Christmas Balls, Bells, And Showing Your Joe

As we wrap up the holiday season (and indulge in bad puns like “wrapping up the holiday season”) I must say that in the last three months advertisers have offered up a banner crop of unusually aggressive and annoying ads.

Remember the “Christmakwanzakah” of years past? That seems so innocent and inclusive compared with the themelet this year involving competitive shopping. Maybe it’s because Black Friday has taken on so much importance for retailers that it has transformed the idea of Christmas shopping into a warrior sport.

For example, there’s Walmart’s reprehensible tag line, “Own the Season,” which I mentioned last week. And the runner-up in this testosterone-fueled category of annoying stuff: an unhinged Mike Dytka yelling "Let’s go give the gift of savings!" for What does a screaming football coach have to do with online buying? It makes me wince, and pine for that odd, soothing low-talker of a woman wearing all white (with the slightly German accent?) whom Overstock used years ago.



But let’s get down to brass tracks: This year’s lowest of the low. By that I mean “Show Your Joe” a 55-second ad for Kmart, involving a line up of 6 men standing formally in front of a table wearing tuxedo tops, holding hand bells. The table is moved away to reveal that down below, the guys are wearing only boxers.

But the worst is yet to come. The men play a version of  “Jingle Bells” by shaking their groin-based instruments. You’ve heard of “Tubular Bells?” This is Testicular Bells.

It’s quite the concert. I don’t even want to think about what’s in their underwear, or how the bells/balls music-making worked, exactly. It grossed me out so much that the spot seems interminable.

I can just imagine how adorable it will not be when two-year-olds across the land start shaking their toddler moneymakers, just as the Joe Boxer commercial taught them, at family gatherings. Every time a little kid makes a penis joke, an advertiser for a family brand gets its wings!

I have pretty much hated the whole Kmart campaign, which started last year when DraftFCB retained the business by coming up with a Hail Mary pass of a tagsline, “Ship My Pants!”  It caught on virally, attracting 20 million You Tube views. (I guess it proves that you can never go wrong with double entendres about poop.)

Since then, the agency seems to think that a would-be pop cultural catchphrase that goes viral is the one-size fits all solution to every advertising problem. That didn’t work out so well for a KFC campaign featuring actors screaming “I ate the bones!” The various scenarios were embarrassing, and even considered racist.

But back to Kmart. After “Ship,” the company came up with another three-word phrase, “Big Gas Savings,” which also got thousands of views. Both riff on the ass area, suggesting that all the work was pulled out of there.

Despite the mega-million views, this advertising seems to prove that virality does not necessarily equal sales, or success. How does the “ship” thing improve the brand reputation, other than to link it to a toilet?

In an effort to class up the joint this year, I guess, the agency also put out a literary sequel, “Ship My Trousers.” This time, the spot features characters out of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” standing around an overlit store wearing 19th-century clothing and using the more formal vernacular of the time. The Dickens/poo/shipping combo doesn’t compute (it seems like a bunch of Amish people are in the store) and the production values for the ghosts are not good, as if Ebenezer Scrooge were in charge of the budget.

But let’s move on to the best, which this year also happens to be ball-based.  It’s an animated video featuring hip-hop entertainer Jinx rapping about making Oreo cookie balls. (Cookie balls are not an actual Oreo product, but they are delish, made with cream cheese and dark chocolate.) But the brand, via the Martin agency, has had such success with the entire animated Oreo oeuvre over the year (with an earworm of a “Wonder-filled” song) that this little film fits in perfectly.

Jinx has his own pacing and pronunciation ("rein-dur" to rhyme with “remainder”) that livens up the song, along with offering straightforward tips for decorating the “baowls”  ("Put a little flipper on it, you made a Pinguin!")

Yes, the lyrics can get suggestive ("Come Christmas mornin', you gon' taste some cookie balls") but the animation is all about moving the letters around and showing the cookie balls, and Jinx’s deadpan rapping makes the use of the word funny. 

I’m a huge fan of animation: it’s fluid, and lets everyone in. Adults can love it along with kids.  And the music is heavenly.

Before I sign off for the year, I wanted to mention that last week we lost Mike Hughes, 65, the chairman and longtime creative director at the Martin Agency in Richmond, Va.  A lifelong non-smoker who was diagnosed with lung cancer in 1995, he beat the odds he was given -- five years -- and went on to live with incredible openness, generosity, and grace. A Teddy bear of a guy, he radiated kindness and talent. Here’s to you, Mike Hughes. You made the industry a joy.

12 comments about "Christmas Balls, Bells, And Showing Your Joe".
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  1. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, December 18, 2013 at 1:34 p.m.

    Walmart, Kmart, not so schmart. Perhaps one of them will defy the conventional wisdom of the last couple of centuries and go broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public.

  2. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, December 18, 2013 at 1:35 p.m.

    I never Mike Hughes. Clearly I was the loser in that failure.

  3. Dyann Espinosa from IntraStasis, December 18, 2013 at 4:47 p.m.

    I can deal with "Ship My Pants," poop and farts are always funny (just to Americans?).
    But the Balls/Bells thing was just unbelievable. If it is to be televised at all, it's the kind of ad that should be reserved for a late-night time slot, being of not-just-questionable taste, but truly offensive and salacious.
    Take the same scenario and put it in a boardroom, a school, a public place and you would have people being arrested for indecent and lewd behavior.
    Instead we will probably have rappers and little kids imitating it. (IMHO)

  4. George Parker from Parker Consultants, December 18, 2013 at 7:01 p.m.

    Barbara, as you (and Tom) know, I never cease to enjoy kicking the crap out of the abysmal work "The Agency of the Past," Draft/FCB, Chicago continues to do for Kmart. Yes, it gets tons of hits from the cretins who have nothing better to do than look at crapola on YouTube... Unfortunately, these shitasmic spots do not influence the aforementioned cretins to get off their arse and go down to the stores to buy pants. Same store sales are down since this garbage started to run. But hey... Hits rule. As I have mentioned a couple of times on "AdScam" check out Bob Blechman's Christmas ad for CBS... It's nearly fifty years old, but still a gem. Bells, balls, bollocks, indeed. Happy Holidays to all the Mad Men out there. The Math Men can "Ship their Gas."
    Cheers/George "AdScam" Parker

  5. Tony Nino from PADV Pasadena Advertising, December 18, 2013 at 7:49 p.m.

    Puerile humor has not, does not and probably will not ever appeal to the female audience. But to boys (especially little kids) and men (who believe they are still little kids) it is like honey to pooh bear. Truly offensive, salacious? Diamonds in the rough. They are so effective with the male audience that it is almost a shame men do not make the majority of the purchasing decisions.
    But I repeat myself.
    @Dyann: Yup. Louis CK, ""You don't have to be smart to laugh at farts, but you have to be stupid not to." =)

  6. Maxine Beemer from Jamdown Market-Media, December 19, 2013 at 10:27 a.m.

    Howdy-do Barb Lippert, now that Jam'can Tessanne Chin won the Voice I hope U learn dat all types of people born-raised-live in Jamaica. Chinese like Tess, caucasian like me & U, indian, middle-eastern, etc We also have all types of cars in Jamaica. I'm 68 and I grew up with my parents driving a VolksWagen love-bug; then after five children changing to a station wagon. Toyota, Audi, BMW,Benz are fairly prevalent in Jamaica. Even Porsche, even Aston Martin!! Visit Jamaica Barbara and you will see a diverse, smart, sophisticated people. We are not all black. We all love our country. Some moved away merely for economic reasons, just like people move here from Canada, Britain, etc. Don't insult us with ignorant comments. Visit Kingston. Barbara mi girl, you no know not'n 'bout Jamaica and its people; so don't go on TV and talk about it "to help" us. Besides, you were wrong, Volkswagen did air the ad at the SuperBowl. BigUp Jamaica and its many types of cars and its many types of people!!!

  7. George Parker from Parker Consultants, December 19, 2013 at 6:09 p.m.

    @Maxine... I'm sorry, but I have no idea what relevance your comment has to the subject under discussion. This post is about "Balls' not cars.
    Oh, and I have been to Kingston many times... Very fine ganja indeed.
    Cheers/George "AdScam" Parker

  8. Maxine Beemer from Jamdown Market-Media, December 20, 2013 at 6:07 a.m.

    @George "Adscam".....You probably go to the worse part of Kingston to get your ganja and smoke it abundantly during loose, low-class parties and orgies filled with lots of "balls" which you finance, true? I bet is fah true!! We done talk! Oh, I chose to use any opportunity to "speak" to Barbara Lip. U and me dun talk now fah real, indeed!

  9. Jim English from The Met Museum, December 20, 2013 at 1:50 p.m.

    Cringing too, Barbara. Hoping those Joe Boxer/Kmart guys made union scale for their efforts.

  10. George Parker from Parker Consultants, December 20, 2013 at 4:59 p.m.

    I was actually there working. Shooting commercials up and down the Caribbean. Didn't have time for parties and orgies. The Ganja experience was second hand smoke as everyone in Kingston seemed to be smoking it. And the fake Jamaican patois is a little disingenuous. But what the hell... "We done talk!"

  11. Tom Messner from BONACCOLTA MESSNER, December 20, 2013 at 5:50 p.m.

    The U.S. and Jamaica share national slogans (a kind of lowlife for it, but I am typing fast). E pluribus unum and out of many, one people. Now lest you underestimate the power of such a line, no less than a former vice-president of the United States completely blew the translation of that Latin into "out of one, many people" which only goes to show you the weakness of a Harvard (or was it Yale?) education. I too shot in Jamaica, twice. The second time for the then Prime Minister Michael Manley, who was a nice guy but too naive to be a national leader. He was succeeded by Seaga who kinda understood money a little better. And in a sense was a turn along with Reagan and Thatcher toward some kind of reasonable governing in the world. But how does this all fit in to the discussion? Is it Nine Night for the advertising business?

  12. Dalmar James from Meredith Corporation, December 23, 2013 at 10:03 a.m.

    We created a series of videos for Kmart that was pretty family friendly:

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