About Me

Kyle Smith (Twitter: @rkylesmith) is critic-at-large for National Review, theater critic for The New Criterion and the author of the novels Love Monkey and A Christmas Caroline. Type a title in the box above to locate a review.

Buy Love Monkey for $4! "Hilarious"--Maslin, NY Times. "Exceedingly readable and wickedly funny romantic comedy"--S.F. Chronicle. "Loud and brash, a helluva lot of fun"--Entertainment Weekly. "Engaging romp, laugh-out-loud funny"-CNN. "Shrewd, self-deprecating, oh-so-witty. Smith's ruthless humor knows no bounds"--NPR

Buy A Christmas Caroline for $10! "for those who prefer their sentimentality seasoned with a dash of cynical wit. A quick, enjoyable read...straight out of Devil Wears Prada"--The Wall Street Journal

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  • Budweiser: The Hipster Beer

    By kyle | December 1, 2014

    Why Bud’s new attempt to reposition its flagship beer is doomed. More in my Sunday column. (Fixed).

    Topics: Advertising | 3 Comments »

    Bailout Harry

    By kyle | February 6, 2012

    It’s hard to think of Clint Eastwood as dishonest, isn’t it? But it’s either that or he’s just too dumb to realize his Super Bowl ad was an Obama campaign commercial. He denies here that the ad that David Axelrod and Michael Moore love and Karl Rove dislikes was pro-Obama..

    Consider the many left-leaning movies he’s made over the last 20 years, all of which came while Eastwood claimed to be a libertarian or at least a conservative. Maybe Clint just ordered up scripts from people he thought were good writers and didn’t notice the blatant liberal bias. Maybe he thought asking for a script from the guy who wrote “Milk” would provide a historically accurate and fair portrait of J.Edgar Hoover and would not sensationalize scurrilous transvestism rumors in any way, except by quite reasonably showing Hoover weeping at his mama’s death and putting on her dress. Previously I’ve thought he made all these movies because he loves winning Oscars and was willing to put that ahead of principle.

    UPDATE: Read the rest of this entry »

    Topics: Advertising, Barack Obama, Movies, Sports | 5 Comments »

    How Did We Get to Be Vodka Nation?

    By kyle | August 30, 2011

    Vodka was all but unknown in this country prior to World War II and as late as the 50s it wasn’t a terribly popular drink. It doesn’t offer much in the way of taste. So how did it achieve its dominant position starting in the 1960s? Victorino Matus has a superb piece in The Weekly Standard that answered all of my questions. The most hilarious part is when a guy jealous of Absolut’s success decides, hey, I can call up a distillery in France to make my rotgut, slap a “made in France” label on it, charge twice as much as Absolut and pocket the difference.
    It’s really a great advertising story — taking a product that is more or less tasteless (vodka’s official definition is basically that of diluted grain alcohol) — or, even if it isn’t tasteless, has its taste rendered irrelevant by the fact that people almost always mix it with strongly-flavored juices –and branding it as an “aspirational” or luxury product with huge markups. In taste tests, stuff like Smirnoff easily beats the Ketel Ones of the world. It’s also a highly gendered story — vodka, like lite beer, was originally heavily pushed toward women, who saw it as more ladylike than the traditional American brown liquors (and today see it as a calorie-conscious choice). But in the last 20 years, men have become ladies and now shamelessly order concoctions like “Stoli Razz and Sprite.”

    Topics: Advertising | 3 Comments »

    Adventures in Product Placement

    By kyle | April 10, 2011

    Remember when the first season of “Rescue Me” was sponsored by Miller Beer? Until the company figured out that the show was about a self-destructive alcoholic? There used to be Miller Beers in the fridge every time Tommy Gavin wanted to get lit up. The remake of “Arthur” has some really strange product placement for Maker’s Mark, which shows up far too prominently and often for this not to be paid placement. Question for Maker’s: Did they not realize “Arthur” is a sad alcoholic who, since his father died in his 40s, figures he might as well live it up, i.e., drink himself to death? Or does Maker’s figure that alcoholics are a key demo they ought to be serving? Must be the latter….after all, a bottle of Maker’s lasts a normal person a really long time. However alcoholics may chug several bottles a week — if 5 percent of your customers are alkies, they may well provide most of your sales. Of course, “Arthur” is a PG-13 movie, meaning essentially that all kids can see it.

    Topics: Advertising | No Comments »

    WHAT? MY SUN CHIPS ARE MAKING ME DEAF or, Mackenzie’s Shame

    By kyle | August 18, 2010

    A classic Wall Street Journal story (a funny one, or a-hed) investigates the (KRRRUNCH!) saga of the newfangled (RRRRIP!), enviro-friendly, rapidly biodegradable but unfortunately “louder than my cockpit” new packaging for Sun Chips. Amusing as the story is (it includes the story of an embarrassed fourth grader in Alaska whose snacking caused her teacher to admonish her, “Please try to open your bag more quietly, Mackenzie”), it’s also an important one. Why? Because Sun Chip sales are falling. Says one 44-year-old woman, “you want to snack quietly and you don’t want everyone in the house to know you are eating chips.” If sales keep falling (despite a lame attempt to make the bug a feature with shelf signs reading, “This is what change sounds like”), the biodegradable bag is going to be sent to the great landfill of disastrous marketing ideas.
    So this story underlines what ought to be obvious: Americans don’t want cap-and-trade. They don’t want Pigouvian taxes. They don’t want to pay for windmills and solar if they cost more than coal and gas. They don’t even want a chip bag that crinkles. They may tell the pollsters they’re devout members of the Church of Green, but when the collection plate comes around they find they have nothing in their pockets but lint. Policymakers would do well to heed the lesson: Talk green all you want. Don’t expect anyone to pay for it.

    Topics: Advertising | 2 Comments »

    Nike: Pro-Butt

    By kyle | August 3, 2010

    A Nike ad that praises the bounteous booty is great. Isn’t it? Nah, lefties are miffed that the ad doesn’t feature a black woman. Of course, the same post also hints that asociating black women with big butts is a stereotype. We all know how bad those are. This is exactly why you shouldn’t play along with the PC police. Once you get on the merry-go-round of ding-a-ling, there’s no way off until you’re good and dizzy. (Note to feminists: Nike doesn’t care about body acceptance and self-esteem. They care about selling stuff. “Feeling good about yourself” and “self-improvement” are how they sell stuff to women, hero worship is how they sell stuff to men.)

    On the Portuguese airline TAP last week, I noticed, the safety videos feature not humans but animated genderless green pipe-cleaner-like figures. Don’t use images of human beings at all: That’s probably your safest bet.

    Topics: Advertising | 3 Comments »

    Iron Man 2 Poster Rocks Toto’s World

    By kyle | April 8, 2010

    Christian Toto is wowed by the “Iron Man 2” poster. I dunno. Too much going on. Also I’m kind of tired of the sort of pyramid-formation of characters method. I prefer one clean, startling image. The one-sheet for HBO’s “Treme” is kind of amazing.

    Topics: Advertising, Movies | 1 Comment »

    Fat Models Don’t Help with the Self-Esteem Thing

    By kyle | March 22, 2010

    Apparently plus-sized, “real” or fat models don’t actually make overweight women feel better about themselves. Via Instapundit we learn that looking at fat people doesn’t make you feel celebrated, empowered and appreciated. It just kinda makes you feel…fat.

    Topics: Advertising, Fashion | 4 Comments »

    ABC Abandons Plan to Advertise Alien Invasion in the Sky

    By kyle | October 29, 2009

    Globalwarmism has really gone too far when it’s stopping wacky, cool publicity campaigns like this one: ABC, to promote its update of “V: The Miniseries” (“The A-Team” of 80s TV sci-fi?), was planning to use skywriting to place giant red V’s in the air over various national monuments. I was eager to see how many people would be freaked out. Though of course I would like to go on record as stating that I, for one, welcome our alien overlords. I wonder whether “V” or AMC’s “The Prisoner” will be a huge disappointment. Something tells me the former will be lame but not the latter.

    Topics: Advertising, Movies, TV | 10 Comments »

    Woody for Sale

    By kyle | April 10, 2009

    An amusing post from my senior colleague Lou Lumenick reveals that Woody Allen is wiling to appear in US advertisements — if you pay him $10 million. Any takers?

    Topics: Advertising, Movies | 1 Comment »

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