Tag Archives: Advertising

Think You’ve Seen It All? Well, You Haven’t.

19 Jan

by Roger White

 

Boy, it happens every time. Without fail, every time I throw my arms up in disgust and utter an exasperated “I’ve seen it all now,” something worse comes along to heave a brick upside the noggin of my jaded sensibilities and inform me that, no, I have not seen it all. Not. Even. Close.

 

Despite how ridiculously vile and frighteningly xenophobic as the foul-smelling arena of politics has become, no, I’m not talking about that. Politics parodies its own self so well these days that no comment is required. Except God help us all. No, what sparked yet another ISIAN (I’ve Seen It All Now) self-rebuke of late came from the one field of human endeavor that manages to run a close second to politics in its ability to horrify and nauseate: advertising.

 

Let me take you back. It wasn’t long ago, a matter of weeks perhaps, and the weather was rotten. So was my health. I had a stubborn chest cold. I’d settled myself down in front of the TV with a meal of my favorite comfort food: a hot bowl of split-pea soup, saltines, and iced tea. With a side of crispy baby gherkins. Awaiting me was an afternoon of recuperation with nourishing reruns of “The Andy Griffith Show” and “The Twilight Zone.” It was just the therapeutic Mukyprescription I needed. Suddenly, there on the screen, rudely interrupting my sick-day fare of Opie, Aunt Bee, Thelma Lou and Rod Serling, was a commercial for some cough medicine featuring an anthropomorphic glob of mucus. That’s right. A walking, talking sickly-green lump of phlegm with stumpy, phlegmy arms and legs.

 

I don’t have to tell you that half of my bowl of hot split-pea soup with saltines went cold and uneaten. The gherkins didn’t go down so well, either.

 

If you watch any television, you, too, have probably seen this chubby little humanoid snotball (no, not Trump—this is about advertising, remember?). Are they serious? These cough medicine moguls are hawking their health-restoring elixir with a revolting ball of human effluence, presumably nicknamed Muky the Mucus Man?

 

Can you just picture these marketing geniuses at deadline time?

“Joe, you got anything?”

“No. I’m empty.”

“Bob? Anything?”

“I dunno. How ’bout a talking loogie?”

“Okay, that’s good. We’re just about out of time. Let’s go with it.”

 

And yeah, when I saw this slimy, gloppy bit of Madison Avenue creativity, my arms reached skyward, and I uttered forth: “I’ve seen it all now.”

 

And yet again, it wasn’t long after that that my latest ISIAN declaration was roundly rejected. Just when I thought that advertising types could sink no lower, the next week I was introduced to a pink little anthropomorphic bladder. It was gotta peean ad for bladder control medicine, and in it this adorable roundish little bladder walks along holding hands with its owner, constantly reminding her that she has to pee. Wait, there’s more. On the same day, on the same channel, came an ad featuring an adorable pink little walking knot of intestines. Really. This creepy duodenum dude, who I can only guess is called Barry Bowels or something, is the mascot for an Irritable Bowel Syndrome medication. Yes, Intestine Man is the best they could conjure.

 

Never in my most delirious fever dreams have I ever envisioned my bowels as a funny-faced little pink dude—and in all candor, I shudder to imagine what my lower innards would look like with a face and limbs. Especially my innards.

Inty

Gak. What’s next? A cutesy brown cartoon poop named Danny Doody concocted as a stool softener mascot? A cuddly little mouth ulcer called Herpey Harry designed to sell cold sore cream? An anthropomorphic little mascot called Limpy the Member used to sell erectile dysfunction pills?

 

Boy, I’ve seen it all. No, wait. I’m quite certain that I haven’t.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely spouse, two precocious offspring units, a morbidly obese dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr Syndrome. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com. Or not.

 

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Here Comes That Damn Google Maps Car Again

16 Oct

by Roger White

I’m not what you call an early adopter. Nay, I am not the type who runs out to Best Buy or that ultra-high-tech Apple Store that looks like a futuristic antiseptically sterile lab from the movie Andromeda Strain to snag the very first model of the latest version of the newest, fastest plasma laser 4-D androbot doodad.

I figure if what I have works, why pay good money to buy another version of it? My 8-track tapes play just meat loavefine, thank you very much. Except when they don’t, but then I can use the miles of tape they spew forth to decorate my Christmas tree (the same detachable faux pine our family has enjoyed every yule since the Clinton Administration, mind you).

This mindset is surely why my buds call me Analog Man.

I used to wear the moniker with a grudging pride, but now I’m finding that my drag-me-by-my-heels-into-this-century behavior may be for the best. Our headlong lurch into the cyber age may be just what ol’ Mr. Orwell was warning us about.

Take the interwebs. It’s truly creepy how much they know about us. I was looking around on ebay the other day at electronic drum kits, just curious, ya know. So then I got on Facebook not long after, and, behold, there were several posts from various advertisers with photos and prices of e-drum kits. Some of them even said, “Still interested, Roger?”

Jinkies! I have to say, this gave me the willies. The jinky willies, even.

So I started doing a little investigating. On the interwebs. Cognitive dissonance aside, I found some juicy, disturbing factoids. I used to call them facts, but in the 21st century, we call them factoids.

For example, Google is, as you’re probably aware, the most popular search engine on the planet. About 70 percent of all net searches are done on Google. And, yes, they track all searches. The fact that I knew they were tracking me as I searched this information on Google put me in a temporary mental wormhole. A quick shot of Jim Beam snapped me out of it. A Google Maps car slowly crept by my window as I put the shot glass down, then a tumbleweed rolled by ominously—in my living room. Yeah.

Anyway, as I read on, I found that they’re getting better at these tracking procedures every day. It frightened me to read that Google’s former CEO, Eric Schmidt, recently said the following: “If you have beeg brosomething that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.”

That’s it. No more searching for obese cartoon unicorns online in my underwear.

And it’s not just Google. The Wall Street Journal recently examined the 50 most popular U.S. websites and found that these sites placed 3,180 tracking files on the reporter’s test computer. Most of those tracking files were installed by 131 companies, many of which are in the business of tracking web users to create databases of consumer profiles.

What do they do with these profiles? They sell them, for big money. These guys are called data brokers, and they collect and package some of our most sensitive personal information and sell it—to each other, to advertisers, even the government—without our knowledge. This data broker biz is a multibillion-dollar industry. Billion, with a “buh.”

Just delete your cookies, you say? Welll … tracking technology is smarter than that now. Monitoring your use, which was once limited to simple “cookie” files that record websites, has been largely replaced with new tools that scan in real time what people are doing online.

Gadzooks. I’m a bit peevish to log in now. Will I get on FB soon and see, “HI ROGER!! Still wetting the bed when it thunders?? Well, try PEE-B-GONE!!” …or something.

helgaAnd, listen, Google people, that thing I had for Slavic barmaids with hairy legs was years ago, OK? No more photos of prospective Bulgarian brides, please.

Just remember this, my cosmic cadets: The word Google broken down is “go ogle.” I’m not sure if that really means anything, but it sounded profound at the time. Another shot of JB, please. Dag, there’s that Google Maps car again.

 

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious offspring, a very obese but mannerful dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com. Or not.

Of Asian Delicacies and the Idiom Tedium

16 Mar

by Roger White

My mother-in-law loves authentic Chinese food, so when we treat her to dinner, she almost invariably chooses First Chinese Barbecue, way up on North Lamar in far North Austin. It’s so far north you’re practically in Waco. You can’t get much more dead ducksauthentic than First Chinese Barbecue; as you walk in you’re greeted by rows of dead, naked ducks hanging like John Wilkes Booth’s gang at execution. The aroma of spices and meats is practically intoxicating, and the menu’s mostly in what I presume is Chinese, with some hints about what you’re ordering in English. I’m never quite sure if I’m ingesting a pig, a chicken, or some other roasted creature, but I must say it is all quite scrumptious.

No, First Chinese Barbecue did not cut some sort of free-meal deal with me to write this, but I will tell you that the dried fresh squid with black bean sauce is out of this world. (Is that good, Mr. Run?) Again, that’s First Chinese Barbecue. Far North Lamar. Ask for the Oldspouse Special.

Anyway, the dinner is only half of the evening for our Bubbie. Dear mom-in-law then likes to head next door to the MT Supermarket. This store, if you’ve never been, is the Asian version of a Walmart Supercenter. It’s a 100,000-square-foot bastion of the most amazing and unbelievable foodstuffs any Texan has ever seen. I presume these yummyitems are foodstuffs. In this era of PC politeness and easily hurt feelings, I’m trying to tread lightly here, OK, but not in my wildest imagination can I conjure a gastronomical use for, say, pork rectum, pork uterus, or fresh chicken feet.

And on just about every aisle you’ll find small armies of robotically waving ceramic cats. Quite unsure of what a robotically waving ceramic cat has to do with Asian groceries, I looked it up and found that these are actually a Japanese thing. Called maneki-neko (which sort of translates into “beckoning cat”) these oddly friendly felines are considered good luck talismans. I don’t know. I have a real cat, and whenever he starts to wave at me like that it usually indicates an impending ambush.

There are also rows upon rows of sweets, too, both prepackaged and freshly made. These aren’t your typical kitty hellocandies and cakes, mind you. You have chocolate and strawberry Pocky Sticks, Green Bean Ice Bars, Purple Mochi Balls, and all sorts of squishy treats with names like Lychee Jelly Cup and Poo Poo Variety. Keeping the freshly rendered pork rectum in mind, I opted to pass on the Poo Poo Variety.

With this less-than-appetizing terminology stuck in my cranium, I got to thinking. How many other marketing words and slogans—perfectly appropriate and appealing in their native tongue—somehow fail to translate? So I hopped on my google horse, and here’s what I found:

  • It seems that the Pepsi slogan of some years back—“Come Alive!”—actually translated in a certain Chinese dialect into “Make Your Ancestors Come Out of the Grave!” That Pepsi packs a punch.
  • Coors once used the motto “Turn It Loose!” to ramp up sales, but apparently this hip saying translated into “Suffer from Diarrhea!” in some Spanish markets.
  • Pee ColaWhen good ol’ Coke was introduced overseas, some Chinese dialects rendered “Ke-kou-ke-la,” which was about as close to Coca-Cola as they could get, into “Bite the Wax Tadpole.” Yum.
  • When Kentucky Fried Chicken made the leap across the big pond, their slogan “Finger-lickin’ Good” came through in Chinese as “Eat Your Fingers Off.” Ouch.
  • The American Dairy Association, pleased with the hugely popular “Got Milk?” campaign, was flabbergasted to find when it exported the saying to Mexico, its initial translation appeared as “Are You Lactating?”
  • If Green Giant brand foods wondered why their first forays into the Arab markets didn’t go as planned, it may have been that the Arabic terminology for naughty soup“In the Valley of the Jolly, ho ho ho, Green Giant!” came across as “This is the Land of the Intimidating, uh uh uh, Green Ogre!” No Ogre Brand Peas for me, thank you.
  • Ah, and here’s a classic, from the days of the Ford Pinto. Seems that the braintrust of the Henry Ford folks couldn’t understand why they failed to move any of their hot, new Pintos in Brazil when they first put them on the market. Only after the fact did they discover that the word “pinto” is Brazilian slang for “tiny male genitals.” Yoiks. The Ford guys quickly and as discreetly as possible switched the car’s moniker in their Brazilian dealerships to Corcel, which means “Horse.”

Knowing all this—and understanding that the term in question surely means something delectable in the Asian world—I still can’t picture myself biting into anything of the Poo Poo variety.

Fart BarRoger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a cat with Epstein-Barr. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

 

 

Sorry, Kids: There Ain’t No Betty Crocker

2 Dec

by Roger White

So I was watching “Seinfeld” for the eleventy-millionth time the other night, mainly because there is absolutely nothing on TV worth watching these days other than reruns of “Seinfeld,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “The Andy Griffith Show,” and “The Twilight Zone.” I know, I know, you young whippersnappers will hold forth that there are some great new shows today, like “Murder, She Wrote” and “The Big Band Theorem” or whatever. I’ll stick with the classics, thank you very much. Don’t you love the word eleventy-million?

not that theresAnyway, I realized that the shtick Seinfeld was doing was aimed right at me. He was talking about pretentious, faux-authentic-sounding brand names, particularly cars. Names like the Integra or the Impreza. They’re made-up names that are meant to sound like other meaningful words, like integrity and impressive. The punch line: Seinfeld simply hoped he hadn’t bought a Lemona. It hit me that the last three cars I owned before my current little Korean vehicle were just that: an Integra, an Impreza, and a Lemona. All true, I previously owned a 1986 Acura Integra (a great car), a 2003 Subaru Impreza (a fast but frustrating car), and a 1979 Lemona (a VW bug—a true bomb I never should have purchased).  Don’t ask me what I was thinking, buying a 35-year-old POS as my daily commute. Besides, that’s another story. A very sad, long story.

Again, anyway. Things then got cosmic as I sat pondering Jerry’s sage words. It struck me as I lifted a spoonful of my Häagen-Dazs Chocolate Peanut Butter flavored ice cream to my mouth. My ice cream brand, too, was a made-up name meant to sound exotic and luxurious. Remember when Häagen-Dazs first hit the haagen whatmarket? Ooh, we thought, super rich frozen goodness from some strange Nordic country where they surely make ice cream from virgin glacial streams, from milk of cows that graze only on Alpine truffles, and from melted gold flakes from Icelandic lava flows. Or something. Turns out, Häagen-Dazs is a nonsense word concocted by one Reuben Mattus from the Bronx. The name, which is not Danish or Swedish or anything slightly lederhosen-ish, doesn’t really mean a thing—except that ol’ Reuben was a marketing genius.

Same with Löwenbräu beer. Back in 1975, just about the time I started my prolific and illustrious drinking career, Miller Brewing of the US of A acquired the North American rights to Löwenbräu, which was originally brewed in Munich. Ya know, the real Germany. Well, when Miller got hold of it, they “Americanized” the recipe, and the original German version of Löwenbräu was no longer imported to our fair shores. Basically, the Löwenbräu we got was Miller swill in an umlaut-sprinkled wrapper. Of course, we young and impressionable drinking types had Millerbrauabsolutely no knowledge of this. We just saw a new, mysterious foreign beer on the market—in a green bottle, even! The name was obviously German, and if anybody knew their brew, it was the Germans. We was hoodwinked.

Same holds true with so many other brands, like bottled water types. I really never understood the billion-dollar explosion of the bottled water industry. It’s water. In a plastic bottle. Water! H2O. This is where brand-name marketing gurus have a field day. There’s one out there called, get this, Glaceau Smartwater. I kid you not. And I not you kid. Both parts of that faux moniker evoke good feelings, don’t they? Aah, a pristine glacier. And intelligent liquid. What could be better? An intellectual body of glacial ice—you can’t get more new-age trendy than that. You know who produces Glaceau Smartwater? Coca-Cola. I picture guys in the back of these massive Coke plants running tap water into these oh-so-fashionable containers of Water de Glaceau. And they’re probably smoking, too. Unfiltered Camels. And laughing.

And don’t get me started on Evian. Look at your Evian bottle in a mirror. Yeah.

uh huh

So. Cogitating on this unsettling realization that so many of the products we consume are purchased under false pretenses, I jogged in a mild panic from the den to the kitchen, where my lovely esposa was making a batch of Betty Crocker pancakes. Paranoia was setting in, so I had to check it out. I ran to the computer and googled “Betty Crocker.” Gads, sure enough. There was no such lady!! Say it ain’t so! I quote from Wiki-whatsis: “The name Betty Crocker was created for the Washburn Crosby Company, later to merge with General Mills, as a way to personalize the company’s products and customer relations. The company picked the name because it sounded warm and friendly.”

I was aghast. Agog. I needed comfort food. “Ah, pancakes. Thanks, dear. Pass the Aunt Jemima.”

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.

Light Up a Smooth Chesterton’s and Enjoy This Column, Won’t You?

5 Dec

by Roger White

Wow. I’ve been reading lately how these crafty internet marketing types prowl the vast jungle of blog sites on this here World Wide Webby thing to see which ones are getting more and more hits as the days go by. Then they pounce, you see, and offer all kinds of payola and other goodies to the blog hosts to let them advertise on their blog sites. You see. The marketing types’ clients are happy because they get more traffic and word of mouth about their fantastic products and services, and the bloggers are happy because they get nifty payola and other goodies simply for referring their loyal readers to these guys who advertise on their sites. And the blog readers are happy, I suppose, because they get what you call “value added” bonus material (this can also be read as obnoxious advertising and teeth-clenching pop-ups) on their favorite blog sites. You see.

The only problem with this scenario is that the integrity of ye olde blog site owner comes into question. Somehow the purity of the message seems tainted when a corporate sponsor gets involved. You start wondering, now, did he write a whole column on how the Nazis were just a misunderstood political faction bent on strict law and order because he really believes it or because the Volkswagen logo is now splashed all over his web page? And kind of like how every first down the Texas Longhorns make when they’re playing at Royal Memorial Stadium is now brought to you by Taco Bell. Not that I’m implying that the makers of Volkswagen are Nazis somehow or that the only reason the ’Horns strive for every hard-earned first down when they’re playing at home is because they get a free bag of burritos with every 10 yards. But you get the idea.

So, anyway. Wouldn’t you know it? The very day I’m reading about how all this works, I get an e-mail from a guy named Mark Ettingtipe asking me if I would consider pasting some obnoxio—er, I mean, if I would consider developing some mind-nourishing value-added information for my li’l old blog site. How about that? Enough of you crazies have had absolutely nothing better to do than poke around reading my meandering streams of thought so that some crafty marketing types have been prodded to fishing in these waters for an advertising deal. I’m so flattered, you guys. (Insert Sally Field voice here.) “You like me! You really, really like me!”

I have to say, I gave some very serious consideration to the guy’s offer. I mean, jeez, an eighth of a cent per reader hit adds up over time. Let’s do the math. Say I get approximately 150 reader hits a day, multiplied by my sweet deal of an eighth of a penny per hit, and this comes out to about $1.20 a month. As one Jeff Spicoli once opined in Fast Times at Ridgemont High: “Righteous bucks.”

It was a tough call, but I turned ol’ crafty Mark Ettingtipe down. For one thing, I just can’t be untrue to my dear column—and to you, my loyal readers. My mission here is to provide those who know and love me the most with true pearls of wisdom and wit that can only come from a pure heart and a mind influenced only by the odd residual chemicals still left floating in yonder brain canals from my halcyon days of … well, let’s just call it “life experimentation” and leave it at that. I still say the color orange has a distinct sound.

And for another thing, I’m not certain I’m quite on board with the products Mr. Ettingtipe was wanting to peddle on these here pages. So you’ll be glad to know that you won’t have to ever wonder about the content on this site at least. They tried, yes sir, but they couldn’t get this old soldier to sell out to Madison Avenue. It’ll take much more than the lure of some easy money to turn the head of this ol’ keyboard banger. But this does remind me—you know what does turn my head? I’ll tell you, it’s the sweet, luxurious aroma of Chesterton’s 100s Menthol-Tipped Cigarettes. Whenever I’m tired from a long day of writing, I like to relax in my favorite easy chair with a cold drink and the silky smooth menthol tobacco flavor of a refreshing Chesterton.

Won’t you join me next week when I’ll be penning an enjoyable, light-hearted piece of humor about the wacky adventures of visiting the in-laws over Christmas? Pull up a chair, fill your best pipe with Chesterton’s nutmeg-aroma pipe tobacco, and we’ll share a laugh or two. See you then!

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit oldspouse.wordpress.com.