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Taste Has Left the Station

I recently did one of my rare Facebook posts. The subject was TV advertising, and how it has recently gotten out of control. While a bit on the edge, it generated a covey of likes and at least one comment suggesting that it be made into a blog. You don’t have to ask me twice. I have five in draft and one that I have been carrying around inside my head for a week, but I thought I’d sit down today and see if anything appeared on the blank page in front of me.

Hayden and I have long laughed about the foibles and errors of modern advertising. For example, as long as I can remember there has been a parade of car dealers who should have NEVER cast themselves in their own commercials. You know, the ill-fitting sports jacket, the obnoxious voice, the corny slogans, and the cringe-worthy choreography. Our most recent favorite is a local ad where the dealer looks like he just jumped off a wanted poster for a serial killer. No one had the guts to say, “Frank, you’re a creepy looking guy and you are gonna scare away the customers.” If this guy were selling hot car sound systems under a streetlight behind Sam’s Club, you’d buy something from him. But a car at MSRP? No way.

Over the years, that same genre has drifted into ads for local lawyers. I’m sure you remember the battle over whether this was even going to be ethical in the legal profession. Well, they decided it would be ethical, but nobody gave it the “is it smart?” test. So, what we have been subjected to on midday and late-night TV is a succession of ads which feature lawyers who, with the sound on mute, you would swear were the clients and not the attorneys. The profession has self-separated into two camps, one feasting on the poor clients who would be influenced by this kind of pitch, and the other willing to let their reputation and word of mouth lead clients to their door. Meanwhile, we are subjected to an endless stream of cringeworthy ads from the Mr. Ray’s Hairweave School of Cinema.

As America ages, you’ve noted that by count and airtime there are more ads for prescription drugs than for any other category. I love the ones that you have no earthly idea what they profess to treat or cure. You much discern from happy couples, smiling families, and women wearing sleeveless dresses the reason for the manufacture and distribution of the drugs. They never just come out and say it. I guess they want you to ask Dr. Google and if it vaguely sounds like a condition you have or think you have, you can ask your own doctor. But if your doctor is like mine, he’s likely to respond with his own question/statement. “Tell me you HAVE’NT been listening to the People’s Pharmacy again!”

Remember the old one about erectile disfunction that ended with the couple sitting in separate bathtubs and gazing out at the sunset over the ocean. That ad taught me two things. One, they were in California where the sun sets over the ocean. Two, erectile disfunction or not, nobody gets pregnant sitting in separate bathtubs and merely holding hands. Even the Nuns know that.

And then there are the drug disclaimers. They appear in one point type at the bottom of the screen and are repeated by the narrator in a machine-gun cadence only discernable by Evelyn Woods. Listen carefully. Most of these drugs can result in sudden death. That tells you that someone in the trial was fine and then suddenly was anything but fine. Ooops. But page 136 of the disclaimer that they signed had this sudden death fact spelled out. So, sorry. Chalk one up for medical science.

And then there is my all-time favorite disclaimer. If you are allergic to the drug, don’t take the drug. They actually say that out loud with no audience laugh track in the background. “If you are allergic to FLM (Frontal-Lobotomy-Micin), then don’t take it (you idiot).” What begs the question is that you of course don’t know you are allergic to this new drug, but if you violated the allergy disclaimer and when it results in the aforementioned sudden death, drug company 1, patient 0.

As I mentioned earlier, we have been lulled into a sense of complacency with the march of more and more bathtub and sunset moments. Yes, the ads that leapt across the PG barrier and brought both embarrassing content and awkward adolescent questions into our living rooms were the ones targeting ED. There are so many of them now, it could lead one to think that erectile disfunction and not climate change is the true existential threat of our time.

Shouldn’t there be telethons, Willie Nelson concerts, and Go-Fund-Me pages celebrating our birthdays in the name of ridding the planet of this scourge? You go first with that Go-Fund-Me Page and I’ll be right behind you. Trump honest. But in the meantime, we’ll just have to stand by and watch television advertising straighten it out themselves (couldn’t resist, sorry).

And with that step taken, we are now subjected to the realization that we “come in all shapes and sizes.” Ah yes, the new epidemic that picked up where ED left off, Peyronie’s Disease. Why didn’t we hear about the discovery of this disease or get to celebrate the guy who named it? My theory, yet unconfirmed, is that the guy’s name was actually Peroni, but in order not to be sued by the beer company he stuck in the y and ended with the Scottish suffix ie. That would surely throw them a curve (oops, I did it again, sorry).

From that tasteless breakthrough advertising has degenerated into large bears bragging about the capabilities of different toilet tissues. While I would agree that bears have a larger problem than say the American Hairless Terrier, the transferability of the advantages of the bear’s choice of toilet paper to me is a stretch. While I have nothing against the Ursidae family, I have been content to be as hungry as one, accept the brunt like one, and to hold a grudge like one. To wipe like one is not compelling.

That brings me to the one gripe that started this entire journey. First my disclaimer:

I love women. My wonderful mom was one. My unparalleled wife is one. Both of my terrific children are women, and both of my exceptional grandchildren are girls. I love women and I fully understand in ways you can only imagine the need for feminine hygiene products.

BUT the need to tag one such product as “Fear No Gush” and then run your ads at dinner time…dear God. Let’s PLEASE take a different approach to this marketing.

Can I get an amen and a promise to lobby your local cable provider or streaming service to cease and desist this campaign? At least, put the ads on late at night along with the toupee-clad ambulance chaser and the creepy car salesman. That’s where they belong.

Did I mention that I love women?


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