Live From New York, It’s Fake Ads!!

This past Sunday, February 15th, Saturday Night Live celebrated its 40th anniversary with a live special. In celebration of the anniversary, and inspired by Ad Age’s article “SNL’s 13 Best Fake Ads as Chosen by Real Ad Execs“, we decided to make our own list. So, here are five of our favorite SNL faux-mercials and how they relate to real advertisements. Enjoy!

1. Taco Town

Does this look familiar? Almost every fast food restaurant has some intense “multi-food” menu item. Take Taco Bell’s Cheesy Gordita Crunch for example, a hard taco wrapped in a soft taco wrapped between a layer of cheese and a flatbread.. Or even KFC’s Double Down Sandwich that has chicken filets in place of the buns. Taco Town is a representative of the products being advertised, as well as, the structure and tone of most fast food commercials.

2. Totino’s Super Bowl Activity Pack

This commercial addresses both gender roles and the institution of marriage. Within the institution of marriage, there is the ordering of roles. Each person in the relationship has a specific role in making the relationship successful. In this case, the wife is ecstatic to be serving her husband and his friends, almost like it’s what she lives for. The husband typically has a reaction of “Thanks honey, now go back to the kitchen, we’re watching the game.” The Super Bowl Activity Pack gives the simple-minded wife fun activities to complete while she waits for her husband’s next request.

3. Shimmer

This commercial, like the Totino’s Super Bowl Activity Pack, addresses gender roles. The woman has her mind on cleaning and using the product as a cleaning supply, and the husband has his mind on eating and using it as dessert topping. In most commercials, women are typically the ones doing the cleaning while men are usually featured in snacking commercials.

4. Red Flag

Think of the perfume ad that usually airs around the holidays with the woman walking intensely through a hallway, with a serious look on her face, and then at the end whispers the line “J’adore Dior.” Perfume ads have a reputation for being dramatic and intense, with an announcer describing what kind of consumer uses the product. There is typically a group of people dressed up and looking at her. “Red Flag” keeps these themes but with a not so serious message. Instead of her being the amazing and classy woman, the “Red Flag” woman is crazy.

5. 39 Cents PSA

PSAs typically use pathos, logos, and ethos to persuade consumers to donate to the cause. This “PSA” starts out that way, with slow and sad sounding music, video of the people in need, a spokesperson telling the viewer the impact a donation could make, and how little the amount is. For example, “Just 39 cents, thats less than a small cup of coffee.” And then the PSA would go on to tell how to donate, etc. However, this one turns into the needy people saying, “Ask for more. Ask for more money, don’t start so low.”

Each of these faux-mercials parallels a real advertisement. This is part of what makes these fake ads so funny. The structure of these SNL commercials is similar to that of real commercials for the respective products. As consumers of advertisements, we are programmed to recognize the structure of certain types of commercials. Although the commercials featured on SNL may not be for products that are actually available for purchase, structuring them in a way that parallels real advertisements creates humor.

-Kelli Hall, Mallory Brayman, Morgan McCleaf