Wednesday, September 2, 2020

An American and a Canadian show each other their country's worst playoff ads

The wonderful thing about the NHL playoffs is that you never know what you’re going to get. Every time you sit down in front of your TV to watch a game, the possibilities feel endless. The postseason is full of wild upsets, crazy bounces, unexpected heroes and goats and sudden death chaos. It can start to feel random, maybe even too random, but it’s never predictable.

And then comes the commercial break. And you know exactly what you’re going to get.

That’s because the NHL’s sponsors apparently make roughly a dozen new commercials in any given year, and then play them on an endless loop during the playoffs. It’s the same ads, several times a night. And they’re almost always terrible.

You know this. But here’s something that might not have occurred to you: The ads that play over and over again during hockey in Canada and the United States are different.

Not entirely different; there’s a handful of crossovers. (What’s up, Martin Brodeur?) But for the most part, Americans and Canadians are seeing different commercials. And that means that when you go online to complain about that horrible ad you just saw for the 20th time, most of your fellow fans across the border have no idea what you’re talking about.

I wanted to fix this. So I found an American volunteer, Sean Gentille, who agreed to watch three of my least favorite Canadian hockey ads. He’s also got three annoying American ones to show me. We’ll be seeing each of the ads for the very first time, and reacting in real-time for your amusement. It should be fun. Or maybe the exact opposite of fun. Probably that.

Y’all ready for this?

Pregame strategy

McIndoe: My first challenge was narrowing down the list to three, which involved some heartbreaking late cuts. Sorry, incredibly yellow no-name brand amateurs. Pack your stuff, old lady who dances about laundry freshener. You too, toe fungus guy, motivational Sportsnet dude and all those weirdos fantasizing about cars.

Instead, I’ve made the strategic decision to ease in Sean with a leadoff ad that isn’t completely awful, and that features a celebrity guest star he’ll recognize. Lull him into a false sense of security. Then wham, I’m going to hit him with a one-two punch that should ruin his day.

Also, I’m both deeply excited and vaguely terrified to finally understand all your taxidermy/tax attorney jokes.

Gentille: My top three was cast in cement by the end of the play-in round, but I still floated the question on Twitter to see if I was missing something obvious. All apologies to John Stamos, the Liberty Mutual “LiMu Emu” and the Geico “Aunts Infestation,” but nothing changed.

Folks, I held the hammer in this one. Nobody denies this. Idina Menzel herself knows it to be true. The toughest choice was trying to figure it out which respective Dunkin’ and Subway ads would round out my lineup.

Commercial No. 1

McIndoe: Let’s do this. Do you want to kick or receive?

Gentille: Receive, baby.

McIndoe: OK. I’m going to start you out with one that I don’t think is actually all that bad. But it airs roughly 700 times during every game, so take it in that context.

McIndoe: Rabbity babbity boo!

Gentille: So what we’ve got here is a famous person engaged in an annoying act? One that sort of winks and says, “Yep, we know this is annoying. That’s the conceit. Isn’t that funny? The juxtaposition of a vaguely charming celebrity, doing something awful that’ll burrow into your brain and make your life a little worse?”

That’s part of American and Canada’s shared culture, I guess. You’re going to get your own taste here shortly — and buddy, it’s a lot worse.

McIndoe: I can’t wait.

For background, this ad is part of an ongoing series that’s been running for years, starring Jon Hamm and, um, Skinny Young Jon Hamm. I don’t think it’s ever been firmly established what the relationship is supposed to be, but I think the kid is maybe his assistant and most of the ads revolve around Hamm subjecting him to some low-level psychological abuse.

Gentille: I’m assuming SkipTheDishes is a meal-delivery service. Do you guys not have Postmates or DoorDash?

McIndoe: I want to say no, but it’s possible that we have them and I just don’t realize it because they never hired Jon Hamm and bought up all the advertising slots on Hockey Night in Canada.

Gentille: All this does is open the door for a U.S. Grubhub ad starring Jim from The Office. I’m surprised it doesn’t already exist. Honestly, though, I’m kind of impressed by the guts this takes from the ad agency. If we were doing a draft of The Most Annoying Professions, “auctioneer” would be a lottery pick. And that’s what they chose — proudly, one would assume — to feature here. Next up: Jon Hamm in character as a mime. (I don’t like mimes.)

McIndoe: Rabbity babbity boo!

I plan to keep doing that constantly, by the way. I want you to have to live in my world for a bit.


McIndoe: I do not understand what that means.

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