Tag Archives: advertising

Memories of Things I Didn’t Know Existed

My husband has a terrific memory. Not for where he left his car keys or wallet, of course. But for obscure TV shows, theme songs, and jingles, he’s the best.

Today, for example, he wanted me to look up online “Lincoln Vail of the Everglades.” I did, while he started singing the theme song. It turns out that it was an actual TV show that lasted for one entire season, recounting the adventures of a law enforcement officer who sped around the Everglades on an airboat. Dan also referenced “Sky King,” a similar show about using an airplane to fight crime.

Dan can sing the theme songs to “The Littlest Hobo,” a show about a wandering dog, “Car 54, Where Are You?” and “Davy Crockett” (which actually has more lyrics than just “King of the Wild Frontier”). For cartoon shows, he’s a good reference, too, blithely singing the theme songs to “Chip and Dale” and “Tobor, the Eighth Man,” which was a cartoon about a robot (get it? robot spelled backward).  He can sing “George of the Jungle,” of course (can’t everyone?). But he can also sing the entire theme to “Super Chicken” and part of “Magilla Gorilla.” And he can hum the tunes to the “Crusader Rabbit” and “Clutch Cargo” themes, which have no words.  He also still remembers the cartoons “Tennessee Tuxedo” (and his sidekick Chumley), “Mr. Magoo,” “Top Cat,” and “Beany and Cecil,” one of my personal faves.

But it’s in television commercials where he really shines. He even remembers the Ajax Pixies, who sang the first-ever commercial jingle on television, back in the 50s. He knows all the lyrics to the Good ‘N’ Plenty candy jingle (“Choo Choo Charlie was an engineer…”). He can sing the Texaco tagline (You can trust your car to the man who wears the star!/The big, bright Texaco star!) And he really captured my heart when he sang me the jingle for Kisling Sauerkraut, which he knew from growing up near Philadelphia. (It had a wonderful line in it about the product being sold in transparent plastic bags. That always gets me.  But I digress.)

References to old shows, cartoons, and jingles have made their way into our everyday lives as well. Sometimes when we leave the house, Dan will say, “Here we go, rocketing into fun-filled adventure with Adam Ant and Secret Squirrel!” (Half the time he says “a damn ant,” but never mind that now.)

Admittedly, these are not terribly useful skills, but they use as many brain cells as I do remembering Emily Dickinson’s, William Carlos Williams’s, and e.e. cummings’s poetry, I suppose. And, come to think of it, his knowledge is more likely to come up in bar trivia games than mine is.

Now, if only he could remember how to figure out what the date of Thanksgiving is, or the code to our storage locker, or the lyrics to “Bad Moon Rising” (he still thinks it goes “There’s a bathroom on the right”), then he’d be truly formidable. Until then, I’ll just have to be the repository of useful knowledge such as whether you have to travel north or south on the highway to get to the airport and what his cell phone number is and how to spell and pronounce “foliage.”

It’s a small price to pay for all those quality Saturday morning reminiscences.

 

 

And I Thought Placenta Cream Was Weird!

Of course, I was right. Placenta cream is weird. But not that long ago, it was touted as the latest beauty secret and sold to millions of women (skin care for men was not a thing back then). Made from the placentas of sheep, horses, or oceanic creatures, the products were available as skin creams, hair gels or conditioners, and facial masks.

Why placentas? Wisegeek reports: “Sheep placenta has been used for many years to promote general health. It is also typically used by consumers to produce clear and healthy skin, free of wrinkles and blemishes.” They add: “Every placenta produced by pregnant mammals contains vitamins and nutrients, but sheep placentas tend to be more accessible and more nutrient-rich.” Personally, I don’t want to think about that “accessible” part, although I suppose they are, compared to horse placentas.

Women have also been advised to eat their placentas, much as cats and other animals do. Well, not exactly as animals do. Humans tend to dry their placentas, grind them up (preferably not in the coffee grinder that they use for, say, coffee), and put them in capsules before they ingest them. Top Chef host and judge Padma Lakshmi did this, but I’m not sure that’s much of a recommendation.

In recent years, charcoal has been touted as the miracle beauty product. I’m pretty sure putting charcoal on your face for any reason other than skin care is nowadays considered offensive and likely to get you kicked out of any political office you might hold. But it seems that if you rinse it off before anyone sees you, it’s okay.

Beautifying charcoal comes in many forms: masks, toothpaste and toothbrushes, acne treatments, and various anti-aging products. It appears on every shelf of the health-and-beauty sections of your local drugstore. Some health effects are real: Charcoal has long been used in hospitals to treat cases of poisoning and by overindulgers to treat hangovers. But how charcoal is supposed to whiten your teeth remains one of the unsolved mysteries of the universe, at least to me. It’s counterintuitive at the very least.

The most horrifying recent beauty trend, though, is snail gel, which is better known as snail slime or mucus, except not on product labels. Let’s think about that for a moment. There’s a trail of slime that snails leave everywhere they go about their little snail business and now women are supposed to rub it on their faces.

(A lot of people think that eating snails is gross, so they call them escargot. I can report from experience that escargot have the texture of a chicken gizzard and are usually served cooked in garlic butter. Think of them as gizzard scampi and you’ve got the right idea. I ate them once at a business dinner and did not disgrace myself. But I digress.)

Apparently, the snail slime beauty trend started when snail breeders (that’s a real job) noticed how wonderfully soft the skin on their hands became. The appeal of snail mucus seems to be that it holds moisture in the skin, presumably by providing a slimy layer to trap it. Talk all you want about the glycoproteins, hyaluronic acid, and glycolic acid in snail mucus, but the main idea is that it makes your skin look dewy by hydrating you, something that can also be accomplished by drinking several glasses of water a day. But evidently holding the moisture right next to your skin with gastropod mucus is somehow preferable.

As beauty trends go, the one I get is exfoliation. Dead skin cells on the face and body are not a good look. My skin regimen (which I’m told every woman should have) consists of rubbing my face with a rough towel, washing my face, then drying it with another rough towel. I like to think my skin glows afterward.

Facebook, What Have You Done Now?

We all remember going to an amusement park or a store and seeing a rack of hats or keyrings emblazoned with people’s names. What a thrill it was for kids to find their own names, and how disappointing when your name didn’t appear or was spelled another way! (Now, of course, parents are wary of putting children’s names on their clothing because of potential kidnappers. But I digress.)

Custom printing can be a wonderful thing. It meant that I was able to order two t-shirts for my husband and me featuring the cover of my new book. (Shameless plug: Bipolar Me, available on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, and in bookstores.) Friends of mine have ordered multiple copies of shirts with screen prints of albums or book covers or business logos to give or sell as promotional “merch.”

But custom printing is also getting a little bit creepy. I’ve seen ads on my Facebook timeline recently for t-shirts that say: I May Live in Ohio But My Story Began in Kentucky. Now, this is true: I was born in Lexington, KY, and I now live in Ohio. But I can’t believe that some company has t-shirts that feature every combination of states in America and sells them to anyone who finds them appropriate. It would take 99 sets of shirts to account for former or current Ohioans alone. If my math is right (which I don’t guarantee), that would mean nearly 5000 shirts for every combination of possibilities. And I can’t believe that a t-shirt company routinely stocks thousands of differently worded shirts against the hope that someone will buy one.

No, these are targeted t-shirts. I’m guessing that Facebook has sold my birthplace and current address info to some company who has a template they fill in with Ohio and Kentucky, if I should be so inclined to buy one. Until or unless I do, that shirt may never actually exist.

But with all the brou-ha-ha about Facebook selling people’s information, I guess I shouldn’t be that surprised. After all, I was silly enough to tell people where I was actually born and now live, just in case, ya know, someone wanted to make sure that I was the right Janet Coburn they wanted to contact, rather than the one born in Hawaii who now lives in Minnesota.

I don’t really mind when Facebook sends me ads for shirts featuring my favorite singers with a list of all their songs. I can believe that John Prine and Emmylou Harris have enough fans that might want t-shirts but can’t get to concerts. Someone could actually have pre-printed those shirts. But again, the fact that I liked them on Facebook sure seems as though the fact’s been plucked from my favorites listing and sold. I never get ads for shirts featuring Metallica’s greatest hits or songs by Justin Bieber.

So what else does Facebook apparently know about me? That I’m a science and science fiction geek and a literature lover and a word nerd and crazy cat lady. That info could easily be generated by the pass-alongs I pass along. So, of course, I get ads for Star Trek items and book-themed gifts and shirts about the Grammar Police and anything connected with cats.  I’m sure it’s no coincidence that I just saw an ad for cat book shoes. And I guess I’m fine with that too, although I wonder how much such companies pay Facebook for the use of their algorithms.

But the home state/current state shirts have me a little spooked. Am I going to start seeing ads with my high school’s name? My favorite quotations? My political associations (if I had been bold enough to list them)?

Frankly, I’d prefer to remain a little anonymous and just wear nightshirts that say I ❤ My Bed.

 

The Tender-Hearted Carnivore

gray steel cooking pan near orange lobster
Photo by Toa Heftiba Şinca on Pexels.com

My husband is a carnivore, or actually an omnivore, like the bear that he resembles. But if he tried to live like a bear, he would never survive. He’s just too sensitive about what he eats.

He’s not a member of PETA, but he has certain qualities in common with them. He won’t eat veal or goose liver because he objects to the conditions in which the animals are raised – closely confined and force-fed. It’s no life for an animal, he says. Neither is being slaughtered, sauteed, and served for supper, for that matter, but let’s leave that aside for the moment. I can sympathize with his position.

When he’s forced to participate in said slaughter, he’s even more uncomfortable. My mother was raised in the country and delighted in fishing. She also delighted in frying and eating her catch. Dan can tolerate fishing if it’s catch-and-release (though just barely). And he would refrain from commenting when my mother served up her self-caught delights. But on the way home, he would look positively morose.

He had an even more extreme reaction when we were on a sailing vacation off the coast of Maine. We anchored at a tiny, uninhabited island and the ship’s cook started a fire.  A huge pot of seawater and seaweed sat ominously nearby. So did a container of live lobsters.

Now, Dan doesn’t even like to watch live lobsters being prepared on television. He began referring to Emeril Lagasse as “the Evil Cook” when he saw the TV chef throw live crayfish into a hot skillet and laugh about it.  If I’m watching a cooking show, I have to tell him to cover his eyes whenever a live crustacean is going to be sacrificed.

Anyway, when the cook in Maine got ready to drop the lobsters in the pot, Dan took a melancholy walk around the island. Mind you, when he returned and found the lobsters bright red and safely dead, he devoured three of them, banging their bodies against rocks to get them open, proper lobster-cracking tools not having been provided. Lobster juice ran down his face into his beard. He wasn’t squeamish about that.

I began to think he was carrying his sensitivity too far, however, when he started objecting to barbecue restaurants whose signs featured happy pigs serving up platters of ribs. “They’re showing smiling pigs serving themselves up to be devoured,” he asserted. No amount of reassurance that the signs were merely illustrations could suppress his uneasiness. It was the principle of the thing.

When I totally lost sympathy for his obsession, though, was when he started objecting to TV commercials that showed cereal squares eating other cereal squares (and licking their nonexistent lips). He objected to the cannibalistic element, which he found offensive.

“They’re cereal,” I pointed out. “And they’re animated. No grain suffered in the production of the cereal. Nothing alive was harmed in the production of the commercial.” It didn’t matter.

“They’re presented as sentient,” he said, “and they’re eating their own kind.”

Well, there’s really no way to argue with that, so I just roll my eyes and don’t even try.

Oddly, Dan loves movies and shows about mountain men who hunt and forage for their food under harsh, primitive conditions. He doesn’t like it when the animals get their paws caught in traps and suffer because of it, but he suddenly doesn’t object to the killing of a sentient being and the subsequent devouring of it.

Despite his affinity with mountain men, I try to point out that he would be lousy at it. “Not if I was hungry enough,” he replies. “Then I could do it.” He’s eaten venison, but personally, I can’t picture him shooting, skinning, and butchering a deer. He might have to become a vegetarian at that point and his career as a mountain man would be over.

Until a moose was magically transformed into moose steaks and presented to him wrapped in styrofoam and plastic at the local grocery, I doubt he’d survive.

We’re All Working for Big Pharma

bunch of white oval medication tablets and white medication capsules
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

You may not know it, but you’re likely working for Big Pharma. And you have been since the 1980s.

That was when drug companies decided to begin direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising. Until then pharmaceutical companies had limited themselves to advertising to the medical community. There was no law that prevented them from taking their message to the streets. It was just the common practice.

Since the ’80s we have been increasingly bombarded with ads for drugs that are supposed to cure or “help alleviate” certain conditions, from the well-known ones such as diabetes to the obscure ones such as Peyronie’s disease. And since that time, ordinary people with no medical education – like you and me – have been shilling for Big Pharma.

The drugs ads all exhort you to “ask your doctor if Drug X is right for you.” Sounds simple enough. What it means, though, is that you, the consumer, are advertising the drug to your physician. In 2017, drug companies spent over $6.1 billion on DTC drug ads and you can bet that they are receiving much more than that in sales, or they wouldn’t do it.

There are FDA regulations that say that the advertising must not be false or misleading. That’s why you see in magazines one page of a smiling family, the name of a drug, and perhaps a slogan. The other page is black and white and features at least three columns of tiny type that no one ever reads, even if their eyesight is good enough. It’s the reason that the voice-over announcer on TV ads recites the list of possible side effects, which many consumers joke are worse than the disease.

One result is that consumers may pressure their doctors to prescribe the newest, most expensive drugs, even if the medication isn’t right for the patient’s condition. In the Journal of Clinical Oncology, oncology nurse practitioners were surveyed on the topic. A full 94% said a patient had requested an advertised drug; in 74% of cases, the request was for an inappropriate drug. And 43% felt pressured to prescribe the inappropriate drug.

But can’t medical people ignore the patients’ inappropriate requests? Maybe. But at least half of patients’ requested drugs are then prescribed. Patients don’t like being told that a drug is too expensive, or not thoroughly tested, or that there are other, older drugs and treatments that work just fine. Americans want the newest, the best, and the most expensive, whether it be sportscars or drugs.

You may notice that ads for brand-name drugs pop up and then hold on for a few years. Then you rarely see them again. Drug companies don’t make as much money when generic drugs become available, so they scale back the advertising. It’s much more profitable to tweak the formula and come out with a newer, even better version of the more expensive drug that consumers can sell to their doctors.

Don’t think that DTC advertising brings health care costs down, either. First, there’s that $6.1 billion dollars in advertising that must be recouped. A study reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine that the cost of Plavix increased due to the need to recoup the high costs of DTC drug advertising.  So did the Medicaid funds spent for Plavix in pharmacies.

Brand-name drugs, the only kinds you see advertised, cost more than the equivalent, just-as-good generics. If you have insurance, the company may have to pay Big Pharma more for the designer drugs, and you can bet the costs are passed along to you in the form of higher premiums.

And insurance companies have lists of drugs they will and won’t pay for, called formularies. If the drug you requested and the doctor prescribed isn’t on the right list, you’re stuck with accepting a different drug or paying exorbitant costs for the shiny new one that caught your eye while you were watching Game of Thrones or the Today Show.

Drug companies used to send employees known as drug reps to doctors’ offices and convention, often spreading dollars, free samples, and certain perks around to influence the sale of their drugs. Now they’ve got a whole new sales force – the American people.

A more thorough discussion of the situation can be found at https://prescriptiondrugs.procon.org/.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fed Up With Telemarketers!

First, let me say that telemarketing is (scams aside) honest, hard, low-paying work that I never would do myself, at least not if I had a choice in the matter.

But there are limits.

While the Obamacare enrollment window was open, I received a fair number of calls from folks that just wanted us to know that they had the perfect health insurance policy for us and would we be interested.

That was understandable.

I’d say, “Sorry, not interested. We just got health insurance coverage from my husband’s job.” And that would be that.

I thought that once the enrollment window closed, the calls would stop.

Silly me.

Most of the subsequent telemarketers were dispatched with a polite, “Please take me off your calling list.” They would say, “Thank you” or “Sorry to bother you” and hang up.

I thought that would be it.

Silly me.

There was one health insurance telemarketer that kept calling back. And calling back. And calling back. Sometimes several times in one day. For a while I turned my phone off, thinking that would discourage them.

Silly me.

One caller persisted. She left voicemail. And when I couldn’t keep my phone turned off any longer, she kept calling back. She had a long spiel before she stopped to take a breath and then ask me if I would be interested in healthcare insurance.

I tried waiting to the end of her pitch, then saying, “Please take me off your calling list.”

It was always the same person (Hi, this is Annie, from blah-blah insurance. Now that the window has closed for the Affordable Care Act, you can still get et endless cetera).

I took to talking at the same time she did, repeating over and over, “Please take me off your calling list. Please take me off your calling list.” Finally, she would get to the point in her spiel when she paused to take a breath and ask a question designed to elicit a response from the callee. I would repeat, “Please take me off your calling list,” and hang up.

I know I could have hung up as soon as I heard, “Hi, this is Annie,” but I wanted to get across the idea that she should simply not call back, ever. Ever, ever. Ever. (My phone is a stupid phone and doesn’t show the phone number of the calling party.)

Silly me had had enough. The next time Annie called, I talked over her spiel again, and at her pause for a response, said firmly but still reasonable politely, “There is a law that requires you to take me off your calling list if I ask you to. Do I have to report you?” and hung up.

I was bluffing. I had no idea who I should report her to. The FCC? Ma Bell? Some telemarketing regulatory agency? The Department of Repetitive Calls Department?

For the next call, we went through our usual routine, except that I said firmly, but crankily, “I will report you to the authorities.” (Still bluffing. I still had no idea to whom to report them,)

Then I reached the end of my proverbial rope. I was through with being polite. The next time Annie called and said her name, I simply screamed into the phone, “AAAAAAAAAHHH!” It woke up my husband, who was sleeping beside me.

I was a little ashamed of myself. Not for waking my husband, but because I don’t approve of blowing an air horn into telemarketers’ ears when they’re just trying to do a job. I’d like to think I was less likely to cause hearing damage than an air horn. But I had been patient and polite long enough.

It stopped the calls. I should have thought of it sooner.

Silly me.

BOLO: The Word Crimes Just Keep Coming!

“Word Crimes” was a big hit for Weird Al Yankovic, ttto “Blurred Lines,” a song that needed the Weird Al treatment if one ever did. But there are lots more word crimes that never made it into the song, likely because to get radio play, a song has to be under four minutes long. In my life as an editor, I see word crimes that are 182 pages long.

Now back to that “ttto.” It may be fairly easy to decode that as “to the tune of,” just from context. IMHO, AFAIK, BTW, and IIRC are becoming common enough online acronyms, but what are we to do with TH:TBotFA? Or THGttG (sometimes written as THHGttG). I know we all could sit here for hours and make up things that they could stand for, but there are better things to do, like petting the cat or helping the needy.

If you are at all familiar with geek culture, you may know that these acronyms are movie and book titles – The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and The Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy, respectively. It’s bad enough that you sound like a noob (newbie) (neophyte) if you ask what ST:TOS means (Star Trek: The Original Series – you know, the one with Captain Kirk). But we fancy literary types don’t inflict acronyms on others. We don’t say FftMC when we mean Far from the Madding Crowd or TCoL49 for The Crying of Lot 49.

Perhaps the most annoying acronym of all is STFUATMM (or more politely, SUATMM. STFU is familiar to all but the most genteel, who abbreviate it as SU, but ATMM is more problematic, since this time no one bothers with lowercase letters to help you guess articles, conjunctions, and the like. No, this phrase is “Shut (the fuck) Up And Take My Money,” which means, “You don’t have to say another word; you had me at ‘buy.'”

Full disclosure: I must admit that in my other blog (bipolarjan.wordpress.com), I do use the acronym YMMV, or “Your Mileage May Vary,” to indicate that my experiences should not be generalized to everyone.

Another language trend which has gotten out of hand is “portmanteau words” –two words squashed together to make a new word with a meaning that combines them both.  (A portmanteau is a cross between a trunk and a suitcase.) Lewis Carroll, author of Alice in Wonderland, was, if not the inventor, surely a most prolific coiner of portmanteaus. The appear everywhere in his classic poem “Jabberwocky” – “slithy,” meaning “lithe” and “slimy,” for instance, or one that the English language has retained: “chortle,” from “chuckle” and “snort.” It’s just so damn useful.

“Brunch” and “motel” are useful portmanteaus too, but advertising has taken such words too far. I suppose it’s too late to kill off “sale-a-bration,” but can we call a moratorium on “transfarency” (airline usage) and “unjection” (prescription medicine)? Bon appe-cheese? Trucksicle?  And anything that ends in “-licious” or “-tastic”?

And while we’re on the subject of advertising, can we please stop having Washington and Lincoln dancing around for Presidents Day sales? It’s undignified, first of all, and there is no known connection between the leaders of our country and linens, unless you credit the rumors that Washington slept virtually everywhere.

You could, I suppose, make a connection between Washington and nurseries that sell cherry trees, but even that would be bogus and nurseries’ advertising budgets are not huge. (They spend it all on catalogues.)

Not to worry, though. Even if we manage to eliminate these heinous crimes, there are plenty of others in existence and soon to be created. Among the ones that make me shudder are weather-related portmanteaus like “Snowpocalypse” and “Snowmageddon”; “gifted” to mean “gave someone a present”; and most words that end in “ize.” And don’t even get me started on the way my husband pronounces “foliage” when he reads those nursery catalogues. Or how “catalogue,” “dialogue,” and “doughnut” are spelled these days. Or…or…or…

 

Why Does Everything Have to Be Fun?

My husband used to accuse me of not knowing how to have fun. And he was right, sort of, in the sense that his ways of having fun and mine were (and are) very different. Now, as I stumble toward the age when the only fun consists of waving my cane at children and telling them to stay off my lawn, I have begun to rethink the whole concept of fun.

And I think fun is overrated. Or at least what is passed off as fun in popular culture.

Brushing your teeth is brushing your teeth. There’s nothing inherently fun about it. It’s just necessary, boring, and repetitive. But apparently we think that if we put Star Wars characters on the toothbrush handles, toothbrushing becomes FUN (how, I don’t know) and kids “may be brushing longer,” a claim that is never backed up by statistics.

Fun flavors like bubble gum also seem to be preferable to good old mint. I enjoy the flavor of mint, but I don’t think it’s fun. And I suspect that associating the act of brushing one’s teeth with the flavor of bubble gum is counterproductive. Just sayin’.

Likewise, there is nothing intrinsically fun about eating a salad, especially if you’re a female and alone. Yet there is a whole meme dedicated to “woman laughing alone with salad,” and now even a play based on the concept. Eating a salad by oneself can be tasty, pleasant, unpleasant, boring, or any number of other feelings. Why then are there so many photos of women laughing (or at least grinning idiotically) while eating salad?

And why are there so few photos of men doing the same thing? Do men not eat salads? Only in the company of others? Only stoically? It seems eating a salad alone is FUN only for solitary females. Poor, poor men, who must find their fun elsewhere.

Men having FUN get to drive cars, not eat salad. Cars provide particular enjoyment when the driver is breaking traffic laws or driving on a closed course where he can’t hit anything no matter how he speeds. This one I get a little bit. Fun is equated with breaking the rules, and without consequences. Fun is being sexy and dangerous. It’s hard to make toothbrushing or salads sexy and dangerous, so we’re left with men risking life and limb, while women and children guffaw and grin, browse and brush.

I know, I know. These are tricks of the advertising trade. FUN equals more sales, If ordinary activities are lifted above the ordinary, they will have more appeal to consumers. This is especially true of children who influence purchase decision-making – which is basically all of them. And fun is apparently the only value that kids value. What other satisfactions are there? Except companionship, warmth, friendship, accomplishment, health, adventure, and satisfaction itself, I mean. But all of those have more than three letters.

But FUN rules not just in advertising. Education is another field rife with fun. Multiplication tables aren’t much fun by themselves, so let’s add clowns and elephants. Then students can put their final reports into their Ninja Turtle backpacks and take them home.

I’m not advocating going back to the days of skill, drill, and kill, but I am of the opinion that genuinely engaging activities such as project-based learning will teach students skills in a manner that is genuinely satisfying, memorable, and indeed fun, without the need for stickers, banners, and class parties.

Preparing students, young adults, and even older adults for constant FUN is unrealistic. Taking out the trash isn’t fun. Polishing the floors isn’t fun (unless you’ve got a roomba and a cat). Creating spreadsheets isn’t fun. Taking out appendices isn’t fun (I assume).

Much of adult life and work will turn out to be not-fun. Especially for those women, eating salads alone. And for those of us who don’t care to wear bright yellow, and sing and dance while taking our vitamins. For us, it’s just a gulp, a swallow, and gone.

 

Who’s Stupid Now?

For television commercials to work, someone has to be stupid. (Besides the ad agencies and the viewers, that is.)Sales man

The basic “storyline” of most commercials is this: Someone has a problem. The advertiser solves the problem. And the peasants rejoice.

The person with the problem must be portrayed as a real idiot who can’t solve the problem alone.

But who the idiot is has evolved.

In the 50s and 60s, women were stupid. The poor little housewife was unable to conquer soap scum, ring-around-the-collar, or (my favorite) “house-itosis.” In steps Mr. Clean or that little guy in a boat (never mind the unconscious symbolism of that) floating in the toilet or a giant lumberjack to pat her on the head and say, “There, there, little lady. I can show you how to perform simple household tasks.”

Even if there was no male special effect to provide enlightenment, there was always a male voice-over announcer to dispense wisdom and cleaning products.

That was the paradigm: Men saving women from old or newly invented problems, mostly cleaning-related.

Then came the 70s and 80s, with the liberation of women, who were now allowed to smoke pretty flower-decorated cigarettes and wear slacks while they cleaned.

Men were the stupid ones, who needed to be saved by a female (or female announcer) because they were too clueless and incompetent to wipe up a spill, treat their own diarrhea, or wash a glass without leaving the social horror of spots and streaks. Women to the rescue! All those lessons they learned from men in the 50s and 60s were now boomeranging on the men who, suddenly faced with the reality of household chores that they were learning to “help with” needed the tender guidance of a woman, the house and family expert. She would shake her head in pity at the helpless male and swoop in to demonstrate the mysteries of scouring powder, which is, after all, fairly easy to operate.

Child care in particular left men befuddled, holding a baby at arm’s length and wailing louder than the infant, “What do I do?” A woman shakes her head and informs him. “You wipe the mud off his hands, you lovable dope. And while you’re at it, stuff some green or brown mush in his face so he can spit it on the walls that you have no idea how to clean either.”

My husband despised those years and those commercials. “Why do they always make the men look like boobs?” he would cry. (Women were having their own problems with ads and boobs, but never mind that for now.) He had a point, of course, but I couldn’t muster much sympathy. There were still giant lumberjacks showing up in my kitchen from time to time. Those guys were worse than roaches, which needed a friendly male exterminator to do the lethal deed.

Then came the 80s and 90s. Who got to be stupid then? Both men and women. Who got to save the day? Their children, of course!

Particularly when technology was involved, but also in cases of breakfast cereal crisis, tots and tykes were taking over and bailing out their floundering parents. The kids knew everything and the parents knew nothing. And while there was a grain of truth in the idea that tweens and teens were generally more tech-savvy than your average parent, grown-ups did after all increasingly use technology at work outside the home and were required to know how to plug it in by themselves. But, hey, role reversal was amusing, and the sight of kids shaking their heads at clueless parents would surely motivate people of all ages to buy, buy, buy. (The ad people had by this time discovered that children were a consumer force in their own right and spent their money on more than just bubble gum.)

So, where are we now? We’ve run through stupid women, stupid men, and stupid adults. What could possibly be left?

That’s right. Stupid humans. Apparently all homo sapiens are now so dim that we have to have origami rabbits to teach us how to save money and bears to teach us to wipe our own asses.

Next it’ll be aliens teaching us how to not destroy our own planet.

Wait. We really need that.

TV Would Be Great, Except for the Ads

Have you noticed that no one has teeth anymore? Or money, for that matter.

AdvertisementNo, in ads for toothpastes, dentistry, and even breath-fresheners, teeth are seldom mentioned. Only “smiles.” Maybe I’m nit-picking, but those of us who are gloomy, depressed, or upset want nice teeth too.

The same with money. We used to manage our money. Then there was “financial” management. Now there is “wealth management.” I know this is supposed to make us all feel that we are rich and need such services, but even money management is out of reach for me. When your savings have lint from living in your pocket, you don’t need someone else to manage it, and it’s definitely not wealth.

I used to work in advertising, so I feel entitled to criticize. Of course, we handled mostly small, local accounts. And even the political ones were pretty dreary. We did have to come up with some promos for a candidate named Hickey once, but all the joy was sucked out of that when he vetoed the slogan “Give Ohio a Hickey!” Spoilsport.

I was fairly low on the organizational chart in that office. (Who am I kidding? There were four people and I was number four.) So most of my assignments were, shall we say, low-budget. I was allowed to write blurbs for a client, describing their tables for ads that would appear in trade magazines (Tables Today!, Popular Living Room Furniture, or Things to Put Other Things On, if I remember correctly).

The challenge there was to come up with adjectives. I would stare at photos of each new model and make notes. Distinctive. Intriguing. Innovative. Any euphemisms for ugly, weird, and useless.

But that job was small potatoes as advertising goes. National advertising agencies get the big bucks for ruining the music that Baby Boomers loved (see http://wp.me/p4e9wS-7I) and inventing ridiculous portmanteau words.

What are those? (I hear you cry). Why, portmanteaus are when someone slams two words together that have no business touching each other: your inner “kidult,” “funtastic,” “sale-a-bration,” anything ending with “-thon” or “-licious.” They’re everywhere nowadays, like bedbugs, which are apparently now a Thing more to be feared than standard termites and roaches.

And, speaking of things “funtastic,” since when does everything have to be fun? And not just for kids, who might actually be sucked into the idea of brushing your teeth being fun. (It isn’t.) Now adults are supposed to find everything fun, including taking a dump. “Enjoy the go,” my ass! (Literally.)

My husband objects to cannibalism in commercials. No, not ads for Soylent Green, though those can’t be too far away. Pigs that advertise products that are made from others of their species. Pieces of cereal that eat other pieces of cereal. Toaster pastries that lure other pastries into toasters. He feels it’s just wrong, somehow, though the animal world is full of examples of creatures eating creatures of their own species. Probably not pigs, though, and they don’t advertise it if they do.

We both hate ads that claim to be scientifically accurate by inventing an imaginary research lab. The Ponds Institute, for example. If there is such a thing, it’s one room in a windowless corner of the building where one guy in a lab coat smears cold cream on armadillo skin and accidentally softens himself to death. (Except that “cold cream” hasn’t existed since my maiden aunt used it in the 50s.)

And I know that the drum for patriotism has been thumping loudly for the last 15 years, but the relentless brandishing of flags has now crossed over the line when a car advertisement features a song that touts “a full tank of freedom.” It’s even more gag-inducing than “Love is what makes a Subaru a Subaru.” Steel. Fiberglass. Rubber, Chrome. A little metal symbol on the hood. That’s what makes a Subaru.

Are there any ads that I do like? A few. There’s the one for paint that uses paint chips to make a stunning animation of underwater, hang-gliding, and other scenes. And Patrick Stewart’s ads for hard cider. And of course the one where the cat jumps up to the balcony for treats.

Anything but Flo. Those insurance commercials are like “You Light Up My Life” – okay the first time, but after the thousandth, they start to wear on you. After the millionth, you just want her to retire, already. I’m sure she’s got the money by now. After all, she can save big money on her insurance.

And the same goes for that damn gecko.