With the holidays and now Valentine’s Day, we’re being treated to the usual explosion of Kay’s and Jared’s ads. There is really nothing creepier than these ads, which illustrate relationships between the sexes as ventures in which the entire families of middle-aged women (who still inexplicably seem to live at home) wait with baited breath (usually in their suburban split-levels) for timid men to show up and present unattractive diamonds purchased at mall chain stores as tokens of their esteem. I wish these retailers would launch a more realistic ad campaign in which men ‘go to Jared’ for disinterested, manipulative strippers, and resentful, kept mistresses. Along the same lines, we have an ad where a man and woman are driving around in a Lexis or something, holding hands all lovey-dovey, and then the guy slips a diamond pendant into the woman’s hand. Well, that’s fine, but there’s something crass about the way he does it, and I’m not sure what exactly makes it that way. Maybe it’s that he turns a gesture of casual affection into a commercial transaction (which is really what all these ads do), but I just keep thinking that if a guy slipped a diamond into my hand like that, I’d probably feel I’d been insulted.
Continuing on with fashion-based materialism, I think it’s odd that ads for Old Navy and Kohl’s have gotten so sexy. When most clothing ads seem to be swinging towards featuring real people with real bodies wearing clothes in real-life situations (and I’m thrilled about that, by the way), the ads for these two retailers are getting ever more old school, with attractive, stick-thin people in their early 20s cavorting around in pristine environments. It’s especially strange, because these two retailers are budget chains aimed at families – the most “real people”-directed of all the retailers advertising right now.
Another new trend in advertising: viewers being asked to identify with total jerks. Two ads in this category include the freecreditreport.com ad in which what appears to be an 18-year-old boy sings a crappy jingle, about how his new 18-year-old girl-bride turned out to have bad credit and now he wishes he had stayed single. He sings this in a mocking tone right in front of her and some friend of theirs, while she stomps around and tries to ignore his immature baiting. What a dick! The other one is the anti-drug ad in which a young girl does a little rap about how this one dude in her neighborhood just sits on the stoop and smokes weed all day, and will probably amount to nothing. “I wonder if he’ll ever leave?” she concludes, standing right in front of him. “I wonder if you’ll ever shut the hell up,” I keep waiting for him to scream.
Speaking of annoying people, I often think to myself when I watch ads featuring children that there is just a hopeless divide between people who find certain things children do adorable, and people who find those same things obnoxious as all get-out. I really don’t understand what some people find cute or winning. If, for example, I were the woman shopping with the small girl in the PediaSure ad who keeps saying, ‘I don’t like broccoli, I don’t like chicken,’ with a whiny little puss on her face, my reaction would almost certainly be, ‘Well, I don’t like YOU, stupid, but you don’t hear me going on about it!’ While it’s possible that motherhood would suddenly cause me to find such childish displays irresistible, still I like to think I’d always recognize good reason for a smack when I saw it.
Two other quick things: first of all – boy, let’s all avoid the warm, sexual taste of Disaronno! Everything about this ad is both hilarious and deeply unsettling. Unsettling because, is it just me, or do both the man and woman in this ad slightly miss being actually attractive because there’s something a little bit off about their appearances? Almost like they’re both in drag. …Whoa. If that’s actually true, this is the most ingenious ad I’ve ever seen, and I apologize for not getting it before. (And while I’m on the topic of comically overt liquor ads: Come on, Bacardi. Enough with the mortar and pestle already – are you serious?)
And secondly, “use your period for good,” is a really, really unfortunate tagline that creates a most unpleasant mental image. I sincerely hope that no one is ever actually moved to “use their period” for anything at all.