A good commercial can cost a lot of money to produce. Writers, camera crews, actors, special effects, music can all pile up. And while larger companies can handle the cost, to smaller business owners, spending this much money on a 30 second commercial spot is a gamble. Especially since there's no guarantee that the commercial will actually attract people instead of being just another nuisance to skip over with their DVR. So naturally, local commercials cut corners, but are usually still halfway presentable.
But this cost cutting is taken Up to Eleven in fiction. Commercials will air on ungodly time slots, the script will be cheesy, the actors will either have the theatrical chops of a toothpick or jump around and act craaaaazy, the slogan will suck, and the whole thing will be shot in front of a green screen with the worst off the shelf effects ever seen. By the time it's done, the final product will be So Bad, It's Good at best.
- In Great Teacher Onizuka, Onizuka makes several low budget local commercials starring Tomoko, in order to give her a start in show business.
- This is actually noted to be a very cunning strategy. It's much easier to break into than the crowded national campaign markets but doing enough of them can give a similar level of coverage.
- The Donald Duck comic story "Paperino e lo spot a basso costo" has Donald and Fethry Duck working in an agency that makes zero-budget ads, made up mainly of random Stock Footage and Fethry's Bad "Bad Acting". When they accidentally end up making an advert for a shovel-producing corporation, they come out with a Special Effects Failure-laden campy ad with a terrible script about an Alien Invasion thwarted by shovel-whacking. The ad still ends up attracting thousands of customers.
Film — Animated
- The Mayor's commercial for Sardine Land in Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs. The animators went the extra mile to make it look as cheap as possible, even faking the worst blue-screen effects possible in a medium that doesn't even require it.
- In Toy Story 2, the commercial for Al's Toy Barn.
- In The Brave Little Toaster which is about sentient appliances the TV makes one of these in the "Crazy Ernie's Emporium of TOTAL Bargain MADNESS!" in order to try and convince their 'Master' to go to the local junkyard and possibly rescue the other appliances. Though given he has complete control of his screen he does manage some decent visuals but the lines he comes with are rather silly and overacted due to him panicking.
- In Monsters, Inc., the commercial near the beginning about the titular company. Not as bad as most examples, but has some chuckle-worthy, slightly sheepish acting from Sulley.
Film — Live Action
- The Massey Motors commercials in Raising Helen had even more problems than a normal cheesy local used car dealership commercial because of Mr. Massey's refusal to be "dishonest" and the fact that his toupee would blow off.
- The commercial the title characters put out in Ghostbusters (1984). It has no music, the characters are wooden and it looks like it was shot for about 5 bucks. In Ghost Busters II, after their comeback the Busters rope Janine and Louis into doing a commercial, with Bad "Bad Acting" and cheap special effects.
- Beetlejuice. The commercial featuring the title character appears to be based on the cheezy ads Cal Worthington used to create for his car dealership.
- Used Cars: first they hijack a TV transmission of an Emergency Presidential Address to hawk their rival's cars (thus getting him into trouble). In another live commercial their model loses her dress. Later a legitimate (bad) commercial says that they have "styles" of cars but the audio is altered by people working for the rival to say "miles" instead; the lot is then sued for false advertising, since they don't have a mile of cars.
- The day is saved at the last second when the final car comes into the lot while a judge is measuring all of them with a tape measure. It's just short at first ... until the license plate covering the gas cap falls open, which adds the few inches needed to make it a "mile of cars."
- The audio store commercial from Boogie Nights.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic's UHF features a few of these, including one for Spatula City (they sell spatulas, and that's all!)
- In the Michael Keaton Batman, the Joker makes one of these to announce "Joker Brand Cosmetics, with Smilex"; complete with him posing with carboard cutout models, shopping in a fake grocery store, and doing a side-by-side comparison with a "Brand-X".
- Hopper's commercial in The Muppet Movie is so painfully bad, it's the reason why he wants Kermit to be his spokesman - or spokesfrog, anyway.
- The family Bros. Bar-B-Q in Friday After Next is an example. Barbeque tastes so good, makes you want to slap your mama! Willie proceeds to slap his mama for real. Craig's said you might have missed it because they only have enough money for a 15 second spot.
- John Waters wanted to get a local wig shop owner to narrate Pink Flamingos because of the horrible Baltimore accent he used in commercials. When he refused, Waters impersonated his style for the film.
- Morrie's Wigs commercial from Goodfellas
- The WNUF Halloween Special makes heavy use of these to convey its gimmick of it being a supposed found recording of a late 80s local TV station broadcast.
- In The Merry Wives Of Maggody, the boat salesman who contributed the bass boat to the golf tournament is first seen filming one of these. He meant for it to feature a bad pun about taking the bull by the horns, but the bull rented for the filming kept wandering off.
- The entire premise of Rhett & Link: Commercial Kings.
- Men of a Certain Age: After Scarpulla Chevrolet creates a series of cheesy rap commercials, Owen decides to shoot a classy commercial with his dad and his friend Terry. Terry decides it's too boring and convinces Owen to outcheese Scarpulla.
- In an episode of Modern Family, baby Lily gets a part in one of these. Along with all of the usual cheesiness, this commercial is also extremely racist.
- Angel: Cordelia makes a commercial for Angel Investigations, but they never have it aired. Doyle is the on-air "talent," and he's very uncomfortable on camera.
- This is also probably one of the only examples of this trope that also doubles as a Tragic Keepsake, after Doyle dies.
- Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! mocks these to no end.
- A staple in recent years on Saturday Night Live, often relegated towards the end of the episode.
- In Degrassi: The Next Generation, Joey Jeremiah is shown in a series of commercials for his car lot. The commercials largely follow this model.
- Similarly to the office, the gang in Raising Hope has to film a commercial for the store where they work. All of the sample commercials they film have elements of this.
- Saul Goodman's ads in Breaking Bad, "Better Call Saul!" He may be invoking this trope as part of his Obfuscating Stupidity act.
- Several of the recurring sketches on SCTV were actually commercials for businesses local to the fictional Melonville area where the SCTV station was said to be based.
- One of the more memorable series of sketches involved commercials for "Tex and Edna's Organ Emporium," and how Tex and Edna's divorce, and their efforts to move on, played out through the commercials.
- My Name Is Earl occasionally features these kind of ads. In particular the ad Joy's parents produce for their waterbed store.
- Sonia on The Brothers Garcia makes a truly terrible commercial for her at-home beauty salon all by herself, prompting the rest of the family to secretly create a much better one.
- Karen and Jack appeared in one on Will and Grace.
- The mattress commercial, featuring Van Halen's "Jump", in the Glee episode "Mattresses".
- Al Bundy's 555-SHOE ad, on Married... with Children.
- Almost Live! had a lot of fun making fun of the more infamous bad commercials made in the Seattle area. One of their finest is "Roscoe's Oriental Rug Emporium", spoofing a place in Pioneer Square that seemed to be having a "going out of business" sale every other month.
- Friends featured a few of these starring Janice's not-quite-ex husband, the Mattress King.
- Community: Greendale has had one of these commercials running for years. One episode revolves around them filming a new one. This being Greendale, Hilarity Ensues.
- Arrested Development: In Season 3, attorney Bob Loblaw is introduced to viewers with a commercial for his practice, in which he dramatically says the name "Bob Loblaw" and (thanks to in-universe poor continuity) is seen closing the same law book three times, for effect.
- Seinfeld: in the episode "The Junk Mail," Jerry searches through an old VHS tape and finds out Elaine's latest boyfriend once appeared as "the Wiz" in a kitschy commercial for the Nobody Beats The Wiz chain of electronics stores.
- The entire final scene ("Chef of the Future") of the classic "Better Living Through TV" episode of The Honeymooners.
- Several times on Mr. Show, including Don Pratt, who doesn't really have a service to offer but just wants to help and hang out with his clients (he's also a Basement-Dweller). It features interviews from several confused past clients.
- The Office (US) has an entire episode, "Local Ad", about the employees making one of these.
- Once Upon a Time has a few of these as part of the DVD bonus feature "Good Morning Storybrooke".
- Played for Drama in Party of Five, when Julia and Griffin spend the last of their savings to make a commercial for their failing auto shop. The commercial's quality was so bad that they couldn't get it to air.
- One Brooklyn Nine-Nine episode had a sleazy Private Detective advertise his services this way:
P.I. Leo Sporm: How do you know if your wife's cheating on you? You don't.Ad voiceover: Call Leo now! (Complete with 555 number.)
- An episode of Smart Guy focused on the Hendersons making one for Floyd's roofing business, starring Floyd as a superhero called "Roofer-Man". When the commercial winds up being aired in a 3am timeslot due to the cable station executive's misleading contractnote , TJ breaks into the studio and sets the computer to play it during "Sunday primetime" instead. Unfortunately, this results in the cheap, So Bad, It's Good commercial being played during the Superbowl, where it quickly achieves in-universe memetic status while costing the station millions in ad-revenue.
- 30 Rock uses this for Liz's one role while still pursuing an acting career in Chicago: a phone sex line called 1-900-OKFACE.
- Cobra Kai gives us the ads for La Russo Motors, with Daniel karate-chopping prices and announcing that all buying customers get their own Bonsai tree for free. If anything it demonstrates how much he can't let go of the past, just like his rival Johnny.
- Daniel: We kick the competition!
- Frank Zappa's song "Eddie, Are You Kidding?" from Just Another Band from L.A. spoofed Edward Nalbandian and his commercials for Zacharary's All Clothing store on local Los Angeles TV. The song title and chorus were an actual quote from a Nalbandian commercial.
- Made-up audio versions of this trope, ostensibly for Lake Wobegon small businesses and assorted oddball products, are a staple feature of A Prairie Home Companion.
- Parodied without mercy in sketch show Son of Cliché.
- The now-deceased JAWS attraction at Universal Studios Florida featured many of these commercials (all of which were shot when the ride first opened in the early '90s and used until its closure in January 2012) as part of its very large amount of fictional Amity TV programming that played in the queue line.
- Similar to the above, when Disneyland's (and Walt Disney World's) Space Mountain was sponsored by Federal Express in the mid-90s, the queue line was given a fictional amount of intergalactic TV programming that played as guests were waiting for their rockets. You could expect many commercials, news stories, fashion updates, and various other TV programs, but the one that fits the "kitschy" mold in particular was the hyperactive "Crazy Larry" (played by Charles Fleischer), whose business had pretty much the most commercials in the whole loop.
- Used as a World Building tool in Fallout: New Vegas, load screens are almost entirely poster ads, billboards, and paper paraphernalia of pre-war Nevada. The ads are generally of mediocre quality at best, one shows a 50's style Strongman lifting weights with the caption, "Build Mass With Sass! Sunset Sarsaparilla"
- The radio on every Grand Theft Auto game is filled with these.
- Ghostbusters: The Video Game opens with one in the style of the ones in the movies. The Wii version is even more kitschy than the "realistic" versions of the game.
- "Gary's Mattresses" is a parody of these.
- Big Bill Hell's is also a parody, done by people who were making relatively serious used car commercials from roughly the same template at the same time. note
- Homestar Runner had a few cartoons featuring rambling derelict Senor Cardgage as a pitch-man.
- "Senor Mortgage" had Senor Cardgage running a financial services company, offering to help viewers "get a leg up on the pile" with the aid of "one of our handsome-talking experts".
- "Senorial Day" had Senor Cardgage advertising the "Senorial Day Tent Event Suprasale". Meanwhile, Bubs had his own super-cheesy ad for "Bubs-otathon", which he promoted with a series of horrible puns, such as dressing like John McEnroe and calling his competition a "total racket!"
Bubs: We're holding up a novelty rubber chicken and playing a cartoony sound effect (boing-boing!) of savings!
- Spend Money. Live Smaller. Smal-Mart.
- 5 Second Films has a number of these, including ads for the slightly unhinged attorney at law/goblinhunter Dimo Higgins, the frightening town of Chico, and Pauly P's Pet Pemporium.
- LoadingReadyRun occasionally features the exploits of Dave's Spokesman, who advertises businesses with strange combinations of products, all owned (allegedly) by a man named Dave. He an odd manner of speaking, and may not even know what he's advertising half the time. He also does local news.
- Dave himself appears once, and reveals that he's been paying the Spokesman to not advertise his business.
- The "Antiquing" sketch starts with a classy commercial for Reilly's Antiques and Rarities Showroom starring it's owner Robert Reilly. However, the business ends up doing poorly so we then see a more down-to-earth commercial for the rebranded Reilly's Antiques Showroom and Sales Center. As things go downhill, the next commercial is for Rob's Discount Antiques Warehouse and is done in a kitchy style with Robert wearing a cowboy hat and advertising his store like it was a used car dealership. In the final commercial Robert has clearly given up and is ranting at the audience to come to Reilly's Pile of Old Crap and buy something.
- The Khum Dhan commercial. A parody of miracle Snake Oil remedies for literally anything where the entire joke is that the product is an Accidental Innuendo.
- In a Foil, Arms and Hog sketch. “Hello, I’m Matts Matterson from The Mat Warehouse. I own the company, and I also do the adverts”.
- Spongebob Squarepants: When Mr. Krabs decides to make a commercial for the Krusty Krab, Squidward initially goes all out to make it as extravagant as possible. Krabs then decides it's too much and goes for a cheesy commercial on at 3AM.
- The Simpsons:
- Homer's first "Mr. Plow" ad, which aired at 3:17 AM on Channel 92 and featured Bad "Bad Acting" from the family, including Grampa as "Old Man Winter".
- Mister Burns' student employee recruitment tape also fits this. It was clearly filmed in a single take with Homer, Carl and Lenny as the (lack of) talent and a script that vaunts nuclear power as a better option than sawing your legs off to beg.
Lisa: Why would Lenny want someone to saw his legs off?
Homer: Well, there were script problems from day one.
Bart: Didn't seem like anybody even read the script.
—->Homer: That was the problem.
- Family Guy loves this trope:
- Al Harrington of the Wacky Waving Arm-Flailing Inflatable Tube Man Emporium and Warehouse.
- In another episode when Peter becomes one of the New England Patriots, he does a local spot for a car dealership complete with monotone reading, eyes following cue-cards, forced football references, and crappy redundant jingle.
- In Bob's Burgers, Bob makes a commercial to air locally during the Super Bowl, as a way of showing off Jimmy Pesto during his lavish Super Bowl party. Louise wrote the script, which includes Gene as a giant burger attacking the city with mustard, and Linda singing.
- Between seasons, Gravity Falls aired a series of shorts during commercials. One of those shorts featured a hilariously terrible in-universe commercial for the Mystery Shack which was just as cheap as its owner, with features such as wooden acting, old fashioned and awful compositing, numerous flubs left in with clumsily edited corrections, sudden Mood Whiplash, Rattling Off Legal, and an inexplicable screamer at the end.
- "A Tale of Two Stans" shows that Stan's first business ventures involved these as well. Compared to the one he would make for the Mystery Shack, they were comparatively low-key
- In the Phantom Investigators episode "Ghosts On Film", the Phantom Investigators have one that consists of Casey and Jericho posing in monster masks on a cheap set while Daemona narrates behind them.