KFC implored me to give the Double Down a try.  As the guy in the commercial exclaimed excitedly as the fried chicken bread burned greasily in his hands, "somebody was listening!"  Listening to what?  The palpitations in their heart?  Point is you can't get much past me these days, nor can anything designed for the infamous 18-to-32 demographic really impress me.

So what chance did TNT (and their sister station TBS) think they'd have when they rolled out "Men at Work"?  In this new comedy from TNT, Danny Masterson and three other dudes are just some single bros, trying to score some hot chicks in spite of the fact that blah blah blah blah blah BLAH.  Come for the laugh track, stay for the PG-rated sexual innuendo.  You, too, will wonder where the strangest place you made whoopee in your entire life was.

NBA, TNT, anyone listening, really -- here's a list of things that do not impress the 18-to-32 demographic:

1.  Danny Masterson.
2.  Shows on TBS.
3.  Shows that depict men failing in the same way that they fail on the regular.  We watch TV to escape our lives, not watch people richer than us do bad impressions of it.

And the only thing that makes me more angry than being forced to see what I'm not going to watch...  

3.  Blistering Blue Barnacles!

...is seeing what I can't buy do strange things in front of my eyes.

Those who watch the NBA on the internet -- either through ESPN3, TNT Overtime, or even the illegal streams that, I wager, most NBA enthusiasts view games through -- know that commercials are tricky business.  There are ad spots during game breaks, but it tends to be the same commercials over and over.  When you watch something enough times, strange things happen.

This year, the commercial being repeated ad nauseum is this commercial for some Adidas shoes.  The commercial itself is pretty standard fare: shoes floating through the sky while some electronic beat plays mindlessly in the background.  The shoes themselves are different colors -- pretty ones, at that.  The entire affair reminds one of a Skittles commercial from back in the day, or maybe one of the old iMac commercials from the late 1990s.

But then, you really start to watch this stuff, and things get weird.  After I had seen this commercial for the fourth time in a row (and probably, for the hundredth time since the game started) the shoes had become barnacles, hanging strangely from uneven surfaces, gathering algae around them to eat.  Before too long, they were those asshole aliens from Half-Life.  You know, the ones that latch onto you, drag you up, suck your brains and eat your body before spitting your bones and tendons out onto the floor.

What, didn't play Half-Life?  Your loss.


  1. point well-taken on the confounding nature of 'BIG' being their focal point. but anything shot in phantom cam is awesome, and im no celtics fan (will leave that to snyder) but this (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yKm0NoX13Hs) is one of the best nba commercials ive ever seen.

  2. You're right, that one is pretty good. I also like the "Kid Clutch" one about Kevin Durant. But this one about Dirk? Everytime I saw that, while Dirk was sitting out two weeks because he was too out of shape/hungover from the championship he had won seven months prior, I hated the Big German just a little bit more (and I don't really hate him at all).