IITS’s Seven Days of XMas: “And Who Would Have Thought Leg Warmers Would Come Back?”
Posted by Andrew Unterberger on December 28, 2007
Do you ever wonder if Old Navy ad execs just experience the world differently than we do? Do they all live in 60s astro-lounge pads that only get glossier and retroier with each passing year? Do they all speak in jarring syntax, confusing tangents and unnervingly over-enthusiastic enunciation? If they were to watch a movie like Schindler’s List, would it appear to them to be in black-and-white, or would it shimmer with vibrant, nearly ostentatious technicolor? Do they even know that things like war, poverty, and tomato sauce stains exist?
With each year, and each bizarro Old Navy ad campaign, these questions plague me more. In the years since those early Performance Fleece ads with Carrie Donovan (“Performance fleece–ooh, it’s fine! Performance fleece–I’ll be there at nine!“–don’t act like you don’t know the words), they’ve only got stranger, shinier, more disconcerting. But the apex for me has got to be their Christmas ads from a few years ago. You know the ones, where a group of carolers interrupts someone performing everyday tasks to sing to them about the wonderful things Old Navy products can do for them this Holiday season. For a normal company, these commercials would probably seem boring and cliched, but in the hands of Old Navy, they make for some of the most…well, unnatural commercials I’ve ever seen on TV.
First and foremost, there’s the look. It’s that unmistakable Old Navy look, with the monochromatic backgrounds, garishly bright clothes, and sets that look ordinary on the surface, but with some inexplicably unsettling undercurrent of falseness to them (seriously, look at the supermarket aisles in this one and tell me it doesn’t send chills down your spine). And then there’s the expressions on the actors’ faces–the horrifically wide smiles of the carolers, and the perplexed, slightly terrified look of their unexpecting victims.
And then there’s the songs. Dear lord, where to start with the songs. Sung to the tune of standard Christmas carols, sort of–“Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “O Christmas Tree,” “Jingle Bells”–they seem like they should sound like your average carol-changed-to-ad-campaign jingles, like those awful Garmin.com commercials that’ve been unavoidable the last few months. But the lyrics just feel so very, very wrong–the meter is off, there’s little if any attempt to make logical rhymes, and the subject matter occasionally gets a little too personal (doesn’t “and by the way, your mom says hi” sound distinctly like an implied kidnapping?)
The scariest thing about these commercials, though, must be the involvement of the kids. The actors that have appeared in Old Navy commercials throughout the years have all had a Stepfordian air about them, but at least you felt like they were making a conscious, clearly informed choice in selling their souls for televised advertisment glory. To brainwash kids into their cult, even giving them some of the weirdest lines in the whole ads, is like seeing that woman’s zombified daughter attack her with gardening tools in Night of the Living Dead, a personafication of all that is truly unholy.
Don’t get me wrong, though, I’d still rather watch a thousand of these ads than to have to see one more of those Zales commercials.