"Dear Lord," we implored, "send us a sign." A sign to tell us, after 20 years at this ridiculous racket, that enough was enough. Or to keep at it hammer and tong. Either way, we just wanted some guidance, because maybe we have some fight in us yet, or maybe we're so jaded and spent we don't even realize we're jaded and spent.
Humbly we beseeched.
Then things started to happen. Listening to a ballgame, we heard some computer outfit come on the radio with a commercial talking about "stepping up to the plate" and "hitting a home run" and similar baseball-themed inanities. We flinched, which means our nerve endings still function. But flatworms flinch, too, when you poke them. This doesn't suggest higher thought.
Then our big brother alerted us to a Bridgestone commercial, featuring a hunk and a hunkette, in the rain, pawing one another hungrily. To sell tires. We got a hold of the spot and snorted in derision. Yet it was precisely the snort of derision we snorted over a Cross pens campaign several years ago, and we couldn't add a single original thought.
Last week we awarded four stars to an Australian spot for Carlton Draught, which was encouraging, because it proved we can summon enthusiasm. On the other hand, the spot looked to us like the final curtain of the media-advertising age. Maybe, subconsciously, it was our own final curtain we had in mind.
But wait. We have three kids and a big mortgage. We have a very real financial need for the show to go on. This is why we turned to God.
"Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread ..."
And then it happened. The sign. It came. Out of nowhere, in the form of an e-mail, from Seiter & Miller Advertising, New York, headlined: "Fresh New Advertising from Arnold Bakeries."
And we looked. And we gasped. And we knew. Here was a TV commercial so trite and obvious, so overstated and silly, so amateurish and dumb, we simply had to tell the world. Which is pretty much the definition of a vocation, is it not? God wants us to share this with you:
The commercial totally sucks.
Stupefyingly terrible, is what it is, as it attempts to justify the premium pricing on Arnold's supermarket breads.
The spot opens in an old-fashioned brick-oven bakery, where, in sepia tones and golden light, an artisanal bread maker listens to Caruso as he deftly kneads fresh dough. He slides the finished loaf into the oven, slides out a gorgeous finished one and takes his lunch break.
OK, are you ready for the crazy, brand-building twist? Guess what he makes his sandwich out of. Go ahead, guess.
No! Not the piping hot loaf he just baked! He opens up a package of Arnold whole wheat, pulls out a limp slice of it and sniffs! With satisfaction-because, the message here is Arnold makes some damn fine bread, even if it looks truly dreadful next to the fresh-baked one we just saw, like, four seconds earlier.
"There is a better bread," the voice-over declares, "and its name is Arnold."
There is a purveyor of stale cliches, and its name is Arnold. There is contempt for viewer intelligence, and its name is Arnold. There is a bastion of simply breathtaking cluelessness, and its name is Arnold.
And, oh yes, dear Lord. Thank you so much. There is a reason to go on. And its name is Arnold.
Review 1/2 star
Ad: Arnold Bakeries
Agency: Seiter & Miller Advertising
Location: New York