Mad Women

I’m the kind of person who won’t watch commercial television unless I can fast forward through the ads. And, most of the time that’s exactly what I do.  But, once in a while, it’s unavoidable, and I am forced to watch a few.

Flo. She's got moxie.

Flo’s got moxie.

Granted, they’re not all bad. Some are refreshingly funny or slick and hip. Those are the best. Some create interesting characters, like Flo. She’s the insurance lady who works in a store where everything seems to be strangely stark white.  With her intense makeup and brilliant smile, there’s something real and down to earth about her. I think she and I could be good friends, assuming she gets time off from selling insurance.

The Brad Pitt commercials I don’t get. Bizarre and over my head, if you want to know the truth. Besides, I prefer clean-shaven Brad to scruffy Brad.

Target has cool ads. So does Old Navy.  Their ads often have a brightly-colored, retro look. Meanwhile, I dislike the Walmart ads on principal.

I think any of the commercials for prescription drugs are way too long. Probably because they have to list every single side effect. I’ll never forget how, when my son was still a kid, he watched an ad for acid reflux so many times, he swore he had it, too.

And, don’t get me started on the ad for toenail fungus. Eww!

This woman is so busy at work, she has to take her lunch at her desk. Yet she finds time to use the Progresso soup can to call grandma who she's sure made the soup.

This woman is so busy at work, she has to take her lunch at her desk. Yet she finds time to use the Progresso soup can to call grandma, who she’s sure made the soup.

But the worst commercials of all are the ones that make women look plain dumb.  I’m talking to you, Progresso!

First, let me say, I have nothing against Progresso soup. That said, the last time I fell head over heels in love with any soup was well, let me see if I can remember…oh yeah.


So why does Progresso show women (and, on occasion, men) fawning over their soup, and loving it so much, that they pick up the empty Progresso soup can, to call the “Progresso” chef (as if it’s made by professional chefs and not in a factory).  Clearly, they must know a soup can is not a phone, yet as soon as the can is in hand, they say, “Ring, ring!

And magically, the chef answers, generally a male. The woman tells the chef that the soup is so good, it must have been prepared by grandma. She waxes poetic about the soup while the chef has a look on his face, as if to say, “This is what I have to put up with all day.”  Apparently, these women love their Progresso soup so much, that in one of the commercials, you see a woman wearing empty soup cans on her head, using them as curlers.

Now, I’m no feminist but, can it get any sillier than this?

The way I see it, these commercials are a throwback to the Mad Men era of advertising.  When women were portrayed as empty-headed housewives while a male voice-over, which always sounded wiser and more assured, taught them how to mop a floor, buy the correct toilet paper, and fix a meal for a “Hungry Man.”  Clearly, Madison Avenue must have believed we were incapable without their help. And, from the looks of the Progresso commercials, they still do.  Sigh.

And, while I’m at it, I find it a tad annoying, that in that car commercial where the grown son comes home for the holidays, in his spiffy new car, the parents, instead of greeting their prodigal son with open arms, sneak out the back door to take his car for a test drive. I don’t mind them taking the car, though I do wonder what kind of parents are these to leave their son, who, presumably, they haven’t seen in ages. Why don’t they first give him a warm welcome and a hug and then maybe the three of them can take the car for a spin?

And, why, oh why, is it the dad that gets behind the wheel while mom takes the passenger seat? Maybe I’m being nitpicky, but doesn’t she deserve to test drive the car once in a while? I’m just saying.

So how about you? Any commercials you particularly like or dislike?

40 thoughts on “Mad Women

  1. Ain’t no canned soup worth calling the daggone manufacturer for! LOL! You are hilarious, Monica.

    I don’t know which category this falls into, like or dislike, but that Garmin commercial gets me every time, so much so, that I’m singing it through the house as if it were a Christmas carol! “Gotta, gotta, get a Garmin!”

    • You are so right! Who has time, anyway, for such nonsense? These grown women should know better! I don’t recall seeing that Garmin commercial but will now keep a lookout for it. Thanks for letting me know! 🙂

  2. Excellent points, Monica. I’ve often wondered the same thing. I particularly dislike ads for Viagra. These are YOUNG men, for pity’s sake — do they really have that problem?? And I don’t like those TV Only ads, you know the ones. They scream at you about a cleaning product or a kitchen utensil or something and practically demand that you buy it. I want to remind them that shouting isn’t effective advertising!

    • I despise those TV only ads, Debbie. I know exactly which ones you’re referring to. And, have you noticed that no matter what the product is that they’re selling, it always seems to cost exactly $19.95–and you get a second one free! Yeah, right. 😉

  3. Oh Monica, you know just how to make my day… I love what you’ve said about the Progressive girl, I love her. Think she’s really funny. I don’t like the Progresso ads either, they are so unrealistic and to be honest a tad silly, not to mention the soup has a lot of salt. Lately JC Penny has some funny adds with Ellen and because I love her, I love the ad. Another one I really like is the Audi ad. I find it hilarious that the parents drive off in the car leaving their son behind. Target always does a great Christmas ad and I used to like seeing Samuel L. Jackson and Zooey Deschanel talking to Siri on their iPhones. I read through the rest, thank goodness for my books. The ads are not as great as they used to be, I simply wait for them to be over 🙂

    • MM, that Progressive lady is a real dynamo. Have you seen the latest ad in which a guy is stranded in the rain and she is standing several feet away and they’re talking to each other as if they’re lovers reuniting? It’s an homage to romantic films yet its about insurance. Love it!

  4. We get different ads up here in Canada of course…..I feel quite deprived having seen few if any of your soup ads Monica.

    We have a couple of beer commercials where spontaneous parties break out, usually on the rooftops of downtown buildings, populated exclusively with good looking twenty-somethings – high budget affairs, that are just a little too calculated. They get old pretty fast.

    I also dislike BMW commercials, because they work, and I want one 🙂

  5. Here’s another one on Spanish television. A businessman from south of the border declares “Siempre cuando voy a los EEUU llevo conmigo Pepto Bismol.” (Whenever I go to the States, I carry Pepto Bismo with me!) It’s a switch on the stereotypical American view that you have to carry it with you when you travel to Mexico. The truth is any time you travel, anywhere you travel your body is exposed to –er, bugs.

  6. I’ve been researching 1950’s American advertising recently Monica – an interesting insight into social and gender stereotypes. The way women were presented was, to use your phrase, “a tad annoying”.

    • Yes, I would definitely agree. But back then it was the norm to think of women in this way. I was born on the cusp of change, where both messages were prominent–a woman’s place is in the home and a woman can do anything. Talk about mixed messages.

  7. I am fairly certain I tune out at that, too, dislike commercials. I am mostly a movie girl – there are some shows I watch but during the breaks I get up and so something else or type or zone out. On another note – you made me laugh.. thanks for the smile.

    Hope you are doing well and enjoying the holiday rush. Hugs!

    • Carl, are you talking about the little Alka seltzer boy? I adored him when I was a kid. It’s sad when they take the familiar away. Do you remember Elsie the Cow and what she was selling? She was my hands-down favorite character in commercials.

  8. Macy’s has come out with some wonderful commercials. They incorporate actual scenes from the black & white film classic, “Christmas on 34th Street” into today’s scenes with perfect cohesion. Wow, I had to go back and watch again. Target’s commercials are always creative, too, and fun. I agree with you about fast-forwarding, though — most of the time I do that, too, but it’s always fun to stop and see the ones that stand out from the crowd. Too many commercials are in really bad taste and the ones showing children rolling their eyes at their parents need to go away. Now, a segue, how about the inserts you find from the products you do buy from those commercials, they’re sometimes really hilarious. I bought a hot hair spinner-styler recently and the directions said to not use while taking a shower or bath or while sleeping.

    • Of course, Karen, I’ve seen them and they are brilliant. The kind that tug at the heartstrings. I grew up on Macy’s, especially the one on 34th Street. My friend and I would go shopping there and literally get lost in the store for hours, it’s so huge. But nothing beat seeing it at Christmastime. Beautiful!

  9. Hey kiddo – you nailed it – I agree with you on all the commercials – great blog — I also LOVE the JCP ads — I think Penney’s has done a remarkable job of reinventing it’s advertising, but, apparently I am in the minority —- the ads are bright and cheery, clean looking, their on air spots are the same – and bravo to Ellen, but not much agreement out there– I don’t shop Penney’s very often, but on my last few trips in I have made a point of telling the folks who work there that I like the new look and approach, etc.. I’m sure they pass it along. Oh darn.

  10. I hardly ever watch live tv anymore so I skip all the ads. When I do see one, I often hear my mother’s voice in my head. “Can you believe they’re selling coffee with sex?” Lots of commercials are filled with innuendo, but I don’t mind as long as they’re amusing. 🙂

    • Shary, they’ll sell anything with sex given the chance. I bet 99 percent of the commercials boil down to sex. Have you seen the Carl Jr ads of a beautiful, scantily clad woman devouring a burger in a very suggestive way? See what I mean?

  11. I guess I must fast-forward thru these commercials, too, because most of the ones you described I’ve never even seen. The last time I consciously saw an ad, though, I remember remarking to my husband that they should fire the marketing company that created an ad that was so stuipid that it was actually insulting to human intelligence. Thank goodness for fast forward!

    • Susan, you’ve probably seen the soup commercial a gazillion times but not paid attention. Who does, except me because it ticks me off to see a grown woman talking into a can of soup. Talk about ridiculous. Anyway, these commercials have been running for years!

  12. I think those are adoption or foster care commercials. It’s the one when the kid is practicing for a role in a school play and the father guesses what the child is acting out wrong. I’ve never falled head over for soup either. It has too much sodium for me. I’d be telling that can of soup, ” Not tonight, honey, I have a headache.”

  13. great ad-nalysis! I’ve learned to watch tv with a book so that when the ads come on I can read. When I’m watching something on netflix I actually miss them. Well, not so much the ads but the opportunity to stick my nose into something a little more interactive.

  14. Why aren’t you a feminist? I can’t think of one commercial right now. I guess I never watch them either. Oh that new windows surface is well done. I like it!

    • I don’t know why, Jodi. Good question. What is a feminist, anyway? What does it mean to be a feminist? For me, I grew up during the feminist movement, which is still what comes to mind when I think of feminists. Someone who is very hard core, almost militant. I remember when Ms. magazine was founded. I even subscribed for a year or so while I was in college. And, I believe in equal rights, but I guess I don’t think of myself as someone who takes a stand and fights the fight. But I’m certainly grateful for the work they’ve done, along with the suffragettes who got us the right to vote.

  15. I loved the Dr. Pepper, Coke and Toyota musical extravaganzas. I haven’t seen one in a while. I heard they were quite costly to produce. Another sign of our economic times I guess.

  16. Hi Monica, had a chuckle reading your blog post whilst having breakfast.

    An American once told me that TV over there comprises of advertisements interrupted by programmes. How true that is I have no idea.

    Here we have limits on how many minutes of adverts can be shown per hour plus of course we have the BBC which is advert free.

    A couple of years ago here we had a move towards showing fathers doing household tasks such as washing up for example in adverts, maybe a trend towards targeting single parents, who knows? Now we push youngsters doing stuff they avoid like the plague in real life.

    One import we have here from your side of the pond are infomercials, they are all over the place with some cable and satellite channels showing them 24/7. You know the sort that show you a product you have not needed for 40 years but do now because it’s on offer especially if you buy today and get all the addons as well that you need but they don’t show you.

    These seem to go in waves. one week we will have some bloke in a funny chefs hat showing you knives that will revolutionise the way you can cut yourself in the kitchen and be able to slice tomatoes so thin on sandwiches that your neighbours will think your mean. Then the next week they will be advertising what are known in this neck of the woods as sheep dog bra’s. They round you up and point you in the right direction so men with more money than sense will fall over themselves in front of you. Then we have the super juicers, you know the things where you can put stuff in that you have hated since childhood and normally throw up at the sight of, but once all juiced together it will change your eating habits in a heartbeat.

    Adverts try and exploit our weaknesses and our desire and greed for something new. But the technique is nothing new, Europeans tried to tempt natives with shiny trinkets of no use at all, these days it’s still done except they don’t want animal furs they want your money.

    I would say that one thing has not changed over the years and that’s the fact that when adverts come on it’s a good time to nip to the kitchen to grab another drink and a snack.

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