Best and Worst Commercials Airing Right Now

  • Brad Holbrook |
  • June 13, 2018 |
  • 12:44 p.m.
One of the problems I have as an avid viewer of tennis on television is that the sponsors for tennis tournaments are limited and the same commercials run over and over.

Sometimes I will watch the matches from my DVR recording and skip over the commercials altogether.  This requires  that I not know the match results beforehand, which isn’t always easy to do in our age of hyper-connectivity.  My friends don’t always honor Spoiler Alert decorum when they text about a match I am recording to watch later. “Dude! I can’t believe Rafa just lost the second set!!”  Arrrgh.

But watching a live event obligates me to sit through the same four or five commercials ad infinitum.  

During the just concluded French Open I must have seen every commercial at least 100 times.

Ok, finally:  Acting related content.

Maybe it’s the Stockholm Syndrome, but there are two that I ended up just absolutely loving.  However, returning to my normal level of disgust with commercials, there are some that make my skin crawl.  E v e r y  t i m e .  And in both cases my appreciation, or distaste, is very much related to the acting.

My first fave, and it’s been running for a while, is the car insurance commercial where the teenagers are broken down on the side of the road.  All four of the actors have been directed so perfectly, and they absolutely deliver.  One young actor in particular, though, blows me away with how he captures so fluidly and convincingly his answer to his friend’s question “Is this a lug wrench?”.  

He has one line.  One word.  Delivered perfectly.  Was he directed to nod yes, before and during saying “maybe”?  Probably.  If so, the director and the actor are both perfectly tuned in to the type the kid is playing.  But it could be that the actor had that line delivery figured out even before he auditioned for the job.  If so, it’s easy to see why he was cast.  I hope he’s enjoying his residuals from the gazillion plays the commercial is getting.

The other constantly playing commercial that I enjoy every time is a scene in a yoga class where a mother is trying to play match maker for her daughter with the yoga instructor.  This is also directed and played brilliantly, but the mother gets my special praise for being so effective playing a stereotype with conviction and confidence.

Commercial acting is its own thing.  Scripts are very short and very precise.  Sometimes actors have only a word or two to say, and yet they have to communicate something universally true.  We have to instantly relate to the characters in order for the message to land. 

 As high stakes as commercials are, it is rare, in my opinion, that they achieve what they set out to do.  Even with all the money that’s thrown at them. 

And that’s why I hate so many commercials and try to avoid ever watching them.

As a category, I despise the pharmaceutical ads that are so prolific.  Not only are they usually painfully cliché and filled with clunky actor/models, the message, usually delivered by voice over, is comically full of required disclaimers, which is rightfully, frequently, parodied.  “Taking Astrofelmacab may lead to sudden death…”

But there’s a “trend” in car commercials, very evident during the French Open telecasts, which has me climbing the walls.  A particular Alpha Romeo spot wins the award for the most cloyingly desperate attempt at turning a hunk of metal, glass and plastic into a sex object.

The voice over actor is not identified anywhere that I can find, which should be to her benefit.  She only did what she was directed to do, and no doubt was paid well for this national spot that runs so often.  But the breathy, faux-seductive delivery is so overdone it is almost its own self-parody.
This is a trend that was given a big boost with those awful Matthew McConaughey Lincoln spots which started a few years ago, and was perfectly mocked on SNL with Jim Carrey doing the honors.  If the market research shows these comically whispery commercials are effective then you have to say no one’s to blame, really.  Selling cars is a high stakes game and whatever works, works.  But that doesn’t mean they don’t make my eyes and ears bleed.

Admittedly I am exposed to only a thin slice of the commercials that are playing now.  If you know of any others that showcase terrific, or horrid, acting let me know!