mADness

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.

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TV Land part 1

July 8, 2010

During my sophomore year of college the school introduced a RF remote that would be registered individually to students.  The students would bring the remote to class and the professor would pose a poll questions.  Students would vote with their remote and ultimately it was a way to log attendance.  I would guess it had very little to do with the teachers’ desire to hear the students’ opinion.  This seemed like the next great thing, until everyone got tired of it.  I used mine once in three years.  But the concept was interesting, aside from being an attendance leash.  Teachers could pose a question and get instant, quantitative results.  “How many of you like chunky peanut butter?”  “Who thinks Al Gore hooked up with the masseuse?”  “Who wants me to cancel class on Friday?”  Why not bring this to the masses?  The truth is, it’s already there.

Aaron Brown said that “television is the most perfect democracy.  You sit there with your with your remote and vote.”  He’s right.  We watch, and based on the statistics the networks know what is successful and what isn’t.  This isn’t the entire story, viewership isn’t the only factor for canceling a show, think  the Jay Leno show.  But the rankings regularly dictate the longevity of a particular series.  So each season we have the option of re-electing a show.  Then let’s talk about our senior statesmen of TV land.

When you talk about current longevity, only a few shoes come to mind, Meet the Press, the Today Show, the Tonight Show.  These shows have been around for 55+ years.  But since they have changed hosts and are current event shows, we’ll say they don’t count, otherwise Larry King would be the king of TV Land.  Let’s talk about shows that we elect to watch, rather than the ones that are just on while we fix/eat dinner.  Currently American Idol takes the top 2 spots, Tuesday and Wednesday night, so Simon Cowell is our King.  He has been elected by the viewing public as our most popular television show.  As recently as 10 years ago the most popular show was “ER” and “Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”  As an AI watcher I can’t get too down on the public, but at least ER and WWTBAM? were slightly educational.  Further back, in 1992 and 1993, the most popular show was 60 minutes.  We actually elected to watch the news over all other tv shows.  And there were solid options, “Roseanne”, “Coach“, “Seinfeld” and “Home Improvement”.  So, our elected TV Land officials have began to decline somewhat, as long as we don’t have anyone from New Jersey or E! elected anytime soon, I’m OK with that.

So that is a brief look at what we elect for ourselves, AI isn’t the worst option, but we have done better in the past (I would argue that a show that provides some sort of educational value trumps all others).  But let’s see what we are electing for our kids.  “Sesame Street” has been on television since the beginning of time.  In fact, when the first television was invented and turned on Big Bird was there explaining that he was yellow and Oscar was green.  They had not even invented video cameras yet, it was just there.  Beyond that, we  force (force isn’t really the right word here, but we don’t exactly make every option available) children to watch shows like “Dora the Explorer”, “Blues Clues” and something called “Yo, Gabba, Gabba“.  These shows all try and provide some sort of education to our kids.  Either, Spanish, math, analytical thinking or something else altogether.

So we have shown as a society that we understand the value of programming that provides vital information, we have just changed how we absorb it.  As kids we watched “Sesame Street”, “Legends of the Hidden Temple”, “Ghost Writer” and “Carmen San Diego” and continue to have our kids watch similar programing.  We continue to watch the news, just not as rigorously, and we prefer to have our medical jargon presented by a smug, sarcastic, drug addict rather than George Clooney and Maura Tierney.

An Eternal Debt

June 2, 2010

This past weekend I was able to go camping in Yosemite National Park.  It was fantastic, I encountered the world’s laziest squirrel, a billion water falls and families from across the globe.  This all proved one thing, it is some of the most prime real estate you will ever come across.  The scenic views were enough to make you forget that you smelled like campfire and were tired from hiking all day.  Why then is this not for sale?  Our government is in debt, crazy debt, so much debt that it would cost every American $44,000 and change to pay off the debt.  We could make a big chuck by carving up the park, certainly more than the $20 entry fee brings in.

It’s not for sale because it can’t be.  Someone a long time ago, a century or so, thought it would be a good idea if some places were preserved for the enjoyment of all.  I guess that someone got a hold of Teddy and he made it so.  If not for his foresight we would be unable to experience the incredible sights, sounds and smells of one of the most incredible places on earth.  It turns out that there are millions of places and things across this country that should be left for our children and their children to experience.  What would your childhood have been without being able to go to a park, or go to the beach, or seeing where our country was founded.  Maybe you didn’t do some of those things, but it think it’s great that I can still go and see where Ben Franklin fought for the turkey to represent America.

So you obviously can’t preserve thousands of acres of pristine wilderness or donate Harry Truman’s bowling pins, but you can do something.  America has a rash.  Namely, that rash is Starbucks.  Well, Starbucks, McDonalds, Taco Bell, etc.  Those who know me may be surprised to read that statement, given my propensity for all things chicken quesadilla.  But it really is an issue.  There is nothing wrong with any of these stores inherently, except Starbucks.  They are really just places to go and pick up a quick snack, or a familiar meal that you know will be the same in Juneau or Jacksonville.  The problem is that there are millions of restaurants and bars that produce far superior food and promote a sense of community.  My hometown has a restaurant called the Flying Pig.  It’s quickly become a a favorite place for food and spirits.  A recent trip created encounters with more than half of the city council, the mayor, countless high school friends, neighbors, business men etc.  I don’t come from a big town, so this is to be expected somewhat, but there are other places in town that someone can grab a beverage and appetizer.  Something is lost in those other places.  They are chain restaurants and provide plenty of atmosphere and quality. But they will be there in 50 years and will only represent the corporate change that has occurred over time.  The Flying Pig is a place that draws friends and family together and will only continue because people have made a conscious effort to preserve a truly remarkable place that goes far beyond being just an eatery.  Please don’t let me fool you, it’s no Yosemite, but it is a place that people can share with their friends or even children recalling the good times that were had by all.

To recap, we were given a gift by generations who have come before us.  Whether a national park or a cathedral more than 500 years old.  Go visit them.  In the mean time, patronize a local spot.  A place that isn’t backed by a corporation that opens a new restaurant every 4 hours. These are the places that could be gone in a generation, leaving you to explain what made them so special.  Become a regular, bring a friend, and make sure that it’s here for years to come.