For the last two weeks, my sensibilities have been irritated daily by an advertisement on the side of a phone booth that I pass from my bus stop on the way to work.  Oasis, a sports drink in the Coca-Cola family, has launched an ad campaign featuring a prickly green bad boy known as the Cactus Kid and a very young girl in breezy white.  I couldn’t find a photo online of the particular print ad that is pissing me off, but it’s basically just a head-and-shoulders shot of the two of them with a picture of the sports drink, the words “Cactus Kid,” and the tagline. 

Now, there are a few things that bother me about this ad.  Let’s start with my premiere annoyance, which is the slogan:  For People Who Don’t Like Water.

I need water.  I need it to live.  It’s not really a question of liking water.  In fact, even cacti need water.  Millions of people die each year from lack of access to clean drinking water.  Solution?  Maybe they should try an Oasis!  Ha!  Oh, wait, no, it’s just idiotic.  The Seabed: For People Who Don’t Like Air.

Secondly, before I saw a television spot with this campaign, I assumed that the child in the picture was the eponymous “Cactus Kid.”  Really, it was not apparent to me, because the girl appears to be a kid, while the Cactus Man appears to be 28 and surly.  I was very surprised, therefore, to find that she is actually a teenage runaway (I suppose thirteen counts as teenage, because that’s how old she looks) on the loose with her spiny boyfriend.

I gave up watching television a few months ago, but have tuned back in for the Olympics, so I finally caught the full campaign.  A Guardian article from early July helped fill me in.   Apparently, these have been ongoing for a month, although the print spots have only just hit my corner of the UK (to my awareness).

Soft drink brand Oasis is to give members of the public the chance to vote for the final instalment (sic) of a bizarre series of cinematic TV ads that tell the tale of a “half cactus, half man hybrid” outcast who escapes town with his pregnant girlfriend.

The campaign uses the strapline “For people who don’t like water” and features a love-struck girl who runs away from home after she tells her mother she has fallen in love with a “half cactus, half man hybrid” called the “Cactus Kid”.

Throughout the first TV ad the Cactus Kid, stands silently and staunchly in a white singlet, in a commercial inspired by Terrence Malik’s Badlands…

Him (sic) and his girlfriend, who is going to have his baby, have been drawn together against the “normal” world through their loathing of water.

Ad agency Mother has also created a series of three different endings – one happy, one sad and one with a twist – that the public will be asked to vote for online to decide how the saga will conclude…

A series of three TV ads, shot in the style of a road movie set in 1950s America, will air between July 3 and the end of summer telling the ongoing tale of the couple…

“This year’s campaign builds on the irreverent humour designed specifically to appeal to the 20-something target audience,” said Cathryn Sleight, marketing director at Coca-Cola in the UK.

Ok, so not only is the child involved in a legally suspect relationship with an older man, but also pregnant with his spiky Cactus Baby.  God save her uterus.  Cathryn Sleight, what exactly is funny about this?  How is that not just odd and uncomfortable?  This would be perplexing even if I were stoned and in the mood to ponder the implications of the Cactus Baby.  Here’s the first spot, for your judgment.

“I reckon now she knows why I keep getting sunburned on the bottom of my feet.”  Why is that, little girl?  Because you are walking barefoot in the desert?  Or because you are having dirty cactus sex on your back!? 

Adding to my perturbance are the faux-hick accents, which I regard as a greater sin than the alleged glamorization of teen pregnancy, which has some other viewers up in arms.

I think that may be pushing it.  I just call this ad out for being crap in general, however cinematically executed.  So, edgy “irreverent” ad campaign, or does it miss the mark for anyone else?

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