Service of Irritating and Charming Commercials: Phony and Legitimate Laughs

March 15th, 2018

Categories: Advertising, Annoying, Commercials, Hospitals, Insurance, Investment

It was less than a year ago that I wrote about the commercials that drove me nuts. Clearly I’ve been listening to the radio and watching TV too much as there are two more to add to the “I immediately change stations or channels as soon as I hear them” list.

This time I’ll also share some adverts I like.

Fake giggles over unfunny circumstances are the worst. The prize goes to 1-800-I-Got-Junk for radio commercials in which business or homeowners laugh hysterically when the junk crew tosses out a piece of rubbish. My hands can be wet or sticky but off goes the station at the first sign of this shrill irritation and sometimes I don’t return. In looking for a link to it, which I didn’t find you’ll be relieved to know, I noticed a similar reaction to it on a website “Commercials I Hate!

Speaking of laughter, I can envision the room of 30-something creative types cracking up as they developed and produced the E*Trade commercial to scare people into saving money so they have funds for their retirement. Sung to the tune of “Banana Boat Song” that Harry Belafonte made famous, it consists of 85 year olds still working and looking foolish as they drop packages they’re trying to deliver, are dragged around by a heavy fire hose, are compared to model-perfect lifeguards and “DJ Nana” spinning records while hideously dolled up. Subconsciously, it could be this ad that inspired my post earlier in the week, “Service of Aging Gracefully.” The commercial isn’t aimed at me but at 30-somethings whose Nana’s and grandpas are, I hope, spending their time making money under more appropriate, dignified circumstances.

And I love “Banana Boat Song.”

I also enjoy the catchy tune that NYU Langone, a well-regarded NYC hospital, uses in some of its TV commercials which make me smile. There’s a series of which “Winter” and “Athletes on their Feet” are only two. Kudos NYU Langone! [And please take good care of my friend who has not been well.]

I wish there were more State Farm “Hall of Claims” commercials as this series is clever. My first favorite is the Mer-Mutts scene where the family pooch turns on the water in the kitchen and floods the living room transformed into a swimming pool. The woof and his pals perform a water ballet while their human mom and pop look on horrified. Actor J.K. Simmons is terrific. Some other good ones are The Truck-Cicle; Frightning-bolt and Vengeful Vermin.

My bet is that the ads that aggravate sell their products like crazy and the ones I like don’t—but I’m not in advertising so what do I know? Are there ads that motivate you to change channel or station in an instant and others you don’t mind hearing and even enjoy?

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10 Responses to “Service of Irritating and Charming Commercials: Phony and Legitimate Laughs”

  1. Martha Takayama Said:

    Without any reflection, I can tell you I detest all medical commercials, the more detailed or graphic, the less appealing. I also immediately want to change the channel when commercials for legal services come on.

    As for positive commercials, I love the ones on public television – I think they are State Farm commercials which you also like. I believe the leading actor used to be an integral part of Law and Order SVU. Additionally, Geico’s eccentric humor is really disarming. I am definitely better disposed to products whose commercials I like and if we could only see those, television would be a delight.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Public television isn’t supposed to have commercials so that’s the bone I must pick in that regard. Unless promoting their own fundraisers–automatic channel changers for me–at least they don’t interrupt a movie or segment of a series with commercials. That’ll be next.

    I dislike gory anything but check the link on one of the NYU Langone hospital commercials–no blood and guts, clever and New York-y in a good way all with catchy music.

  3. Martha Takayama Said:

    I did wonder about why they have those commercials even if they are funny. I didn’t think they were part of public television, but have gotten used to them. Oh well! Let’s hope we don’t lose public television under the current regime!

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I forgot to respond to your question re. the actor J.K. Simmons. Yes, he played doctor Emil Skoda in Law & Order, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, and Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

  5. Protius Said:

    Being of a mind that a little less consumption of Earth’s dwindling resources might not be a bad thing, I must confess that it disturbs me that some of the best of our current crop of TV and radio adds are both charming and, I suspect, effective and far better than most of the drivel being foisted off upon us as entertainment these days.

    This leads me to question what it says about our culture, and civilization itself, that our best creative minds seem now to be attracted to marketing and not more conventional intellectual ways of expressing themselves.

    What do you think?

  6. Edward Baecher Said:

    Edward wrote on Facebook: I see most commercials today as wishful illusions of how things should be, depending on the target audience how things are not. Marketing is an amazing field, 99% based on psychology.

  7. Jeanne Byington Said:

    And the target may not be what you think–stockholders, for example and not consumers.

    Nevertheless, I wonder if stations and networks take into consideration audience lost as a result of a supremely irritating commercial vs. income derived from the company that sponsors the ad.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Great, creative minds have for years been in marketing and many film makers, artists and writers get their start–pay their bills–by working in some aspect of it whether advertising or video or illustration. America used to be tops in the world when it came to marketing. I don’t know what we excel in these days.

    Speaking of….the president of this country bamboozled millions to believe him and he used PR to such an incredible extent he played media to cover him daily which gave him credibility and eventually the job. This was ironic for someone who for years has knocked on media doors with far less success which may tell you something about our values or those of the gatekeepers: Telling the truth can be such a snore. Being outrageous and snarky and making things up is what it’s about. To quote the man in question, “Sad.”

  9. Lucrezia Said:

    Heavy purchases must result from long and boring car, pill and hospital ads, because if the noisy prattle didn’t work, it would be pulled. How about pushing the mute button and/or getting minor chores done while the modern day elixir salesmen ply their trade?

    It would be a good thing if the ad and merchandising worlds were to raise standards, but they show no signs of doing so. It’s tempting, at times, to wish them dead — then visualize the huge consequences which would undoubtedly result. Ask one of thousands of Toys ‘R Us workers about to lose their jobs. Stinky ads perhaps?

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I haven’t seen a Toys ‘R Us ad in eons but then I don’t watch children’s programs. However, in the last eight to 10 years, I’ve visited the stores both in Poughkeepsie, NY and in Manhattan about four times a year if not more. My impression was DEPRESSING. The one in Poughkeepsie looked like a junk warehouse with poor lighting, terrible merchandising and no staff visible to ask questions at full price. Better off going to Wal*Mart for the same ambiance where prices are better.

    I can tune out most adverts and get dishes washed and other chores done while they are on. However, the ones I called out so disturb me that I can’t tune them out which, no doubt is why they have them on air. Guess it works for some. I am usually statistically insignificant but I’d try other vendors as my only other tactic than turning off the radio, changing stations or muting.

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