There used to be a purpose behind paying celebrities a lot of money to appear in a commercial. The company wanted their product associated with someone who was well-known, liked, respected, and successful.
To paraphrase a popular series of tequila commercials, whatever happened to associating your product with success?
Products, thankfully, do not engage in the political ad rants (e.g., "don't buy that detergent, it'll eat a hole in your clothes!"). However, they do seem to be more and more interested in seeing just how far down the bottom of the barrel they can fall. Country singer Randy Travis once had a song called "Better Class of Losers," and maybe that's what they're aiming for.
A few cases in point: Miller Lite commercials now feature guys (always guys, they don't dare try this with women) who are "one strike away" from having their "man card" revoked. One man can't look down from his lofty perch -- about six inches off the ground -- on a rock wall. Then there are the downright nasty and vindictive Infiniti car commercials: one features a man retaliating against his neighbor by bowling his car out of its parking spot with a gigantic snowball, and the other has the neighbor getting pelted by a hundred or so kids after throwing one snowball. What's the message here: Infiniti, the car of choice for people hell-bent on revenge?
And then there's the Chevy Volt, the car commercial so bad it makes me swear to never drive another Chevy if they give me one for free. Those horrid ads were inescapable during the baseball playoffs, and they have thankfully disappeared (probably due to considerable negative feedback about the ads).
Maybe it's me. I love the VW commercial with people trying to decipher what Elton John was saying in "Rocket Man" (and let me point out, as someone who was quite the Elton John fan in the 70s before the days of looking the lyrics up online, that was NOT always an easy task; and, if you doubt me, ask anyone in their 40s or 50s what they thought Elton was saying instead of "she's got electric boots" when they first heard "Bennie and the Jets" on the radio!). A lot of people seem to dislike it. These people in the VW ad, however, aren't vindictive jerks or guys struggling with their manhood because they're not drinking a particular beer. They're reflecting a reality -- Elton's lyrics weren't easy to understand back then.
So as we hold our breath and prepare for the big day in advertising (the Super Bowl, just five or so weeks away), is it too much to ask that commercials begin to associate their products with winners instead of losers? Tom Petty said, "Even the losers get lucky sometime," but not the way the commercials are portraying them.