I finished another (short) spell of working yesterday, so it is now time to park it in front of the television and bitch about stupid ads again.
First up is an ad I haven’t seen in awhile, but loved so much I just have to mention it: the Smuckers jam ad, where two little boys in some podunk town wander through an orchard.
‘Why doesn’t anyone ever ask me what I want to be when I grow up?’ muses one child.
‘Because your name’s Smuckers,’ explains his friend. ‘So, everyone knows what you’re going to do: you’re going to make jam.’
‘I love jam,’ the first child murmurs, resignedly.
And the voiceover explains that when you live in Podunk and your last name is Smuckers, you have no choice in the matter and no options at all. You’re going to make jam all your life, and that’s it.
I don’t think the creators of this ad meant for it to leave the viewer feeling terribly depressed for the Smuckers boy, but then again, maybe it’s a really effective ad: I sort of want to go buy a caseload of jam out of pity. Maybe if we all buy enough jam, Smuckers can retire early enough to finally fulfill his childhood dream of being an archaeologist.
Sort of similar to this ad is one for a Thomas the Tank Engine board game. The ad depicts a plastic Thomas the Tank being manipulated by a small boy. All the time, Thomas’s recorded voice comments helplessly on his total lack of control over (or understanding of) his own life: ‘I’m going through a tunnel. Oh, no, I’m not. I’m going backwards. What? Why am I going backwards? Into the station again. No, out of the station. Oh, hell, I have no idea what I’m doing. I’m just circling and circling, controlled by some unseen hand from above. I have no free will and no say in the matter. I’m doomed to fruitlessly circle this track for all eternity, never reaching any destination! God is surely some sadistic toddler.’
Poor, poor Thomas the Fatalist Tank Engine.
In the category of imprecisely or arbitrarily worded ads, we have the Betty Crocker warm delights ads, in which the voiceover declares, ‘Chocolate is the eighth wonder, warm chocolate the ninth!’ What? The eighth wonder of what? Now, it is true that we’re all familiar with the phrase ‘the seven wonders of the world.’ But only within the context of those seven wonders being fascinating man-made or natural structures from various epochs (ancient, modern, etc.). What the hell does that have to do with chocolate? Did they just pick some random phrase that would sound familiar, regardless of context? In that case, why not ‘if nice guys finish last, chocolate finishes first,’ or ‘ready, aim, chocolate,’ or ‘chocolate is the eighth day of the week, warm chocolate the ninth.’ What would have made infinitely more sense is, ‘chocolate is the eighth deadly sin, warm chocolate the ninth.’ This would have kept the “8” and “9” theme that the advertisers seem (for some reason) attached to, but worked much better, because chocolate is often described by people as sinful or indulgent, whereas it is absolutely never described as architecturally impressive.
On to the CiCi’s buffet ad, where a pinched-looking woman is shown eyeing the pizza buffet, and the voiceover says something like, ‘The CiCi’s pizza buffet: a decadent world of gastronomic delight. But not for you. You shower with a loofah. Your indulgence: the salad bar.’
Okay. I get that the loofah line is thrown in there to illustrate that this woman is an obsessively self-controlled, disciplined person, who would never cut loose and go hog wild on some pizza. But it doesn’t work for two reasons, the first being that showering with a loofah is not a stereotypical example of being way Type A. Using a loofah just means you want soft elbows. A better example would be, ‘You dust behind the sofa,’ or ‘You floss twice a day,’ or ‘You always wear your seatbelt/organize your sock drawer/color-code your groceries/file all your receipts,’ and on and on and on.
The other problem with the loofah example is that it is only one example, making it sound less like an example, and more like a direct cause. If you say, ‘You shower with a loofah, pay your bills promptly and always tuck in your shirt. Your indulgence: the salad bar.’ That means, ‘You are an uptight control freak. You wouldn’t let yourself eat much more than salad.’ But if you stop with the loofah example, that sounds more like, ‘You shower with a loofah, and so you are unable to eat pizza, because a known side-effect of loofah-use is an allergic reaction to cheese.’
Finally, one last thing, for the holiday season:
‘Raise your hand if you think we should pick out a few more toys!’
Raise your hand if you think this kid should spend Christmas volunteering at a Thai orphanage!