column: Rating the best Ann Arbor area TV commercials
Sunday is The Big Game (Hey editors, am I allowed to call it the Super Bowl? Will I get in trouble? Will we get sued?).(Editor's note: Yes. No. Probably not.)
Like most years, a majority of viewers are only watching the brown ball go back and forth for one thing: expensive commercials. I’ve already seen the new $10 million Red Stripe, er Volkswagen ad and it’s not that much better than the stuff you see any old day between your stories and your Project American Idols. I’m not talking about Pizza Hut or Pepsi commercials, I’m talking local spots produced by local people promoting local businesses. Yes friends, two days before the Big Game I present a local pre-Super Bowl (did I just cost MLive $10K?) parade of commercials.
THE TOP FIVE LOCAL COMMERCIALS
No. 1: Get Your Game On
This isn’t the same version I saw 100 times on Adult Swim last year. This one is better! The friendly staff at Get Your Game On in downtown Ann Arbor use humor and a dog heart (probably) to advertise 25 percent off used games and probably some subliminal Magic: The Gathering tournament info in there somewhere. The acting is pretty good and the guy holding the dog heart cooler has a future in public broadcasting. My favorite local commercial of the last five years!
No. 2: Pizza House
Let’s be honest - the camera work, the graphics and the food close-ups are average at best, but that song! That groovy, groovy song! I’ve probably seen this commercial 1,000 times since I moved to Ann Arbor and even though I don’t play a lick of guitar, I bet if you gave me a few hours and a Les Paul I could figure out the chords to this jam. When I order from Pizza House (they’re open until 4a.m. - nobody can beat that) I ALWAYS sing this song while I’m dialing. Loud. I wish I was kidding. Well done, Pizza House.
No. 3: Michigan Power Rodding
A little controversy for my No. 3 selection. I always assumed this humorous spot was the product of the Michigan Power Rodding marketing team. But then I found the same version of this commercial, uploaded to YouTube nine months earlier than the clip above with a single different scene right at the end. Notice the ugly ribbed sweater of the woman in the commercial and how it matches far better than the scene with Pat (if that’s his real name) from Michigan Power Rodding. A mystery! A scandal! And what the heck is a power rod anyway? (Side note: Michigan Power Rodding has an even better commercial that takes place in a spooky house with a woman alone, in distress, a spooky storm outside and a potentially copyright infringing sound bite from the horror movie that I’m unable to successfully Google. But I couldn’t find that one. Sorry.)
No. 4: Bank of Ann Arbor
The non-local bankers campaign by the Bank of Ann Arbor is well known by now, but you may not have caught this series of television commercials that were spawned by the newest push in the program. The non-local banker tries his best to answer questions about local people, places and things--and fails miserably. The video above is my favorite of the bunch, but this one and this one are also pretty good.
No. 5: Wright’s Karate
You know how there’s always that one Super Bowl ($10K fine!) commercial from a brand you never expected that knocks your socks off? That one local karate dojo commercial where everybody but the girl is prematurely balding? The one with the near-tragic first act, knuckle push-ups in the second act, a loving bro-hug in the third act and then a jarring end to the commercial? You know that spot? Wait, you’re a Keith Hafner fan? Never mind then.
BEST SONG FOR A LUMBER STORE - FINGERLE LUMBER
The only things I’ve ever built with wood are two benches for my tree fort when I was 8 and a wood bowl in shop class. OK, I know the bowl was not technically built. What do you want; I’m a writer. But this commercial and, in particular this song, makes me want to buy lumber and make things so that my friends and family will respect me. “You can’t feed yourself with writing,” my dad always said. “Yes I can,” I retort today while I make my editor Bob Needham buy me a sandwich from the gas station. Keep me strong, Bob.
BEST SPOKESPERSON - GENE BUTMAN FORD
We’ve all grown up with Mary Butman of Gene Butman Ford. The family has been featuring her in ads for years and though I have no idea if she actually works on the lot or how old she is or what she orders when she goes to Jimmy John’s, I do sympathize with a girl with the last name Butman. It couldn’t have been easy, but she shows poise and panache in all of her family’s car commercials. Here’s hoping she goes on as long as Julie Dunning. Speaking of which...
SPOKESPERSON WHO I’D MOST LIKE TO BE MY MOM - DUNNING SUBARU
Though not a recent commercial, I have clear memories of this Dunning Subaru commercial to this day. From the tasty tunes to the car driving through snow at the beginning, this commercial is like a warm hug from Julie Dunning herself. That must be what the Dunning difference is. That, and a competitively priced Outback.
BEST SURPRISE ENDING - THE ARENA
I apologize kind readers, but I can’t find this ad anywhere online, but watch late night TV and you’re bound to catch The Arena spot. A bunch of friends trying Ann Arbor’s bar scene like a bunch of Goldilockses, only to find that the only place for them is .. The Arena. They implicitly throw monkey feces at the 8-Ball, all the craft cocktail bars in town and whatever bar has a guitarist play a solo with his crotch at your eye-level while you sit at your table and try and have a nice night out with friends. The Arena is making no friends in the Ann Arbor bar community with this spot, but I do like their nachos.
BEST HARMONIZING - LAFONTAINE BUICK GMC
I couldn’t find an ad for one of the Ann Arbor dealerships that included the Lafontaine song, so you’ll have to picture cars driving around or people talking into the camera while this awesome song plays in the background. It’s not just the opening lyrics, or the big finish - it’s the little details like the mid-commercial “haaaaaaaaaaaaaas” and yes, I’m a sucker for the drums and strumming guitars. I got the family deal!
BEST GUITAR SOLO - FUN 4 ALL COMICS AND GAMES
One of the lowest budget commercials on TV is probably the one I’ve seen the most. Fun 4 All runs a low budget superhero heavy ad on Adult Swim late at night backed by a wailing guitar and a baritone voiceover at the end. I’ve driven past Fun 4 All before but never been in and, no offense, it doesn’t look like much. I have no idea how they afford to run this commercial year after year after year. They must be selling a lot of Uncanny X-Men.