The opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference.
— Me (I think).
Unfortunately, no video exists on the Internet of the Spangles rap, which was a low point in history for two creative endeavors — hip hop, and advertising.
It had been about 10 years, and I wanted to see it again, just to make sure it was as bad as I remembered it being. And that’s what’s interesting about Spangles, the Wichita-based, 50s-themed fast-food joint, and its commercials. They’re so dumb, you have to talk about them, but not so dumb you completely tune them out.
They’re like Miley Cyrus’ music. There is something infuriatingly interesting about them. You would never admit being interested, and you suffer a bit of internal self-loathing from it, but you can’t help it. You want to see more, just so you can feel more hate.
This is a tough trick to pull. I remember feeling this way about the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers as a kid. I was 10 when the Power Rangers debuted in 1993, and two factors caused me to despise them, even though I kept watching:
1) I had “grown up” with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and there was no way any other group of fighting fictional teenagers was going to take their place in my heart.
2) I spent a lot of time back then with my cousin, Torey, who was 12 and just plain too old for silliness like that. I adopted his worldview in most instances.
But I continued to watch, because I wanted to criticize. Some might call this a character flaw of mine, and I wouldn’t argue with that. I watch local TV news for the same reason, sometimes*.
*No offense to any particular station, by the way.
But I think it had more to do with the inherent and interesting hateability of the Power Rangers than it did my character flaws, and Spangles commercials are the same way.
Everybody I know has the same basic reaction to a Spangles commercial. First, you become transfixed on it. Then, you wait for the part of that particular ad that you hate the most. And when it comes, you mock it, lustily, with the fire of a thousand suns.
The truth is that you actually love the Spangles commercials. Because if you didn’t love them, you wouldn’t hate them so much.
This is because Spangles’ commercials are always kinda, sorta on the right track. Rarely does Spangles try a concept that is just totally the wrong concept for the commercial. There is always a little bit of promise.
Take this one, with Suzie, who is in a rock band and proves this by playing two chords, leading us to believe she is a member of U2.
The concept, here, is almost right. What Spangles wanted was to capture the indie, coffee-shop-lounging crowd. They wanted to associate Spangles coffee with that kind of an experience. It’s a stretch, obviously, but McDonald’s did it with some success (albeit by making fun of the indie coffee shop crowd).
The basic idea — we are an alternative to coffee shots — is not a terrible one. The execution, though, is bad.
First of all, Spangles sells cappuccinos, but that thing she’s drinking is not one of them. It’s ice cream. So right off the bat, we’re comparing products that are not similar. Secondly, those mudslides cost $3, which is about the same price as an actual cappuccino at an actual coffee shop.
And finally, rock bands are NOT KNOWN FOR DRINKING CAPPUCCINO WHILE THEY WRITE SONGS. If that girl is actually in a rock band*, she probably writes songs while smoking clove cigarettes and sneaking Pabst cans out of her parents’ house.
*It’s definitely a teen-angst punk band for which she’s the only girl, the lead singer and the only one in the band that doesn’t realize all the other members of the band want to make out with her, which is the only reason they let her sing in the first place.
Note: Turns out that girl actually is some kind of musician.
Spangles has a similar problem with its ads for the Western Burger.
Now, the Western Burger includes the following ingredients: Beef, cheese, barbecue sauce, bacon and onion rings. I can’t be totally sure, but I don’t think cowboys in 1880s Texas were eating many onion rings. In fact, I’m pretty sure the two main ingredients that distinguish the Western Burger from other burgers — onion rings and barbecue sauce — did not exist until well into the 20th century. The first known onion ring citation came in 1933, and it was in New York, which, no matter where you draw your lines, is not part of the old west.
I’m also not sure cowboys had access to much bacon, seeing as they spent their time herding cattle across the country, and bacon is made from pork, which is then cured over a period of 18 hours, and has to be refrigerated until cooked, which wouldn’t make it a convenient foodstuff for people traveling cross country on horseback. So at least they got the beef part right. Western all the way.
If you’ve read this far, it’s because you hate these commercials and wanted to see them criticized. Yet you probably watched the videos. So you have to ask yourself, How much do I really hate Spangles commercials?
(By the way, the Western Burger is delicious)