Marketing mavens have long been saying that radio is the most intimate of mediums and they're probably right. Radio approaches you thru only one of the senses. It usually approaches you when you are in a captive situation -- in a car or with little electronic devices attached to your head. It gets up with you in the morning and even follows you into the shower.
And since radio is so intimate, when it heaves up something really seriously awful, it becomes a really serious insult -- an unwanted invasion of personal space. I think that's why bad radio commercials are so infuriating.
I actually hit the station change button every time that hideous "Kars 4 Kidz" commercial pollutes the airwaves. There have been a lot of really bad commercials on the radio over the past year. But try as I might, I could find no comprehensive list of the worst ads, so as a public service, the Chicago Lampoon has compiled one.
I have named the list in honor of the "Kars 4 Kidz" jingle. Despite the fact that it still regularly spews forth, it is not included on the list itself since it is so far and above the run of the mill bad radio commercials, that it is in an entire class of its own.
In ascending order here are my picks for worst radio ads of 2010:
#4. Roma's Stomach Bug ads for Natren's Healthy Trinity
In these, WLS morning drive co-host, Roma, plucks out some health item from that day's news -- such as an outbreak of dysentary in Indonesia -- and tells you how you can avoid things like the perils of dysentary if you just take some of Natren's biotic stomach bugs every morning. Over the Christmas holiday, Roma delivered these messages in conjunction with a very odd sounding elf character.
I find Roma's voice annoying, the odd sounding elf's voice very annoying and the thought of ingesting these weird stomach bugs extremely annoying. These messages have now expanded beyond the morning Don Wade & Roma program and now annoy throughout the day on WLS.
#3. Smarmy Scott Lee Cohen's Job Fairs
For reasons no one quite understands, Chicago pawn broker Scott Lee Cohen insisted on squandering scads of his money running for IL governor as an independent. He did this after winning the Democrat primary for Lt. Gov. and then withdrawing in a teary, blubbering news conference after apparently being threatened by Democrat chieftain, Mike Madigan.
In his second run he ran the very same ad he ran in the first round, wherein his smarmy marshmallow tones instructed us that all the state's employment problems would be solved by his gimmicky "job fairs." The very same ad ran so frequently over a period of at least 5 months that by October, most listeners could mouth the meaningless drivel along with him word-for-word.
#2 McDonald's Coffee Slurping
Most children from civilized backgrounds are taught by their mothers at an early age that it is impolite to make slurping sounds when ingesting liquids. As such it is considered rude to do so. It offends most people. That is why the 3 Stooges used to noisily slurp their soup. It was so obnoxious and uncouth, it was funny.
The people at McDonald's ad agency must have been raised with wolves as surrogate parents in the wild, because they seem to think that slurping coffee sounds are just what their clientle wants to hear. As such they have run two radio ads with people noisily slurping their coffee. It drives me nuts.
But, come to think of it, coffee slurping is probably standard table etiquette for your basic McDonald's customer.
#1. Your Mother Just Got Run Over by a Car -- Dignity Memorial Providers
The winner of the 2010 "Kars 4 Kidz" award for worst Chicago radio ad goes, hands down, to Dignity Memorial Providers for their "Your Mother's Dead" offering.
On more than one bright morning I have rolled out of bed, full of energy, ready to optimistically take on the day, only to be felled by this total downer of a commercial.
A somber spokesman for the ghouls over at Dignity Memorial -- a corporate consortium of funeral homes, crematoria and cemetaries -- depicts a scenario where your father calls you to tell you your mother was run over by a car while on vacation and is now, quite dead.
"You wonder if you've ever really seen your father cry," the ghoulish spokesman intones.
Then you are told to trust the caring folks at Dignity Memorial Inc. to take care of all your future mortuary, burial or cremation needs. This radio ad was so collosally, depressingly bad, that I frantically went down the AM dial desperately looking for something, anything a bit more uplifting to cheer me up.
All I could find was that lousy Kars 4 Kidz jingle.