[31] TV Ads: An American Horror Story

I remember one of my Australian friends telling me a story about her childhood.

Growing up in East Gippsland, on the beautiful Gippsland Lakes system, she used to live for visits from her ‘city friends’; twins, sons of her mother’s university friend. The twins and their mum would take the then four-hour trip down the Princes Highway (now three hours – thanks, CityLink), jump out of the car when they reached the family farm, roll through the door, and on would go the TV. Just like that.

And what would they do? They’d sit there for hours making huge fun of ‘Gippsland ads’.

Ah, Gippsland ads. “Just like this legendary Valley Ford ad,” she once said to me.

Legendary, it is. Complete with akubras, horses, and a healthy dose of hi-vis.

Now, laugh/cringe/cry as you might, I have to admit that this clumsy and laconic, albeit painfully tedious piece of work, is like pure, shimmering gold when set against the disgrace that is American TV ads. Or as they call them, commercials.

American ads are bad. Really bad.

I’m not talking just plain boring or lacking in substance either.

You want to know the reasons why I’m hating on them so much? Easy.

1. They paint pictures of a tired, pharmaceutical-reliant population

Got a spare 1min 20sec? Great. Let’s start with this classic; an oldie, but a goodie.

I did a quick bit of maths (getting more than you bargained for, aren’t you!) and worked out that only approximately 10% of this ad is actually dedicated to selling the product. 10%! And that’s not even the worst bit. Did you notice that the other 90% is just depressing disclaimers about how this medication can give you anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts as its charming side effects?

“Ah yeah. But that’s just one example,” I hear you say.

Unfortunately no.

I’ll routinely sit down to catch a bit of YouTube TV after a big, long week and get hit by three or four pharmaceutical ads in a single break. That’s no overstatement.

Even worse, the medical-grade ads often cross boundaries that truly irk me. What about this one?

Over the last 24 hours you’ve finished preparing him for college. In 24 hours you’ll send him off thinking you’ve done everything for his wellbeing. But Meningitis B progresses quickly and can be fatal, sometimes within 24 hours. 1 in 10 infected WILL DIE.

Guilt trip, much?

If you’re Australian, or have spent at least some time in Australia, you will have noticed far fewer ads for ‘drugs’ (haha… had to take the opportunity to use that word, obviously. What a relief! You definitely can’t call pharmaceutical products ‘drugs’ here!). That’s because in Australia, ads for therapeutic products (including drugs) are subject to the Therapeutic Goods Act as well as the Competition and Consumer Act. Marketing these products to health professionals (like GPs, psychiatrists etc.) is allowed, but marketing them to consumers is not.

It’s prohibited.

That’s not the case in America. If you consume any kind of media at all here, you’ve definitely had your fair share of bombardment.

Is [condition] holding you back? Do you feel [symptom]? Are you ready to turn your life around? Then try [medication], it usually goes.

And pharma ads are the worst of the worst too. They’re typically bland, boring, painfully/awkwardly wholesome, and featuring white families with hetero parents, a boy and girl of the same approximate age, and a smear of vaseline across the lens (okay… unconfirmed…). They’ll be sitting there, smiling joyfully at the camera, but talking about a really embarrassing medical problem for which they’ve sought out the drug in question.

And then? Cue, like, an eternity of legal disclaimers.

2. They’re not funny

While I let the pharmaceutical industry-related anger subside (there’s gotta be a drug for that, right?), let’s revisit that charming ad for Chantix.

Okay. So, something that’s going to help you quit, right? Maybe. As long as you’re up for a bout of depression.

Here’s Australia’s response.

It’s a typical example of just how much Australian ads seek to embrace the hilariously laconic, self-degrading humor for which contemporary Australian society is so well-known. It’s a gorgeously self-aware approach that, just like Americans’ fascination with the laid-back, informal Australian way of life, is a huge drawcard for my American mates.

Anyway… not to mention, that aside from all this, American ads do just love to push the point that:

3. Bigger is always better

Especially when it comes to super bowl ads like this one.

The Super Bowl, America’s annual championship of the National Football League (NFL), is absolute prime, top-shelf TV real estate when it comes to American ads. In fact, close to  400 million dollars was spent in advertising during the 2017 Super Bowl with the average cost of a 30-second TV commercial set at a cool $5 million dollars. The pricetag for the minute-long Doritos Blaze vs. Mountain Dew ad above? $15 million dollars.



I mean, I guess the saving grace of Super Bowl ads, as obscenely expensive as those 30-second slots (spots!) may well be (seriously… it’s hardly conceivable what amazing things one might be able to do for the world with $15 million dollars as an investment), is that there are some pretty darn hilarious ones, and ones that have become famous for that very reason.


But knock over those slick, glossy, high-end productions with delightfully nonchalant Australian classics and you’ve got yourself a brew classier than a cocktail in a teapot!

[Not sure what I’m on about? You’ve got Australia to thank for that one, mate.]

  • And how about this classic? Megalo! Megalo! Megalo!

Bringing back memories? I hear ya.

And if you want some extra laughs, just for the road, I know exactly where you need to go.

clare x 1


Here are some more classic Aussie TV ads to aid your trip down memory lane. Let me know if I’m missing any of your favourites!


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