November 9, 2010

Recently I have noticed that there has been a big increase in advertising that has little to do with the actual product.  This isn’t a new phenomenon but it gets to the point where it is misleading or even borderline predatory.  Let me explain.  I saw a commercial for a push button life saving thing, think “Help! I’ve fallen and I can’t get up“, and they spoke about the call center and dispatch and ease of use.  These are all geared to the adult children of the end user.  They see it, think it’s a good idea and convince their parents that they need it.  Well recently they added a new target audience to their ads, the old people themselves.  At the end of the commercial the elderly women said “I actually feel younger”.  I can just imagine the meeting where they came up with this line.  “What is it that old people like?” “Eating dinner early?” “Blue hair?” “Velcro shoes?” “They want to feel younger, let’s add something about that at the end!”  What is it about a ball chain with a garage door opener on it that makes the lady feel any younger?  Her eyesight isn’t so bad that she thinks it’s fashionable, and don’t tell me that she feels younger because of the perceived freedom that she has. Don’t drink the koolade.

Let’s not forget the Brinks/ADT ads where they have some dark figure intimidating a child or single woman.  Next I bet they come up with some justification of how not having a home alarm causes cancer in baby seals.

Then we have Howie Long and Hyundai standing around talking about how bad their competition is.  These are absurd but they have all been trumped recently by Audi.  They put out an ad where a small child sits on a bed looking at a poster of a Ferrari F430 and says in a zombie-like state “I have been to desire red italian sports cars“.   The point of the statement is that Audi’s new R8 will help him break out of the spell, make him an individual and will move him away from the look of italian sports cars.  This would be fine if anyone else made this commercial, but Audi owns Lamborghini, a high end italian sports car company.  Not only that, but the engine in the R8 comes from a Lambo.  In essence they are saying “Exotic italian sports cars are predictable, here is an uglier and slower one”.

Then there are ads that are so ridiculous that I am confused that they even exist.   1800 Tequila touts a top that can pour a shot by turning over the bottle.  Thank goodness it can pour a shot because I can buy semi-premium tequila, but not a shot glass.  It should say “My tequila has a hollow top that will help you spill alcohol all over the place.” (forgive the actual person in the video, but throwing Tequila all over the place happens to everyone, including those who don’t sit at home video taping themselves in sweatshirts)

As far as I am concerned there should be 3 types of ads on television listed here in no particular order.

1. Informative – I would like to know how fast your car goes, how good smelling your shampoo is, how low your interest rate is and what types of ugly furniture I am avoiding by not going to your store.  These are helpful, time saving tips that we can all appreciate.

2. Responsible – Liberty Mutual has made a series of “Memento” type ads revolving around paying it forward in every day circumstances.  I say well done.  Glee and some credit card are doing something similar just in a more annoying way. How am I supposed to fast forward through the commercials when all of the actors are in the commercial.

3. Funny – Progressive’s weak attempts at humor do not fall into the category.  These include Bigfoot closelining a youth across a field, the “Mayhem” commercials namely the football team one and the teenage girl one, and any commercial where a man gets hit in the nuts or has a sledding accident, think Vonage.

If your ad does not fit into one of these three categories please stop polluting the airwaves.  I am only trying to help.  People watch the Superbowl live and quietly watch the ads, not because the football is boring but because the ads show marked improvement over all others during the rest of the year.  There is also an element of ethics  involved.  Stop lying, deceiving and misleading potential customers, do the responsible thing and show a child wrecking a tricycle instead.


Double Standard

September 30, 2010

Today I heard about a young man who killed himself by jumping into the Hudson river.  This wasn’t Gordon Ramsey’s newest victim, it was a student from Rutger’s university.  It wasn’t because he realized that we was attending school in New Jersey, but for a different reason.  I am not sure what the reason is, but we will try and figure it out together.

Let’s play in the world of ambiguous descriptions in order to better prove a point.  Lawyers seem to love this stuff, and I’m watching Community right now so I feel inspired. A young man, in college, was secretly filmed while having sex.  In most circumstances he would be placed on a pedestal.  High fives on the way to class, Facebook groups dedicated to him would pervade campus, and there may be a movie made about him (a la “One Night in Paris” or “The Social Network”).  The guy would probably feel some remorse but would then succumb to the adulation and have a t-shirt made referencing himself.  That would probably be the case if the other person involved was a girl.  In fact I am pretty sure that the film “The Easy A” is about this to some extent.  I’m not saying that it’s right, just likely.

In this case of the Rutgers student the other party involved was a guy.  So this was a homosexual relationship.  So instead of shrines and notoriety and Facebook groups the student killed himself by stating that he was going to jump off of a bridge and then doing it.

Lets recap, a college student has sex on camera with a girl and becomes in idol, has sex with another guy and is so shamed that he kills himself.  To further fill in some gaps, the student’s roommate was the one who secretly recorded the session or incident or interaction, whatever name would apply, I haven’t seen it so I won’t speculate.  The roommate went to a female friend’s room to let others know about the act via twitter.  Now the roommate and female friend are now being prosecuted for invasion of privacy.  That is understandable, it was an invasion of privacy.  But they are also being prosecuted for perpetrating a hate crime.  A hate crime?  Sounds like a college prank to me.  My roommate and I filled my girlfriends apartment waist high with newspaper, was that attempted arson?  Non-recycling? Time wasting? If we are going to make up charges, let’s make them make sense.  If it was a reversed, the filmed with a girl scenario, would the courts be giving him a prize?

Before we prosecute two students who stepped across a line we need to look at the real problem.  What was the difference between the two scenarios?  Why would the student bask in instant notoriety for one circumstance and kill himself for another?   Perhaps it’s our issue.  Perhaps Tyler, the student, thought that society would judge him because of his homosexual act more harshly than they would if he were with a girl.  The real issue doesn’t seem to be the prank but the labels that society adheres to all facets of life.  The Congressional Black Caucus, the NAACP, Gay Pride Parades.  The Congressional White Caucus, the National Association for the Advancement of White People, White Pride Parades.  That last one seems like it would cause even Glen Beck to take a second look.

The point is, the roommate and the girl aren’t the problem in the whole thing.  The real problem is that society continues to place everyone into groups that define who they are.  Like the one common thing makes them alike in all circumstances.  So the courts think that the roommate hated Tyler, that’s why they call it a hate crime.  Why would he hate his roommate, I bet his half of the room was the cleanest on the hall and smelled great.  Those of you laughing may not have noticed but that was a stereotype.  It’s wrong that the legal system assumes the Tyler was hated because he was gay.

We, as americans, have long been characterized as people who have pulled ourselves up by our boot straps.  We boomed in the industrial revolution and create an economy that has been the largest in the world for decades.  We worked hard, fought for our share, and built the american dream.  We were able to benefit by being on the forefront of production and technology.  Other countries were not so lucky. Many of these countries are on the African continent.  Let’s look at some of their struggles, and let’s see how we have evolved.

Africa has some issues with being short-sighted, most recently an example in agriculture.  Uganda has a booming tobacco industry.  Last years alone they exported 32,000 tons of tobacco leaves.  That fetched $52,000,000 in revenue, and let’s be honest, that’s major cash flow in Uganda.  In order to cure the leaves of the tobacco they need wood to burn.  Well, as an agricultural nation they have some trees to burn.  Fruit trees.  They are simply taking water from the left side of the bucket to put on the right(this is a simple illustration as a bucket does not have sides).  This has driven up the cost of wood in Uganda, wood that is needed for the emerging furniture industry, construction and wood is still widely used to heat homes.

This is a difficult cycle to get out of, where problems are cyclical and one leads to another to another.  Fortunately, for us, we had to opportunity to develop and work through these problems, right?!

The oil spill has been horrific.  Finally it is closed and BP can start to take credit for that.  BP has put away a huge amount of money to pay pack individuals and businesses who have lost money as a result of the spill.  They will pay anyone who can provide them with a tax form showing how much they earned last year.  Well this presents a problem for some of the fishermen who work as a cash only business and didn’t pay taxes last year.  Uh oh.  So they didn’t pay taxes, but now are complaining to the government that they didn’t pay for.  Call it karma, call it whatever you want, seems like if you didn’t pay taxes, you didn’t earn anything or it is tax evasion. Easy decision for the person handing out thecash.

Maybe this wasn’t a good example of how we have developed and advanced as a nation.

Let’s look at another major problem in our country.  The housing crisis.  This is multi-layered issue but let’s simplify it dramatically.  People are buying homes that they cannot afford.  They are then foreclosing, declaring bankruptcy, something to get out of the loan.  The government has come to their aid demanding that the banks help them out.  So the financially irresponsible are getting bailed out and are staying in homes that they cannot afford, while citizens who live within their means are forced to pay for it. 

Maybe we haven’t come that far after all.