So much for that old dog/new tricks hogwash: After decades of being the go-to network for Depends and Geritol commercials, CBS — thanks to its 18-49-year-old fave Survivor — is suddenly the inspiration for youth-targeted advertising. Sneaker companies to brewski shillers have been peppering the series with their most rough-and-tumble ads. In the spirit of the great Tribal Council, here’s a guide (complete with handy torch rankings) to the spots we think are keepers and ones that deserve the boot.
A pair of dim-witted hiking buddies stare down one natural disaster after another: A call from nature leads to an ill-placed case of poison oak; a thigh-based snakebite sets off some venom-sucking high jinks (and perhaps Madison Avenue’s first attempt at a gay-oral-sex hard-sell). It’s a shock-filled campaign worthy of the Farrelly brothers, but what exactly does it have to do with footwear? 3 torches (out of five torches)
Not to be outdone in the dim-witted dudes department, Anheuser-Busch unleashes a stubbly duo adrift on an ocean raft. Their desperate struggle for one final brew inadvertently invokes an attack from a nearby military vessel (don’t ask). It’s a typically labored beer-ad formula, something we would have voted off a long time ago. 1 torch
THE U.S. ARMY
In an effort to show just how wussy CBS’ castaways really are (they had a ukulele on the island, for Pete’s sake), Uncle Sam plays up the macho factor with a bunch of gun-totin’, PO’d-lookin’, apparently-on-their-way-into-combat soldiers. It’s a rousingly brief and boastful clip (”Someday, at a job interview, they’ll ask, ‘Do you work well under pressure?”’ a voice-over intones. ”Try not to laugh”), but shouldn’t they have paid respect to Survivor’s military man Rudy and thrown in a Navy SEAL or two? 3 torches
THE LATE SHOW
Proving that venomous snakes and wild rats don’t hold a candle to Martha Stewart wielding a butcher’s knife, this zippy promo highlights Dave’s most ”hazardous” recent bits (in addition to the Ginsu-packing Stewart, there’s a rodent scurrying across Letterman’s desk and a science experiment gone horribly awry). The tag line: ”Stranded on the island of Manhattan — one man, one show, five bypasses.” Even if it weren’t a perfect example of nonintrusive corporate cross-promotion, who wouldn’t love an ad that ends with Dave yelping, ”Holy crap!” 4 torches