If you watched HBO’s sports mockumentary Tour de Pharmacy on Saturday night — or any of the numerous times it played throughout the weekend, along with on-demand, HBO GO and HBO Now — you may have been struck by the Scandinavian credit card ad that was introduced early on in the film. (Here’s our review.)
The commercial for the fictional KultaBank advertised that the institution was offering credit cards for the first time. What did that have to do with the story? As explained by Maya Rudolph’s cycling magazine editor in the faux documentary, Finland introducing credit cards in 1982 allowed many people to rack up enormous amounts of debt. Cycling official Ditmer Klerken (Kevin Bacon) was one of those who spent exorbitant amounts he could never pay back. So he wrote to all of the cyclists participating in the Tour de France, asking them to pay a $50,000 fee (which would go toward paying off his debt) for which the athletes would not be drug-tested. Thus, nearly all of the 170 competitors were doping.
However, the gag was in the bizarre ad that KultaBank produced to introduce its credit card. The commercial depicted a man who spilled milk in his kitchen, upsetting his wife. To make up for the mishap, he had to perform oral sex on her while she drank a glass of milk. The husband is weary of his task, while the wife is pleased. And the commercial ends with the slogan, “KultaBank: Why pay now when you can pay later?”
“It’s a confusing commercial, for a dozen reasons at least,” says Rudolph’s character, Lucy Flerng. “First of all, why is going down on his wife payment for this guy? And what’s he paying for, spilling the milk?”
“We saw him spill the milk, so why is she drinking the milk in the very next scene?” asks Dolph Lundgren’s Gustav Ditters.
As narrator Jon Hamm explains, the ad’s “disciplinary cunnilingus did not do its job explaining credit cards to the people of Finland,” which is why so many people ran up massive amounts of debt they could never pay off.
The ad makes no sense, which is presumably what makes it so funny. But according to Tour de Pharmacy writer Murray Miller, via Adweek, the commercial is based on the racy advertising he saw while working in Denmark.
“I was constantly shocked by the bus ads that would drive by. There would just be bare breasts and dish soap. Since I can’t read the language, I’d be like, ‘What’s going on?’” Miller told Adweek. “I always thought that the Scandinavian’s comfort with sexuality in their advertising was so funny.”
The KultaBank ad made for one of the funnier, more absurd moments in Tour de Pharmacy, though it also seemed like a gratuitous opportunity to take advantage of HBO’s relaxed standards toward nudity and sexuality. That scene wouldn’t have played on basic cable, and most certainly not on network TV. Miller says that if he and Samberg make more sports mockumentaries for HBO, advertising spoofs will continue to be a part of them.
Tour de Pharmacy is currently playing in regular rotation on HBO’s various channels, in addition to on-demand, HBO GO and HBO Now.