Popular Culture 20100820: TeeVee Adverts

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I have written about adverts on the TeeVee before, but there are a whole new crop of them now.  I am not against advertising; as a matter of fact I strongly support it in concept.  However, some of them are just offensive, at least to me, and others are very well received, again at least for me.

Tonight I will pick out my most favorite ones, my most disliked ones, and the genres that I personally like and dislike.  Like all forms of art, adverts are extremely subjective and I do not expect that everyone will agree with me.  That actually makes the topic more interesting.

The new advert that I really like is the Geico one with the Little Pig squealing “Wee, wee, wee!” all the way home.  The facial expressions of the soccer mum driving him as he squeals is priceless.  Geico has some pretty good adverts, and I like the gecko ones as well, but I also know that others dislike him to the extreme.  The other new one with Erby as the counselor is funny, I guess, but since I am sensitive to folks in need of therapy, I find it sort of distasteful, and it certainly would not have worked with any other actor, except maybe Nicholson.

All in all, I give Geico pretty good marks for innovative adverts, and am glad to see the cavemen sort of fade.  They were funny for a while, but are sort of stale.  I can not believe that they (not Geico) tried to make this concept (with the same actors) into a successful series.  It is fine for 15 to 30 seconds, but not for a 30 minute series.

Although they are not outstanding, I sort of like the J.G. Wentworth ones, because they are consistent.  The same actor is always somewhere to be found, and consistency is good.  However, I strongly object to the product that they are pushing, getting a lump sum from that firm in exchange for some sort of settlement installments at cents on the dollar.  I know that some folks “need it now!” but I consider such business practices predatory.  Wentworth, I am sure, supplies full disclosure when one signs the contract, but I do not approve of the business model.  That in no way means that they practice unethical business practices in my opinion, just that this is sort of like a pawn shop, taking advantage of folks in need.

The one advert that I will flip away from, or get up and check the weather, is the current Land Rover one.  I do not think that is a bad advert, at least for most people, but the screen showing fingers changing the background like one would do on a smart telephone is extremely disconcerting for me.  It is just too busy.

On the other hand, Subaru has an excellent advert in which the father is explaining his philosophy of driving to his little girl, behind the steering wheel.  She appears to be about six years old, and he is reiterating safety rules about cellular telephone use, not to drive on the freeways just yet, and so on.  Finally she says, “DAD!, OK!”, and he gives her the keys.  The next shot of her, starting the car, is a very attractive 16 or 17 year old, getting ready to drive without a parent for the first time.

I usually do not like “cute kid” adverts, but this one works extremely well.  As a father, I have gone through three iterations of teaching children to drive, and this advert connects with parents.  We who have had children know that dreadful day, week, month, and year will finally come and this connects perfectly without being silly.  This may be one of the best adverts of 2010.

To go from the sublime to the ridiculous, interestingly also an automobile advert with the cute kid theme, is the new Mercedes Benz one for their certified used cars.  That one uses an number of cute kids to tell what they will do with the Mercedes that they 1) are sure that they will get and 2) are too young to drive.  The part of that particular advert that get me the most is the little boy who says that he “… will take it a thousand million miles.”

Well, you can take the Geek out of the title, but you can not take the Geek out of Translator.  I did the maths, and determined this:  that kid could not possibly live long enough to do so.  By the way, the term “thousand million” is equal to one billion in the United States (the same unit is often called a “milliard” in UK speak, but UK folks often use “thousand million” to keep from confusion, because their “billion” is our “trillion”.  Go figure out English for me.)

In any event, if one were to drive at 60 miles per hour in that car, to cover that distance would take 1906 years, whilst driving 24 hours a day, without ever stopping.  I think that this is deceptive advertising, but when a cute little boy says it, all is fine.  As an aside, Mercedes DOES have, or at least used to have, a program that you could enter to order an emblem for each 250,000 miles that went on the radiator grill to show how well your car lasted.  However, a billion miles is not possible unless it is like my axe.

My axe is a really, really good one.  It has had 14 handles and four heads, and is still going strong.  Sorry, but that is a very old country joke.

I already alluded to some of the genres that I dislike.  Cute little kids are close to the top.  However, there are several others that I really dislike.  One is the stupid husband (or other male) type.  This guy is clueless and just, well, stupid.  A recent one had to do with a frozen pizza (I do not remember the brand or I would call it out) and a horribly dirty carpet.  The stupid husband lied to his wife that the pizza delivery person dirtied the carpet, when in fact he and his friends did so, and he also left out the box in which it came.  I hate adverts that belittle and demean folks.

Another genre that I very much dislike is the sexy girl says so, so you have to buy it one.  This happens a whole lot, and not only with products advertised towards men.  Many of them are directed towards women, and they are just demeaning.  The worst one right now is the supermodel sucking and licking her yogurt cup, then wiping it out with her finger, sucking it clean, and saying, “I love Lite and Fit”.  I think that the supermodel Klum is the actress.  That is just offensive to me, and I am no prude.  Another woman was the other actress in this one.  Those are just offensive, but not deceptive.  I am sure that the calories cited in the adverts are accurate.

In the genre of deceptive adverts (other than the ones already mentioned) are the reverse mortgage ones and the gold ones.  I dislike both of them for their deceptiveness.

I will not name any particular proprietor, but there are three companies that offer reverse mortgages that are heavily advertised.  One uses Robert Wagner, hack actor from the 1960s series It Takes a Thief (interestingly, with Fred Astaire in a supporting role) about a thief who came over to the “good” side.  For those of you young enough not to remember that series, Wagner played “Number 2” in the Austin Powers movie series.

Another pitcher is the former Senator, Fred Thompson, a Presidential candidate a couple of years ago.  He goes through the same pitch about how the reverse mortgage will allow you to pay your bills and keep your house.  I have more to say about the veracity of these statements after I introduce the most shocking pitcher of these adverts.

That would be one Henry Winkler, yes, Fonzie from Happy Days.  This is just my opinion, but I would have thought that the residuals from Happy Days would have kept him in money, but he did jump the shark.  Perhaps those residuals are not as lucrative as those for Nimoy and Shatner.  At least they pitch less deceptive products.

Those adverts are patently deceptive.  They all say pretty much the same thing, that if you are 62 or over that you can get money from your house if you contract with them.  That is true as far as it goes.  But this is what they do NOT say.

The occupant is responsible for insurance and taxes, and the lender gains a lien on the property.  Normally, a conventional mortgage takes enough from the monthly payments and deposits those monies into escrow accounts to cover taxes and insurance.  Not in this case, unless deductions are made from the monthly payout checks to cover them.

Also, there is almost always a clause that the former owner has to OCCUPY the residence to qualify.  So, if Grandmum has to go to the nursing home, the reverse mortgage lender immediately gets the title.  The number of days vary, but it is not out of the realm of possibility that a long vacation might jeopardize the title.  The occupancy issue is tricky.  Attorneys, please comment here.

I find both Winkler and Wagner despicable for endorsing this without proper disclosure.  I had expected better from them, but everyone will prostitute one’s self for money if it is needed.  I am not surprised about Thompson.  He has been despicable for many, many years, so this is nothing new for him.  By the way did any of you see the very creepy looking Thompson, with the goatee, begging for the reversal of the “Bush tax cuts” expiring?  He looks like The Master from Doctor Who.

Gold adverts are also, in my opinion, deceptive.  As a general rule of thumb, it is generally not a very good idea to buy a commodity for resale when it is higher in price than it ever is.  That is the case with gold, since the spot price is now higher in dollars than ever (if you adjust for inflation, that is not absolutely correct, but it is near the top even after inflation is taken into account.

I remember Hannity pitch gold on his radio show for a long time, until the guy that ran the outfit went to federal prison for fraud.  So much for that one.

The gold advert featuring convicted felon Gordon Liddy is typical.  He tells you about how our economy is fatally flawed, that currency is becoming worthless (he even holds up a tiny picture of a dollar bill), and that gold always “goes, up, NOT down!”  This is an outright lie, and for the life of me I do not understand why the FTC does not come out with a cease and desist order.

There is a similar one by some hack actor that played on Mary Hartman, Marty Hartman years ago with essentially the same pitch.  Fear is the primary issue in all of these adverts.

They are extremely deceptive because gold is one of the most volatile commodities.  You are as apt to lose a good chunk of your “investment” than to gain.  Then there is the question of security.  You can pay a fee for the seller to hold it for you, but there is a cost in that.  Besides, if they go belly up, will you get your gold?  You can have them send it to you, but where will you keep it?  A safety deposit box is the answer for most folks, but that also costs money.

Of course, when you buy gold you pay a premium over the dealer’s cost, or otherwise the seller will not stay in business.  Likewise, when you sell gold, you get paid less than the current spot price. In addition, if you hold the gold for less than a year, any gain that you make on it is taxable at your top marginal rate (if held for longer, at the 15% long term capital gains rate).  Furthermore, the IRS is looking into requiring 1099 forms for commodity purchases of $600 or more, so you will not be able to get around this.  Also, if you buy ingots you will have to pay to get them assayed when you sell them (that is why coins may be a better choice).  If you want gold, go to your local coin dealer.

I know that this is getting long, but there are still a couple of things to cover.  They overlap.  If one looked at a Venn Diagram, one would see a big circle of Medical, then smaller circles, some intersecting with the bigger one as FDA approved pharmaceuticals and another as dietary supplements that are not regulated by FDA.  There are some others as well, particularly homeopathic remedies that by definition can not ever do anything, to good or for ill.

Many of you might not know it, but I was pretty important in FDA at one time.  Thus, I know about what I speak.  I believe that no pharmaceutical should ever be advertised in the popular literature, but only in medical journals.  There is a reason for that, and it is patient pressure on medical professionals to prescribe drugs after seeing the adverts on TeeVee, on in print.  This is pernicious.  Here are a few of the reasons.

First, self diagnosis is almost always wrong.  That is not to say that if physicians are not able to help you that you should not try to figure it out yourself, but unless you are extremely good at separating feelings from facts, the literature overwhelmingly shows that folks almost always misdiagnose themselves.  Thus, they ask for the wrong drugs.

Second, physicians are themselves influenced by adverts.  In medical school and further education, less than 5% of the time is dedicated to pharmaceuticals.  Most physicians are more influenced by adverts and, especially, by representatives of the drug companies.  Very few have really good knowledge.

Third, economics comes into play.  The more patients that a physician sees, the better the profit.  A fast glance, obeying the patient’s demand for a particular drug, and getting her or him out of the door and another one coming in adds to profit.  This is not speculation.

There are many examples, but I will give you one that is heavily advertised right now.  It the eye drops for dry eye syndrome.  The drug company paid a very attractive female physician to hawk the drug, Restasis, and then to say almost nothing about how it works.  Actually, when asked how it works, she just says, “Two drops, twice a day.”  THAT IS NOT HOW IT WORKS, but rather how do administer it.

The way that it works is to suppress the immune reaction of the eye, essential to keeping the delicate and necessary organ from harm.  In some folks, inflammation blocks the tear ducts and keeps the eye dry.  Inflammation is caused by a number of reasons, but the drug in this product pretty much shuts off the body from protecting itself from viral, fungal, or bacterial invasion.  The generic name for the drug is cyclosporin(e), depending on how you spell it, and it is the drug of choice to prevent tissue rejection for organ transplants.  Why?

It tricks the body not to attack foreign tissues or cells.  That is great for a lifesaving kidney or heart transplant, but for dry eyes?  That is madness.  Just use the artificial tears, for goodness’ sake!  Your eyes are open around two-thirds of the time, and thus exposed to viruses, bacteria, and fungi.  To suppress the immune system of those most vulnerable organs seems like insanity to me.

Finally, and this will require the most extreme delicacy since this is a family blog, there is the question of sexual enhancement products.  I would not broach this subject, except that adverts for them are rampant.  They fall into two categories, mostly.

Up until a few months ago, it was the male enhancement ones, that promise to make a male’s penis larger if taken regularly.  Those have never been shown to work, except to separate money from wallets.  The most offensive of those are the Smiling Bob adverts, and they still run.  There is no scientific evidence to support those claims, and if you look very carefully at the fine print you will see that FDA has no opinion, considering it as a nutritional supplement.  What they really mean is that the Republican Congress years ago exempted them because of money.  Clinton signed the bill to keep FDA funded.

These materials are placebos.  If you think that they will help you, they, acting of the most important sexual organ, the brain, might.  I have studied them.  They do NOT work.  That is not to be said about the next, and last, class of drugs that we will consider tonight.  They are also heavily advertised on popular media.

Viagra and its mates work differently.  They actually DO cause erections under the proper circumstances.  The mechanism of action is pretty simple.  They facilitate the release of the neurotransmitter, nitric oxide, to cells sensitive to it.  When working right, that neurotransmitter causes the corpus carvernosum in the male penis to start holding more blood than it releases.  The result is an erect penis, and until something reverses the reaction (usually an ejaculation), it stays that way in order to reproduce sexually.  Well, that was the original intent, but we humans often do it merely for pleasure.

In any event, what is “good” for the pelvic nerves is not always good for the cranial ones.  It turns out that the same nitric oxide neurotransmitter that makes us ready for sex can choke off nerves that control sight and hearing.  There have been many recorded instances of that.  Even the adverts mention that if you have any problem with vision or hearing to call your doctor at once.

Like the physician could do anything about it!  Not likely.  Usually the audial and visual symptoms go away after a while (not always), but if an erection is sustained for more than five or six hours, the corpus deteriorates and the penis becomes sort of a piece of flaccid chicken.  Recovery is unlikely, because the cellular structure has been damaged.  Is it worth one time to sacrifice the rest of your sexuality?

Well, now you can see why I do not approve of prescription drugs being advertised.  There are many more dozens of reasons, and if you ask I will tell.

Now for my favorite advert, it was the Alka-Seltzer one dozens of years ago.  The cook was supposed to say, “Mama, Mia, this is a spicy meatball!”  After many takes, he was getting full and had heartburn.  He finally got it right, and oven door fell off, ruining the piece, but just right for the advert, as they had planned.

If you have any most or least favorite adverts, please mention in the comments.  I know that I left out a whole lot, but did not want this to get too long.

Be sure to join us here Sunday evening at 9:00 Eastern for Pique the Geek.  We shall continue our discussion about automobiles, this time about engines and motors (and there IS a difference).

Warmest regards,


Crossposted at Dailykos.com.  Featured at TheStarshollowgazette.com

1 comment

  1. for the wacky world of adverts?

    Warmest regards,


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