I normally don’t review water—for three good reasons. First, I’ve never been poster child for ‘Find A Happy Medium’ campaigns, and considerable research has led me to believe that if you drink too little water, you die, and if you drink too much water, you also die.
But thirdly and most importantly, the whole water culture sucks. Not to put an Andy Rooney spin on it, but when I was a kid, getting a glass of water was easy: You got a cup, walked to sink, filled it up from the tap, et voilà. For my kids, it’s a full-blown Broadway production. I have to get in my car, drive to Costco, pay seven bucks, drive home, carry the heavy box into the house, pour them their stupid water, then deposit the empty bottle in my blue recycling box which I have to take to the curb every friggin Tuesday evening.
The phrase ‘Did you get a water?’ did not exist when I went skipping off to grade school—‘water’, as I recall, had no article attached to it.
But Rules, Like Solemn Vows, Were Made To Be Broken
When I waited to the very last second to sign up for college, I discovered that all the useful language courses like Japanese and German were filled; all that was left was Assyrian, Dongxiang, Uzbek and Turunggare (which is only spoken by five people on the planet—four of whom believe that World War II is still going on)…
…and then there was Advertising.
Since I was unable to get into Med School where I had intended to major in Diseases of the Rich, I opted to aim for a Business degree instead—and therefore, learning the language called Advertising seemed to be the logical choice. And I must say, this course prepared me for the real world as much as my Bachelor’s in Convincing Inbred Rubes to Build Another Wal-Mart Right Where the Community Home For Disabled Vets Now Stands degree.
I use it in wine reviewing almost daily, where ‘Smells like horse shit’ becomes ‘Styled after the earthy wines of Sicily and Southern Rhône’; ‘The idiots picked too early’ becomes ‘Slightly vegetal with notes of green pepper on the mid-palate’ and ‘Reeks like a charnel house clogged with burnt flesh’ becomes ‘Contains empyreumatic odors of smoke, toast and roasted meats.’
I’ve also discovered that as facile as I am at writing in Advertising, I am equally adept at translating it: Hence, this column.
When I received an email from Molly Maguth of Behrman Communications touting ‘Twist’—a new bottled water—I actually began to hyperventilate. Never before had I seen such a masterpiece of copy since the spin-doctors wrote, ‘It all depends on what the meaning of ‘is’ is’ for Bill Clinton’s Grand Jury testimony.
I will repeat the email in toto, with my linguistic notes below for you folks fluent in the argot of ‘Truth’ and ‘Reality’, but not so much in ‘Advertising’.
Ergo (asterisks mine):
*1) Pesticides, nitrates and pathogens have contaminated much of the Pacific Northwest’s groundwater. According to pnwaterweb.com: Public water supplies are regularly tested under the Safe Drinking Water Act; however, private wells are generally not tested on a regular basis since testing is not required.
*2) Water’s chemical formula is H2O. Not sure much redefinition is required.
‘Simply put*, Twist is zero-calorie*, naturally sweetened, non-carbonated, preservative-free, antioxidant-rich all natural premium water available in a medley of fruit flavors sure to please the palates of any water connoisseur*.’
*1) This is ‘simply put’ how? It took 30 words to say ‘The stuff tastes like lemons’.
*2) Water without calories? Now there’s a concept.
*3) Head’s up, marketing team: Little M’wbwe Kakuma, dying of thirst in a Darfur refugee camp, may be a ‘water connoisseur’, but I assure you, Ralston Throckmorton III—or whichever Gold Coast ‘premium water’ demographic you’re targeting—is not.
‘Bottled in a sleek euro design* for shelf and table top appeal, Twist delivers the quintessential essence of fruit flavor and healthy hydration*.’
*1) Euro design = Looks more expensive than it is, but requires a hotshot packaging engineer, making it more expensive than it needs to be.
*2) Healthy hydration = Drinking water is good for you.
‘The watersmiths* at TalkingRain, located in Preston, Washington*, instill its water with the perfect blend of juice, green tea extract and fruit essences. Bypassing artificial ingredients and sweeteners, twist drinks are rooted with a touch of stevia* for extra allure and sweetness’.
*1) Watersmiths? Who thought that one up? Some Madison Avenue copywritersmith?
*2) Preston is a mill town, and the logging industry is the primary cause of water pollution in Washington. In fact, Preston sits on a tributary of the Snoqualmie River Basin, about which the Washington Department of Ecology says, ‘Higher nutrient levels and low dissolved oxygen levels in these tributaries may be associated with high fecal coliform inputs.’
*3) ‘Rooted’? Are you sure this is the correct predicate? Not sure how a beverage can be ‘rooted’, but anyway, stevia imports were restricted by the FDA because ‘toxicological information is inadequate to demonstrate its safety’. I’m allured, aren’t you?
‘After 20 years in the premium beverage business, TalkingRain Beverage Company wanted to make water exciting*, sexy* and popular*’.
*1) It’s hard to get ‘excited’ over something that covers ¾ of the world’s surface.
*2) The only time water is sexy is when it’s in a hot tub filled with Jessica Alba.
*3) Any budget for an ad campaign intent on making ‘popular’ a product without which you will die within six days is probably ill spent.
Open Note to Behrman Communications and Ms. Molly Maguf:
Now, I since I am no doubt in hot water with you, let me just say that this is actually a watered-down version of what I originally intended to publish; after all, I’m a wine critic, so when confronted with this task, I was a bit of a fish out of water.
At least we proved the old adage, ‘You can lead a scribe to water, but you can’t get him wet’.
But I’ll test the water: If you’re interested, please continue to send me the stuff that really makes my mouth water: wine samples.
That is, if I didn’t throw the baby out with the bath water and we can look at this column as water under the bridge.