For the fourth time in recent memory, a huge corporation has attempted to launch an ad campaign using a relatively obscure Kinks’ tune. First it was Hewlett Packer in 2004 using “Picture Book” to advertise their digital cameras and printers. Then it was Target using “Everybody’s a Star” in 2007 to advertise the Converse One Star brand. Then IBM quickly joined the fray, using “I’m Not Like Everybody Else” to advertise God-only-knows-what. Now, since the beginning of this year’s football season, I can’t watch a single game without being visually assaulted by this:
Every time it comes on (seemingly every commercial break), my wife comments on how weird the creature looks, and my 18-month-old daughter runs screaming from the room in terror. (Yeah, I know, every hour of television before the age of two contributes to the risk of A.D.D. – but football isn’t really TV, right?)
As always, the marketers are onto us. They know that using “You Really Got Me”, or “Lola”, or even “Sunny Afternoon”, would peg the corporations they shill for as out-of-touch posers. Those are our parent’s Kinks tunes. The cohort of people (me and my friends) who are now buying new cars, or new digital camera, or a new whatever-it-is-that-IBM-sells prefer to pretend we’re still cool by retaining an extensive knowledge of the back catalogue of quirky rock.
So I’m calling their bluff. Here’s 3 commercials using obscure Kinks’ songs that I’d really like to see. No, that I dare them to make. Trust me, dear marketers, these commercials would really appeal to the aging hipster denizens of my generation. As an added bonus, all the tunes are from Schoolboys in Disgrace – an album which allmusic.com describes as “way too campy for anyone outside of the dedicated,” and, “one of their least satisfying albums” – so the licensing costs are probably next to nothing! And I personally won’t charge a cent:
Key lyric: “Don’t think of the things that make you sad/ Just remember all the good times you had”
The song plays over rapid scenes of the following:
- A dorky 16-year-old boy walks to school. It is clearly the 1980’s. He drinks a can of Tab. A bully grabs the can of soda, throws it, and then punches the dork in the face.
- At school, the dork stands in front of his locker. A bully hocks a huge loogie into the dork’s face.
- The dork sits in class. He raises his hand to say something. Unbeknownst to him, someone has stuck gum in the back of his hair. An attractive girl in class points at the gum and laughs. Soon the whole class is laughing and pointing.
When the guitar lick kicks in (at about 26 seconds):
- It’s nighttime. The dork and a couple of his friends convince a homeless man sleeping in front of a liquor store to buy them alcohol.
- The dork and his friends show up at a party with the alcohol. The other kids celebrate their arrival.
- The kids play drinking games with quarters, then with cards, and then with a tape of The Smurfs on TV.
- The kids violently throw up.
- The kids make out sloppily. The dork makes out briefly with the girl who laughed at him that morning. When she finishes kissing him, she wipes vomit off her lips.
Then the corporate logo comes up: Budweiser.
Followed by the tagline: At Any Age, Drinking Helps You Forget
2. “The Hard Way”
Key lyric: “No matter what I do or say… You’re going to find out the hard way”
- A car breaks down in the Lincoln tunnel.
- A different car breaks down in a rough neighborhood
- Another car breaks down in the Alaskan wilderness, with two long-bearded young hippies aboard (to raise the hipster factor, one of them is Devendra Banhart).
- A young woman wearing fashionable glasses pours Castrol Motor Oil into her engine. She gets into the car and drives.
- She drives past the car broken down in the Lincoln tunnel (she flips off the driver because he’s caused such horrible traffic). The driver of that car clutches his neck and screams out “I can’t breathe!”
- She drives past the car in the rough urban neighborhood. The driver of that car is getting stabbed to death by hoodlums.
- She drives past the car in the Alaskan wilderness. One of the hippies has eaten the other hippie to avoid starvation.
Then the corporate logo comes up: Castrol Motor Oil
Followed by the tagline: Christ, How Many Times Do We Have To Tell You – Change Your Freaking Oil Regularly! (Aren’t You’re The Same People Who Somehow Find The Time To Update Your Version Of iTunes Constantly?)
3. “The Last Assembly”
Key lyric “As I walked to the last assembly/ There were tears in the back of my eyes…”
A manager walks down the assemblyline of a large automobile plant. He is a tough-looking bastard, like a cross between Dick Butkus and the Ron Swanson character from Parks and Rec. He slowly walks past his workers. The workers themselves are tough-looking bastards, from the long-hair Sonny Barger wannabes to the straight-arrow Joe Plumber types, but they are fighting back tears. As the manager walks past each individual worker, that worker begins to cry. The manager struggles to hold back his own tears. Finally, at the end of the line, the manager stands beneath a banner that says “Thanks for 50 Great Years Ypsilanti! – Plant Closing Today.” Cut to: the factory as an abandoned, decaying piece of blight on the rust belt scenery.
Then the corporate logo comes up: Ford
Followed by the tagline: Don’t Be A Dick. Buy A Car Assembled In America.
Ed Watts is the author of U.S. Blues, a murder mystery set in the 1985 Grateful Dead parking lot scene (available on Amazon here). You can be further amused by his blog at http://www.rockandrollnerd.wordpress.com/