More mutated, hypertrophied idiot-savantism from the Galapagos of the advertising world, Japan (see also Kawaii terror). The examples below have an added level of mind mangling daftness because OCD Youtube mentalists have taken it upon themselves to collate (or curate?) them in an almost anthropological manner.
First of all, backwards time travel in terms of Pretz advertising, i.e. apparently starting with the most recent, most sane, and therefore most dull. Eventually we reach the first and arguably most demented Ur-Pretz song and dance at about 2:16. Commercial Zero, if you like.
Pretz are, as the name may or may not suggest to you, a brand of vaguely pretzel-like Japanese snacks. Japan likes your pretzels and therefore we will have them, but silly gaijin didn’t you know they could be improved by being made perfectly straight and flawlessly cylindrical instead of looking like actual food?
Pretz: The Director’s Cut commentary
0:00 The first ad is crap. Nothing to see here.
0:15 One of the surprisingly large number of cultural traits shared by the Japanese and the British is that they generally find it hilarious to see elderly people doing anything apart from vegetating in a chair and waiting to die. So here the obligatory pretty girl’s already slightly disturbing zeal for snack products pales into insignificance by comparison to the demented thigh-slapping and high kicks of two ageing tomato farmers. This ad is also a callback to the Ur-Pretz, which uses the same Japlish pun involving the Japanese pronunciation of the product- “PURITOZU”- and the pleats in their farming getups. But we haven’t seen the very first advert yet, because it comes later. Time travel is confusing, isn’t it?
0:47 Despite its relentless jollity this one also reminds me of RINGU, Tetsuo the Iron Man, Hans Bellmer… nothing very wholesome, let’s put it that way. It’s the automatonesque movements, the white faces and- let’s face it- blow up sex doll mouths of the dancers. They’re dressed vaguely but recognisably in the style of the Heian period from about a thousand years ago.
“An” is the Japanese equivalent of “ah”, as in the stereotypical noise or onomatopoeia when somebody opens their mouth to have something put in it: for example when a dentist says “open wide, say ah.” So this is another Japlish pun.
They’re saying “Heian” but also “Hey, an” as in they’re going to put something (hopefully just a pretzel) in their thousand year old sex doll mouths. Now let’s try to imagine a British advertisement featuring dancers in Middle English costume delivering a Chaucerian pun, and their target audience actually getting it. Yes, impossible. QED.
1:17 Sumo wrestlers… OK, that’s Japanese and this ad was probably intended for the wrestling season. Then Italian sumo, complete with random exclamations of “buon giorno”. Of course pizza flavour and Italy go together, but if there’s a sane reason for either of these two things to be connected with sumo wrestlers then that reason escapes me entirely.
2:16 The Ur-Pretz. In fact this ad is also almost archetypal in the sense that the Japanese participant comes across as relatively sane and reasonable, whereas her Caucasian companions grin, stick their arses out, make little orgasmic squeaks and generally comport themselves like coked-up chimpanzees. This is quite common in Japanese advertising. The “pipapapipipapapipipipipoo” stuff is mental, almost literally I think; certainly it’s not far from the kind of glossolalia one might hear on a psychiatric ward, or the babbling of an infant.
As mentioned before, it’s obviously a pun on Pretz, but the Japlish refrain which translates into real English as “pleats in my skirt and Pretz in a CM” [a common Japanese abbreviation for a commercial] still takes on a weird, manic quality when combined with this trio’s wildly excessive glee at the existence of both pleats and Pretz.
Also, there isn’t any way of knowing for sure if pretzels are to blame, but those young ladies certainly have a major flatulence problem.
Apply directly to the fore brain
If you thought the repetition in those Pretz ads was mesmerising, infuriating, or both… it’s nothing compared to this barrage of product shots and sound logos from Japanese television advertising in 1985. Theoretically it goes on for about half an hour. I got to about twelve minutes before I started wanting to jam a screwdriver into my ear canal. See if you can do better.
While we’re on the subject of repetition it would be remiss of me not to acknowledge that one of most irritating and brutal pieces of advertising ever unleashed on the planet doesn’t in fact come from Japan. I presume and hope it’s no longer shown, but I had the dubious honour of seeing this Head On advert in its native habitat when I was in the USA a few years ago.
I was in a slightly dodgy motel room in San Jose and the first time I saw it I feared I might be having some sort of VALIS/Ubik nervous breakdown like Philip K. Dick, or that the CIA were trying out some kind of cruel new Psy Op on me. Then I saw it a few more times and discovered that other sane people had seen it too, and I realised that this advertisement was really happening. It was in fact America that was having a nervous breakdown, not me.
My favourite part is where she says “Head On, apply directly to the forehead.”