As you probably have guessed, if you’ve followed these blogs for a while, one of my favorite things to rant about is commercials. They truly never cease to amaze me as indicators of the contempt in which advertisers hold us.
There are so many egregious examples, picking just a few at any given time is difficult. I currently have two which I find particularly noteworthy. And I find it significant that when I find a commercial repugnant, I do my best to forget the name of the advertiser. One of these current “favorites” is, I believe, for Plavix, (“Just because you’re feeling better doesn’t mean you can stop taking them.”). It shows a doctor’s office, with a white-coated doctor sitting behind his desk addressing some hanging-on-every-word schlub. He’s droning on in a bored monotone and, while listing 45 seconds of side-effects during the one-minute commercial, says “Be sure to notify me if you’re planning surgery.”
I beg your pardon? Notify my doctor if I’m planning surgery? What an amazing idea. Heck, I normally just do it myself, or call my plumber, like everybody else.
I’m sure the drug companies are very unhappy about having to take up precious advertising time by listing possible side effects…a classic example of government’s sticking its nose into free enterprise…and they usually speed through them at a dizzying rate. Of course, they’d have to, to be able to get them all in. But do try to listen carefully. There is one drug designed for muscle pain which includes as a side effect “severe cramping.” And I’m sure I have heard, buried among the cautions of “sinus drainage” and “mild nausea” something about “sudden cardiac arrest.”
The list of side effects is so long with some medications, including the “Do not take if you are…or have…or may ever conceivably have…” that they should just use a blanket caution such as “Do not take if you have a pulse.”
My second current favorite shows two climbers—a man and a woman, of course…having two men could smack too strongly of a homosexual relationship—on a rock wall,, hundreds of feet in the air. The camera zooms in as the woman retrieves her cell phone (don’t ask), then calls a number. “I’ve just been notified that my checking account is low,” she says. “I’d like to make a transfer. Thank you.” She then hangs up and continues her climb. I can’t help but envision the person who took the call staring at the phone wondering who the hell was calling, how much she wanted to transfer from what account to what account, and what her account number might be. But one of the cardinal rules of the advertising world is “Don’t bother with logic, just get the message across. The viewer is too stupid to realize it doesn’t make any sense.”
Local TV advertising has its own charms. In Chicago we have a ubiquitous car salesman who holds his hands at shoulder level as though measuring the fish that got away and then emphasizes every single word with a forward chopping motion of both hands. Another gentleman, selling new and used sports equipment, was apparently inspired by the car dealer, but added his own delightfully endearing modifications: hands in basically the same position as the car dealer, but a bit lower, he varies his chopping motions with a hand-clasp (chop-chop-clasp, chop-chop-clasp, etc.).
So now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to go tell my doctor about my plan for brain surgery, then call my bank to transfer funds, then go buy a new car and some sports equipment. (And they say advertising doesn’t work!)
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