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The People Have Spoken. Your Commercial Sucks

Many thanks to Jason Torchinsky at The Autopian for his kind permission to use the image above.  See Jason’s own take on this topic here:


I enjoy studying TV and radio commercials.

Listening with a critical ear helps me stay on top of emerging patterns and trends in ad copywriting and production.  I gain valuable insight into what’s hot, what sells and what resonates with audiences.

But I must admit:  I’m equally fascinated by the commercials that don’t resonate. You know the ones – those that are so grating and insufferable that they send viewers or listeners scrambling to hit the “mute” button or change the station.

I’m talking about the commercials people hate.  The ones that really suck.

If we’re being honest, certain ad campaigns tend to annoy and antagonize. I’ll bet you can think of at least one right now that triggers you.

Every once in a while, we encounter that rare commercial so singularly, stunningly awful that it actually provokes a universally negative visceral reaction. It unleashes such a relentless torrent of ridicule you have to wonder out loud what the advertiser was thinking.

Just such a thing happened recently (it’s early December 2022 as I write this) and it damn near broke the internet.  In this case it wasn’t a traditional TV or radio ad, but the debut of a promotional video online. It introduces the brand-new Lamborghini Huracán Sterrato, the Italian luxury auto maker’s latest off-road supercar.

It’s odd, because Lamborghini is not a brand that really needs to rely on commercials.  Lots of people have pointed out that those who can afford one are not sitting around watching TV anyway.  But for whatever reason the company budgeted money to produce this…thing.

Take a look – and a listen – for yourself:

If you found this a bit jarring, you’re not alone. The intense viewer backlash it generated has actually seen the video go viral for all the wrong reasons. From Twitter to Reddit to YouTube and across multiple blogs and online publications, it’s been absolutely eviscerated.  Crucified.  Destroyed.

The mockery came swiftly, and it was merciless.  A few examples:

It would be all too easy to join the pile-on and savage Lamborghini for greenlighting something so astonishingly cringeworthy.  In all fairness, it is pretty lame. I like to imagine the sales pitch for this train wreck of a promotion went something like this:

“Okay, so we’ll start off with copy that reads like a second-rate frustrated writer entering an amateur poetry slam. Then we’ll pair it with a voice who sounds like he just chain-smoked five packs of unfiltered cigarettes and gargled with Jack Daniels.  Let’s have him do the most cliched, forced over-the-top impersonation of every tough guy voiceover he’s ever heard in a pick-up truck commercial.”

What gives me pause is that I am both a writer and a voice talent.  I can’t help but put myself in the very uncomfortable shoes of that copywriter and voice actor.  What if this were me? I know every criticism would sting, and right now these people are dying the proverbial death by a thousand cuts from every corner of cyberspace.  I feel like I should show at least some empathy.

At the same time, I can’t let them totally off the hook.  Look, bad is bad, and public opinion has once again fearlessly declared where the bottom is.  That’s life in the free market:  you put your creation out there, and the marketplace tells you what it thinks.  Sometimes the reaction is not pleasant.

We’ve been here before, many times.  It’s how we learned the Edsel, New Coke and Google Glass were duds, and how Showgirls, Gigli and Cats are among the worst films ever made.  Audiences have a way of letting you know in no uncertain terms when they think you’re half-assing it and insulting their intelligence.

The irony here is the vehicle they’re celebrating may indeed be phenomenal from a performance perspective. I wouldn’t mind taking this for a test drive.

It’s just that the ad campaign they went with for this…well…sucks.  How could such a revered and prestigious brand sign off on such a boneheaded production?

Then again, who knows?  Even bad publicity is still publicity, some say.

Even so, perhaps the lesson learned here is that people can spot something contrived and insincere coming at them a mile away, and they don’t like it – even if it’s at a very high rate of speed and inside an expensive luxury sports car.