I Bet That Possum Could Produce a Better Ad.
Feb 6, 2009
While doing a few chores and half-watching the tv, an ad assaulted my eye. Bright red, blue and yellow shapes zoomed in and out. A Tommy Lee stand-in was getting really excited about exterminating household pests. Laughable dramatizations of snakes, alligators and possums in unsuspecting victims’ homes attempted to emphasize the need for varmint control. It’s the content and style more commonly found on the local channels after midnight, amongst the Billy Mays infomercials—not in the midst of primetime. I couldn’t help but ask, was that for real? Only one way to find out: www.billyvexcon.com.
I had to type it in; I had to know if it was real. Rather than a clear yes or no, the answer was a resounding “sort-of.” I found myself at an A&E* subpage for a new show called The Exterminators. Following in the shoes of Dog the Bounty Hunter, Billy and his family fight the good fight against all types of foul household intruders.
But my question didn’t concern the show: it’s the commercial. To put it bluntly, was the spot meant to be that bad?
Of course it was. The production value was still high, and the show’s page on the A&E site was well crafted. In the world of modern television, where the commercials have to really impress (if we even bother watching them anymore), sometimes it takes a little extra to con us into paying attention. In this case, the offensive approach was the extra spice. I didn’t like the ad, I hated it. But I was compelled to walk over to my computer, open a browser and find out what it was. I was hooked.
We remember the terrible ads as well as—and in some cases, more than—the great ones. Everyone remembers HEAD ON — APPLY DIRECTLY TO THE FOREHEAD even when we’d rather forget. A&E decided to run with a wildly recognizable spot over a traditional concept, which someone might actually like, and I have to believe it was the right choice. It didn’t need to be dramatic, feel modern, or appear expensive and difficult to produce. It needed to be just ridiculous enough to grab my attention.
—*A great article about A&E’s rebranding as it shifts its focus.