“Heyyyyy. Morning!”
April 2, 2019 9:29 AM   Subscribe

Peppered egg on a bed of blackberries and vegetables? BBC News: “Imagine waking up in the morning, walking down to your stylish kitchen and finding actor Tom Hiddleston making breakfast for you.” Mashable: “Despite Western confusion, though, the ad has been wildly successful - and several writers have already made arguments for why it's a fit for its intended market.” Guardian: “You’ve seen that face before, that time you caught your dog eating raw sausages out of the fridge. What has Hiddleston done, exactly?” ABC Australia: “While Western fans found the advertisement 'creepy' and 'uncomfortable', the video with many romantic elements - tailored to the Chinese market - seemed to work like a charm on the targeted audience.” Maybe this version works better for some?
posted by Wordshore (70 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Wait! Does the second version have a pole dancer? I call the first version emotional porn. Faux care, implied intimacy with a paywall.
posted by Oyéah at 9:33 AM on April 2

Wait! Does the second version have a pole dancer?

No, but it has a topless and bewildered Phil Wang, if that's close enough?
posted by Wordshore at 9:37 AM on April 2 [19 favorites]

So many questions. Why is it in portrait (is it because the target demographic view ads like these mostly on mobile phones)? Why do you need vitamins if your meals consist of a variety of fruit and vegetables? Are Tom Hiddleston and Hugh Dennis the same person? Are those blackberries?
posted by Wordshore at 9:40 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]

So many questions.

... Why is he clothed under the apron?...

(Oh. Just me?)
posted by dnash at 9:42 AM on April 2 [19 favorites]

Hmm. I didn't find that particularly weird or creepy, but I watch intentional ASMR videos so maybe those have skewed my sense of normalcy for this sort of thing.
posted by Caduceus at 9:46 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]

Why is it in portrait (is it because the target demographic view ads like these mostly on mobile phones)?

Yes, it's for the social media platform Weibo.
posted by 1970s Antihero at 9:47 AM on April 2

Dear AskMe, my boyfriend showed up unexpectedly, made me breakfast, insisted I take a pill while he watched intently, and then guiltily slank away saying he'd be busy at the office for a few weeks.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:47 AM on April 2 [80 favorites]

Well, when you put it that way LobsterMitten, I see the issue.
posted by Caduceus at 9:48 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]

Got through the first sentence of the summary and kept reading to make sure Phil Wang got his moment.

He has a standup episode on Netflix that I have watched somewhere around a dozen times.
posted by Emmy Rae at 9:49 AM on April 2 [6 favorites]

That's an interesting reboot of "Phantom Thread."
posted by PhineasGage at 9:49 AM on April 2 [9 favorites]

The Room, but kind.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 9:56 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]

Loki can come make me breakfast any day. Although he’ll probably involve me in some scheme where Thor gets mad for a bit and when we all make up later and have a nice banquet and Loki shows up as a horse or something.
posted by sio42 at 10:05 AM on April 2 [5 favorites]

That said the commercial reads as a bit weird except that I’ve been watching a lot of K and J dramas lately and it seems to fit that dynamic. I think Viki has Chinese stuff too so I’ll have to check out some for comparison.
posted by sio42 at 10:08 AM on April 2

Yeah, I thought I would like this, but then it turned out I really want it to be *Loki* specifically making me breakfast. Tom Hiddleston as Tom Hiddleston, desperately trying to make conversation with a stubbornly silent partner, is just odd.
posted by stillnocturnal at 10:12 AM on April 2 [3 favorites]

This the expensive studio version of that guy doing clothed boyf porn we talked about a few weeks ago.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 10:27 AM on April 2 [7 favorites]

I wanna know how Loki gets the white of the egg like that without turning the yolk into chalk.
posted by notyou at 10:40 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]

Imagines are a thing on Tumblr - it's surreal to see one filmed.

This also reminds me a bunch of The Toast's If X Were Your Y series. To wit: If Tom Hiddleston Were Your Boyfriend.
posted by blithers at 10:40 AM on April 2 [5 favorites]

Having seen him in person at a BAFTA talk, I gather that the Tom I saw there would've been too much for this sort of ad. He was incredibly gregarious and spoke for long stretches about the classical Greek plays he did at school, Shakespeare in general, and Coriolanus in particular. He had a surfeit of energy that is absolutely not the Tom in this ad.

I don't understand why anyone finds this especially "creepy", but then again, I work in an adjacent (non-profit) media production niche, and we constantly make adjustments to the stories we tell to suit the different markets that they go to.
posted by droplet at 10:42 AM on April 2

It's creepy because this is not how humans act. Is it? I know a lot of humans but not all of them.
posted by The corpse in the library at 10:46 AM on April 2 [11 favorites]

It’s creepy because you could overlay the story that we are a kidnapping victim and not need to change one beat of this. Even the sheepish grin of “I know I’m a bit bad, but we can work with this, just don’t make waves” fits. Makes me think of Battlestar Galactica with Kara eating steak in that house with Leoben.
posted by Iteki at 10:54 AM on April 2 [8 favorites]

Given the monetization going on everywhere these days, this appears to me to be a dream that features advertising. Whose dream is a totally other question.

Tonight’s REM sleep is brought to you by...
posted by njohnson23 at 11:00 AM on April 2

It mostly doesn't say kidnapping victim to me so much as it takes me on a rapid disorienting journey, from Tom Hiddleston is my boyfriend, to Tom Hiddleston is cheating on me or possibly poisoning me.
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:01 AM on April 2 [13 favorites]

This works much better if you imagine that he's just a random guy, who the POV person has literally never met, and also the POV person doesn't speak Chinese.
posted by dephlogisticated at 11:04 AM on April 2 [1 favorite]

for me it's his eyes - it didn't sell it to me because he didn't believe it. ryan creamer did it better on pornhub.

anyway, imagine if that old website japander.com is still updated, probably need to expand to a china-only subsection, for all your 'semi-embarassed western celebrities flogging something off-brand to their name*' catalogue

*incredibly chris evans would be disqualified for being quite on-brand.
posted by cendawanita at 11:05 AM on April 2 [2 favorites]

It’s creepy because you could overlay the story that we are a kidnapping victim and not need to change one beat of this.

It puts the vitamin down its throat or else it gets the cereal again.
posted by exogenous at 11:08 AM on April 2 [12 favorites]

I'm not getting the "creepy" vibe, exactly. In fact, it was a perfectly normal "hollywood hunk is your secret boyfriend" ad, right up until her hands reached up to his jacket, instead of a more accurate "across to" manner. And, because I'm old and male, my mind immediately went to...um...places unpleasant and/or domineering? But, then, he's still looking straight into the camera, sooooo...maid service? Cuckcake?

But...nah...not creepy. Kinda. Sorta.
posted by Thorzdad at 11:21 AM on April 2

I found this ad slightly odd, but I think partly because I don't find Tom Hiddleston particularly attractive, and mainly because I'm not the intended audience. As several of the linked articles have said, this was aimed at women in China who really like Tom Hiddleston and would enjoy a first person scenario where he's making them breakfast (and as an aside, I also don't get why people are freaking out about the plate of fruit and veg with an egg on top. Maybe I'm vitamin C deficient, but I thought it looked tasty).

I liked how Elaine Lui called out the inherent ethnocentrism in some of the critiques:
Western audiences find this corny and creepy, the way it’s shot in vertical format, deliberately made to feel intimate and “romantic”. Fine, but this wasn’t made for a western audience. It was specifically made for a Chinese audience, tailored to Chinese tastes. Tom evidently has a big fanbase in China. And this ad played very well over there, receiving a lot of support on social media with #Centrum trending on Weibo and many users posting their receipts, having bought the vitamins after seeing the commercial. Which means, well, it WORKED. It’s good work.
This is why they’re not cringing over in China. And this is why Tom’s ad is one of the few western company ads that has done well in the market. Too many other companies have tried to sell products in China and other parts of the world by marketing to what’s “cool” by western standards and they haven’t landed. Because that approach reflects a lack of understanding – and, therefore, research – about what appeals to non-western audiences which, by the way, reinforces cultural hierarchy, like what’s “cool” in western culture should be the standard by which “cool” is defined everywhere else.
[emphasis mine]
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 11:25 AM on April 2 [16 favorites]

If I woke up and TH was making me breakfast, I would say “thank you,” although I would probably ask if he’d fed the cats already, because manners.
posted by GenjiandProust at 11:33 AM on April 2 [6 favorites]

Yeah, maybe I'm missing some cues here, but nothing about this seems any weirder or off to me than your average mildly clever, mildly innuendo-employing American commercial. My thoughts here are first "that breakfast looks delicious," then "sure Tom Hiddleston can make breakfast for me," followed by "i hope you didn't leave a mess, Tom."
posted by octobersurprise at 11:54 AM on April 2 [2 favorites]

Hulu used to endlessly play me an ad for Moo business cards, which featured business cards falling in slow motion. This amazing footage was accompanied by a sultry song with the following lyrics: "Let me be your fantasy. I'll take you to ecstasy."

Anyway I find it hard to be creeped out by other commercials as a result. Moo set a high bar.
posted by Emmy Rae at 12:08 PM on April 2 [4 favorites]

It‘s corny, but no more so than lots of other ads with fake relationships. I see nothing cringeworthy.
It is kinda sweet, TH making breakfast for me. Maybe the white pill is what I need to take to keep the illusion alive?
posted by Omnomnom at 12:21 PM on April 2

OK. I watched it, thought it was a little odd, figured it wasn't made for me, culturally, but whatever and was about to "meh" out of the thread without clicking any of the other links.

Big mistake. Huge.

Do not miss the last link. Do. Not.

Thank you, MeFi. Thank you, hilarious Phil Wang, whom I'd never heard of before.

You made my day.
posted by The Bellman at 12:22 PM on April 2 [26 favorites]

You know what, I can‘t remember the last time a man in an ad did something nurturing and sweet for his female romantic partner.
This „serving you healthy food and making sure you take your meds“ is such a woman‘s labour. It was refreshing to see this and while I don‘t swoon for Tom Hiddleston I can get behind seeing more ads with men making me breakfast.
posted by Omnomnom at 12:28 PM on April 2 [22 favorites]

Seconding Omnomnom and waiting for the ad in which Hunk O'Day is found washing up after making breakfast. Shirtsleeves rolled up, dancing a little... Reader, I married him.
posted by clew at 1:13 PM on April 2 [7 favorites]

Phil Wang has form here: he nominated to put Tom Hiddleston in Room 101 last year (and included in that episode is this amazing video of Hiddles singing Man in the Mirror in Korea). Personally, I enjoy Hiddleston as an actor but started to lose patience with him as a ‘personality’ when, after a few too many simpering/strutting chat show appearances his personal charm started to seem like an algorithmic sequence of downcast eyelids, furrowed brows, plaintive tones and exhalations. Which is why I find this ad hilariously creepy—it’s Hiddleston performing all his insincere charm tics right atcha, like a laser beam.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 1:16 PM on April 2 [14 favorites]

Honestly, I would not notice if Loki broke into my house and made me breakfast--I'm really not a morning person.

It didn't seem creepy to me, probably because back in the day I played one of those games where the Shinsengumi fight over who gets to be your boyfriend, so I assume this ad is going for a similar feel. Of course, some people are going to find blatantly centering a female pov creepy no matter what Loki is putting on the plate.
posted by betweenthebars at 2:08 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]

I had to play back the moment he pushes the pill in order to catch the quick code switch. My mandarin's poor, but I think it was: And also, your Centrum. Which actually sounds like pretty good ad copy for a supplement.

Or maybe that was the limit of what they thought TH could pull off in Chinese.
posted by anotherbrick at 2:15 PM on April 2

What makes it so awful is how Hiddleston doesn't seem to want to be in it. The little pause before "I finished early" where he seems to be steeling himself for the scene to come. Maybe he mentally reminds himself of whatever nice thing it is he'll buy with the money.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:20 PM on April 2 [6 favorites]

I mean, sure, it's a little odd by Western standards but not so much so that it needs at least four thinkpieces written about it.

I half expected the "viewer" to be revealed as a child, based on the positioning of her arms reaching up to fix his collar, which would have been creepy, but that wasn't the case so I'm really not sure why people are making so much of this (in the Western media, I mean; most people in this thread so far seem to feel similarly to me).

The Phil Wang remix is funny, though.
posted by asnider at 2:51 PM on April 2

The thing that does it for me -- and not in a good way -- is the elevator eyes followed by a soulless "You look great." Never has a compliment felt more depressing.
posted by basalganglia at 3:06 PM on April 2 [4 favorites]

I half expected him to say "It's Suntory time...."
posted by OHenryPacey at 3:26 PM on April 2 [7 favorites]

I am definitely not the target for this, but found it interesting in a cross-cultural kind of way. (But I have to ask, is that a normal breakfast anywhere? It is very colorful and the egg is cute, though.)
posted by Dip Flash at 3:59 PM on April 2

That egg was heart shaped! I thought this is definitely not for the wives but for girlfriends. When you still have hope and put up with dude disappearing on you for weeks but says he will make it up to you. Y
posted by jadepearl at 4:43 PM on April 2

Imagines are a thing on Tumblr - it's surreal to see one filmed.

boy, that second footnote read me for filth

anyway, the shock and horror that I would feel about Tom Hiddleston making me breakfast -- aside from it being an obvious sign that I was dreaming from inside a coma -- would be that he saw my kitchen without my cleaning it up first. This is stressful enough when it's just friends.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:44 PM on April 2

Salad is a normal breakfast in at least parts of Japan and China, Dip Flash. Often you have it with rice porridge and maybe an egg in the porridge. The ad version is a nice layout of a salad. Seems plausible to me.
posted by clew at 4:45 PM on April 2

I couldn't figure out `I finished early so I made you breakfast.' What could he have finished before breakfast that one would do in a suit?
posted by clew at 4:47 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]

On reflection, why would anyone be confused by "Tom Hiddleston is your non-threatening boyfriend" as an ad campaign?
posted by OverlappingElvis at 4:57 PM on April 2 [3 favorites]

and why can't I stop watching this video, I have so many questions about this scenario
posted by OverlappingElvis at 4:58 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]

> I couldn't figure out `I finished early so I made you breakfast.' What could he have finished before breakfast that one would do in a suit?

But then he has to run right out again. Why? Where is he going? Why hasn't AO3 figured this out yet?
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:09 PM on April 2 [5 favorites]

To preface, I'm Korean.

I watched the ad and am failing to see what's so weird or creepy about it. And to me Hiddleston just seemed abashed and apologetic that he wouldn't have as much time to spend with his girlfriend in the next couple of weeks.

My reaction was, "Oh, that's cute. Yeah, I wish Tom Hiddleston would make me a nice, nutritious breakfast. And remind me to take my vitamins." I wouldn't have thought any more about it except for the beanplating going on both here and in the Western media.
posted by needled at 5:55 PM on April 2 [6 favorites]

Here's a Korean cosmetics ad from 2017, themed "If Lee Min Ho were my boyfriend". Lee Min Ho is a Korean actor who is very popular across Asia. The Tom Hiddleston ad feels very similar.

마이쿠션 MV, 내가 만약 이민호랑 사귄다면? - 이니스프리
posted by needled at 6:12 PM on April 2 [5 favorites]

I couldn't figure out `I finished early so I made you breakfast.' What could he have finished before breakfast that one would do in a suit?
Night Manager.
posted by unliteral at 6:48 PM on April 2 [8 favorites]

Why is Loki wearing his cape backwards?
posted by peeedro at 7:06 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]

I didn't find this especially creepy - the only thing that stood out as particularly weird for me was blackberries in a salad under a poached egg.

Once I'd got over my kitchen having expanded enormously and cleaned itself overnight, having Hiddleston in it making breakfast is not so much of a stretch.
posted by Fuchsoid at 9:33 PM on April 2 [3 favorites]

OK fine but why are there also ONIONS with the BLACKBERRIES that is not ok
posted by prismatic7 at 10:29 PM on April 2

Of course he means „I finished early with my morning chores, cleaning the bathroom and hoovering the living room. I got dressed for work and then I thought - „what can I do for my lovely wife?“

Also, he‘s going to be gone a couple of weeks because he‘s filming a new movie in Sweden with Loki as the main part, duh. He‘s not home often enough to get annoying, but when he is here, he‘s perfect.
posted by Omnomnom at 11:16 PM on April 2 [5 favorites]

Cracked says he seems like a serial killer. I kind of agree. For me, the problem is that Tom Hiddleston, who is clearly a good actor, isn’t acting very well. He comes across as super awkward, and not in a good way. The worst part is the creepy forced smile/half wave he gives on his way out the door.
posted by Weeping_angel at 1:19 AM on April 3 [3 favorites]

I have made that exact (except for the shape of the egg) breakfast for myself many times and I would love for a charming person to show up and make it for me.

If raw vegetables, berries, and a fried egg is an unfamiliar combination to you, congratulations! You are all set to taste something great for the first time!
posted by AxelT at 1:50 AM on April 3 [3 favorites]

It's the "pepper on top, right?" that gets me. It feels like if you have to quickly agree that he positioned the pepper correctly, or else.
posted by lucidium at 3:09 AM on April 3 [1 favorite]

I find this creepy for the same reason I find self-insert and/or real person fanfic creepy. (I can barely stand to watch trailers for movies about the recent life history of currently living people, but I guess that's a me thing.) But I don't find it inexplicable -- that kind of fanfic exists for a reason, and it's not surprising that someone has figured out that you can tap into that demand to sell vitamins.
posted by confluency at 3:17 AM on April 3 [1 favorite]

There's nothing particularly weird about this beyond the POV style. (While that is an abundance of vegetables, it's a vitamin ad, that's what they want you to be envisioning when buying/taking the vitamin. )

What he says and does is just filler, it's meaningless, so you can keep looking at Tom Hiddleston, that's obvious not sure why everyone finds it so mysterious.
posted by thefool at 4:51 AM on April 3

Wait but like-no kiss?
posted by Kemma80 at 5:17 AM on April 3 [1 favorite]

No, pepper inside the yolk! Jesus, Tom, get with the program.
posted by snofoam at 5:26 AM on April 3

There's nothing particularly weird about this beyond the POV style

Portrait style. It is only a matter of time until the first feature film comes out this way, and then all is lost.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:55 AM on April 3

Wait but like-no kiss?

If there was a kiss, poor Mr. Hiddleston would get a lens in the eye! Assuming the POV person had a step stool to reach....
posted by GenjiandProust at 6:31 AM on April 3

Maybe some people pepper their plates, then slide the egg onto that, ensuring your tongue gets full blast each bite.
posted by lucidium at 6:36 AM on April 3

Re: berries + eggs, Asian cuisine often treats fruits and vegetables differently from how it's done in the west, for example, being served cherry tomatoes as part of a chocolate fondue set. But in this case I have no idea if this dish would be seen as normal or if it's trying to represent the variety of vitamins you'd get in a Centrum.
posted by Rora at 6:41 AM on April 3

To be clear, it wasn't the portrait mode, food, or Tom Hiddleston as a romantic making me breakfast scenario that I found weird about the add. Those things all sound fine-to-great to me. What I found weird and un-settling was that Hiddleston came across, to me, as just.... very un-natural. Like an alien trying to be human. It's like an uncanny valley effect, but for acting. It's probably because he has to monologue, but there is no chemistry there!

Maybe it plays better in China because it's in English, and it's less obvious in a non-native language when someone is actually a bunch of spiders in a human suit.

Having seen him in person at a BAFTA talk, I gather that the Tom I saw there would've been too much for this sort of ad. He was incredibly gregarious and spoke for long stretches about the classical Greek plays he did at school, Shakespeare in general, and Coriolanus in particular. He had a surfeit of energy that is absolutely not the Tom in this ad.

I was sort of expecting more of this, and would have enjoyed that.
posted by stillnocturnal at 6:47 AM on April 3

I don't find the slightly stifled emotional affect of The Perfect Boyfriend here directly creepy, because I am just old enough to remember it personally as an accomodation to sex-anxious culture. If you have to be Swept Away by Passion instead of planning it, for longer than the first occasion even!, then both parties have to sort of pretend it didn't happen the next morning even while gazing at each other torturedly. (This is way better in costume dramas than in real life, IMO. I think Guess Culture has some irreplaceable virtues, but the terrible stuff that Swept Away is tied to is directly creepy.)
posted by clew at 4:35 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]

I wonder if some of this is the enunciation. Remember that this is not a commercial for English speakers or even particularly fluent Chinese speakers with English as a Second Language. This is likely a commercial for Chinese speakers who’ve studied at least some English at some point. So the weird cadences might just be trying to make Hiddleston maximally intelligible to an audience with variable English listening skills.
posted by GenjiandProust at 10:16 AM on April 4

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