3 Real Marketing Tips From Fake Commercials

Ever since the VHS tape made watching commercials optional, marketing executives have been challenged to make their commercials pause-worthy.

Some have been very successful. These days, you’d be hard pressed to find someone who hasn’t seen the All-State Mayhem commercials, heard the song, or ogled Isaiah Mustafa in the Old Spice ads.

However, there are other companies whose commercials become legendary in a different way. They’re well-known, yes, and there’s the saying that no publicity is bad publicity. But for every epically awful but somehow wildly popular phenomenon, there are millions that are simply ignored.

Luckily, you can learn from these epic failures and the delightful commercial parodies they inspired.

1) Show how your product provides a real service to real people.

Most infomercials share the same structure: a klutz in black-and-white land is haphazardly trying to do a simple task and fumbles around in a destructive whirlwind like an elephant on Vicodin. But with the use of the incredible product being marketed, the task is a snap! The WTF Blanket – a dubbed over Snuggie commercial – exaggerates the silliness of it all.

As the proud owner of 3 Snuggies (1 name brand Snuggie, one Kmart knock-off, and 1 Brookstone Nap Comfy Ultra-Plush Blanket with Sleeves), I am clearly just the kind of moron this ad appeals to. I think I’m the exception rather than the rule on this one, though.

The parody here exaggerates two different things that a real customer might take away from the original: 1) the customer is an idiot who can’t do simple things and 2) the “problem” that needs to be “solved” is not really a problem at all.

Neither of these are a great way to start off with potential clients. Showing competent people up against a difficult obstacle and benefitting from your products and services is the ideal way to make your company relevant.

2) Use the word you mean, not the word that’s more exciting.

With precious seconds in a commercial or online video, the temptation to use flashy words or catchy phrases is constant. After all, you want those words to be remembered, right? The Iron Gym parody mocks the original by exaggerating the verbs describing the body’s reaction to exercise, including things such as “ransack your biceps” and “humiliate your chest.”

You’re probably laughing with me, but the original Iron Gym commercial includes gems like: “Start with shoulder-shredding, bicep-burning chin-ups and pull-ups.”

While using vivid imagery can be a successful way to describe a scene in longer prose, using flashy, shallow language that doesn’t add to the overall experience distracts from the substance of what you’re offering.

3) Hotties can get in the way.

On television shows, every doctor is gorgeous (and usually has a tortured past that bicurious experimentation alone cannot erase) and every police officer is smoking hot. And that’s okay, because everyone knows they’re only actors pretending.

While it is true that every promotional blog writer is a stone fox, doctors and other frequent TV spokespeople are not universally attractive. Having a pretty face may draw in initial interest but may also get your expert – real or not – dismissed as an actor or actress.

For example, where do you think Dr. Betty Bottoms got her degree?

The best part? This was a legitimate ad produced by an Indian advertising agency. I don’t know if it ever saw air (and frankly, I’m afraid to start Googling related keywords), but it certainly highlights the tendency of commercials to use attractive “experts.”

Although I do feel sorry for the poor hotties being discriminated against, it is an unfortunate truth that – whether based in jealousy or not – pretty people are often dismissed as less intelligent. If your brand has an attractive spokesperson who is also claiming to be (or really is) an expert, customers may second guess the person’s qualifications – and therefore YOUR brand’s research basis.

Do you break any of these rules in your advertisements? What are your favorite commercial parodies? What kind of commercials make you want to seek out a company’s products or services? Sound off in the comments below!

Until next time, keep expanding your brand!


Jana Quinn

An old ‘G’ that’s been working for QLP since it was in Bret’s basement – Jana has been writing since she made up a story about a Jana-Tiger that liked rocky road ice cream and got straight A’s. She enjoys writing about marketing and pop culture, posting a ‘Die Hard’ article as often as she’s allowed. She is inspired by the articles at Cracked and frequently wears a Snuggie in the office. You can also connect with Jana on Google+.


  1. Mandy K

    Isaiah Mustafa should always be mentioned in marketing blogs.

    I’m with you, though. I always believe information from “non-hot” experts to be far more reliable.

    • Jana Quinn

      I actually read the summary of a (horribly designed and poorly controlled) study that said more attractive people have higher IQs.

      Poorly defined constructs and dependent variables are a constantly source of sensationalized scientific results. Ugh.

      • Mandy K

        I’m glad to hear that it was horribly designed and poorly controlled. There’s no way that Jessica Simpson is smarter than I am.

  2. JPorretto

    “it is true that every promotional blog writer is a stone fox”

    Damn right!

    Now, I have to admit for the commercials with the hotties in them… I frequently don’t know/ care what they’re selling. They’re really just selling sex hoping you’ll take a side of WTF blanket with it.

    I think you need someone kinda scary/ intimidating/ motivating…. I miss Billy Mays.

    • Jana Quinn

      Sex with a side of WTF blanket. Well said.

      As far as scary/intimidating/motivating, I side with Richard Simmons. He fits all three categories surprisingly well.

      • Juliette

        Wow. I hadn’t thought of Richard Simmons in a few years (not since Josh dressed as him a couple Halloweens ago here at the office). You’re right, he totally fits all three of those categories.

  3. Juliette

    Stone foxes, eh? I like it. 🙂

    I admit that since I don’t have cable or network my commercial watching time has dwindled to nearly nothing. There is one series of commercials on the radio that I will stop and listen to just for the laugh. The Bud Light “Real Men of Genius” ads crack me up every time. And I don’t even drink beer.

    And I’m a proud owner of a Cheshire Cat snuggie. 🙂 (I think you’d appreciate this:

    • Jana Quinn

      THAT’S AWESOME. I also have a Snuggie at the office. Two, actually! I use my green KMart knockoff as my “main” Snuggie with my name brand tan auxiliary Snuggie on hand in case anyone else gets cold. Too cool.

      • Juliette

        I think I’m the only one of reptilian descent here in our office so I’m usually the only one in need of the snuggie and heater. 🙂 I love that you keep two at the office!

    • Amy

      I love the Bud Light “Real Men of Gunius” ads too! I haven’t heard them for a while, but they really need to bring those back. My commute just hasn’t been the same :/

  4. cyberneticSAM

    It is so true! Even with commercials on the radio! They always have some intense voice over and use a lot idiot-proof words, and I for one am completely offended. The rest of the world I can’t speak for, however. It’s just like the movie “Idiocracy.” As long as a commercial is promising little effort, huge results and instant gratification, people throw money down without thinking twice about it. I don’t know about you, but when I see commercials like Dr. Betty Bottoms and Victoria’s Secret commercials, my feminist side comes out and I am so irate! It is because of ads like these that I gave up television in the first place.

    Commercials like the Snuggie commercial (which in an essence is just an oversized robe that you wear backwards and look not unlike a Jedi) are ridiculous. I feel like we further perpetuate and add to the dumbing down of our culture, and I feel like I am singled out in my outrage when I see these stupid commercials. They may be entertaining, but only for a moment and then the reality sinks in that commercials like this are serious and seriously trying to make money. It just leaves a bad taste in my mouth.

    • Amanda Sneed

      I see where you’re coming from Sam. I used to be more like that. But now I try to just look at it like hey, if that guy can make millions off a backwards robe, more power to him, somewhat genius really. 😉

      Kind of like the movie Role Models, and the coffee house scene, “I hate that stuff too, but I don’t let it ruin my day” kind of thing. I think people are always going to buy silly stuff like that. And I used to get mad at my husband every time he wanted to buy something that wasn’t 100% useful and “needed”, but now I just say (still within some reason, of course) hey, if it makes you happy, why not….buy the dang Snuggie, etc.

      The commercials that have been bugging me late though, are the medication ones! I understand that the companies got into trouble and need to list off some side effects. But still, unless you need that medication, why do we need to hear every possible side effect?? A lot of the side effects are worse than the original trouble. (Like Jeff Foxworthy says, “I think I’ll just keep my itchy, watery eyes!”)

  5. Amanda Sneed

    Nice post Jana. This Snuggie parody is hilarious!

    My husband wanted one for a while, but I refused to spend the money since we have tons of blankets already. But last Christmas, he got 2 as gifts, so we gave the Snuggie a try. We both actually liked it…but it still doesn’t get used as much as our regular blankets do. So I’m glad that I didn’t spend our money on it, but we are glad to have one around sometimes. Whenever a friend is over and sees that we have one, they insist on trying it out, and we always get a good laugh out of the wizard like sleeves.

    But you’re right Jana–a Snuggie is a good blanket for the office. I bet it keeps your arms warm while typing at the desk! Well done! =)

    I am also loving the Vitameatavegimin picture, I Love Lucy will always be an awesome show! I have watched and love it my entire life.

    • Jill Tooley

      Me too! I used to watch “I Love Lucy” all the time. It’s a great show! 🙂

  6. Jill Tooley

    Good call on these tips, Jana. #2 resonates the most with me; Iron Gym and Bowflex commercials are infamous for using superfluous words that make my ears perk up (not in a good way). It detracts from the commercial itself. Somehow, the terms “shoulder shredding” and “bicep burning” don’t urge me to whip out my phone and start ordering. If anything, words like that urge me to avoid exercise even more than I already do…that sounds disgusting and painful!

    P.S. I don’t believe I’ve had the pleasure of viewing the Betty Bottoms commercial before now, so thank you for that! If she gets to call herself a doctor, then I don’t see any reason why I can’t start calling myself an astrophysicist (which is what I would be if I didn’t fail so hard at math).

  7. LK

    These are hilarious videos!

    Also, great points about commercials. I secretly like infomercials, and the main reason I get hooked on them, or the product they are selling, is because they are showing the item as something that would actually make my everyday life easier (or at least they are making me think it would). So I would definitely agree with Tip #1. Show me the product is actually going to help me, and I might be sold!!

    Good post Jana!

  8. Bret Bonnet

    I think reading this blog post today might have caused me to get “Super Herpes”. I don’t know HOW I’m going to explain this to my wife… 🙂

    Seriously though – this blog had me almost pissing myself several times.

    Talk about GREAT one liners:

    “has a tortured past that bicurious experimentation alone cannot erase”


    “a destructive whirlwind like an elephant on Vicodin”

    … CLASSIC.

    I’m honestly surprised that the Reebok commercial was developed and targeted for their Indian market. I would have thought that ANYTHING they would have produced would be MORE conservative than anything they would air here in the US.

    In regards to “pretty people are often dismissed as less intelligent”; I have to agree, this is indeed the case, which makes finding a hotty (as Richard Vesly would call them) who is also super smart an extremely exciting find for us men – JK!

    Great post, and I can only wish that someday I could be responsible for producing an advertisement that is so BAD that it would be worthy of a “WTF” voice over! 🙂

  9. Joseph Giorgi

    Shame on those who undercut Dr. Bottoms credibility as a licensed physician. I don’t see why she’s getting such a “bum” rap. She’s written three books on posterior health, which as far as I’m concerned makes her an accredited authority on the subject.

    Butt Complex is a serious contemporary issue, and one that afflicts millions of unfortunate individuals—myself included. Had it not been for the outreach program founded by Dr. Bottoms, millions more would likely suffer. And if she says that a new pair of Reeboks will help me sculpt my buttocks more effectively, then who am I to question her research methods?

  10. Terje Sannarnes

    Great ideas on how to benefit from fake commercials. I will take into account tips and recommendations provided in this great post. Excellent thoughts!

  11. Kim

    Thanks for the humorous take on very real insights. There is much to be learned from fake, or even cheesy, commercials that float around claiming to be the best product or service on the market. I especially agree with the concept that your commercial should aim to convince viewers that your product or service will help them in some way in their life. Whether it’s practical or considered a luxury, if a viewer feels it will be helpful to them in any way, they will be more inclined to by. Thanks for the laughs!

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