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Advertising can be tough. Often, a brand creates a spokescharacter in an attempt to get its message across in an entertaining way. If done well, these characters can become famous in their own right and bring more attention to the brand. If done poorly, they can end up creating a backlash.

A Spokes Sue is a specific type of failed spokescharacter, one who is supposed to be cool, fun and appealing, but repulses viewers instead by being smug, arrogant and obnoxious. Most of the time these characters are never wrong, and everybody in the commercials loves them unconditionally (unless, of course, they represent opposing companies). The worst ones can seem like a combination of God Mode and Black Hole Sues.

Compare/contrast Scapegoat Ad and Strawman Product, where the only purpose of the advertisement is to make an opposing product or service look bad.

Examples:


Automobiles

  • There was an Audi advert in the United Kingdom where an arrogant yuppie driving an Audi, while talking about looking after number one, and how your car makes a statement about you and you want that statement to be that you're a winner, and so on. And just when the audience completely hates him and, by extension, the car, he drives it back to the showroom, gets out and says to the dealer, "Nah, not my style, mate." Message - Buy our car and you won't be this guy. Pretty clever, actually...
  • Perhaps an inversion would be the Chrysler Cordoba ads from the 1980s? Riiiiiich Corinthian leather...
  • Scion released a series of commercials where Zeus praised its upcoming lineup of cars. Unfortunately, they decided to portray Zeus as a lazy slacker straight out of a Seth Rogen movie who refers to himself as "the god of awesome" and sings using AutoTuning. This turned what was obviously an attempt at creating a new Memetic Badass into an obnoxious and self-obsessed jerk.
  • Riley Thomas Stewart's character in the 2010 Toyota Highlander ad campaign. To some (like this Cracked article's writer) he's a smug Spoiled Brat.

Cigarettes

  • Camel Cigarettes' "Joe Camel" character, whose face, plastered on the walls of gas stations everywhere, was specifically designed to subconsciously grab attention by looking like "sausage and eggs".
  • Marlboro's famous icon "The Marlboro Man": He was one of the most successful mascots in advertising history, making him very much this to anti-tobacco advocates and others who detested cigarettes through the 1960s, '70s and early '80s.

Food/Beverages

  • Burger King commercials from the early 1990s starring Dan Cortese.
    • Readers of a certain age may remember their infamous "Where's Herb?" campaign of the mid-80s. A kind of Spokes Anti-Sue (Herb was the only man in the US-- maybe the world-- who hadn't eaten a Whopper), the campaign was never very successful and issues with a contest where the person who spotted Herb would win $5,000 didn't help. (A 16-year old Alabama boy won; BK denied him the prize since he was not the minimum age to participate; his parents complained to their state representative, eventually causing the Alabama State Senate to pass a resolution condemning BK's action.)
    • Then there's the Burger King mascot whom the company probably thought was charming due to the Uncanny Valley, but was basically annoying.
  • Jared Fogle from the Subway ads always gave off this vibe. While it is pretty remarkable that he lost a ton of weight while eating their sandwiches (in addition to the actual dieting and exercising he was no doubt also doing), some appreciable level of charisma and appeal is needed to make an effective pitchman, and those were qualities Mr. Fogle unfortunately simply did not possess. Subway even had Peter Griffin issue a Take That to Jared after he stopped plugging for them.
  • There are also the spokespeople from the commercials for Golden Corral (the buffet chain, similar to Hometown Buffet). They always come off as smug and arrogant, and the Golden Corral server even looks and sounds like... Jared Fogle.
  • Keith Stone from the Keystone Light beer commercials. The ads play him up as being every bit as smooth as the beer he's shilling, but he looks and sounds like the sort of dude whose last words will surely be "Hey, hold my beer and watch this!"
  • The children in pretty much any of the Pillsbury Toaster Strudel commercials. They pretty much act like smug brats while going about bragging how superior their toaster pastries are to Kellog's Pop Tarts.
    • The worst has to be the little brother who once convinced of how great the strudel is...takes his sister's entire breakfast after she said she'd share with him.
  • The beer commercials featuring the super-snarky female bartender mocking patrons for their skinny jeans, man-bags and tramp-stamp tattoos. Maybe she's on to something about these things being undignified, but she should have the sense to know that acting like a condescending bitch to her customers -whose tips she depends on for her livelihood- is not a very smart thing to do.
  • The Miller Lite commercials with the "Man Up" slogan. Basically, the commercials are supposed to indicate that drinking the beer indicates manliness and drinking any other light beer means you're an unmanly wimp. In reality, however, the Miller drinkers come off as smug jerks and the "other" brand drinkers come off as Camp Gay stereotypes.
  • The man coming into the parties in those Heineken commercials enters by greeting foreigners in condescendingly westernized gestures and shows up everyone he sees at whatever they're most talented in. In one commercial, he jumps onstage and decides to show up the band playing the music. In the other, he leaps through a Japanese-style paper door (essentially property damage to the high-class establishment) like it was designed for that. Essentially, he's being as smug as smug can get in front of a number of wealthy and/or important looking people and becomes the center of the party thanks to it.
  • There's a Cheerios commercial which has a Bratty Half-Pint going around snarking at everything that isn't the aforementioned cereal with "That's for babies". The commercial in-and-of itself is supposed to imply that you never outgrow loving Cheerios. But, the girl in that commercial reacts to everything else with such condescending disdain that she comes off as a Spoiled Brat than anything else.

Insurance

  • You should thank your stars that you went to GO COOOOMMMPAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAARE - GO COMPAAARE! It was bad enough when Gio Compario (pictured above) was just singing in people's houses; now he's doing it in the Stone Ages, in various countries, in the sky, as a woman... You just want to nail him one so bad...
    • This guy is so universally loathed in Britain that Jimmy Carr did a spoof advert of him having his gonads squeezed into putty.
  • Nationwide Insurance has "The World's Greatest Spokesperson In The World", a guy wearing a telephone on his jacket who is literally able to do anything. He is totally aware of how awesome he is (or how awesome he is supposed to be, at least) and is not afraid to brag about it.
    • Strangely, the customers he addresses are only impressed by his gimmicks (Impossible Shadow Puppets to represent bundling, disappearing into thin air to demonstrate "vanishing deductible", etc) and are never shown actually buying the insurance.
  • Flo, the quirky Progressive insurance girl, started off being quite popular, so popular in fact that she is now practically their mascot and occurs in almost all of their commercials. Some viewers are beginning to find her increasingly irritating as she appears in more and more of their commercials. What was cute as a one-time gag character is now becoming annoying.
  • Esurance's Frank The Saver, an arrogant Jerkass who brags about how great he is at saving people money and belittles his coworkers' efforts to do the same thing. Judging from some of their other commercials, that attitude is catching; even when he doesn't show up, inevitably somebody's going to try and hog the glory.
  • From State Farm, there's this creepy looking mix of Tom Cruise and a mannequin whose only purpose is to follow a group of people around in hopes that they do something sweet, charming or wholesome so that he can pull an "Oh, Hi There." and talk about how great State Farm is, all the while implying that using State Farm is the cause of all the good things that happened to this group. This guy always comes off as a annoying, arrogant, Jerkass. Thankfully, these ads have stopped airing.
  • The Metrosexual cavemen from the Geico commercials started as a moderately amusing gimmick in their first commercial, but now are an increasingly dreary and repetitive joke that seems to have forgotten its own punch line.
  • Jeff, Dave and especially Brian representing MoneySupermarket.com. Following a campaign with vague similarities to the aforementioned Go Compare adverts, the three have been able to pull off anything they want purely because they used the site and "feel epic". Brian is the worst, strutting around Vegas and tossing a coin into a slot machine which spills out winnings, entering backstage to a performance, which he then hijacks, completely ignoring his family. The hammy voiceover doesn't help at all.

Phone Companies

  • Chad, The Altell Wireless guy, is often criticized for seeming like a smug jerk while his competitors (personas of competing phone companies) seem like incompetent yet harmless nerds in comparison.
  • Carly Foulkes, also known as the "T-Mobile Girl" comes off as a Purity Sue in most of her commercials, paired up with an incompetent owner of an inferior phone service, before they're informed of the superiority of T-Mobile.
  • AT&T's ads for their 'lightning-fast 4G network' feature a variety of smugly satisfied customers who tell anyone who dares try to update them about anything that it's "so Xsty seconds ago." Because if you're not the absolute first to know, you're an under-informed moron who deserves to be crudely dismissed.

Technology

  • The Mac guy from Apple's "I'm a Mac and I'm a PC" commercials is a textbook example of this trope. Many viewers thought the Mac guy came across as an arrogant jerk, and the PC as a cute, lovable loser. Compounding the impact was the fact that the only goal of the ads were to bad-mouth PCs.
    • The "I'm a Mac" ad campaign also got skewered when several fan-made counter-attack ads were posted on YouTube and went viral. One particularly funny response was to Apple's "PC upgrade = major surgery" spot. It featured PC walking back from surgery, refreshed and ready to work while Mac--who was boasting that he never needs upgrade--gets jerked off the screen and replaced with a new Mac.
    • To be fair, Apple has since realized this and have stopped making any more of these ads.
  • The guy from the commercials for the Amazon Kindle. He's supposed to make you want a Kindle, but he just makes you want to hit him over the head with a book.
  • Steven (played by Benjamin Curtis), the "Dude, you're getting a Dell!" guy.

Other

  • Aaron Priceman a.k.a. "Mr. Caffeine", who hosted Ubisoft's press conference at E3 2011. Virtually everyone hated his schtick and considered it the low point of the entire expo.
  • Several columns by Dave Barry concern the ads he hates the most, and later the ads his readers hate the most. Some examples:
    • "The Absolut woman, who looks at you as though you are the world's largest ball of underarm hair, and says, "When I said vodka, I meant Absolut". I bet she must be real fun at parties. "Psst! Come on, we're all going to spit into that Absolut woman's drink!"
    • "Those ads in which two incredibly smug 11-year-old girls urge you not to smoke, making you want to inhale a pack of unfiltered Camels out of spite."
    • "Radio car commercials wherein the dealer SHOUTS AT YOU AS THOUGH YOU ARE AN IDIOT and then reads, in very muted tones, what sounds like the entire U.S. tax code."
      • There is also an annoying trend where the Spokes Sue lampshades that a boring lawyer will be reciting said tax code before passing it on to him.
    • Another unpopular spokesman brought up in these early-1990s columns was referred to as "the Infiniti snot". Actor Jonathan Pryce's snooty demeanor in a series of car commercials was parodied by Mike Myers in an episode of Saturday Night Live, with Myers-as-Pryce shilling a high-tech Infiniti toilet.
  • Russel Oliver. The Cash-Man.
  • Vince Offer qualifies, but his commercials are often So Bad It's Good, so they get a pass.
  • Billy Mays was starting to get this way, especially with his ads' overuse of Too Incompetent to Operate a Blanket.
  • An ad for Invisiline (transparent alternative to braces) features twin teenagers. One gets to wear Invisiline while the other is stuck with regular braces. While The Unfavorite laments her lot in life, her sister gleefully rubs it in, and is shown taking unflattering pictures, stealing her snacks and generally being an unpleasant little monster.
  • Coupon Suzy (aka Shannon Moore) -- the curious bit here is if she's an aversion (she's not really all that bad, just an irritatingly perky Stepford Smiler) or a disturbingly, freakishly literal example of the trope.

Fictional Examples

  • In-universe fictional example: The Simpsons did it with Duff Man.
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