For example, there's the GEICO gecko's clueless boss (and his dumb ringtone), or the two idiots that sit in their car at Sonic--two examples of effective commercials. Then there are those annoying Progressive commercials with the completely unfunny woman at the counter; again, they make their customers and employees look dumb, but the effect is annoying. I guess my question is, why are companies so willing to look stupid and insult their customers? I don't mind; in fact, I think self-deprecation is endearing, but it still seems counterintuitive.
ADDENDUM: Upon further reflection, the relationship is more interesting than that. Commercials are more likely to be insulting to employees and customers if they are for companies that have direct interfaces with consumers--restaurants, car insurers, etc. Advertisements that speak in vague, positive generalities about companies come from companies that don't have much direct interaction with the customer (such as commercials from ADM or GE). Again, this seems counterintuitive. Shouldn't companies that are closer to their customers be less willing to depict customers as idiots, and less willing to portray themselves as awkward and stupid? Perhaps companies with a close relationship with consumers have goodwill that allows them to be silly, while companies without such relationships cannot afford to insult anyone.
This is all anecdotal; perhaps I'm just imagining things.