I hate vacuuming, as anyone can tell you once they’ve walked across my carpet and wondered what the horrible crunching noises were. No matter how much I hate vacuuming, however, I love vacuum cleaners. They frighten dogs, which I’m all about, and by turning one on in the middle of someone talking you can really rudely shut them up, which I’m also a fan of. Most of all, however, vacuum cleaners are great because they’re easily the most futuristic-looking home appliance, with every generation showcasing perfectly what people thought rocketships and jetpacks ought to look like in their vacuum designs. Streamlined chrome tubes with fins, boxy plastic rectangles in washed out colors, all the way up to the modern “cyclone-chamber fuel pod” looking uprights that seem like they should be ejectable cartridges for ghost-catching machines. There’s a direct correlation between every era’s vacuum cleaners and the looks of their concept cars, a thread of aesthetics that says to consumers “yeah, sure, the cure to cancer and man on mars, we’re working on that, but in the meantime here’s a way to drudge through your mundane chores looking like a god-damn spaceman”. Or space-woman, depending on what era we’re talking about. Mostly space-woman.
Since I love vacuum cleaners so much but hate their application, today’s Ad Versus Ad is all about them. I’m writing it instead of vacuuming! That’s multi-tasking, right? Right. I’m awesome.
Ad #1- 1960′s Hoover Constellation Commercial.
Synopsis: From the black depths of space comes the Hoover Constellation, captured Roswell technology finally put to proper use! It doesn’t just slide, which is demonstrated by sliding it across a table. Housework got you down? Tired of your vacuum cleaner body staying in one place while you work, when it could be slipping around bumping into shit with all the grace of an air-hockey puck? Then the Hoover Constellation is the machine for you! Only eighteen Ls, which if I remember my Roman numerals correctly means this thing cost, what, 900 dollars? In 1962!? Fuck.
Thoughts: The meeting where they invented this thing was probably the shortest in Hoover’s history. Somebody just erased an “o”.
A hover-vacuum is such a great idea, I wonder why they don’t do it anymore. Maybe the fact that the woman vacuuming in this ad is obviously having some difficulty with it running away from her all the time, that might have something to do with it. Or, perhaps it’s because the only way to avoid having TWO big noisy motors in the thing is to reuse the one forming the vacuum, so you’re simply shooting the shit you just cleaned up back into your carpet with enough force to levitate. For whatever reason, you don’t see this design anymore, and that makes me sad.
If my parents had owned a hovering vacuum cleaner when I was a kid, then I guarantee it would have remained unbroken for ten minutes before they turned their backs and I tried to ride it. I want to get fifteen of these things, lash them together with some car batteries, turn the whole mess on and kick it into oncoming highway traffic. Or maybe I’d arrange them upside-down in a semisphere with their hover-ports facing inward to see if I could levitate objects… the applications are practically unlimited.
The fact that this ad is shot like an episode of The Twilight Zone makes me a little wary, though. All the weird foreground-background shit and low angle shots and that weird “flying through space” thing make me think that this vacuum cleaner’s gonna try and kill me and when I finally smash it in my attic it turns out there are tiny astronauts inside or something. Honestly, I don’t know if that’s a pro or a con. I still kinda want one either way.
Ad #2- 1970′s Eureka ESP Commercial.
Synopsis: “Lucile” shows her husband, who I’m guessing is Gollum, the new Eureka ESP vacuum cleaner she bought to destroy tiny monsters living in her clean-looking carpet. Sure enough, massive hordes of little demons are eating the fibers, but they’re bested by the extra suction power. Take THAT, schizophrenic hallucinations! You’ve been defeated by consumerism once again!
Thoughts: Poor circa-1979 Nancy Cartwright. Don’t worry hon, in about 8 years you’re never going to have to do this shit ever again… except for Butterfinger bars and scientology.
This commercial is a great example of what I like to call the “mundane things are actually monsters” phenomenon in advertising. Dust-mites, pollen and germs are the most common things to be portrayed in ads as goofy-toothed creatures out to get you, though sometimes things like boogers, heartburn and radon get the treatment as well. Basically anything you can’t really show in the ad, and even if you could you couldn’t really make it as scary as you’re hoping people will find it when you start pitching your miracle cure. Whereas “destructive grit” isn’t that intimidating on its own, show it as some angry-faced little things reminiscent of the weird DNA-man from the expository Jurassic Park tour guide cartoon and you’re well on your way to selling a fucking vacuum cleaner. It’s a tactic that has always worked and probably always will- I guarantee that once we find a cure for AIDS, we’ll advertise the medicine on TV by showing soothing blue spirals in your bloodstream kicking little monsters’ asses. It’s pretty much a certainty.
On another note, I had no idea that ESP stood for “Extra Suction Power”. Dammit, I never should have broken up with that girl. I thought she was nuts and claiming she could read minds, but apparently… fuck, I gotta see if I still have that phone number somewhere.
Ad#3- 1980′s Eureka Express Commercial.
Synopsis: A woman who apparently lives in an old neon-rimmed Babbages walks through a time portal and blows up a solid steel Electrolux. What she SHOULD have been using was a vacuum cleaner that looks like an old floppy disk container full of cosmetics. That’ll teach ya, you… time traveling housewife. Yeah.
Thoughts: Are you stuck using a “big, clunky, weak vacuum cleaner that hasn’t changed much in twenty or thirty years?” Were you… expecting it to change? Do old vacuum cleaners evolve over time, or become “seasoned” like a cast-iron skillet or something? Are they pokemon? I’m confused.
I like that this “modern” family’s living room has superfluous blue neon Warehouse Records highlights like nobody ever had in their home. That plus the Casio tweetling in the background makes me think this is supposed to be the future… before we go to the past. Like a shitty Blade-Runner future. All this time travel better be towards a purpose, commercial. The Eureka Express better be a god-damn time machine or I’m gonna want my money back. Luckily the living room is apparently a mall and I won’t have to go far to trade it in.
After watching this commercial a good fifty times, I still have no idea what the hell these people are watching on TV in the opening shot. From what I can tell, there are three shots in sequence on the TV, the second of which is some cardboard boxes jerking to a stop, and the third of which is them being blown up by a Dalek or something. Did Dr. Who ever fight cardboard boxes? I mean, I know he did, constantly, but where they ever SUPPOSED to be cardboard boxes? Not Cybermen or something? It almost looks like the Crimson Permanent Assurance for a second there, which would be pretty weird to intersperse with Daleks.
“It’s fuuuuun, to charter an accountant…”
Final Thoughts: Somewhere, in some incredibly boring town, there’s got to be an international vacuum cleaner museum. Judging from just the examples we’ve seen today, there have been vacuums that levitate, kill demons, and travel through the fourth dimension, so who the fuck knows what kind of damage you could do with an arsenal of all available models from throughout time? Video games have taught me you can use vacuums to catch ghosts and reverse causality too, so… yeah, I have a new place to go in case of zombie attack. North Canton Ohio, you are officially the best weapons cache known to man. And the best part is I STILL don’t have to clean my fucking carpet.