When I was a senior in high school, I, and the thuds I hung out with, had to take an aptitude test that was supposed to help us decide what part of the job market we should zero in on. When it was my turn to get the results from the guidance counselor, he told me I was a natural for the advertising biz. I never did make it to Madison Avenue (I take that back — I bought a leather jacket there once), but the test wasn’t entirely wrong, because I’ve always been a connoisseur of TV commercials.
The good ones are fine — I was as charmed as anyone by the Snickers ad where Betty White and Abe Vigoda get hammered in a pickup football game — but what I really like are the obnoxious ones, and the obnoxiouser, the better. I collect them the way that some people collect stamps. Drives my wife bughouse, but any adman worth his bonus will tell you the spots that really sell are the ones that drive you crazy, and (being more than half crazy to begin with) those are the ones I admire.
There are more of them now. Oh, we had a few that were old-school obnoxious back in the day; there was the stressed-out (and possibly premenstrual) housewife who screeched, ”Mother, please! I’D RATHER DO IT MYSELF!” That probably sold a lot of Anacin. Then there was the animated rodent Bucky Beaver who sang ”Brusha-brusha-brusha, here’s the new Ipana.” That was for Ipana toothpaste, not to be confused with ”You’ll wonder where the yellow went/When you brush your teeth with Pepsodent!”
But nothing compares with modern America’s adventures in obnoxicity, many available on the Huffington Post, a website that has raised Internet time-wasting to a fine art (I say that with admiration). Here, in a gallery of annoying commercials, you can revisit the wonders of the Clapper; who could forget the Volga Boatmen singing ”Clap on! Clap off! Clap on, clap off!” Or the world’s creepiest old man, dancing his way to Six Flags amusement park, accompanied by happy children he will soon kill and eat. Mustn’t overlook Aspray (heh-heh, get it?), the all-over body deodorant that takes care of your foul feet and smelly bum as well as your pungent pits. The lady who sprays it up her skirt is priceless. And who could forget the Snuggie?
Uncle Stevie always thought the HeadOn commercial could not be topped for its pummeling simplicity — ”HeadOn! Apply directly to the forehead!” repeated until you’re ready to hang yourself in the shower JUST TO MAKE IT STOP — but Uncle Stevie was wrong.
The most obnoxious commercial ever (so far; remember, there is no final frontier) supports a product called ShoeDini. If you haven’t seen this masterpiece of the hard sell, I urge you to go to the Internet and view it immediately (don’t wait, operators are standing by). Turn the sound up on your computer as loud as it will go in order to get the full effect. And if you have access to Valium, keep one handy.
The perfect obnoxious commercial must sell a product no one needs, and ShoeDini fills the bill superbly in this regard. I mean, it’s a shoehorn, for the love of God. One with a long handle. According to the ad, this is a boon for elderly people who are still spry enough to need shoes but not spry enough to bend over and yank ‘em on. But wait, there’s more. ShoeDini has the patented grip clip, which hooks on the back of your shoe. You say shoe stores give shoehorns away free? Yeah, but…this is a shoehorn on a stick!!!!
The best thing about ShoeDini is the galaxy-destroying voice of Gilbert Gottfried, who is already wanted in 15 countries for giving us the Aflac duck. No one in America has a voice like Gilbert Gottfried. No one in the universe does. He is more than a national treasure, he’s a secret weapon. During the ShoeDini commercial, you can actually feel tortured brain cells screeching their last as that vocal buzz-saw rips ever deeper into your cerebral cortex, destroying resistance the way Liquid-Plumr destroys clogs in your bathroom drain. If we had had Gilbert Gottfried in World War II, Hitler would have given up in 1942. That voice transcends salesmanship; this is an all-out TV blitzkrieg.
I can only add one thing: If we all buy a ShoeDini, maybe Gilbert will move on to nuclear disarmament.