2.24.2007

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

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I’m not proud of it; advertising is in my blood. After 40 years in the business, you can’t just transfuse it out of your system. Not even wash it out with Tide or Drano.

Now that I’m retired from the Mad Man biz, I cringe at the obvious ploys in tv commercials. After all, I was one of the creative guys who was paid to come up with these ploys. I must have been good at it because I have all kinds of awards telling me I was. Of course, I like to think my ploys were really far more subtle, more clever than what we see in most ads. Oh, I’m not talking about the expensive Super Bowl Sunday ads, but your average packaged goods spots running ad nauseum on your favorite sponsored tv shows. You know, the kind of tv commercials you see over-and-over touting things like men’s anti-dandruff shampoo, or men’s hair coloring, even ways to get your T levels... well... up.

Truthfully, I don’t watch much tv anymore. I have come to kind of hate it. What little tv I do watch is mostly news oriented. Maybe an occasional Andy Griffith Show or Star Trek re-run. It’s on these shows that I see such products being advertised. Obviously there are a lot of balding, grey-haired guys with dandruff and “low T” watching Bill O'Reilly and Captain Kirk. Trust me, advertisers know who’s watching the shows they advertise on.

I recall one classically bad commercial which showed a handsome 45-ish fellow in a book shoppe. He’s reading while looking very sophisticated in his English tweed blazer, when an attractive woman approaches him. The look on her face says it all: Ooo... good-looking guy... no wedding band... and he reads! Thank you God.

Like a raven, dripping pre-digestive saliva, she swoops down on her prey. However, in the last second before she sinks her claws into him, just as he looks up at her and we read the Hellllo, babe, well-dressed, pretty face, long legs, maybe even rich look on his face, he suddenly commits a terrible faux pas. He reaches up and, horror of horrors, scratches his scalp.

The woman reels back as if she’s seeing large open scabs oozing leprosy-bearing pus. Her smile dissolves into a look of pity, and the poor man suddenly feels like the Geiko lizard.

Now what is this commercial saying to men? #1 Dandruff flakes are a turn-off to women. #2 If you are flakey, at least be discreet enough to avoid scratching just as a hottie approaches... especially after you’ve gone through all the trouble of hanging out in a money-losing book shoppes, wearing damnable itchy blazers. No. Shampoo with our product, rush back to that book shoppe and, buddy, you won’t be goin’ home alone again.

And what is it saying to women? Go trolling for a man in a money-losing book shoppe. Or maybe a book reading or coffee klatch. If you spot a good looking hunk who dresses well, is obviously literate, drives a nice car, owns a fine house, is available, is wealthy enough to spend his time perusing the latest books, isn’t gay, and seems glad to see you... set all that aside if he scratches his head... run, girl run! He’s obviously one step away from membership in the unclean walking dead club.

And what about all those tv ad bald guys? Run, girls, run! Grey hair? Augggggh! Incontinent? Hellllllp! Erectile dysfunction? Bleccccch! Smokes? Whew, break out the breath mints! Restless leg syndrome? Gagggg! Arthritic? Yuckkkk! Loose dentures? Phluggggh! Less than white teeth? Poooey! Morbidly overweight? Runnnnn! Diabetic? Katie, bar the door! Post-nasal drip? Mucus issues? Bad breath? Foot odor? Rosacea? Psoriasis? Falling down a lot? Inability to fall asleep or stay asleep? Snoring? Wearing old fashioned glasses? Unable to book a hotel room in six seconds? Wrong credit card? Wrong car? Wrong shoes? Wrong cereal? Wrong beer? Wrong after shave? Can't carry a tune or dance? Roots for the wrong team? Has a slow connection on his smart phone? Well, hold up a crucifix, girl, carry some birch stakes in your handbag and pray you escape before it’s too late.

Did I leave any unpleasant vicissitudes out? Of course. The list of feminine products designed for feminine issues is long and equally unappetizing, but in the interests of decorum (and not wanting Walter Cronkite to spin in his grave) I will pass over them.

If “real” people were as callous as characters in package goods tv commercials, it would be by only the sheerest, most astronomically high improbability (no matter what Eharmony might claim)... that any two people would ever meet and find themselves attracted to one another long enough to get past any of the above advertised warning signs. Men would never have to worry whether or not they are “ready” for those intimate moments brought on by such things as mulching your roses, furniture polishing or reading; you’d never hear anyone you’re with singing “I had the time of my life — do it all again!” at Sandals or aboard any cruise ship.

The enormous success of packaged goods companies like P&G and Lever proves at least one thing: few among us are ever free from things that make others go Augggggh! Helllp! Bleccccch! Gagggg! Yuckkkk! or Poooey!?

2.11.2007

"Newsbies"

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We read with some interest an article first appearing in the Drudge Report on 02/11. We quote a paragraph from that article:

" 'NowPublic' and 'YouWitnessNews' have formed alliances
with traditional international news wire services and
provide them photos or other worthy content."

Aside from the strange grammar, which is so prevalent in these days of ill-educated editors, writers and bloggers, we have here the beginning of what could be heaven or hell. As with most "exciting new ideas" today, I am betting on hell.

The idea is that since there are now millions upon millions of everyday individuals around the world who prance around with cell phones with built-in cameras hooked-up with access to the www, we now have, to quote the article, "an army" of wannabe news photographers/reporters around the world. "NowPublic" and "YouWitnessNews" - as their names imply - will publish on their respective websites - or provide to other sites (after some vague standards review) the digital photos taken by anyone with a camera who just happens to witness and capture anything which might be considered newsworthy. Which today can mean anything.

So, for example, should some terrorists commit an act of "resistance" anywhere in the world, "NowPublic" and "YouWitnessNews" will have access to photos taken by any man, woman or child-on-the-street who happens to be there when the event happens. Even more, they will contact individuals who they know live near the event and ask them to go take pictures. Thereby the www will have virtually instantaneous news photos posted for all to see. Of course "NowPublic" and "YouWitnessNews" won't be paying for these photos - pfff! That would be considered too venal wouldn't it? No, these "newsbies" will do it for the fame, glory and potential who-knows-what? Pulitzer Prizes? Oh yeh, there will be a way for viewers to donate money to the taker of that photo. American Idol meets a Jerry Lewis Telethon.

So why do I think it's likely to be hell? Consider how fraught with disasterous potential this is. Everything thought to be good today gets perverted almost as soon as it is introduced. We have "YouTube" and "MySpace" but nobody takes these pictures to be serious news. They are primarily poor video images, but already perverted by the twisted minds of the cybernuts. They started out as video of the vaguely Peeping Tom variety and quickly degenerated into more opportunities for child porn freaks and other seamy degenerates. But this "news" thing, oh my.

Now everybody gets the chance to see someone dying. Death as entertainment. You're in an ambulance accompanying a dying friend or relative, say your Aunt Anna Nicole You-know-who - a paramedic aide lurks in the background offering sympathies while, unseen by you, his camera is recording the event. Next day, there's your Aunt Anna, croaking on "NowPublic" and "YouWitnessNews."

Can you see all the phony PhotoShop'd photos showing up as "news"? Manufactured "news coverage" virtually undetectable because the original digital image files from these phone cameras are so low-res to begin with. Can you imagine the staged phony "news" events as we have already seen many times - theatre as news?

How about crime scene photos, real or manufactured, which will impact legal trials and law suits, this type of "evidence" may show up after the fact, totally plunging the legal system into chaos? You get mugged. You're in a terrible auto accident. You are the victim. You wind up testifying in court. But someone you don't even know or never saw presents his video or photo to the accused's lawyer as evidence, and those images show a different story. You were not at fault however the pictures make it look like you caused the accident or provoked your own mugging.

The end of "The Good Samaritan" - witnesses to events more eager to get photos than to help victims. Of course there's nothing new there but this will just make it far worse. Great hordes of camera-phone-wielding newsbies harassing anyone of note anywhere they go, searching for the slightest opportunity to become a news "star." Maybe you have a co-worker infatuated with you. But you rebuff him. Next day you're picking your nose in front of a million viewers on "NowPublic" and "YouWitnessNews."

Arguments over who took what photo - people at the same event, at the same time, taking virtually the same exact pictures. Who wins the Pulitzer?

Worst of all, collusion between - oh, let me see - TERRORISTS! and the "newsbies." We're on our way to a Nick Berg a day. Can't you just hear the whispers? "Hey Muhammud, you guys blow up that (enter your favorite target here) and I'll get you on the news within the hour! Whaddaya say, Muhammy...it's win-win. You get a lot of publicity for your cause, and I win a Pulitzer!?"

I could go on, but... Lord help us.