The Powers of Advertising

Danny McBride's fictional washed-up baseball hurler becomes a profane pitchman in a Web gem of an ad campaign.

By Jere Hester
|  Tuesday, Jul 12, 2011  |  Updated 7:30 PM EDT
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Danny McBride plays washed-up pitcher Kenny Powers.

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The World Series had just ended the last time we were treated to a new episode of "Eastbound & Down," the HBO comedy about Kenny Powers, a washed-up former pitcher with an outsized ego and a filthy mouth that retained the speed his fastball lost.

With the All-Star break upon us, we're getting our Powers fix via the latest Web gem of an ad campaign featuring actor Danny McBride's fictional creation as a profane pitchman for a real product. We're not sure if the spots, for K-Swiss, are going to sell a lot of sneakers. But we're sold on Kenny Powers.

In a video that debuted this week on Funny or Die, Powers takes over the sportswear company and declares himself the "MFCEO" (no need to explain that acronym if you've ever seen "Eastbound & Down"). “I'm changing the sports world. I'm changing the business world. I'm even changing the goddamn world world," Powers declares in one of his few utterances barely fit for a family audience.

The short features cameos by "The Biggest Loser" trainer Jillian Michaels, wrestler Rey Mysterio and quarterback Matt Cassell, all recruited by Powers as his corporate staff. He tries to convince Mark Cuban to renamed the Dallas Mavericks the Dallas K-Swiss Tubes and pitches Michael Bay a movie starring him as an anatomically correct Transformer.

The ad is a clever takeoff on celebrity – particularly athlete – endorsements at a time when, as Tiger Woods learned the hard way, a clean image still matters. But even Charles Barkley, who never wanted to be a role model, would cringe at Powers.

We're getting the cartoon version of the character in the videos, which include mock ads for a Powers cologne (“Don’t smell like s---. Smell like THE s---). "Eastbound & Down," expected to return for a third and final season, is more nuanced. Sure, the laughs primarily come from Powers’ self-destructive behavior, driven by delusions of grandeur. But McBride has deftly blended some sad soul into a man desperately trying to glue together the shards of his shattered psyche. We've seen Powers go from a disastrous return to his hometown, where he wrecked his few remaining meaningful relationships, to living low in Mexico, where he began to what just might be his return to the big leagues.

While we wait for his comeback – to HBO and baseball – check out an extremely NSFW video that shows the Powers of advertising:

 


 

Hester is founding director of the award-winning, multi-media NYCity News Service at the City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism. He is the former City Editor of the New York Daily News, where he started as a reporter in 1992. Follow him on Twitter.

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