Everyone has their favorite moments from "Saturday Night Live," which celebrates its 40th anniversary this weekend. But arguably, nothing has consistently defined the show as much as its fake commercials.
"Secretly, we all covet the opportunity to create work that SNL will spoof," says Adam Tucker, president of Ogilvy & Mather Advertising New York. It's a compliment, sure. And there's a powerful business reason why: "The social currency a campaign can get from an SNL parody is marketing gold," says Pete VonDerLinn, executive creative director at Partners & Napier.
A case in point is Jim Carrey's parody of Matthew McConaughey's philosophical Lincoln MKC commercial. Yes, Carrey is making fun of McConaughey. He's also saying "Lincoln" over and over again, in a way that embeds itself into the public consciousness. The real commercial got 2 million views on YouTube; Carrey's version, more than 9 million -- at no additional cost to the carmaker.
Ahead of SNL's big birthday show this weekend, we asked 13 real advertising execs to pick their favorite fake ads. It's a controversial list -- no Bad Idea Jeans? No Happy Fun Ball? But hey, they're the experts. Here's what they chose:
Bag O' Glass
"Not exactly an ad but definitely a great advertising moment. Why? Irwin Mainway (Dan Aykroyd) knows his audience: "You know, the average kid, he picks up, you know, broken glass anywhere, you know? The beach, the street, garbage cans, parking lots, all over the place in any big city. We're just packaging what the kids want!" He has a finely tuned marketing platform: 'I mean, it's a creative toy, you know?' He delivers a vibrant expression of the brand promise: 'If you hold this up, you know, you see colors, every color of the rainbow! I mean, it teaches him about light refraction, you know? Prisms and that stuff! You know what I mean?' And he has great brand extensions: 'I mean, we sell a lot of products in the Bag O' line … like Bag O' Glass, Bag O' Nails, Bag O' Bugs, Bag O' Vipers, Bag O' Sulfuric Acid.'" --Steve Red, president and chief creative officer, Red Tettemer O'Connell & Partners
"For me, Dan Aykroyd's "Bass-O-Matic" parody stands out among the many spoof ads. Keep in mind, infomercials were in their infancy and only appeared on late-night fringe TV. A young, loudmouthed, fast-talking, subtitled Aykroyd dressed like a used-car salesman sells us a bass smoothie maker as the must- have item for the kitchen. And today we have entire cable channels dedicated to selling us useless items -- only without a hilarious Dan Aykroyd as the spokesman." -- Adam Tucker, president, Ogilvy & Mather Advertising New York
"The commercial format gives SNL the ability to lampoon the ridiculousness of trying to convince someone that a decision they wouldn't normally make is a really good one. And the high- fiber cereal trend gave them the license to make fun of pooping—a place that, for whatever reason, they would never go in a skit." -- Ian Schafer, CEO, Deep Focus
"Part of the success here is nailing the nuances that make it feel like the real Calvin Klein ad. It took a lot of attention to detail -- besides an entertaining script -- to make things come to life." --Allen Adamson, chairman for North America, Landor
Damn It, My Mom Is on Facebook
"Damn It, My Mom Is on Facebook, an app that filters out anything related to 'sex, drugs, and all references to your atheism,' hits a cultural truth and tension. Honorable mention goes to the Hall of Fame-worthy 'Steve Martin's Penis Beauty Creme.' Still as awkward as the day it aired." -- Jay Russell, chief creative officer, GSD&M
First Citywide Change Bank
"Our ad agency works with numerous banks, all trying to find ways to differentiate themselves in a pretty monolithic category. In reality, in industries like financial services it can be a real challenge, and their advertisements can end highlighting the most minute of brand attributes. At its best, this SNL parody gets right to the heart of this absurdity. This spot achieves such satire in an incredibly simple, hilarious, and memorable way -- if only real advertising could be as effective." -- Jake Abraham, VP for creative, iCrossing
The Love Toilet
"I just think that when comedians design products, the world is a better place." -- Xanthe Wells, chief creative officer, Pitch
"Once in a while, SNL delivers a hilarious parody and all- too-true social commentary in one. Picking on J.C. Penney as the Mom Jeans retailer is super funny, but lines like 'Give her the gift that says, 'I'm not a woman anymore, I'm a mom!' make a poignant statement that the brands we choose send messages about how we see ourselves." -- Pete VonDerLinn, executive creative director, Partners & Napier
Oops! I Crapped My Pants
"No matter where you've come up in advertising, at some point you're asked to do a product demo. We know now that advertisers deliberately only use blue liquid, so it doesn't look like a body fluid. For 'Oops! I Crapped My Pants,' they have such absolute fun with the demo, where they take the iced tea pitcher and pour it into the diaper. I look at that and just think, God, what a wonderful choice." -- Cheryl Van Ooyen, executive creative director, McGarryBowen
"My favorite ever was 'Shimmer.' It's a floor wax. It's a dessert topping. It's the greatest shine you've ever tasted. If only a product that brilliant existed today, this job would be a piece of cake." -- Brock Montgomery, executive vice president for creative services, Upshot
"Homer Simpson said it best: 'It's funny 'cause it's true.' And that's what some of the best SNL commercial parodies do -- they tap into ridiculous, slightly painful, human truths, like the fact that everyone deep down inside kinda likes Taylor Swift and wants to be her best friend. Last year's 'Swiftamine' commercial hit me right where it hurts. Recently, I found myself feeling the same way about One Direction, but unfortunately SNL hasn't made a pill for that yet." -- Lisa Topol, executive creative director, Grey NY
"Just endless hyperbole that's so hilariously true at the same time. I swear, some version of that taco is available somewhere right now. We work with clients from lots of different countries and cultures, and when I want to give them a true 101 on American advertising, I always show them 'Taco Town.'" -- Jake Wheeler, creative director, The Community
"'Z-Shirt' isn't based on an actual product, but it's a great take on the ridiculous tone of teen advertising." -- Jan Jacobs, co-founder and executive creative director, Johannes Leonardo
~ Bloomberg News ~