NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- The NFL season is only a week old, but the commercials are already starting to grate on fans.
It's early to start complaining, but that's exactly what fans thought at the beginning of the recession in 2008.
had just begun to promote 0% APR financing for its automobiles, and what better way to do that than with an ''80s song that apes a Buddhist mantra: The Fixx's 'Saved by Zero.'"
For football fans who spent Sundays having that mantra drilled into their heads two years ago, that clip is nothing short of a nightmare. It spawned petitions, inspired Facebook protest groups and prompted viewers to plead to Toyota for mercy. Their cries went unheeded, as Toyota representatives noted that the commercials had their desired effect.
With advertising recovering from recession and TV ad spending up 10% in the first half of this year, according to
, the sensory bombardment will be a lot worse this season Of this year's Top 10 advertisers, three (
Procter & Gamble
) are official NFL sponsors and accounted for $3.5 billion in ad spending in the first half alone. That includes a 31% increase in ad spending by Procter & Gamble over the first half of last year and a 45.6% leap by GM -- which is struggling to rebuild its image after a government buyout at a time automotive ad spending has climbed more than 23% to more than $6 billion in the first half alone.
After the first week's slate of games, we're already getting the feeling it's going to be a long season for fans forced to endure some of these commercials. Here are five that are quickly advancing from slight annoyance to NFL Sunday spoilers:
5: Taco Bell's "Sandwich Lady"
and the Bell have come a long way since Chihuahuas with accents, but this spot for its chicken flatbread sandwich -- featuring two preppily dressed corporate drones and their encounter with the office's lunch lady, whose first language clearly isn't English -- is sandwiched somewhere between annoying and offensive. The blue-shirted genius' cartoon eyeroll commenting on the quality of the lunchlady's sandwich to his "No five-fifty" retort mocking the woman's Hispanic accent smacks of classist and racist contempt, while his besweatered friend's patronizing explanation of why his Taco Bell purchase will preclude him from buying sandwiches manages to bore and condescend at the same time. Bonus points to the first viewer who pegs a friend in the back of the head with a Miller Lite pint can for pronouncing it "five-FEE-ty" and spares that friend's office an awkward morning around the coffee machine and the ensuing sensitivity training.
Speaking of Miller Lite ...
4. Miller Lite's "Cougar"
When last we left NFL television advertising, the minutes between the Super Bowl action were filled by Dodge insisting its underpowered V6 Charger was a man's reward for the insufferable burdens of working an office job, being nice to his girlfriend and cleaning up after himself; FloTV and commentator Jim Nantz berating a guy for going bra and candle shopping with his girlfriend; and Dockers telling men to "wear the pants." This season, Miller decided to continue this theme by extending its "Man Up" series of commercials that picked on guys with "man purses" last season and, this year, goes after a gentleman dressed in a mascot "kitty costume" to support his team. When the cat-painted superfan tries to defend his manhood, a bartender in heavy, Snooki-grade makeup of her own responds "Whatever, pussycat." You don't need to redact the "cat" portion of that quip to get the subtext. Listen,
, we understand you're feeling slightly emasculated with
slated to replace you as the NFL's official beer sponsor next year, but don't project your inadequacy onto the men of America.
3. Verizon's "Fascinate"
Releasing a touchscreen smartphone every week or so is irksome enough, but Verizon trucking out its new toy to the beat of Human League's "(Keep Feeling) Fascination" is especially sadistic. The song is infectious enough on its own, but now that it appears in commercials for Verizon and Kingsford Match Light charcoal, it will be inescapable for at least the next month. This is the second football commercial offense for the Human League, whose ode to subjective breakup recollections "Don't You Want Me" featured in a 2007 Super Bowl commercial for
( KFT) Chips Ahoy! and last year's Procter & Gamble spot for Swiffer cleaning products. They're football's greatest musical tragedy since Justin Timberlake thought Janet Jackson looked like she was wearing too many layers for a Super Bowl halftime show in Texas.
2. Geico/Progressive/Capital One -- their entire campaigns
Note to Geico, Progressive and Capital One -- your advertising firms' creative teams are robbing you.
Geico has been fairly adept at riding concepts into the ground, beating its cavemen and celebrity spokesmen so far into the American consciousness that the
duck seems welcome by comparison. The Martin Agency created the Geico gecko more than 11 years ago, yet it's still riding the old gag that people are somehow mistaking reptiles for insurance companies. Sure, it's a Maytag Repairman-style stab at brand identity, but it wasn't funny then and wasn't funny this Sunday -- when some kid born after the first gecko commercial aired was getting ready for his second week of sixth grade. The
vikings, meanwhile, have been plundering for so long (more than half a decade) that we've almost forgotten why they're running around ... oh, that's right, they're hidden fees.
Flo is fairly new by comparison -- first perking her way onto screens in 2008 -- but hearing her chirp "Discount!" for yet another 16-game season may be more than even Flo's Facebook fan group moderators can handle.
1. Ford's "SuperDuty"
OK, smart guy, listen up. When was the last time Denis Leary did one of his rants on MTV? 1993? When did his album
No Cure for Cancer
come out? 1993. That's 17 years ago, pal. Wanna have the guy from
do voiceovers? Fine. Wanna use him as background for graphics that spell out Everything. He. Says? Great. Wanna bet guys are lining up to buy
pickups after the NFL allowed a whopping six of these ads to run during the first half of Sunday's first game alone? I didn't think so, chachi. These commercials didn't have the stones to get it done when they were annoying guys sitting in bars, drinking beers, watching games and trying not to punch a hole through the screen during Ford's F-150 campaign in 2008. Think they're doin' It now? That's right, chuckles: They're opening the door, they're coming in and they're bringing with them a Boston loudmouth, a truck that sells fine on its own and a remote control with a broken volume button.
--Written by Jason Notte in Boston.
>To contact the writer of this article, click here:
>To follow the writer on Twitter, go to
>To submit a news tip, send an email to:
Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet.com. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, The Boston Phoenix, Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent.