“That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” Chapter 25 “Ads Shmads”
By Bruce Williams
I’m convinced corporate America doesn’t understand social media. For instance, Crest has a Facebook page. The toothpaste. What more could you possibly want to know about Crest? You put it on your tooth brush and smoosh it across your teeth. Then you rinse off the brush and set it down. The end. Another one of Megacorp’s favorite evil tricks is to implant themselves on a site’s homepage and then encourage the page to operate in a herky jerky manner so that you might accidentally stumble upon their product page with a misplaced click. I’m often on CBSSports, and Snickers runs a banner header that will periodically foist itself upon my wandering arrow, happenstancing me onto their website with an immediate inquiry, “Would you like to know more about Snickers?” What more, really, is there to know? You eat them out of your kids’ Halloween candy and then you feel slightly depressed afterwards—and you have some peanuts and nougat left stuck between your back teeth and gums to boot.
And for some reason, I continue to get Velveeta recipe ads in my scroll feed. While that’s only mildly offensive, it does pack a big payoff when you read some of the comments—the likes of, “This would be delicious if they substituted gruyere,” or, “That looks good, except I hate Velveeta.” Serves ‘em right for shilling that orange rubber. The only worthwhile part of these intrusive ads are reading the insults and unintended attentions they generate. The latest version of this phenomenon would be the GIG Car Share promos that admirably chose to use a more full-figured model at the hatch of the car in their ad placement. Instead of questions about how the car share works or in what cities it’s available, the ad inspired a bevy of drooling Neanderthals with pithy observations like “Volumptuous” (sic) and “Thiiick”—at least I give the company credit for steering the conversations comedically back to their actual services.
Then there’s Geico, whose avalanche of ad spending tells me all I need to know about how much revenue they’d have left over for my accident payout, should I ever be caught short handed with their assumingly massive deductibles. Somebody’s got to foot the bill for the gecko, cavemen, Pinocchio, Texas Chainsaw Massacre guy, Griswalda, Idina Menzel…on and on they drone with their mildly amusing promos—so much so that I’m sure you didn’t realize that all those ads were actually for the same product, and that they also didn’t tell you anything you really needed to know about it. You’re welcome.
The burger chain Wendy’s Twitter account might be the exception. Their salty exchanges with their critics along with their brutal trolling of rival McDonald’s make them a 280-or-less character hero, even though they do much less volume than Mickey D’s or even second fiddle Burger King. I also like those Progressive ads with Dr. Rick, as he gently reminds his patients about not becoming their parents…”You’re not assisting him—you hired him,” as the subject hovers over the working plumber or, “If there’s nowhere to sit, you have too many…” regarding those throw pillows that breed like rabbits. While these spots don’t convince me to buy any of these products, I do appreciate their subtle rain drops into the sloshing bowl of water that is my resting psyche.
As companies rush to find their new, freshly-out-of-college “influencers” (I must be becoming a curmudgeon, because the mere typing of that word makes me slightly angry)—usually a young, enthusiastic Instagram devotee, able to product place the company’s logo in groups of people demonstrating more joy than the product would ever actually merit. Someone’s near-orgasmic euphoria over a new mop, or a family’s rapt fascination with the latest chemically, non-butter toast spread. Perhaps another new flavor of Coke will stimulate you—Diet Orange Cigarette Butt, best served warm and with a hangover? No, you say? You’ve just got to try it!
This morning as I was reading the Thanksgiving paper—the big one chock full of Christmas ads, all of which I ceremoniously drop to the floor in a clustered thud every year with odd satisfaction—except for the lone perfume insert that stuck to the moisture still on my hand from just making a pot of coffee. It took me three increasingly irritated shakes of my wrist to free it of the Opium fold over…not thinking much of it until I went to take that first treasured sip of hot, fresh coffee (one of life’s true joys), only to be thwarted by the perversely pungent sting of Opium that had somehow enveloped my whole hand. Up out of recline I bolted, cursing the vile intrusion on my fingers that would require a double washing for removal. Get outta here with that stench.
So I’m not really sure which ads work—if any. I suppose the ones for the products that I end up buying, but I think I just buy the things I really like, even if their ads are terrible. I guess in summation that’s it—make a good product and people will return to it. You’re not going to fool anyone with that gloss, spiel or pizzazz, you tricky Don Draper, so just give it a rest and let me get back to what it was I was doing.
See you next week.
Column: That Got Me to Thinkin’…? “Old Dud”
Column: That Got Me to Thinkin’…? “Mid-Winter Break”
Column: That Got Me to Thinkin’…? “Don’t be a Putz”