We’ll begin with this Carl’s Jr. ad:
They have a supermodel slowly, suggestively sucking peppers and jamming sandwiches into her mouth. It’s so over the top and sexualized that it looks like one of The Hamburgler’s dirtiest thoughts. The first time I saw it, I could hardly believe how disgusting it was. Surely, though, they weren’t being serious?
Look at some of those costumes. It’s beyond self-parody. Surely, then, the commercial is intended to be ironic, but if that’s the case, why did it still annoy me?
I think I’ve figured it out: they’re still using this sexualization to sell their burgers. Whatever else can be said about it, there’s no doubt that this ad is memorable… For the fact that it features supermodel shoveling a sandwich down her throat with the relish of a vampire bat suckling the warm red lifeblood from the leg of an unwary chicken.
They’re not mocking the thing, they’re doing the thing and using irony as a shield to make it look like they’re mocking it. It’s irony as a get-out-of-jail-free card. Reminds me of this Family Guy clip:
I like Family Guy, but I still find this clip annoying. I’d put money down that the Michael J. Fox “gag” was pitched and then rejected for being entirely too obvious-not to mention tasteless and unfunny-before someone had the bright idea to put the over-long Peter-talking-to-viewer gag in the front of it.
You get to laugh at the mean-spirited and unfunny Michael J. Fox joke while preemptively shielding yourself from any criticism by claiming you’re being ironic.
“No, see, it’s insanely stupid and sexist, but we know that, and we’re counting on you to know that, so it’s OK!”
In a way, ironic ads are inherently dishonest. “I mean, you can, like, buy this… I guess… Like, if you want?” They DO want you to buy the thing. Everything about an advertisement is designed to make you want to buy the thing that’s being advertised.
These constant attempts at appealing to my generation cynicism are cute, but frankly, I wish they’d just stick to stupid mascots and silly jingles. It might be corny, but at least it’s honest.