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Now it's time to enjoy the donuts, Fred...

With the passing of Michael Vale, most famous for portraying Fred the Baker in Dunkin' Donuts commercials for 15 years (as well as a stint in the 70's as Sam Breakstone in some cottage cheese ads), I was put in mind of other corporate mascots and spokesmen. And right now there are three very prominent ones that have none of the lovability of Fred the Baker. In fact, they annoy me or outright creep me out.

First up is the frozen-faced Burger King. All I can think about is the disturbing protagonist V from "V For Vendetta" (soon to be a major motion picture) and Michael Myers from Halloween.

Next up is that annoying litlte gecko from GEICO. I've had a grudge against GEICO for well over a decade, when Car & Driver revealed they were subsidizing the development of radar guns and actually giving them to police departments in a flagrant ploy to increase speeding tickets -- and, consequently, insurance premiums.

Finally, there's that Roaming Gnome from Travelocity. He would be fine if he stayed a bit genteel and naive, but they can't keep his personality consistent.

So, who else bugs you as a corporate spokesman?


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Comments (45)

That guy (don't know his na... (Below threshold)
Jim Price:

That guy (don't know his name) that does those ads where he says "Oh No! I Lost another loan to Ditech!"

How about the goober that does the visine commercials...looks perpetually stoned on valium. I think he also had the distinct honor of playing Ferris' teacher in Ferris Bueler's Day Off.

Then there was the lamo that sang the eBay commercials. Thank God I haven't had to sit through one of those in quite a while.

Jay, I'd have to add the pi... (Below threshold)

Jay, I'd have to add the pillaging barbarian horde that is in all those CapitalOne credit card commercials. If I never see them again, it'd be fine by me.

I would ask that you reconsider the Burger King, or more specifically, grant a pass to the particular set of commercials where he's edited into NFL footage. The one of him intercepting the pass and taking it back for a TD, after which he dives into the stands, is hilarious. The others, however, are a bit creepy as you point out.

Let's throw in one corporate spokesman who I wish would come back: Terry Tate, Office Linebacker. Those Reebok commercials were a scream. When Terry levels the smarmy jerk who doesn't make a new pot of coffee after drinking the last cup, it's as if you're watching a feel-good movie.

I was surprised to see that there was no mention of Sam Breakstone at all in the coverage of Michael Vale's passing that I have read thus far. You are the first person I've seen make note of it. I remember him as clearly as I do the Dunkin Donuts baker.

5 wordscan you hea... (Below threshold)

5 words

can you hear me now?

Anyone and anything to do w... (Below threshold)

Anyone and anything to do with selling Mentos, (the fresh maker!) should be skinned alive, dipped in alcohol, lit of fire and then fed to pit bulls with gingivitis, processed by said dogs then used to fertilize weeds growing on old toxic waste dumps.

For me it's the commercials... (Below threshold)
upset old guy:

For me it's the commercials from what is, for now, a regional discount furniture chain - Bob's Furniture. Not sure which character is most offensive, Bob or the bimbo (but maybe it's her as I suspect Bob can't do much about what he's like). He's trying to go national, so at some time in the future everyone may have the opportunity for their stomach turned into a bag of bubbling acid as well.

The "Have you evolved?" ser... (Below threshold)

The "Have you evolved?" series of print ads from Microsoft. Using people in a normal office setting, but wearing big fake dinosaur heads, is about as non-creative as you can get. It is embarassing that such a big-budget marketing department can put out such dreck.

I guess I didn't really need to use the word "fake".

I thought the Mentos campai... (Below threshold)

I thought the Mentos campaign was brilliant. A perfect example of making something so bad (probably on pupose) that everyone talks about it. OTOH you have the commercials for the gum featuring the British chick. They're also horrible, but I have no idea what product they were hawking.

My Hall of Shame at th moment includes the "Be a Man" ads from Milwaukee's Best and the penis pill ads with Bob.

I actually like the Capital... (Below threshold)

I actually like the Capital One Barbarian Horde Ad. Especially the Halloween one.

The Capital One Ad with the Sadist and "just say no" theme annoys the crap out of me.


You just know when V for Ve... (Below threshold)

You just know when V for Vendetta (the movie) comes out, they're going to have a Burger King commercial where the King meets with V and gives him a breakfast sandwich. And V decides that being a pitchman is more fun than being an anarchist and becomes a Pep Boy.

GEICO got their butt spanked a few years ago for running unauthorized credit checks on people of the African American persuasion.

Jim - Visine's spokesman is... (Below threshold)

Jim - Visine's spokesman is the wonderful Ben Stein, who was indeed the man who intoned "Bueller? Bueller?"

Bob and his bimbo may be annoying, but they're at least honestly annoying, which is more than I can say for the truly loathsome, irritating and smarmy false-friendly clowns Barry and Elliot (no longer confused with Jordan Marsh - remember that tag line?). If those two furniture hucksters died in a flaming crash tomorrow, it wouldn't bother me a bit.

How about that idiot with t... (Below threshold)

How about that idiot with the ?-marks all over his suit who tells you how to get money from the government? I think his name is Matthew Lesko and, I believe, he may be the idiot bastard son of "Crazy Eddie".

Only the good spokesmen die young, like I miss the Taco Bell dog, while other irritating mascots like that freak Ronald McDonald just go on and on.

I know I'm dating myself he... (Below threshold)

I know I'm dating myself here, but for me one of the worst was the "where's the beef?" lady. That and the "I've fallen and I can't get up" ads. Maybe not so much for the commercials themselves, but for the fact that those phases (much like "Can you hear me now?") have wormed their way into everyday speech.

There's two regional commer... (Below threshold)

There's two regional commercials down here that annoy me to no end. One is Appliance Direct. Then there's Mattress Barn, with the redneck spokesperson and his little puppet mini-me.

The Burger King is extremely creepy. The king kong version of their commercial, with the giant burger king staring through a window peeping-tom style is the most disturbing one.

Most annoying spokesmen? In... (Below threshold)

Most annoying spokesmen? In third place, "The Video Professor," with his obnoxious importuning to "try my product, try my product, try my product . . . . . ."

Edged out of my #1 spot is "Billy Mays here," the shrill, screaming barker for Oxyclean and God knows what else on cable.

Finally, my winner is ANYBODY appearing in an ad for the hideous and totally worthless "Ionic Breeze" from "The Sharper Image." This ad campaign is, without doubt, the most overplayed tract on television.

If we're going regional her... (Below threshold)

If we're going regional here, ALL of the furniture people in Taxachusetts irritate the hell out of me.

Barry & Eliot from Jordan's annoy me the most. Cut off that pony tail, you old putz.

Upset Old Guy already pointed out Bob and his bimbette. She must be his controlling girlfriend. This idiot is even stealing the most annoying phrase from the now defunct jackass from Dean's furniture - "I doubt it!"

Last but not least, Bernie & Phyl.

Car dealers too. I hate to mock the dead, but I'm glad Ernie Boch is not "Com(ing)on down (for breakfast)".

That Dave Thomas creep bugs... (Below threshold)

That Dave Thomas creep bugs the crap out of me.

I wish that guy were dead.

The sci fi chanel the guy w... (Below threshold)

The sci fi chanel the guy who inflates a dog by blowing in his ass, has to be the lowest you can get

The Ditech guy. Definitely... (Below threshold)

The Ditech guy. Definitely.

But let's not forget Jerrod from Subway. He really should go away... now.

Let me add two in a s[ecial... (Below threshold)

Let me add two in a s[ecial catagory - those who tell us their names as if they were someone special:

Tom Bodet for Motel Six

Rocky Mozel for Internation Star Ripoff, er, Registry.

The Visine guy is also the ... (Below threshold)

The Visine guy is also the science teacher from The Wonder Years (never knew him as anything but), and the Visine character he plays is a spoof on or continuation of that deadpan, ridiculous teacher character. I rather like it, but it probably makes no sense if you don't fondly remember the character.

My stepsister almost got to work with Michael Vale, but they moved her into another job instead. She has worked at Dunkin Donuts HQ for around 20 years.

The Visine guy is also t... (Below threshold)

The Visine guy is also the science teacher from The Wonder Years (never knew him as anything but)

Ben Stein is also a wonderful conservative writer whose columns can be read in the American Spectator and other places.

Carrot Top is hands down th... (Below threshold)

Carrot Top is hands down the lamest ad character - the term "justifiable homicide" was created for that guy

How about that idiot wit... (Below threshold)

How about that idiot with the ?-marks all over his suit who tells you how to get money from the government?

We have a winner!

The guy from Focus Factor w... (Below threshold)

The guy from Focus Factor who gives away the first hit for free of his "mental focus natural drug"....just like a crack dealer only on national TV.

GEICO's lizard is just lame. Their "I've got good news" ads are lame. Their caveman ads were funny.

Worst of all though were teh Quiznos puppets who looked like road kill. I haven't been able to eat a sandwich from there since they ran those. Sure, the little tune was catchy, but not in a good way. I just kept picturing them scraping up a dead carcass and serving it as a sandwich. What a huge, stupid marketing campaign...

Those horrid Fidelity ads '... (Below threshold)

Those horrid Fidelity ads 'She was a preppy, a hippie, a rock star, a writer, a business owner, a mom..................'

Faith+1,They were ca... (Below threshold)
The Real Steve:

They were called "spongemonkeys". Personallly I thought they were a fabulous marketing ploy. They sang so horribly that you had to listen closely to figure out the words, then all you could do was repeat the words "eat Quiznos subs 'cause they are good". It turns out that they were removed because the music was a copyright infringement.
BTW we have a local car dealer (Scott Donahoo) who runs commercials and he needs to be exiled from the planet. He uses his office workers to sing in the background and calls them the "Hoo Hoo girls".

As creepy as the entire Bur... (Below threshold)

As creepy as the entire Burger King campaign is, the prize within the prize has to go to the "Wake Up With The King" ones. Most of the folks I know would have given him a case of lead poisoning if he turned up in their bed.

If you wake up in bed with ... (Below threshold)

If you wake up in bed with the Burger King next to you, you need to have a serious chat with your Pharmacist 'cause you've gotten some bad drugs man.

Bob Dole. Anything with Bob Dole.

On a related note (although... (Below threshold)

On a related note (although I really liked the ad campaign), Six Flags has announced that they're doing away with the "Mr. Six" campaign. He's the old geezer who dances to "We Like To Party" by Vengaboys.

I remember doing an activity in one of my Marketing classes where we did surveys about what constitutes a "bad" ad. It was interesting to find that many of the more annoying ads were actually very effective in establishing name/brand recognition, while others that were funny/good/enjoyable left people at a loss for exactly what product was being advertised.

All that said, "Bob" is horrible, although I'll admit for being pretty amused at the "Japanese Boardroom" commercial. The only campaign that currently comes to mind that's completely devoid of any redeeming qualities is the "Lost another loan to Ditech" thing.

Anybody ever watch Tom O'Dell and Todd Boone on the "Cutlery Corner Network?" Those guys are great!

"Hi, I'm Dr. Neil Clark War... (Below threshold)

"Hi, I'm Dr. Neil Clark Warren from e|Harmony.com.
Let me tell you about the 29 Dimensions that determine long-term relationship success."

Something about the guy creeps me out. He may be a nice guy and may be providing a valuable service for some people, but that persistent grandfatherly smile of his makes me think "cult leader".

Mr. Sta-Puffed Man as a pro... (Below threshold)

Mr. Sta-Puffed Man as a proxy spokesman for SONY Pictures. That's creepy!

What happened to Mr. Whipple? How did 'Happy Days' Diner Guy get an On-Cor performance?

I'm surprised no one mentio... (Below threshold)

I'm surprised no one mentioned the Dell computer guy.

"Dude, you're getting a Dell."

I think he's the reason I never even thought about buying one of their computers.

Al Sharpton for LoanMax. T... (Below threshold)

Al Sharpton for LoanMax. The guy is beyond parody.

'"Hi, I'm Dr. Neil Clark Wa... (Below threshold)

'"Hi, I'm Dr. Neil Clark Warren from e|Harmony.com.
Let me tell you about the 29 Dimensions that determine long-term relationship success."

Something about the guy creeps me out. He may be a nice guy and may be providing a valuable service for some people, but that persistent grandfatherly smile of his makes me think "cult leader".'

The same thing with the Overstock.com chick but they're just marketing directly to the huge anti-depressant market segment.

Honestly, I like the Burger... (Below threshold)

Honestly, I like the Burger King. His creepiness is (to me) hilarious.

I also like the Geico lizard and the Verizon guy.

I distrust the EHarmony dude, and Carrot Top needs to be pistol-whipped.

However, my most hated advertisement persona is the voiceover guy for all the crappy infomercials. How I loathe him!

Interesting that a discussi... (Below threshold)
Bat One:

Interesting that a discussion of the worst ads on TV doesn't include a single beer commerical.

From the long-running "Tastes Great - Less Filling" Miller Lite commercials with Bob Euker, Bubba Smith, Steve Mizerak, and a host of other retired pro athletes, to the hilariously warped Heineken Holiday five-pack ad currently running, to the Budwieser and Miller Christmas card ads, to the horses on the winter plains who "usually go for two," beer ads are far and away the most consistently inventive, humorous, and memorable commericals on TV.

I can't stand, cannot.stand... (Below threshold)

I can't stand, cannot.stand:

"Can you hear me now?" guy.
I always yell out just before I mute, "NO, I CAN'T *HEAR* YOU!"

And, the other one I can't stand is:

"Laaaawwwwwg Onnnnn" the e-harmony crazy Ph.D. guy. Very creepy.

The hyper money man with the dollar sign suit is purely annoying so I never hear what he has to say because he's muted long before he utters a sound.

Locally, Cox Communications drives me nuts, with self-advertising every five minutes, 24/7, on all digital channels. I really, really, really can't stand the Cox Digital Cable adveritising and think what Cox is doing is driving customers away as far as possible because everyone I know is driven equally nuts by them. Not just once, not only a few times, but 24/7, a hundred times every day or more, same commercials, over and over again.

Enough already. Everyone KNOWS you're a cable company. Everyone GOT THAT already. Everyone will call you if they want to purchase your services. So now, please, stop it: using paid customer cable time to hype the cable company advertising seems about as low as cable can go.

There is no such thing as a... (Below threshold)

There is no such thing as a bad beer commercial.

The only commercials I see ... (Below threshold)

The only commercials I see are the damn flashing banners on certain internet sites. I watch so little TV with commercials, the Speedy Relief guy and the Santa Riding the Norelco Shaver are the two last commercials that I saw one too many times...

I like the Burger King comm... (Below threshold)

I like the Burger King commercial when the guy wakes up with the King in his bed, but I would have had the guy say something like "Damn, I drank WAY too much last night" before he rolls over and sees the King. I also have to concur with the commenters about Jordans furniture. I went to school in Boston, and I really wanted to murder them both. Same with Bernie and Phyl. On a local note, here in upstate NY thees a guy that advertises for vinyl siding and windows. He's got the bald crown of his head with a long pony tail, and just generally looks sketchy, but he also has these women in his ads that look like prostitutes. I keep expecting him to say "Pimpin ain't easy" at the end of his commercials

If I'm not mistaken, in som... (Below threshold)

If I'm not mistaken, in some of those commercials he had a wife who was played by the woman who would later be George Costanza's mother in Seinfeld.

If they're spoof characters... (Below threshold)

If they're spoof characters like Dunkin Donuts Guy or Fast-Talking FedEx Guy or Secret Agent Sprint Guy then it's good.

But I can live without the "Our mega-corporation is just like you and loves you sooooooo much!" characters such as Madge, Mr. Whipple and the Maytag Repairman.

And does anybody really miss the Ti-D-Bowl Man?

Oh, and why should I care that S.C. Johnson is "a family company"? Yes indeed, every quaint family business owns an NFL team...

When I was in a audio recor... (Below threshold)

When I was in a audio recording program at a media arts school, I had a circle of friends that we all took product catch phrases as aliases. Mine was 'the Freshmaker'. Others were:

"So Pure, It Floats"
"Kills Bugs Dead"
"Sometimes You Feel Like A Nut.."
"They're Magically Delicious"
"Ribbed for Her Pleasure"

I don't know if the woman (... (Below threshold)

I don't know if the woman (aka: bimbo) in the Bob's Discount Furniture TV ads is really his wife or not. Either way, I find her extremely attractive and I admit being quite hot for her. We never see a real close-up of her, or Bob for that matter. We always see camera shots wide enough to showcase large pieces of furniture. She's obviously not a kid, but neither am I. A few "crow's feet" revealed by a close in shot would not change my opinion of her.

The ad that I find very ann... (Below threshold)

The ad that I find very annoying is the NEXTEL ad where the three men are dancing together in the office and the manager(?) comes in panicking about where the shipments are. They flip on their phone and get all the answers and go back to the dance. I hate that one.






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