I spent two years in adverstising, and short of combat against concealed lunatics on Iwo Jima or being forced to watch another episode of Wizards of Waverly Place with my completely taste-free eleven year old, I can’t imagine a worse experience.
We had a poster in the layout room showing a bunch of brain surgeons in an operating theater. One of them is saying, “Come on, loosen up; it’s not like it’s advertising…”
Like a battle scar or the lingering taste of spoiled liverwurst, these years left me with a wholly-unwanted perspicuity toward advertising. I have this inner compulsion to dissect every ad I see and become preternaturally irritated if I don’t like what dribbles out. All assurances: I have sought professional help and have been told that the best therapy is to outline precisely what is bothering me.
Hence, some specific ads I recall over the year, beginning (as my psychiatrist directs) with my earliest childhood memories…
Set-up: Regular soap is dissolved in one sink, Dove is dissolved in another. Action: Some dingledork dips a pair of glasses in the sinks, one lens per. Then she holds up the specs so you can see a disgusting coating of filmy grey scum covering the soap lens while the Dove lens remains crystal clear. My psychological issue: How many millions of dollars did Dove spend on an ad campaign to convice rationally intelligent people that washing with hot water and soap actually makes you dirtier?
Set-up: A hopelessly luscious teenage morselette blinks toward the camera. Action: She says, “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful…” My psychological issue: We don’t—we hate you because you are a narcissitic, petty, pretentious tool and way too full of yourself. Your beautifulness is the only thing about you we DON’T hate.
Set-up: Wounded, ultra-precious toddlers cast their Margaret Keane eyes toward the audience. Action: They sing, “I am stuck on Band-Aids, ‘cause Band-Aid’s stuck on me…” My psychological issue: Remember being a kid, when the adult world seemed to exist simply to screw with your life? And what was the worst thing about that ridiculous Band-Aid that Mom insisted on pressing into every cut, scrape, scratch and blister? It stuck on you! Peeling it off was physical torture, and thinking about having to peel it off was even worse. So what does the Band-Aid brain-trust do? Write a jingle that goes, “I am stuck on Band-Aids, ‘cause when it’s time to take that sucker off, Band-Aids STOPS sticking on me and therefore doesn’t rip off an entire layer of newly-grown skin???”
Like hell they did.
Set-up: A bloated Orson Welles, unable to find another chump willing to finance some pompous, boring movie, glares glibly at the viewer with a look that says, ‘I know more than you about every subject on the planet, including the one I am about to drone on about.’ Action: He intones Paul Masson’s ridiculous slogan in a Shakespearean snoot: “We will sell no wine before its time”. My psychological issue: Hey, Koolaid (I mean, Mr. Welles): This is Paul Masson, purveyor of jug plonk from the flat, hot, dry deserts of Central Valley. Before its time??? Good Lord, tubby; this crap began to spoil on the way home from CVS.
Set-up: Who knows? It’s a radio ad. Action: Every time the voice-over actor says ‘Corbett Canyon’, it echoes… and echoes… and echoes. My psychological issue: Over the last ten years, Corbett Canyon has spend $32 million to reduce radio listeners such as myself to quivvering masses of annoyed, bile-sodden jelly—that’s how disturbing that echo is. Thirty-two million dollars!! I checked online and a .30-06 centerfire shell shot at my right temple would have only cost Corbett Canyon one dollar and Cabela’s would have given them a free dry-storage box with the purchase.
Why is this ad so rankling? Because Corbett Canyon sucks… sucks… sucks…
Set-up: A print ad showing what I guess is a bottle of Freixenet on ice with the tagline, ‘Your husband lost the remote’. My psychological issue: The ad makes me feel stupid because I have no idea what it means. The husband lost the remote, so he’s going to be content drinking cheap Spanish wine instead of watching football? Is that it? The ad makes me feel stupid because I have no solid idea of how to pronounce ‘Freixenet ‘ . If I can’t pronounce a hundred dollar bottle of wine, there’s some cosmic justice behind my ignorance. If I can’t pronounce a nine dollar bottle of 7-11 wine, I must be brain-damaged. Lastly, I’m always losing the remote, therefore, obviously (according to the ad) I AM stupid and my wife, some slick magazine, and a massive Spanish wine conglomerate are all having a private in-joke at my expense.
Trust me, children; I could go on with this one…