The ongoing mystery of Nintendo TV commercials

As Nintendo prepares to launch a series of adverts starring pop duo Jedward, Ryan ponders the unfathomable nature of the company’s TV marketing…

If you’re one of the handful of people who still pay attention to television commercials, you may have seen Nintendo’s risibly jaunty campaign for the RPG Dragon Quest IX on DS.

In the latest ad, one of the most well-groomed, plummiest women imaginable extols the virtues of Square Enix’s game, the latest in a series that stretches back to the 80s.

“I’ve got two kids,” the lady says grandly from the depths of her wicker armchair. “It doesn’t come round that often, but I do get a spare hour now and again. I love puzzle games, and I was up for another kind of challenge – one that would push me a little bit more.”

We’re then treated to scenes of the lady playing the game in her vast kitchen, while a mug of coffee steams away comfortingly on a table in the foreground.

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There’s most clearly nothing wrong with anyone of any gender playing Dragon Quest IX on the DS, of course, but the tone of the commercial is so ridiculously genteel, so unctuous, so toe-curling in its attempt to court its imagined target audience, that it’s almost unwatchable…

The Dragon Quest IX ad aimed at men is even worse. Here’s a sample of its dialogue:

Idiot #1: Hey, let me see your gear.Idiot #2 (playing DS): Check out my red tights.Idiot #1: Red tights?Idiot #2: Yeah, man.Idiot #1: Dude!

It’s a hideous, hideous commercial, its attempt to mimic the cadence of youthful chatter abysmally inept. It’s like listening to an elderly relative trying to rap.

Worryingly, there more than half a dozen of these horrid promos, all trying to flog Dragon Quest IX to various sections of the public with the same Stepford Wives take on lifestyle advertising.

And just as the horrible memories of these commercials began to fade, I heard the unwelcome news that Nintendo has hired none other than Jedward as its new promotional pairing. If you don’t know who (or what) Jedward is, it’s the entertainment industry’s first biological experiment, a kind of Tweedledum and Tweedledee duo genetically engineered by a mad scientist.

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Jedward, or John and Edward Grimes if you’re not into the whole brevity thing, take the old cliché about being famous for doing nothing, and take it to its logical conclusion: John and Edward are famous for being incapable of doing anything. I’m not just talking about their singing or dancing – which I can’t bear to discuss even for an instant – I’m talking about normal, everyday stuff like opening an envelope or answering a telephone.

In a recent episode of their reality show Jedward: Let Loose, they managed to burn a bag of microwave popcorn. Think about that for a second: all you have to do is put the bag in the microwave, shut the door and press a button or two. Yet they somehow got even this simple action wrong, and instead ended up with a scorched bag of tiny pieces of black grit.

I don’t know if all of this is an act for the cameras, though for their sake, I sincerely hope it is. If you were to give each of them a Nintendo DS, they’d probably find a way of electrocuting themselves with it.

And yet, mystifyingly, Nintendo has made Jedward the new public face of its range of games machines, and they’re set to appear in a series of ads for their consoles in a contract thought to be worth around £250,000 (not a huge sum as entertainment deals go, it has to be said).

With the release of the 3DS reportedly just around the corner (the current wisdom is that a launch date will be formally announced on 29 September), it’s quite conceivable that the first wave of ads to promote the device will feature John and Edward bouncing around to Ice, Ice Baby or the theme from Ghostbusters.

It’s a chilling thought, and makes me wonder what kind of people Nintendo think it’s selling its products to. As grim as the ads for Dragon Quest IX were, they were an inept but logical attempt to tap into a potentially lucrative female market.

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But Jedward? They’re the flesh-and-blood equivalent of the Crazy Frog, or Mr Blobby, and supremely unlikely to encourage anyone over the age of approximately seven to buy anything, whether it’s an MP3 off iTunes or a snazzy new handheld console.

In January this year, Nintendo’s string of adverts featuring Ant and Dec came ninth in an Adwatch survey of irritating adverts, losing out to the infernal opera singer of the Go Compare commercials.

With Jedward at the helm, it’s quite conceivable that Nintendo will top that list with ease come 2011. If you don’t believe me, look at this commercial the duo created for Shake n’ Vac, and imagine the cleaning product replaced with a Wii remote. Be warned: it’s intensely disturbing.