Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

The year in swag 2018: Crass commercialism and some surprisingly useful promotional material

Image: Allison Corr

Every year The A.V. Club office is sent a lot of weird shit. The majority is promotional material from television studios, from which emerges a very rough rule that the lesser-known or worse the TV show is, the more money the studio seems to spend on that show’s promotional materials. (The exception to this rule is Adult Swim shows.) Movie studios send us the occasional package, too. And that makes sense, even if getting junk in the mail doesn’t in any way influence what we think of the actual show or film. But sometimes we’re mystified by what shows up at our office, such as soap carved into the shape of men’s balls, or a “sick day kit” from Mucinex, the over-the-counter expectorant medication that has nothing to do with the pop culture that is The A.V. Club’s daily bread. We like it best when there’s something good to eat, which is what happened with the Oreo company sent a “turntable” with a bunch of Oreo cookies. Here’s a run-down of some of our favorite items we received in 2018, ranging from the actually useful to the downright bizarre.


Mucinex “sick kit”

Image: Allison Corr
Advertisement

Hey, does anyone want a T-shirt with the words “Mr. Mucus” emblazoned across the front? Because not even replacing T.J. Miller with Jason Mantzoukas as the voice of the other green goblin could get us to don a piece of apparel proudly proclaiming its wearer to be a gigantic walking booger. And frankly, we’re not sure who—outside of the Mucinex marketing team, or perhaps a frat boy with a similar nickname—would do such a thing. The robot voice modulator and random list of sick-day film suggestions (The Truman Show, The Italian Job, Troy, and Bright) that came with the shirt in a Mucinex-branded “sick day kit” are similarly puzzling, although we will use the coupon for a free box of Mucinex—or we would have, if it hadn’t expired back in March. [Katie Rife]


New Girl pint glasses

Image: Allison Corr
Advertisement

Elizabeth Meriwether’s single-camera comedy about “weird, broken roommates” is one of the great drinking sitcoms, a Cheers-inspired charmer that built a soundstage replica of a particularly telegenic L.A. watering hole and coined its very own drinking game during its first season. True American is better suited to bottles and cans than actual drink-ware, but when in the course of human events everyone in your loft is mature enough to slam beers, scream history-class factoids, and maintain a firm grip, they could do so with these personalized pint glasses. It’s a bit of a letdown that New Girl did so much to flesh out its characters, but the glasses represent Jess and Cece only by their respective glasses and hair and form-fitting wardrobe; yet you’d have to be a total douchebag to turn down this fitting memorialization of the late, great Ferguson. [Erik Adams]


Hearthstone and Magnum P.I. art

Image: Allison Corr
Advertisement

Ragnaros The Firelord is a legendary card in Hearthstone—literally, it’s of a tier of card so good they’re called “legendary”—who randomly flings damage at opponents. He’s still a sturdy pick for players, and certainly a beloved enough character within the larger World Of Warcraft lore that it makes sense for him to be enshrined on this sturdy, metallic poster. And hey: who doesn’t want a wall hanging featuring a shadowy Magnum, P.I. in the year of our lord 2018? Either would make a fine addition to the wall of an exceptionally strange adolescent boy; alternately, you could probably eat off of them. They’re really heavy. [Clayton Purdom]


The Monarch deadly battle kite

Advertisement

Dr. Rusty Venture’s archnemesis spent most of The Venture Bros.’ most recent season fighting to be Dr. Rusty Venture’s archnemesis, and that’s not even counting all the time he spent in the guise of a [comically exaggerated wretching] superhero, The Blue Morpho. But there’s no trace of that gentleman crime solver to be found here: This kite presents The Mighty Monarch in all his winged, evil glory (plus complementary with streamer trail—father issues not included). Given the Venture ensemble’s general ineffectiveness, it’s perfect that this Monarch’s ability to attack is entirely dependent on a stiff breeze. [Erik Adams]


Oreo “turntable” + Oreos

Image: Jimmy Hasse
Advertisement

Oreos are already great—unless we’re talking those stunt flavors like Buffalo ranch and wasabi—so we were going to enjoy this package that came with several sleeves of Oreos. But the actual promotional material is a weird little “turntable” that only plays music when there’s an Oreo placed where the record would go, and the “needle” is moved to hover over it. Take a bite out of the cookie, put it back, and a different song plays. There’s also the ability to record in this device. I have no idea why, or what it’s for, but it’s pretty cool. And we got a bunch of original-flavored Oreos, too. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]


A package from the Wizarding World

Image: Allison Corr
Advertisement

In a move that made the Potterheads in the office giddy, Syfy and USA sent along a Harry Potter-themed care package in honor of this summer’s inaugural Wizarding Weekend—the first time both networks showed all eight films from The Boy Who Lived’s saga. The package includes a Gryffindor scarf for the daring and chivalrous, a box of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans to trick our unsuspecting Onion, Inc. colleagues with, a Chocolate Frog that unfortunately doesn’t hop realistically in the stomach, and a must for any Potter fan: an wand from Ollivander’s. The wand is made of the (fictional) “vine wood,” a wand wood associated with “persistence and renewal.” Here’s to carrying those good traits into the New Year. [Baraka Kaseko]


One Strange Rock water bottle with gemstones (NatGeo)

Image: Allison Corr
Advertisement

There are a couple of things you will never lack for as a pop culture critic: blank journals and reusable water bottles (and thumb drives or flash drives or memory sticks or whatever it is you kids call them these days). We’re not complaining, because these are incredibly practical items with (usually) discreet branding. This one promoting NatGeo’s visually stunning One Strange Rock series is especially lovely, thanks to the decorative gemstones placed in the center, but we’re a little leery of glass bottles. Another constant in this life is knocking over containers at your desk, a matter that could be exacerbated by shards of broken glass. Maybe we should just make sure this one gets in the right, nimble hands. [Danette Chavez]


Mindhunter high heeled shoes (Netflix)

Image: Allison Corr
Advertisement

What’s more disturbing than a single high-heeled shoe lying in a ditch by the side of the highway? Getting a pair of open-toed black patent pumps in what appears to be a women’s size 15—that’s an estimate; they came without a size stamped on them—in the mail as a promotional item for Netflix’s Mindhunter. As with everything related to that series, the more you know, the creepier the shoes get: They’re a reference to Jerry Brudos, the so-called “shoe fetish slayer” who murdered and mutilated four women between 1968 and 1969. Not that we’ll be strutting around town in these murder heels; an impromptu midday Cinderella re-enactment found that the shoes didn’t fit anyone on our staff, and the heel immediately broke when we tried to walk in them anyway. [Katie Rife]


Game Of Thrones mystery stuff

Image: Allison Corr
Advertisement

This box includes a lot of items available for sale at the HBO store: a direwolf Ghost model, Baratheon drinking horn, Tyrell “Growing Strong” planter, house sigil stamp set, House Greyjoy “We Do Not Sow” pin, “The North Remembers” sticky notes, Targaryen hand warmers, Jaime Lannister’s golden hand silicone oven mitt, and a T-shirt. What’s more, we have no idea why we have these things. A well-rounded box of goods containing some of the best swag we received all year? Stuff like a real oven mitt that’s genuinely useful? It’s a mystery. [Caitlin PenzeyMoog]


Know Thy Nuts balls soap

Image: Allison Corr
Advertisement

We don’t disagree that it’s extremely important to know your body and do regular self-exams that might help catch cancers early. We might have preferred that this reminder not come in the form of a sudsy scrotum, with an accompanying how-to card containing illustrations of hairy balls. Guys, is this really what it takes to get you to the doctor? Just make an appointment and spare the rest of us soap-on-a-rope nutsacks. We’re not sure what to do with this now, because no matter what turns you on, apparently nobody wants to rub sodium palmate balls all over their body. [Laura M. Browning]


Archer Danger Island flask in the shape of binoculars

Image: Allison Corr
Advertisement

Kudos to FXX’s marketing team for knowing their product and audience—this double flask in the shape of binoculars (“wine-oculars”?) is both a nice nod to the nautical theme of Archer Danger Island and the lead character’s penchant for the drink. There are a few items missing from this promotional package: an eyepatch and a compass, from what I gather from the internet. But we do have a tiny funnel, which will certainly help fill both sides of this double flask, which frankly is the only thing we were likely to use. [Danette Chavez]

Share This Story