Friday, August 24, 2012


My last post about the resurrection of previously discontinued advertising mascots has made me nostalgic for the return of other commercial icons of the past, particularly everyone's favorite mischievous money loving monarchist Sir Charge!

Until I started thinking about retired mascots I had all but forgotten about Time Warner Cable's cheeky satirical representation of the supposedly countless superfluous surcharges in a Verizon home phone bill. I for one thought he was great commercial character: easily recognizable, broadly humorous, and had a dead simple message that was stupidly brilliant (his name is Sir Charge, he was all about giving out surcharges, get it?). Unfortunately the character only had a brief, albeit ubiquitous, run lasting about a year, circa 2007. However I believe that he was a victim of unfavorable timing and that the Sir Charge character would have been a bigger hit had he debuted just a few years later.

First off, it didn't help his longevity that Sir Charge was advertising a product that was spiraling into obsolescence (home phone service) he might as well have been selling print magazines. He was also aligned with such a uniformly unlikable entity like Time Warner Cable (fighting against that Verizon menace; talk about a broken two party system) . Most importantly though Sir Charge had the misfortune of coming on the scene just before the social media and the internet viral culture really took off. Had he come out around 2010, he would have reaped the benefits of a vastly expanded facebook community, an exponential explosion of blogs, trending on twitter (#SirCharge), the rise of reddit and the meme-fication of the known world (he could have been just as big as The Most Interesting Man In The World). It was just due to bad timing that Sir Charge never really got the exposure he deserved outside of the tri-state area to become more than just a local phenomenon.

This is why now would be the perfect time for Time Warner to dust off the bowler, break out the bills, and bring back the Charge. Aside from the internet hit potential, Sir Charge's absurdly aristocratic shtick would make him the perfect foil in our current post-financial meltdown, anti-corporate, Occupy Wall Street world. All his stereotypical displays of wealth and upper class status have taken on a far more loaded connotation since the quaint pre-Great Recession days. If there was ever a poster boy for corporate greed, income inequality, and the wealthy 1% it would be Sir Charge. The man just sits in his fancy office all day surrounded by stacks of random currency, ordering constant rate increases upon his working class customers. He makes Mitt Romney look like a lovable boxcar hobo. Additionally with the recent Royal Wedding, the success of "Downton Abbey", and the 2012 London Olympics anglophilia in America is at an all time high, so a posh regal Englishman would also get some play with audiences (I do wonder though why this old English aristocrat had such an interest in American telecommunications and what did he get that Knighthood for? Was the temptation of turning his name into a homonym of surcharge so great that the Queen just couldn't resist it?).

That'd be one unexpected charge I would actually welcome seeing.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

He Has Risen!

Now many of you may already be well acquainted with this story, but for those who aren't familiar I would like to share with you an extraordinary tale about an extraordinary man. He didn't come from status or privilege, just a common man of modest means, but he was put on this earth with the singular goal to give us the important message of saving. As he traveled about preaching his message and converting the people he met, he performed many amazing feats and miracles. Though there were other pretenders with seemingly similar messages, the truly faithful knew that it was only through him that they would be assured great future riches beyond all others. In the end he eventually made the ultimate sacrifice, gaving himself up to a tragic death to save us all...some money.

However, just when it seems like death had claimed ultimate victory over him, he was resurrected!

Yes that slightly forced Christ comparison is true. Less than 8 months after seemingly securing his last discounted hotel room, the Priceline Negotiator mysteriously returns (and apparently he's taken up surfing now). However I really don't know how to feel about the Negotiator coming back. There is a part of me that feels a bit cheated that after all the attention and publicity paid over the final farewell of the character, to have him come back so soon gives the whole affair the taint of a cheap publicity stunt. Had this actually been Priceline's intention all along, then shame on them for being so manipulative and shortsighted with their valuable and respected mascot.

Now if the Negotiator's return is the result of an overwhelming popular movement among surveyed customers to bring back a beloved icon, an exemplary display of direct democracy in action, it would be sort of acceptable (Lord knows how many unsuccessful letters I wrote asking GEICO to bring back the googly eyed stack of money). A part of me would still would have admired Priceline more for sticking to their guns and not so easily bowing to public pressure, but on the whole a company should go with the customer being always right.

From what we see in the commercial it is still somewhat ambiguous if this new advert is just a brief triumphant post script to allow the Negotiator to ride off into the sunset (crashing waves) on his own terms or the first in another new round of Negotiator ads. The ultimate conclusion, like any good advertisement, leaves the watcher wondering. Despite the spot looking eerily like the ending of "Point Break" with Shatner in the doom Swayze role, I am pretty confident that we haven't heard the last of the Negotiator.