You and I know it, and so does your bank – there’s nothing groovy about your checking account. Thinking about your checking account never makes you jump into the air in slow motion joy. Paying a bill will not really – or at least it shouldn’t – make you pump your fists triumphantly over your head, and feel free as a bird.
Sometimes they play a little surfing music on the television, while they talk about what they’ll allow you to do with your money. They’ll tell you something about their checking accounts, and then for some reason show a couple of underwear models in straw hats kicking back on the beach, and then they’ll tell you something else about their checking accounts, and show a guy windsurfing or something.
They’re just plain lying. They play music completely inconsistent with what they’re talking about. Groovy surfing music, and debit cards. Like playing banjo and violin music, and trying to associate it with dentistry.
There must be some correlation, though, between running those ads, and people showing up for the checking accounts, because they run them a lot. That’s apparently a tasty treat, for us consumers, the idea that checking accounts are groovy.
I’m sort of surprised that every bank’s commercial over the last two years hasn’t just been their executives, standing there with hats in their hands, saying they’re sorry. But they’re not doing that, and it’s because that would not have the right correlation to people showing up for checking accounts, and also because they’re not sorry. No, the banking system just collapsed and you guys kept right on having a party, and I’d really rather not hear the actual music from it, while you lie to me.
Just about every commercial out there is lying to us, and frequently in the most insultingly cloying way. They’ll say, I know what a big, strong, sexy man like you needs – it’s this particular kind of soap. What are you going to do, argue with the underwear model holding the soap, tell her, you don’t like her idea about your sexiness and the soap?
Then there are yogurt commercials – just beer commercials for women, really. They use underwear models in the yogurt commercials, too, but they take their make-up off of them, and maybe put them in a sweatshirt and a casual head wrap. Underwear models who have stuff to do that day, like get some laundry done and drop the kids off at lacrosse.
They’ll say, this is you, see? She’s dressing like you and she’s super awesome at every aspect of her life. Sometimes they’ll show you her moronic husband, who thinks she’s really talking on the phone about cheesecake and so he grunts and lumbers over to the fridge. He’ll kind of root around in there clomping his feet and moaning frantically until his sensibly dressed underwear model wife rescues him from his own confused paralysis, by asking what the hell he’s doing, and then he’ll freeze. Holy crap that’s the boss!
It’s not real cheesecake, you big dope! And that sucks, since there’s no way a grown man can hook himself up with a slice of cheesecake, here in modern America. It’s not like there’s a Cheesecake Factory you can just rock on into while your wife sits around at home, talking to her pals on the phone about yogurt. No, the best you can do is nap about the house with one ear open, waiting for your wife to say the word, and then perk up like a cat hearing a can opener. Come bumbling in, pointing at your open mouth, hope your wife is merciful and good enough to insert some cheesecake in it.
They don’t care if they’re insulting your husband, just like beer commercials don’t care if they’re insulting you. Because you’re the one who’s going to put the yogurt in your grocery cart, and we’re the ones who are going to pick up the beer.
Yep, that’s you, and might I add it’s so sweet you put up with that jackass, they’ll say. You kind of have to look close, to notice they’re still using an underwear model, but yes, that’s the point. Eat that yogurt, and you’ll be an underwear model superwife, who expertly juggles her work and family life with virtually no help from her resident jackass, whom she keeps around largely as charity.
Sometimes they’ll throw in the commercial staple format, Defeat The Blonde. They’ll put a blonde woman – wearing make-up, mind you – next to the underwear model supermom wearing your sweatshirt, and the blonde woman will brag about her yogurt purchase, or her exercise habits, and then your Super You Yogurt Commercial Avatar will reveal that she actually got a better deal on her yogurt, that it’s better yogurt, and also that although her exercise program is simpler, she’s really an underwear model. Sometimes she’ll turn around, show you her little butt – because that’s practically your butt, they’ll tell you. I mean, she’s pretty much you. You’re just like that. There will be no way to tell you two apart, once you go out and buy that kind of yogurt.
And anyway then apparently, enough of you guys run out and buy the yogurt, just like enough of us dudes go out and buy Coors Light after they show us commercials about half naked women jet skiing and then dancing on patios. These commercials have been around for ages, and these folks know what they’re doing. It’s got to be working.
They use Defeat The Blonde all the time. There’s a Taco Bell commercial where a girl is out clubbin’ with her hottie blondie pal, who is really gearing up to attract all the male attention in the room. Being kind of insensitive about it, as she does the old cartoon, bent-elbow hair fluff, looking around for guys.
The girl who is not blonde is very attractive, but they dress her in dark clothes and keep her cleavage buttoned away and stick some glasses on her – that’s supposed to be you, I think. Because then the non-blonde/you takes out a new Taco Bell product, and then three studs are hovering around her because there’s bacon in it. Average dudes – especially the really good-looking ones – have no idea where to get a Taco Bell product with bacon in it, so it’s pretty much like a siren song to them. They can’t even be bothered to notice while the Blonde, Defeated, sits around bored nearby.
Lies. Totally full of crap, perfectly legal. Like when they say they have prices “as low as six hundred dollars!” In mathematical terms, that means “greater than or equal to.” The lowest price we have for the biggest piece of crap here, is six hundred dollars. You’re going to spend nine-fifty. That’s all they mean, but they don’t have to say it.
Sometimes the lies make no sense at all. There’s a car commercial where a perky-voice Asian woman is test driving whatever car it is, and she says mischievously, “I feel like I’m cheating on my CRV!”
And I mean, first of all, no you don’t. That would be insane. But what really doesn’t make sense is, okay so you’re trying to sell me a car, because it’s just like adultery. That’s the way this perky-voice driver related to the experience – this is like adultery! Do you like adultery? Then you’re going to love this car!
Now they sneak the commercials in on you, since it’s so easy to fast forward them. They’ll put in a little ten-second interview with one of the actors from the show you’re watching, and then you’ll hit play thinking the show’s back on, and then the actor flips you off, and real quick an underwear model is going, “I MAKE THIS KIND OF BACON FOR MY FAMILY! EAT IT!”
Damn it – you sneaky bastards.
Then there’s the radio. I love CD101, but when they suddenly start talking to me about cell phones or certain kinds of vodka, they just suddenly decided to start lying to us. I mean, their words might not be lies – maybe they really do like the vodka, the phones. But what they’re lying about is their motivation for talking about it. They try to come off like, casually – you know what I just thought of? Cracker Barrel. I love the Cracker Barrel.
Not, hey the Cracker Barrel gave me five hundred bucks to talk about how awesome lunch was the other day.
Worse, I hate it when commercials lie about the feeling of spending money. There’s one about a happy couple that goes to Home Depot – or maybe Lowes – and you can tell by what they’re talking about, they’re spending hundreds of dollars. That’s never a pleasant experience for me, realizing I need to drop hundreds of dollars at Home Depot.
But then one of them says, the neighbor’s dog sucks, and his wife says, let’s head over to fencing! And then they laugh their asses off, cause that’s so awesome, peeling off a couple thousand bucks, buying yourself fifty hours of grueling manual labor. Sure, screw it, sweetheart, that’s what this economy’s all about. Everybody’s got enough cash and energy lying around for a four-digit impulse buy. Aren’t dogs funny?
I used to be really worried about the idea that companies would sell my personal information to marketing companies. You know, when you scan your Kroger card or your Giant Eagle card or your CVS card, that’s what they’re doing. They sell the information about what you purchase, to marketing companies, who have supercomputers which can extrapolate, based on the stuff you bought, what other stuff you’re likely to want to buy. And they’re very accurate.
My old friend Tanya was the first one to point that out to me – Tom, don’t you want them to know your interests? They’re going to market to you about something – wouldn’t you prefer that it’s something you like, rather than something random?
And that’s what you get online. I started a blog, for instance, so now my Facebook page is lined with Writer Products. Screenplay School! Writing Seminars! Discount Whiskey!
It beats the shotgun approach you get on television, sitting there watching Stridex commercials just because you happen to think The Vampire Diaries is sweet. I wish the television really did know the stuff that my computer knows, so that it would know that I’m really a rough-and-tumble hardass, who likes chainsaws and Iron Man II previews and up-to-the-minute lunch specials within a five mile radius, even though Project Runway is on.
Similarly, I wish it knew to turn itself off when I fall asleep, instead of waking me up at four am with a really creepy dude trying to sell me colon-flushing drugs or books about tax foreclosures.
Is that so wrong?