Now, A Word From Our Sponsors

I’ll admit it, I watch too much TV.  Unlike lots of folks, I don’t just sit there like a potted plant.  I constantly complain about bad plots, breaks in continuity, and of course, commercials.  The gap between the imaginary world of advertisers and reality drives me nuts. Whining to my wife and dog isn’t enough; I’ve got to write entire blog posts about it.

Initial translations were assigned to commandments and such, but recent interpretations actually show the ancients were using the tablets to play soduko on the couch. (Image from flickr dot com)
Initial translations were thought to be  commandments and such, but recent interpretations actually show the ancients were using the tablets to play sudoku on the couch. (Image from flickr dot com)


Ad Portrayal: Tablet users design surf boards, organize food drives and find sources of potable water for refugees in the Sudan.  They also use their tablets to take pictures of breathtaking scenery and refer to online astronomy charts while out in the wilderness at night (Despite being a million miles from anywhere, there’s a good WiFi signal).

Harsh Reality:  Tablet users are playing Bubble Witch Saga, watching porn in the powder room, or checking Facebook for likes on recently posted photos of their cats and/or nephews.  They occasionally “lose” the tablet just to keep the kids from hogging it.

Pick-Up Trucks

Ad Portrayal:  Pick-Up owners are driving to work sites, parking entirely too close to the hearth at the steel mill, and generally playing key roles in building the infrastructure that makes this country great.  The guy doing the voice-over sounds like he’s from somewhere in the Rockies, unless it’s Dennis Leary who sounds like Dennis Leary.

Harsh Reality:  No one is allowed to put anything dirty in the back of Dad’s truck, including but not limited to: mulch, play sand or lumber.  Despite the truck being equipped with Bluetooth for safe, hands-free communication, Dad never answers when his brother-in-law calls because he needs help moving.

This photo serves to illustrate both pick up trucks and SUV's towing boats.  You can thank me later for killing fewer digital trees to illustrate my blog.  (Image from allfail dot com)
This photo serves to illustrate both pick up trucks and SUV’s towing boats. You can thank me later for killing fewer digital trees to illustrate my blog. (Image from allfail dot com)


Ad Portrayal:  SUV drivers navigate through mud, snow and over all sorts of rugged terrain as children play happily in the back seat.  Dads reconnect with their children by taking the whole family to the Grand Tetons while towing expensive looking boats.

Harsh Reality: There are damn few boulder fields in suburbia.  A few weeks ago, one of the kids dropped an almond butter and jelly sandwich behind one of the fold down rear seats. It smells like it might be fermenting.  Having these killer car payments often prevents SUV owners from buying so much as a dinghy to tow.

This is either an old fashioned restaurant, or a bunch of craftsmen getting wasted after hours in the cobbler's shop (Image from zazzle dot com)
This is either an old fashioned restaurant, or a bunch of craftsmen getting wasted after hours in the cobbler’s shop (Image from zazzle dot com)


Ad Portrayal:  Healthy, good-looking people have incredibly tasty looking food delivered by a perky, knowledgeable waitress.  There are frosty pints of beer handy to wash it down.  The diners look like they’re having so much fun, they might not even get around to actually eating anything.  The camaraderie is so thick, you can cut it with one of the handy butter knives.

Harsh Reality:  The waitress has a hairy mole on her cheek and an Eastern European accent which make the specials at this Tex Mex joint sound like they are composed of boiled cabbage and beet greens.  Our trio of diners could each stand to drop twenty pounds.  The patrons at a nearby table are loud, and not in a good way.  Somewhere else in Svetlana’s section, a small child wails in his high-chair and throws re-fried beans with reckless abandon while his parents pretend not to notice.

E.D.. Medications – Single Dose

Ad Portrayal:  A rugged-but-sensitive looking guy finishes fixing a broken section of barbed wire fence out on the back forty.  His pick-up truck gets stuck in a muddy rut on the dirt road.  He ties the draft horse from his trailer to the front of the pick up and pulls himself back onto dry land. His MacGyver-like solution to the dilemma is clearly just another day in the life of a fellow who gets things done.  He looks like he might be the guy doing the voice-over work on the truck commercials when he’s not working his ranch (but not like Dennis Leary).  He pulls up in front of the cozy farmhouse, where the warm lights in the windows are a symbol for the waiting arms of the gorgeous woman who awaits him.  If “Old Yeller” aint up for hunting , MacGyver can fix that too.

Harsh Reality:  Misinterpreting his wife’s sleeping moans as those of desire, Mr. Fixit slips into the bathroom and pops a little blue pill.  Upon returning to the bedroom his wife is silent and there is unpleasantly aromatic evidence that her moaning was not actually desire-related at all, but rather directly tied to the sizable amounts of pinto beans in her meal earlier at the Tex Mex joint.  Despite the lack of romance in the air, the pill does it’s job.  After some grumbling, the husband decides to sleep on the couch, and maybe catch up on some emails on the tablet.

Kim Kardashian in my post; Check!  Cialis and Viagra in my post: Check! and Check!
Kim Kardashian in my post; Check! Cialis and Viagra in my post: Check! and Check!  All three put in my tags to shamelessly boost blog hits; C.H.E.C.K !!!

E.D.. Medications – Daily Use

Ad Portrayal:  Another good-looking guy sorts through boxes in the attic with his wife and stumbles upon a well-worn record album.  His wife, despite looking like she is a generation younger than him, is immediately touched by the guy’s selection of the music (which would likely be relevant to only one of them).  They commence to slow dancing among the boxes as late afternoon sun slants into the storage space.  The picture fades to dark, and we all know what comes next.

Harsh Reality:  The guy takes these pills everyday, along with fish oil and baby aspirin.  When cleaning the attic, he comes across a record album.  He cannot play it, as he hasn’t had a turntable since his junior year of college.  He shows his wife the album.  After a moment, she berates him for keeping old crap and tells him to put it in the junk pile.  The daily-use ED medications will later be expelled from his body,  as he sits in the powder room, trying to reach the next level of Bubble Witch Saga on his tablet.


Holiday Inn – You Trippin’ !

Holiday Inn is currently running an ad.  It’s innocuous enough, and pretty much what you’d expect of a commercial from them.  One line of the narration caught my ear though, and it’s making me look at advertising media with even more scrutiny then usual.

Did you catch it?  At about 17 seconds in the narrator says “..we ended up bringing the world together”

I’m okay with the promise of clean comfortable rooms and a pool or fitness center.  I’ll accept an ad agency making a typically sad breakfast buffet look like an elimination challenge on Top Chef Masters.

But bringing the world together?  Seriously?

The most powerful, enigmatic people of modern history would have a tough time saying that they brought the world together.

Holiday Inn has a history of building hotels.  They’ve long employed people to change sheets and hand out keys.  For a fee, they supplied travellers with a place to stay when they were tired and still 150 miles outside of Cleveland.  To take those accomplishments and say they brought the world together has to fall on the exaggeration/fabrication end of the spectrum.

The commercial itself doesn’t bother me nearly as much as the fact that I probably saw that it a dozen times before noticing that outrageous boast.  I’m a fairly discriminating viewer of mediocre TV.  Most people don’t watch it with my near-anal preoccupation to detail.  That’s what scares me.

Holiday Inn is far from the only company making outlandish, yet impossible to disprove claims in their ads.

Subaru tells viewers that love is what makes a Subaru a Subaru.  Love – the single most mercurial and precious of all human conditions; that which has inspired the greatest works of art and literature over the history of mankind.  People have killed themselves and one another over love.  Can anyone truly believe that love actually has anything to do with making a Subaru a Subaru?

I don’t have a Subaru.  I do like my car very much, and the day it stops working well, I’ll hate it.  I’m not without faults, but tossing my love around all willy nilly is not one of them.  I reserve my that sweet gift for other human beings and McKenzie Brewing’s delicious Twisted Meniscus India Pale Ale.

People are being fed wildly presumptuous lies and they don’t even realize it.  They pass the Holiday Inn on Route 206 and a warm feeling passes through them, because on a subconscious level, they believe they’re in the presence of a Nobel prize worthy entity.  They’re not.  They’re driving past a hotel.  If by chance they’re in a Subaru the warm feeling they’re mistaking for love is likely just the heated driver’s seat.

Tyler/Brittany/Grayson Scored The Winning Goal/Basket/Run!!

As an avid TV watcher and student of popular culture, I’ve noticed a few things about advertising over the years.  It really doesn’t matter what the product is, advertisers have any number of wily ways to coddle and woo the customer.

One proven method involves subliminally suggesting that if you buy a given product, you will magically inherit the traits of the people in the commercial.  Using the right shampoo will make your hair look luxurious and full of body, and if you read the subliminal messages, it will also take care of that crooked nose, unsightly warts and as an added bonus, you’ll shed those 35 extra pounds you’ve been carting around since the late 90’s.  For obvious legal reasons, no shampoo manufacturer is going to actually promise you much of anything beyond clean hair.  Still, the models in their ads never have crooked noses, warts or thunder thighs.  A coincidence? I think not.

For many advertisers, there is an implied promise which is even more alluring than that of physical beauty, and that is making your child into a sports superstar.  Take for example, the notion that if you buy a certain brand of minivan, your child will score the winning goal in the soccer game, and will be carried off the field on the shoulders of his or her comrades, to the waiting luxurious comfort of your shiny, stain-free mini-van.  It might be the winning run of the baseball game or the winning shot of the basketball game instead of soccer, but make no mistake about it, if you plunk down 30 large for this incredible mini-van, your son or daughter will win the game (As a point of clarification, scoring the winning touchdown in football games is usually reserved for laundry detergent ads).

Listen Brittany! We didn't buy that new mini-van so you could sit on the damn bench! Now smear a little dirt on your cheek and go win the game, and for God's sake, try to look enthused about it! (Image from

Parents have no bounds when it comes to doing anything and everything they can to ensure the success and popularity of their children.  Trust me on this one, I have kids.  OK, you got me, I had kids.  They’re all young adults now, but I have my memories.  If some slick huckster on Madison Avenue implanted the germ of an idea in my head that buying the right mini-van would improve one of my kids chances of scoring a winning goal, you know damn well I would have bought it.  Crash rating?  We don’t need no stinking crash rating!

Now that my kids are older, I can look back with some degree of objectivity on all of this subliminal advertising insanity.  While I wrote that any number of sports could suffice, I’ll stick with soccer for this hypothetical discussion.

On any given weekend day, there are easily a hundred thousand little league soccer games being played all across America.  A standard soccer game will have 11 players on each team.  Only one team can win – there are no ties in mini-van commercials, so we’ll eliminate the 11 players on the losing team.  One of the players on the winning team is the goalie, and unless they make an incredible kick, the goalie is highly unlikely to score the winning goal.  The goalie, especially in little league soccer, would be much more likely to score the winning goal for the other team, however this would probably not result in his or her being carried off the field a hero.

Another factor is that, despite the best efforts of league organizers at spreading the talent evenly among the teams, there are often powerhouses and cellar dwellers in many soccer leagues.  The disparity of talent will result in lop-sided wins or losses.  It’s a simple fact that no one will carry you off the field for scoring the winning goal if it happens 3 minutes into the game in an eventual 10-2 blow out.  Therefore we can safely eliminate half the games being played because they’re blow outs.

Yet another issue is the incidence of overly involved parents.  In a few of these games, despite the outcome, some Dad will go berserk and charge onto the field to assault the referee.  This will result in the game being called on account of boorish behavior, and no one will be carried off the field with the possible exceptions of  Dad being carried off in hand-cuffs and/or the referee on a stretcher.  This may present an opportunity for police car or ambulance advertisers, but admittedly these are niche markets at best.

Of the remaining eligible kids who could possibly score the winning goal, still more must be ruled out.  In commercials, it will be the smallest, scrappiest, cutest little goomer.  He or she will have a small scuff of dirt on their little determined cheek, and they’ll make a face of utter surprise and delight after scoring.  Therefore, none of the bigger kids on the team can score the goal, because they would appear to be a bully or a ringer.  None of the clean faced kids can score it, that just wouldn’t look right.  Finally, none of the really incredibly talented kids can score it because they would never be able to fake the look of surprise and delight, because as an elite 3rd grader, they knew that shot was going in.

I know I’ve lost some of you by now, so allow me to lose the rest of you by introducing a summary in mathematical terms:

100,000 soccer games X 2 Teams of 11 players                                  =  2,200,000

2,200,000 players minus 1,100,000 losing players                                 = 1,100,000

1,100,000 players minus 100,000 goalies                                              = 1,000,000

1,000,000 players minus 500,000 players in blow outs                           = 500,000

500,000 players minus 50,000 players in games called due to Dads       = 450,000

450,000 players minus 400,000 players who are

too big, too talented, and/or too clean                                                        = 50,000

50,000 players minus 40,000 players who’s parents

missed the game due to work or other obligations                                     = 10,000

10,000 players minus 6000 players who were distracted by

planes overhead                                                                                           = 4000

4000 players minus 2000 players who fell down or burst into tears

for no apparent reason                                                                                 = 2000

2000 players minus 925 players who were called offside

by that idiot ref                                                                                              = 1075

1075 players minus 274 who stopped to tie their cleats                                   = 801

801 players minus 211 who missed the game due to dance recitals               = 590

590 players minus 562 who are in sportsmanship leagues which forbid

gloating or being carried off the field by teamates                                            = 28

So there you have it.  By my highly scientific calculations, 28 players out of 2.2 million will score the winning heroic goal as portrayed in mini-van commercials.  Not exactly Mega-Millions long shots, but far from a slam dunk.

Maybe those crash ratings are worth a second look after all.

Advertising in the age of E.D. drugs

The Astoria Column - How has this not shown up in a commercial?

Over the past several years, big pharmaceutical companies have begun spending increasingly huge amounts of money on advertising for almost all of their products.  They’ve always given out pens and mid-size sedans to doctors, but now they’re also bombarding the airwaves telling Average Joes the great news about how well their products work.

Before this advertising blitzkrieg, relatively few people even knew what E.D. stood for.  Now, thanks to countless commercials, millions of Americans are exposed to those letters every day- especially if they’re watching golf or NASCAR.  Erectile Dysfunction medications are being hyped all over the tube like Color-Safe Fabric Softener and Ginsu Knives.

For obvious reasons, the ad agencies have to find ways to sell the E.D. products without actually showing how well they work.  The two biggest purveyors of woody medicine have fairly different approaches to the task.

The first manufacturer’s strategy shows men being men.  Sometimes they’re sailing, but usually they’re driving – classic muscle cars or pick-up trucks hauling horse trailers.  The sound track is often some fairly obscure blues track.  Fans of the Howlin’ Wolf such as myself will take note when hearing his familiar guitar licks on the TV.  At first we’re tickled because someone somewhere took the time to find this cool song and put it on TV.  Then a moment later, we’re disheartened to realize it’s being used in a commercial for boner pills.  The ads focus on portraying these handsome, accomplished men as masters of their own destiny, having figured out how to get where they want to be in life.  The unspoken message is this: If you can figure out how to get that horse trailer unstuck, you can certainly  figure out how to solve the linguine-in-the-pants problem.

The ad agency for the other main pharmaceutical company goes with a different approach.  They show men and women engaged in mundane, mutually tedious activities.  Then they brush elbows, and the garden shed they’re working on re-organizing magically morphs into a Tahitian love-hut complete with tropical breezes and an ocean view.  They discard their work gloves and start slow dancing onto the lanai.  As always, the commercial ends with the two of them sitting alongside one another in matching bathtubs watching the Polynesian sun set.  One could argue that if those pills worked so well, the two of them would have jumped into the same tub.  This particular Madison Avenue approach puts the emphasis on the romance and emotional connection of sex, rather than the dirty, sweaty aspects of it – otherwise the “erections lasting longer than 4 hours” part would be part of the sales pitch, not part of the disclaimer.*

Speaking of disclaimers, there’s also the one which warns users to “consult with your doctor to make sure you’re healthy enough to have sex in the first place”.  Like any disclaimer, it’s there for legal reasons. In lay terms it’s because unlike the rugged horse trailer drivers in the commercial, the actual users of the pills may not be quite so fit.  In other words, many of the actual users of these pills may bear more of a resemblance to the Michelin Man than to the Marlboro Man.

When it’s all said and done, ED drugs and the rest of the pharmaceutical goodies in the world are hawked no differently than any other products.  The subliminal psychology is used and abused to give people all sorts of messages which are patently absurd.  You may suffer from that medical problem, but you’re no more that guy in the vintage Camaro than your wife is the smoking hottie in the air freshener commercial.

Now go enjoy yourself.  If things don’t change in another 3 hours and 52 minutes, you’re going to have to seek medical attention.

*Now that I’ve written this, the company has stopped using the powder-room-with-the-backed-up-toilet-morphing-into-a-mountain-cabin-with-canopy-bed approach and just shows men and women getting close.  They share crossword puzzles and snuggle on couches.  Anyone will tell you that there’s no better way to kill desire than sharing a crossword puzzle – I mean, who could be attracted to someone who couldn’t come up with the five letter word for “calcified instrument of lovemaking(?)”, beginning with b.  The twin tub part has now been reduced to a stylized logo at the very end of the ad.  I’m trying to write here!  Couldn’t you guys leave well enough alone and not change your commercials long enough for my references to be topical!?