Posts Tagged ‘advertising


Be Careful What You Promise

This in from the AP: Back in September, when crackpot fame whore Terry Jones was threatening to burn a pile of Qurans, a New Jersey car dealer (and former NY Giant) did a radio ad in which he announced he’d give the Florida preacher the use of a Hyundai off his lot for a year if he backed down.

Apparently he mistook TV news for a game show. Who could blame him, really? So, no sooner had Jones put the lighter fluid away than one of his helpers called up the dealer looking to collect on the offer — under threat of calling him out on “false advertising.”

I guess if it’s in an ad, it must be true… so, a promise is a promise, I guess.

The dealer says he wants nothing to do with Jones — apart from making himself one of the highest-rollers to donate to Dove World Outreach Center, apparently — so he’s telling him to keep the thing. To his PR rep’s delight, Jones has said he’s going to donate the car to an organization that helps abused Muslim women.

I was once offered a car if I would renounce homosexuality. It was a pick-up truck, as I recall. But I stuck to my gay guns and ended up with a great husband. And he has a car. So I guess I’m set.


Naming Rights

AT&T StationSEPTA just changed the name of one of its subway stations to AT&T. It’s not the End Times, but it is a little odd.

It makes sense that AT&T would want this. They provide cell service underground, which is pretty cool. They have a huge marketing budget. So, give them ad space down there. Give them sponsorship of a station, a logo on every sign and next to the station’s dot on the map, tiles that match the logo or the CEO’s grandmother’s favorite colors. Whatever. But changing the name of the station is just weird.

Stations are normally named after the streets they are located at or landmarks nearby because it makes sense for them to have some connection to the city they serve. Even if it were named after a corporation that had some kind of roots in Philadelphia — Aramark or Comcast or Sunoco — that would make more sense than AT&T.

Imagine using it in conversation: “I need to get off at AT&T.” “Transfer to a bus at AT&T.”

Conceivably, any number of stations could be called AT&T. How confusing would that be?

It’s different for something like a regional train station. Call that anything you want, it doesn’t matter. For all any traveler cares, 30th street station is just “Philadelphia.” Penn Station is “New York.” South Station is “Boston” and Union Station is “Chicago.” Their precise locations and names are less important.

But within a city, on a transit map, which is essential for intracity navigation, we need names that make sense. A geographical connection between the subway map and the geography it represents is kind of important. Or should we just give up on any sense of utility for SEPTA maps.

Of course this will continue. Advertisers need to work harder and be more clever if they are going to get to us. (AT&T’s best advertisement is the service it provides underground, not a logo on a map.) But I hope we can limit it in a way that makes sense.


Bare Bottoms or Bear Bottoms?

Why does so much toilet paper packaging feature pictures of babies? Clouds, yes. Fuzzy, anthropomorphized forest creatures, sure. They conjure images of softness, lightness, cleanliness. And they are a momentary distraction from the essential business of toilet paper.

I suppose babies are soft. They’re clean, if you make them clean. But anyone who has stood in line at the post office with a kid on the hip knows they are not light. I don’t associate infants with toilet paper. They can’t even use the stuff. If we could get babies to use toilet paper, parenthood would be a far less messy enterprise.


I Can’t Believe It’s Not Fabio

One idea of male physical perfection is the romance novel cover model. It’s the swashbuckling hero, stripped to the waist, wrapping himself around a fair damsel, her frills and ribbons swirling up around him, licking his bronzed, hairless torso. It’s the tamed savage, all leather straps, shells and feathers, towering magnificently over his prize, one ham-sized hand firmly grasping her arm, the other gently touching her chin as she, on her knees, reaches desperately up toward him, her hair a wind-swept tangle nearly as long as his.

There’s enough there to excite the dreams of a young boy for years into his adolescence — whether he wants to be the hero … or to receive the hero’s ill-fated, undying desire. It was rivaled only by the box-cover underwear models lining the rows of men’s department store intimate apparel aisles. (I never wore the stuff. I always had the simple Fruit of the Loom numbers. Instead of the triumphantly muscled gods of Calvin Klein and Jockey, I had a few guys in fruit fetish wear.)

It was enough to take Fabio all the way to the top of a margarine ad empire.

Recently this dream has been playing out on the walls of the New York subway. In all their half-naked, air-brushed glory, Hollywood hotties Eddie Cibrian, Jerry O’Connell, Ivan Sergei and Jason Lewis are doing their best to out-Fabio each other, tenderly grasping their respective leading ladies, in a collection of posters for a series of Lifetime movies based on novels by Nora Roberts.

The 2009 Nora Roberts Collection

I don’t know anything about her or her work, but the art direction of the posters tells me all I really want to know.

The films themselves are probably decent, perfunctory, uncomplicated TV movies. But the candy-colored posters are ridiculous caricatures. And the assault of all four of them taken together, which is how they appear in the subway, makes the whole thing look a little like a joke. On the Web site, we learn further that erstwhile hot mamas such as Cybil Shepard and Faye Dunaway also co-star. Could it get any gayer? It’s like accidental high camp.

But this is “television for women,” after all. The images above are all arms and chest. Not a single nipple shows. And no gay soft-core porn, however accidental, would be caught dead without a couple of Susan B. Anthonys peeking through.



Direct mail marketing, or as I prefer to know it, junk mail, can get it wrong, so wrong, really wrong.

For example, what unfortunate postal mishap has resulted in the ceaseless delivery of the Victoria’s Secret catalog to my name at my address? Is it a joke? There is not much in this world less interesting to me than women’s underwear. Jeff gets his Jeep parts catalog, from which he has placed an order exactly once, but even that is more welcome toilet reading.

Why can’t it be the Ikea catalog? I should perhaps be cautiously grateful it’s not International Male. It’s like making eye contact with a panhandler. Once they see you look they’re all over you for some coin.

Then there’s my recent receipt of a solicitation from a local funeral home. The double insult: It was addressed to Jeff — and his wife.


I Heart Justin Long

I probably won’t see the movie He’s Just Not That Into You, whether or not it’s a chick flick, but I sure am into this cute little promo video for all the straight guys out there with girlfriends who do want to see it.

Ahh… How could I ever get a PC?


99.44% Pure What?

Is there a more vile substance in all this earth than Ivory soap? The moment I open a package — assuming I can scrape the vacuum-sealed skin-tight paper from the bar — I have to sneeze and I feel like I have to throw up a little. It is concentrated evil.

It looks like frozen lard chopped into fist-sized bars. It feels like a lump of laundry detergent, and it seems to suck all moisture out of the air around it. I imagine the poor souls who produce the stuff in factories. Their noses and throats must be as raw as ground beef. Their skin must be as dry as Bob Newhart. And we are delighted to scrub down babies with it.

I picked up some Lever 2000 yesterday.


More Treat, Less Trick

Halloween used to be fun. My mom and I would Scotch tape paper skeletons with metal rivet joints all over the house. My dad helped me carve the most elaborate jack-o’-lanterns, using the leftover pieces for ears and horns and other accessories. Then I’d take the biggest pillow case I could find and run around the neighborhood taking candy from strangers.

These days, it’s all about Saw IV and pictures of pale, creepy babies with googly-eyes. What was once cute and cartoonish is now dark and serious and disturbing. The kids of the ’80s have not yet grown up. They’ve hijacked Halloween and taken it away from the kids of today.

I was in line at Rite Aid a few days ago when I heard an electronic shriek behind me. It’s not unusual to hear kids playing with the noise-making toys stationed throughout the store. This is most notable later in the fall, when the poor Rite Aid employees are assaulted for hour upon hour with a cacophonous melange of Christmas carols.

Sure enough, right next to an arts-and-crafts front-yard signpost directing passersby to Witch Way and Ghoul Gulch, a little boy was taking an appealing package’s advice seriously: TRY ME! But this electronic shriek was far worse than tuneless renditions of “Santa Claus is Coming to Town,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Silent Night” all playing over top of one another, because its source was a plastic skeleton about 9 inches tall, sitting in a miniature electric chair. At the touch of a button, a blue light flashed from behind the skeleton, and he jolted and jiggled about in his restraints, moaning and screaming. The light went out, the skeleton stopped shaking, and he said something like, “Whoa … Let’s do that again!”

This isn’t even a proper toy. It’s not something you can really play with. You just press a button and laugh along at the merry spectacle of a human’s death by electrocution.

And the kid’s mother was standing there without an expression on her face. I’d rather have the kid play with a toy gun.


Madonna Gets It Right

Madonna is not much use to us as an actress in feature-length films, with some exceptions, but in short films, like this H&M commercial, she really shines as a comic performer. I don’t watch enough TV to see commercials, so I completely missed this one.



The ad says something like “People who need people. People who know people. People who know people who need people.”

Something like that.

It’s a subway poster for the Freelancer’s Union, and before I even comprehend the message, I react mainly to the number of times the word “people” appears. Of course, they want to focus on people: It’s a union. But when it’s repeated, like, 10 times in a single ad, it makes the word look weird.

Look at it:


That “eo” combination is just bizarre. Stare at printed English long enough and the words begin to look as foreign as another language. (Maybe because most of them are.) At the same time, they are totally familiar.

Say it over and over: people, people, people. Pee-pull. It just sounds weird. I’m embarrassed to say it. Do people (ahhh!) really say that word?

I don’t know if the ad makes me think about people, but it sure does make me think about “people.”

the untallied hours