The commercial equivalent of the Show Within a Show
. You're watching a commercial for a very generic product — the commercial may even be so laden with blatant Advertising Tropes
that it doesn't seem quite real.
This is because it isn't. The action will shortly be interrupted by... another commercial
! Zapulix-Brand Aspirin was just a red herring!
Probably meant to convey that the product is so great that it can just stomp all over other commercials. Also, the fake commercial will usually lampoon normal commercial devices, so it may give the producers of advertising some relief from the normal soul-crushingness of their existence.
For obvious reasons, this only works once; once you're seen the commercial, you know what the real product being advertised is.
May be considered a subtrope to Bait and Switch
. Similar to Trailer Spoof
, but usually without trying to parody any specific real product. Not to be confused with a Product Switcheroo Ad
- The ads for the Vauxhall Insignia start out looking like trailers for a movie, or possibly a new TV show. "The Insignia Project". Something like a cross between James Bond and 24.
- Used with a real product in one commercial for car manufacturer Subaru, where actual footage from an ad for Snuggies (overpriced coat-shaped blankets) was cut off by a guy with an axe chopping through the TV screen and revealing an SUV... The kicker is that the actual Snuggie commercial played around the same time.
- The second version was easier to spot. It used an original ad for the "Lap n' Snack", a weird-shaped plastic bowl that would have rested on your knee. Since nobody had seen it before, after seeing the commercial once they knew what it was.
- This Australian ad for the Mitsubishi Magna, in which a salesman talks about the features of the car. Suddenly the Mitsubishi logo appears and he gets cut off mid-sentence. A commercial for another product begins, the salesman runs in from the background and interrupts the commercial, talking about the remaining features and the price.
- Hundreds, if not thousands, of bikini clad women run enthusiastically toward a pasty plain guy who is anointing himself in bodyspray; think it's another Lynx/Axe ad? Nope. All the woman immediately stop as soon as he puts on his hideous spectacles... "Should've gone to Specsavers"
Food and Drink
- VISA filmed several ads for real vacation resorts, which mentioned at the end that you should bring your VISA card, since the place doesn't accept American Express.
- The irony is that most of the hotels featured, when asked by an independent survey, revealed that most of them either had never stopped offering American Express, or had done so (briefly) in favor of VISA, but quietly started taking American Express again afterward.
- Nationwide Insurance featured a Super Bowl commercial which, at first glance, appeared to sell a cologne endorsed by every housewife's fantasy, Fabio. Basically, he's rowing a gondola with a woman in it as this ad extols the virtue of his cologne. Then, he passes under a bridge, and bam! He becomes old and disheveled, and we learn that "life comes at you fast".
- A Progressive Insurance commercial even interrupts one of their other commercials.
- Unfortunately, I've got some bad news for you: Other examples of this trope are rare. But there is good news: I just saved a bunch of money on my car insurance by switching to GEICO!
- GEICO ran a fake-trailer for a reality show called "Tiny House" before revealing itself as a GEICO ad. The trailer was well done, and real reality show premises can be just as stupid, so it was quite convincing.
- In this one where Tony Little is selling a glider exercise machine but his "good news" for the audience is said irrelevant news.
- GEICO has a series of ads where someone sees a GEICO ad and says, "Huh, 15 minutes can say 15% or more on car insurance." The second person replies, "Everybody knows that." The first guy then says, "Well did you know [insert rhetorical fact here]?" Then we have a cutaway to the scene being acted out.
- "Did you know certain cartoon characters should never have an energy drink?" Cuts to the Tasmanian Devil, who is on a soundstage. He drinks a can of some energy drink, then goes into his tornado-damage-strength whirling dervish, just as the GEICO logo is shown. We cut to an entirely different commercial of a room showing various plates: the 50 state bird hand-painted china collection, which is then given the "bull in a china shop" treatment by Taz as he spins through, smashing the wall with the other commercial and trashes everything.
- There is a Lifelock internet ad on This Very Wiki that begins as a banner ad for the comedy movie Identity Thief (which, interestingly, is a real movie). It then switches to an ad that says "Identity theft in movies: Funny! (In theaters Feburary 8.) Identify theft in real life: not so much."
- Ironically, now there are real ads for Identity Thief that don't switch into ads for Lifelock.
- A commercial in 1999 seemingly advertised an incredibly terrible-looking movie called "Blow'd Up". We then cut to a horrified man watching this on television, going on E*Trade (an online, self-serve stock brokerage), and selling all of his shares of stock in the studio.
- Sprite frequently pulled this trick during their "Obey Your Thirst" ad campaign, usually by starting out as ads for non-existent, drinks, such as "Jooky" and "Sun Fizz."
- Car, meadow... ZOMBIE!! K-Fee Coffee.
- Happens in Australian ads for lamb: one was a trope-laden ad for perfume, and another an ad for a really cheesy romantic comedy. Except that they're ads for lamb (or, rather LÂMB, "the fragrance for spring", and Falling in Lamb)
- An eighties commercial for Picnic chocolate bars was made up of generic shots of nuts, caramel and raisins falling across the screen, while a voiceover said, "There are so many good things in a Picnic bar, we can't fit them all in this advert." Cut to a laundry detergent commercial with a woman waxing lyrical about her new whiter-than-white clothes - only to get drenched in a downpour of chocolate. The voiceover smugly adds, "So we put the chocolate in this one."
- Similar to the Energizer bunny one below, an eighties British advert for Carling lager starts off with the advert for the lager, and then carries on with fake adverts that are crashed through by the characters from the first ad.
- Another advertisement for the same lager showed a No Celebrities Were Harmed version of television prankster Jeremy Beadle being outfoxed by his intended victim. The prankster's Humiliation Conga ended with him being dumped into a fake advertisement for organic manure.
- In one Trix commercial from the mid 90s, the Trix rabbit disguises himself as a human, and actually manages to obtain a box of Trix. He then goes to the fridge to put milk on it, and discovers that he doesn't have any. It's actually a "Got Milk?" commercial.
- A UK advertisment starts with Marcia Cross from Desperate Housewives swishing her hair round and talking about "smoothness" and "rich texture", in what's clearly meant to be a shampoo ad. To her irritation, they then cut to a shot of Albert Bartlet Rooster Potatoes, with a man declaring "They're worth it!" in a parody of the L'Oreal ads. (This was foreshadowed by an ad in which Cross was annoyed and bewildered that her agent wanted her to be "the face of potatoes".)
- Popularized if not invented by the Energizer Bunny commercials. A battery powered toy rabbit, initially created for a straight commercial, wanders off the set, due to the unstoppable powers of the Energizer battery. The rabbit wanders through other advertisements, interrupting them as the Energizer voice-over guy announces "It keeps going, and going, and going..."
- Pilkington Self-Cleaning Glass Conservatories adverts start off as a very cheesy Infomercial/Shopping Channel parody seemingly from The Eighties advertising some awful product intended for use in a conservatory. They the switch to a silently amused conservatory owner who turns to admire their conservatory glass with a voice over saying something like "If you want a useful invention try Pilkington Self-Cleaning Glass".
- A commercial begins like a movie trailer for Connecting Flights, which looks like an actual movie trailer for another generic holiday movie about two people stuck in an airport before the holidays until the guy accidentally runs into a refrigerator, revealing the commercial's true purpose: advertising appliances for Sears.
- Another Sears commercial begins with a scantily-clad couple getting intimate on the beach and then doing a romantic Meadow Run across the sand, making it look like a trailer for a Chick Flick or some sort of Perfume Commercial ... until they crash into a bunch of refrigerators.
- This has since become an entire ad campaign for Sears, continuing with other fake ads such as one for a dating-dance Reality Show.
- A commercial opens as an ad for a cleaning product called "Shiny Suds", with talking soap bubbles singing about their product to the delight of a mom. The next scene shows her about to take a morning shower, only to see the suds are now chemical residue all over the bathroom, and they quickly develop a perverted personality as the woman uncomfortably begins her shower, which only increases when she begins using a loofah. It's a commercial for nontoxic cleaning brand Method Products, but it was quickly pulled after it was criticized for being in bad taste.
- A commercial for a vacuum cleaner starts as a classic Product Switcheroo Ad for coffee - but instead of replacing the high end restaruant's coffee with Folger's Crystals it's replaced by sand and ground up clamshells. After everyone tosses their "grounds" on the floor the vacuum comes in and cleans everything up.
- There was once a commercial that started out like a typical pregnancy test commercial. A couple sits on their couch while the wife holds a beaker of fluid. The husband dips a plastic strip in the fluid and they excitedly watch it change color. They have just confirmed...that they have hard water. We then see that the commercial is actually for a hard water treatment.
- There's this one commercial on YouTube that advertises folding chairs as if they were a brand new invention. Turns out they're actually advertising the Christmas themed sweaters the actors were wearing throughout the ad.
- There is a banner ad for a deodorant that has a fist made of deodorant residue come out of a woman's arm, snake across the article you're reading and punch a man in an apparently unrelated teeth-whitening ad in the face.
- Old Spice Body Spray is too powerful to stay in its own commercial!
- Alka-Seltzer had one very famous ad about a meatball commercial being shot where the actor repeatedly blew his line "That's a spicy meatball!" Since he had to take a bite from those spicy meatballs on each take, he soon needed some Alka-Seltzer before he could continue.
- Orkin did a number of commercials like this in which a wayward insect would wander over the top of another commercial before the exterminator could kill it. Legends abound about people freaking out and smashing their screens in an attempt to kill what they thought was a real bug.
- Orkin discontinued those commercials because of a lawsuit after a man threw his shoe at the TV because of one such commercial.
- During the late '90s, Ad Council ran a series of PSAs that ended with a character being exhausted after rather minimal physical activity, followed by the announcer saying "Exercised lately?" and the tagline "Get up. Get out." One of them started out as a fake ad for "Gofer Cakes", which looked more or less like mini whoopee pies. The excited kids in the ad end up lying on the floor, too full and sugar-crashed to move. Don't ask why this was a PSA for getting more exercise (the kids seemed to have plenty of energy at first) rather than not eating too much junk food.
- Another PSA started out looking like a perfume commercial with a lovely model in a fancy house with beautiful music playing. Then we see the bottle of perfume which rotates to reveal its name: Breast Cancer. The model is visibly shocked and the announcer even apologizes for getting your attention this way.
- A rather heart-breaking anti-smoking PSA starts out as a trailer for a dramatic movie about a man who has to give away his daughter at her wedding. Near the end, the camera pulls back to reveal this commercial displayed on a television in a hospital room. The patient and his adult daughter watch with sadness. The implication is that due to the father's (apparently smoking related) illness, he won't live to give away his daughter at her wedding.
- AMC Theatres had a series of PSAs that start out as a trailer for a movie, such as a romance film and a Disney-esque animated movie. All of a sudden it gets interrupted by a cell phone ringer, and the characters complain about the noise. In the latter type of this PSA, the main character of the "movie" gets distracted while flying and accidentally falls into a volcano.
- A series of home safety PSAs in New Zealand began as a commercial for something else (fruit snack bars, house paint, a shower system, home loans) and end with someone having a horrific accident because they didn't take simple precautions (e.g. the guy in the paint commercial falls off his ladder and is presumably killed because he didn't secure the ladder properly.)
- A state body in Western Australia regularly uses this in its road safety PSAs. In one, what begins as a car commercial highlighting the car's safety features goes on to show the car suddenly running over a pedestrian as the driver was going too fast. In another, an ad for a kid's toy scooter ends with the child riding out into the road and being hit by a car.
- The Ad Council made a series of PSAs encouraging kids to brush their teeth twice a day for two minutes. And how do they do this? They play either a fake TV show, a fake YouTube video, or a fake video game, and then something will tell the viewers that kids spend many hours doing the shown activity, and then the text "How about two minutes to brush their teeth?" is shown.
- This, for example begins with a group called the "Super Duper Party Troopers" (an obvious take on shows like The Fresh Beat Band and The Wiggles) singing a song called "Ants in the Pants". Then, the red-clothed man says "One more time!" and the song rewinds and begins all over again, but the green-clothed one suddenly stops singing to say to the audience that "kids will spend 22 minutes watching us, the Super Duper Party Troopers, singing about ants in their pants." And that's when it reveals itself to actually be a PSA about brushing teeth 2 minutes a day.
- My Little Puppy might seem at first like an adorable children's toy commercial, but it's actually a PSA about not treating dogs or other pets like toys.
- An anti-Ecstasy PSA was designed to look like a prescription drug ad, with a person walking through a field of flowers in soft focus while the narrator listed side effects, concluding with "Ask your doctor why Ecstasy is *not* right for you."
- An ad for Jack in the Box begins as a commercial for a car that runs on water and produces no harmful emissions, which is interrupted by Jack, the restaurant's
CEO mascot, introducing a new sirloin steak sandwich. Having completed his pitch, the piece returns to the presenter of the car ad, who says "Really? Sirloin?"
- Western New York food chain Mighty Taco is fond of these. "Your gold is worth its weight in tacos!"
- A driver is in a crash. He presses a little button above his head and starts talking with an operator, who calls an ambulance. Typical OnStar ad, so far. The driver then asks the operator to do him a favor: call Jimmy John's, the sandwich delivery company.
- You can call me Nannerpus, Nannerpus, and guess what, I love panc--
- Boston Market did a whole series mimicking other commercial genres, right up until they announced what they were advertising. One was designed liked a cleanser ad ("I had splitter-splatter all over my kitchen, but now it's always sparkling clean. What's my secret? Boston Market!") another like a painkiller ad ("Tension headaches are the worst. Fortunately, now there's a solution: Boston Market"). They all had the same tagline: 'We're cooking up dinner so you don't have to'.
- Tivo used to run commercials promoting the ability for their product to allow you to skip commercials, which were presented in parody form. One example has NFL Hall of Famers Joe Montana and Ronnie Lott discussing "masculine itching" while playing golf, going into great detail, and just as Joe is about to demonstrate how to apply the "patented oily balm" to Ronnie's "affected area," the commercial cuts away, saying "Get Tivo. Skip the stuff you don't wanna see."
- There's an ad for a home makeover show that started by pretending to be a standard "game" banner ad.
- The Secret Saturdays began life as a series of "home video"-style ads featuring cryptids showing up in a typical urban situation, which were soon followed up by ads for an upcoming "Weird World" series. Eventually, these ads revealed their true colors; about halfway through the Weird World commercial, the camera zooms out to reveal one of the characters watching the ad to allegedly gain inside information on the series' Big Bad, who was not-coincidentally the person apparently hosting Weird World
- There was a commercial for a new sitcom called "Zombie Dad" on Canadian sci-fi cable channel Space. It actually looked pretty fun, until it ended up being a network ad for Space saying you don't have to watch such awful shows.
- The British satellite channel UK Gold (which has since been renamed a few times) had a surprisingly well-made series of ads in this vein advertising supposed comedy or drama shows that weren't good enough to make their schedule. For example, a show about two British coppers called George Tea and Alan Biscuits being lent to a police force in America, called "Tea and Biscuits", and a comedy called "Stuntman Husband", which was about a guy who had a job as a stuntman, and often performed stunts in his everyday life.
- DirecTV. It starts out with a clip of an interesting movie, then a movie fan briefly interacts with the characters. The idea is that with DirecTV the viewer has much more control over when and where things start. Sadly, the interesting movies are not real.
- This Portuguese Meo commercial/"communiqué", which had been heavily advertised on the days prior on newspaper covers (of course, without mention it was a Meo commercial), by the comedy group Gato Fedorento, shows at first a lady advertising a "tasteful yogurt", which she says its her "secret" (for what it's not clear, but this part of the commercial was a parody of a series of Danone Activia yogurt commercials in which various celebrities say it is their secret against constipation); this is followed by a biiip as a sound and coloured bars, and only then the communiqué itself, presented by the comedy group who call themselves the "high command", about the "television of the future", i.e., Meo, and it is warned it's a futile exercise to change channels (to not hear the communiqué) because they have taken control over the Portuguese airwaves; this was followed by a "post-communiqué" starting with a man presenting a card supposedly recommended to him by "[his] friend Barbosa", which is then immediately turned off and then the "high command" appears, afraid they weren't clear enough about the potentials of the "television of the future".
- An ad on TNT shows a blonde model trying on "Clear View Breathable Contact Lenses". As the announcer cheerfully talks about how "you won't even notice they're there", the model notices blood coming out of her eye. As she screams and collapses, a parasite crawls out of her eye. The camera cuts to her lying on the bathroom floor, as a Slasher Smile crosses her face. The commercial then reveals itself to be a promo for Falling Skies.
- WNET, the PBS member station for New York City, has an internet and subway ad campaign featuring various fake reality show trailers, ending with the tag “The fact you thought this was a real show says a lot about the state of TV. Support quality programming.” (Public television stations in the US are mostly funded by donations from corporations and the general public.)
- Groupon caught some flak for this; Their 2011 Super Bowl ad started out like an ad for a charity to help out Tibet... then switched gears to talk about how the announcer got 50% Tibetan food thanks to Groupon. Many thought this was in bad taste, which made it the most talked about ad that year. (Groupon made donations to the causes mentioned in the advertisements on a per-purchase basis.)
- A series of Tesco Mobile ads in the UK centered around a group of people wishing for "a world where strangers... become friends" etc, before cutting to a simple person on a white background asking simply for a cheap monthly rate with a free phone.
- There are commercials for Big Spot.com, a site that allows users to take surveys on products, that start out as commercials for some hilariously bad product before saying "Wow. That was bad. Wouldn't you like to tell them that? Now you can." One has a product called "Yo Yo Yo!" that yo-yos for you and has some girl saying suggestively, "Can I play with your yo-yo?". Another is a commercial for a "Carmsleeve" to cover your arm if you like to have your arm hang out of the window of your car. Yet another has something called Flava Time, a watch or ankle bracelet that adds flavor to your food.
- A 1978 lawn mower commercial appears to be for a hover mower - until the home owner makes the film crew rake up grass cuttings and then mow the lawn properly with a Qualcast cylinder mower.
- A K-Mart radio commercial starts out with various people talking about being reluctant to go out due to having a "gas problem", obviously making the listener expect it to be for some sort of drug that prevents flatulence. Instead, it's advertising a promotion where customers can save on gasoline by shopping.
- The Controversial pulled Super Bowl Ad for GoDaddy.com in 2015 appears to be an ad for Budweiser featuring one of its puppies. When the puppy gets home he is hugged by his owner who says "I'm so glad you're home—because I just sold you on a web site I built with Go Daddy.com!" showing the site on her tablet before getting the dog shipped off. The ad was pulled by response from PETA and other animal advocates who were against the message of selling animals for profit.
- The Seven Year Itch has Marilyn Monroe's character perform this in a toothpaste commercial seen only in an Imagine Spot.
I had onions at lunch. I had garlic dressing at dinner. But he'll never know, 'cause I stay kissing sweet, the new Dazzledent way! (Marilyn's smile gives way to concern) And now that I have your attention, I want to warn all you girls about an evil, dangerous, married man living downstairs in my building. His name is Richard Sherman. S-H-E-R-M-A-N. While his wife and son are in Maine, this monster is terrorizing the girls of New York. He makes them sit on the piano bench, and makes them play "Chopsticks." Then suddenly he turns on them, just like the creature from the Black Lagoon!
- Monty Python's Flying Circus managed to change courses twice in a Parody Commercial. Propaganda extolling "American defense" uses diagrams of tooth decay to represent Communist infiltration, which turns out to be part of an advertisement for Crelm Toothpaste. A cartoon automobile race follows, comparing the effectiveness of Crelm Toothpaste to an unspecified other brand, which quickly segues to a pitch for Shrill Petrol. In this advertisement, a white card representing engine deposits is displaced by a black card representing an Idiosyncratic Wipe to the next sketch of the show.
- Saturday Night Live took it further, with a pitchman who wandered through half a dozen commercial settings, repeatedly implying what the ad was about but switching before mentioning a product. At the end, he goes home without mentioning any product at all. Cue announcer: "This message brought to you by The Ad Council: Wasting your time in various ways for no good reason."
- They did this again for what appears to be a typical Philadelphia advertisement, which suddenly morphs into a Philadelphia action figure commercial.
- A running series of parodies of Clint Eastwood's Super Bowl Special Chrysler ad has their impersonation of the actor suddenly endorsing various other companies.
- In the mid-90's, we see what at first appears to be a diaper commercial with Will Ferrell changing the diaper of a baby. Then Molly Shannon walks in and asks "Who the hell are you?" Ferrell dives out of the window and it's revealed to be a commercial for a security company.
- The Portuguese parody show Contra Informação parodied the Meo commercials reffered to previously twice: here, about who controls the government of the day, and here, about who controls football aka soccer. The first ad starts with a woman mentioning her secret on how to be thin (yogurt), and then cuts to a "communiqué" of the government. The second one starts more bizarrely, with Valentim Loureiro (who has a fame of a corrupt polymath and participates mainly in football and local Gondomar politics, and is also an Army major) mentioning his own secret to always come out on top when he's accused of corruption (yogurt too!), and then cuts to a "communiqué" of various Portuguese soccer personalities.
- The Burkiss Way featured spoof ads as part of an 'intermission' on almost every episode. In later series a running gag developed where the spoof ads, no matter what they seemed to be parodying, would actually turn out to be for Stiffco Funeral Services.
"She knows that flyaway hair needs a little extra body..."
"Yes! If you've got a little extra body, why not bring it to Stiffco!"