Friday, January 18, 2008

I'm Back . . . for A Moment . . . About Dumb Ads

I abandoned this blog quite a while ago. I was just tired of it and was in a slump, and when I'm in a slump nothing particularly strikes me as blogworthy. I felt like a child on Ritalin needing a long drug holiday, so I took it. Not Ritalin--the holiday.

And as I return, it doesn't shame me to say that my mood swings are getting pretty wide these days owing to the beginning of menopause. I'm happy to report that I don't give a damn, and I've quit being all polite, and it feels really good to be unapologetically crotchety.

Of course I will start by admitting that I watch too much television and that it has rotted my brain so that it probably looks as though I have bovine spongiform encephalitis. Even my use of the BSE term is proof that I have a problem, because it's only the animal form that has that name. I think the human manifestation of the disease is CJD ( Creusfeldt-Jakob disease). Such forgetfulness is a symptom of the "m" word. Anyway, for a few months now, I have been harboring resentment against some ads that finally coalesced into a critical mass, making me want to stick my spongy head in the sink and flip the garbage disposal switch. But of course I'm not a pinhead, and I'm not going to waste myself over TV ads.

However, as a critical reader, writer, and viewer I do notice everything about the ads. Would I buy this product? In the following cases, I proclaim a resounding "No!"

First, I want to lambaste the big pharmaceutical companies. Now, first of all, I have to issue the disclaimer that I know Big Pharma has kept me alive against astounding odds. For that I'm truly grateful. As a lifelong severe asthmatic, I've had many, many near-death asthmatic experiences. Some people have occupational hazards; I have none (as a writer and editor who works from home, what could happen? I guess I could trip over my computer cord, or an irate client could murder me for not getting published). But I sure do have chronic existential hazards. Maintaining existence has been pretty had for me. Anyway, as thankful as I am for [some of] the medications that have been made available during my lifetime, I'm healthily skeptical of some others. For years the "rage" medications' side effects rendered me ill, jittery, nauseous, moody, and insomniac. They caused headaches so bad I had to decide between the headache and the asthma, and frequently I chose to tolerate the asthma just to get relief from the headaches. These days I'm seeing infuriating "la-la-la" happy ads about miracle medications. There's one with a carefree woman who looks like Gwyneth Paltrow riding along in a convertible and claiming that previously she thought she had been "in control" of her asthma, but wasn't really, until she found this new drug. I want to slap her face. I have been on that drug and every other "state-of-the-art" asthma medicine, and I follow my regimen religiously. It seems to reduce exacerbations. But never, not once in my entire life, have I been "in control of my asthma." I can't make plans; any day is a potential heyday for an attack. I just want to slap these people silly for suggesting predictable "control" is possible. Of course, most of the time I'm too wheezy to manage the exertion required to slap someone silly.

Enough about the pharmas. Another irritating ad is a little old, and disappeared so long ago that I had gratefully forgotten about it. Unfortunately, it has inexplicably resurfaced with great vigor and repetition, and makes me want to go on a rampage. A mom in a grocery store is pushing her evil, spoiled little girl around in the shopping cart. You know the type of kid I mean. Spawn of Satan. The child seems to have sprung from a Stephen King novel, from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," or from one of the old Billy Mumy episodes of "The Twilight Zone." She's utterly manipulative, controls her mother, and knows she can win every time. The mom needs parenting classes, stat.

"Broccoli," the mom says as she reaches for some. "I don't LIKE broccoli," the smirking child says. "Some chickennnnnn," the mom says. "I DON'T LIKE chicken," says the girl, very self-satisfied. "Waffles," the mom says. "I don't think I LIKE waffles," the mini-vixen says, as if there's a kid in the whole wide world who doesn't like waffles. Then the mom picks up a multi-pack of Pediasure(R). This is Mom's big mistake. The little girl's face shows the barest hint of insincere, ingratiating approval. The final scene takes place at home, where the brat is shown happily sucking down the Pediasure(R) and rewarding Mom with a smile. Stupid mom. She's already allowed this young child to develop an eating disorder.

Now, I don't know about you, but I think this ad should be rewritten to go a little more like this. I know this is how my own mother would have handled it if I'd tried to pull such a stunt. First of all, except for her spoiled baby attitude, the girl is much too big to sit in the shopping-cart baby seat. That's Mom's initial error. Mom should rip her right out of there and make her walk on her own two perfectly good legs. Let her see how weak and sore her stupid legs are when she refuses to eat right and develops rickets! Second, when the impudent juvenile turd says she doesn't like everything, the mom should knock her upside the head, purchase the broccoli, chicken and waffles, drag the kid out to the car, strap her up uncomfortably in her car seat and take her straight home. This way, the Pediasure(R) will never get purchased, and Mom will get daughter to eat normal people food like broccoli, chicken and waffles, or else let the little bitch starve until she decides she will consume more than an unvaried, ridiculously expensive liquid diet. Of course, the problem with this revision is that it isn't going to sell much Pediasure(R). But honest to God. Even my dad wouldn't drink his "Geriatrisure" (not the product's real name), and he was dying and hungry. Apparently there's a reason this company needs desperate and terrible advertising. Their product sucks. That's a little joke.

Next on my list of heinous ads is the latest series for Pepto Bismol(R). What idiot(s) decided graphic depictions of the disgusting symptoms that might call for Pepto Bismol(R) were a good idea? The very thought of giant Godzilla having upset stomach, heartburn, or godforbid, diarrhea (!) is enough to make me rush to the toilet to vomit. The ads inspire the need for the product. But the company didn't stop there. Now there's an even more ludicrous ad purporting (and I say "purporting" because I refuse to believe the phenomenon's real) to show strange global auditions for the "roles" of heartburn, upset stomach, diarrhea, etc. The auditioners look, sound and act like mental hospital escapees. I can only imagine, and hope, that this ad campaign sets Pepto(R) sales well behind--no pun intended--and they will have to spend a lot of additional ad money catching up after this disaster.

Then there's the recent Monistat(R) ad for
yeast infection medication (miconazole nitrate). The main element of the cure is a vaginal suppository they call an "ovule." As you'd well expect, it's egg-shaped. An ovule is an unfertilized seed. I am sorry, but I do not get the backwards logic in the marketing here. No matter how desperate the infectious circumstances, I am not going to shove an egg up my va-jay-jay. I am full of eggs already, and at this age would kill myself if another one EVER managed to get fertilized. By biological law, eggs are only supposed to come OUT, not go in! What were they thinking?! Furthermore, I am pleased as punch that my eggs have nearly stopped doing anything whatsoever except, perhaps, shriveling up. Good riddance.

The Chunky ChipsAhoy(R) ads, featuring animated chocolate chip cookies that inexplicably stand vertically on their own and can speak, sing, and dance, really upset me. They just make me sad. In this case, it's not that I'm repulsed, but that I feel bad for the cookies, and specifically because of this campaign, I will never buy and eat them. For me, it's a reverse ad campaign. It's not funny to me that the cookies facilitate their own demise. The ads flop because their emotional appeal goes not to my mean-spirited side, but to my sympathetic side. "Today is the first day of the rest of my life"--boom, gone! It's tragic. Car ride with "Don't You Want Me Baby?"--four of them snatched up in a heartbeat. I have always wondered what happens to the car after the driver gets eaten. Does it crash into other vehicles, killing their passengers as well? The "If You Want My Body" one, where the bachelor cookie briefly entertains a date, is just sick. Not only because the bachelor cookie gets grabbed right out of an embarrassing intimate moment, but that after he's devoured, the dumb blonde date looks up and says, (desperate), "Call me?" worst of all is the eulogy ad, in which two cookies fondly remember one of their recently departed cronies. In the very moment of their grief, they're pilfered right out of the funeral home. Is nothing sacred? Ick. I do think the ads are kind of funny, but for me in terms of selling a product, this series operates like aversion therapy.

Finally, there's the egregious campaign for Charmin(R) toilet paper. (Yessiree-Bob, there's actually a website for Charmin(R), complete with a section on "toilet paper history"! Sheesh. Are we not above potty jokes?) Why did good ol' Mr. Whipple have to up and die on us? Bring him back, please! He's been replaced by a stupid family of bears. That's right. Bears. Because the company apparently thought it would be clever to allude to the figure of speech, "Does a bear $h^t in the woods?" And that's just what the animated bears do. They try to make the bears cute and appealing, but puhh-leeze. There are a couple of ads in which little bear and parent bear are in the woods, and little bear goes behind a tree and uses Charmin(R). Because heaven knows bears use toilet paper when they $h^t in the woods. (Where do they put the discarded paper? Is this environmentally responsible? Let's not think about that.) It's not any more attractive that the ads are animations. Under no circumstances do I want to think about bears $h^tting in the woods. Nada. Zip. There's another ad highlighting the availability of two types of Charmin(R), distinguished by two different bears, one blue and one red. I do not like blue bears or red bears. They don't really mean anything to me. And I dislike witnessing the moment that they both have urgent elimination needs while on the BEACH, and race like crazy for the public outhouses. That's their private "business," and I do not care to share it. Henceforth I will have a hard time at my favorite place, the beach, because now I'll associate it with pooping bears. Thanks, Charmin(R), for ruining idyllic beach thoughts for me. I pretty much find toilet paper ads of any sort offensive. It's rather personal. It's not a product that requires advertising; it's the sort of basic staple that everyone needs anyway. Why underscore the obvious with an expensive campaign in very bad taste?

Perhaps this cynicism and refusal to believe in the public's gullibility are why I did not last long in the advertising industry.