Tuesday Throwback: GE’s Misguided “Sixteen Tons” Coal Commercial

This General Electric ad is from 2005, and it’s a mess. First, let’s ignore the political implications and the fact that “clean coal” is a very controversial topic. We’re just focusing on the commercial. It features sweaty, muscular, attractive young men and women shoveling coal while scantily clad. That’s one problem…while very nice to look at, it’s not quite representative of a real coal mine. And then there’s the music used. The song is “Sixteen Tons”, Tennessee Ernie Ford’s classic miner’s lament (originally written and recorded by Merle Travis). The lyrics refer to the truck system, where coal miners were not paid in cash, but in scrip that was only accepted for goods at a “company store.”  Coal mine companies also typically owned the town’s houses in which miners lived. As a consequence, workers couldn’t save cash, and so it was nearly impossible to leave the towns. Thus, “I owe my soul to the company store.” Which makes this a very dubious musical pick for GE. It seems like whoever made the commercial scoured for minutes to come up with a mining song and picked “Sixteen Tons.” Of course, a song about being too indebted to make it to heaven doesn’t seem like a savvy choice (as Cracked notes). This spot was widely panned and for good reason. 19 likes vs. 96 dislikes on YouTube? Ouch.


Kmart Has Big Gas Savings

Kmart’s “Ship My Pants” was hugely popular, garnering more than 17 million views on YouTube since being released about six weeks ago. So it seems natural for them to release a followup to such a buzzed-about video. And here it is…the punny “Big Gas Savings.” Maybe not quite as hilarious as Ship My Pants, since the shock factor is gone. But still very funny.

Ford Says “And” Is Better Than “Or”

These Ford commercials have been getting a lot of play lately. The premise is that Ford’s vehicles have a lot of options, so you don’t have to choose between and/or. They’re comedic, but the problem is that when the joke falls flat, the ads lose effectiveness. It’s a campaign, so there are many spots. I’ve chosen the two that I’ve seen most often on TV. One has a couple extolling the Ford Escape’s foot-activated lift gate and great gas mileage…and transitioning to a daydream about a bed or breakfast. The other has a couple talking about the Ford Focus’ voice activated system and great gas mileage, and imagining going to a Chinese restaurant and eating sour chicken (not sweet and sour chicken). They just seem kinda meh to me…not great, not terrible, and ultimately not that memorable. Though I did chuckle a little bit at the sour chicken faces.

Tuesday Throwback: Nike’s Lil’ Penny

Actually, I guess it’s more like Thursday Throwback today. Whatever. Anyway, the NBA playoffs got me thinking about a classic Nike campaign from the mid-’90s…Nike’s Lil’ Penny. Chris Rock voiced Lil’ Penny, who was the puppet alter ego of Penny Hardaway. There were many commercials since it was a campaign, and here’s just a few of them.

Radio Shack’s Very Suggestive Ad For The Beats Pill

It’s phallic and it knows it! The song is “Blurred Lines” by Robin Thicke f/ T.I. and Pharrell, and the commercial seems to be a parody version of the video.

Tuesday Throwback: Ronald McDonald Believes In Magic

So I heard the original “Do You Believe in Magic” by The Lovin’ Spoonful a few days ago, and my mind immediately went to this 1992 McDonald’s ad. Ronald McDonald lets us know that you’ll always have a friend with big red shoes (that line has always been memorable for me). It’s catchy as hell and cheesy as hell, like a whole lot of stuff from the ’80s and ’90s. Also, clowns are creepy. I’ve put up a slightly altered version of this commercial to demonstrate. Look out for the last 10 seconds.

This Sweet Commercial For Robinsons Drinks

They’re best pals. They play together, roughhouse, and help each other out. And they’re…well, that’s where the twist ending comes in. Very nice work from Robinsons Drinks, created by BBH London. The featured song is “July” by Youth Lagoon.

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