Today is Friday, October 24, 2014

Thankful, but Rarely for Commercials

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By ANNE DONNELL
 
What’s your take on some of the TV commercials we’re forced to “face” every time we want to watch TV? I’ve got my opinions, but what’re yours?
 
-Thanks, and Keep Me Anonymous
 
OK, QP of T (Question Person of Today), I’ll keep you anonymous, but I can only do so much. Your anonymity will not extend to activities like banking or retaking your driving test the sixteenth time. Those in the home with you will probably know who you are. Ditto, those neighbors who are into wiretapping and hidden cameras. Homeland Security may be on to you, too. Depends on what you’ve been up to, buddy. Or gal. (Anonymity sounds like enmity to me, but buddy or gal, I bear you none of that. And I won’t get started on bear again, either -- a reference to “Ask Anne” for November 12, when I gagged us all with bear and bare to the nth degree. But, this is NOT an apology.)

Yes, I have strong opinions about commercials. It’s not the Super Bowl most days, when clever, witty zillion dollar commercials reign between plays and a halftime show with something like Janet Jackson losing her clothes. Nope, ordinary life features ordinary commercials. And that’s a bad thing. 

 I wonder why commercials make fun of the consumers of their products or services. For example, there’s a constant showing of a young couple (she’s pregnant) who are prospective home buyers and perfectly happy with the most dreadful of houses until the question of mold comes up (sponsor: maker of paperless dry wall). So, if these two people, who seem gullible and not so bright, can pull themselves together long enough to espouse a certain kind of product, why should any of us think their endorsement has merit? 

And why should we be impressed by a woman wearing excessive makeup who tells an attractive, appealing young lady she can save enough with the sponsor’s insurance policies to get a fancy “tricked out nametag”?

The laughs are at our expense you know. We’re singing the jingles, humming the tunes, mumbling the phrases. They’re not called catchphrases for nothing. He who laughs last, laughs best. And who would that be? That last laugher? Laughers? Would that be you? Nope, not me, either. We’re on a list called something like, “The Dumb and Dumber Public.” 

[ATA (According to Anne) -- He who laughs last, laughs best or He who laughs last, laughs the loudest both mean The real winner is the one who is ahead at the end of the game. Both versions are listed in the Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings (1996) by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996). “The saying has been traced back to John Heywood's 1546 compilation of proverbs: ‘Better the last smile than the first laughter.’ The current form has been in common use since 1706 and was used by Sir John Vanbrugh (1664-1726) in his play The Country House. First attested in the United States in …1798. The phrase occurs in various forms.” It’s also said to be a Dutch proverb, but overlapping aphorisms aren’t uncommon. Perhaps one can say wisdom is wisdom on any continent, unless one is a producer or script writer of commercials and unfamiliar with wisdom.]

 What about the tastelessness and inappropriate show times for personal hygiene items, and drugs related to “bathroom problems” or sexual performance?  (What’s with those two bath tubs out in the field, anyway?) Why are they choosing “prime time” (family time) for showing? 

I’m angry that any drugs are advertising because that makes their usually very high price tag read even higher. You and I pay for it all, every twinkling light and sparkling ripple. Which makes me think of the beer commercial promoting “drinkability.” Somebody responsible for that one has been laughing hard, as they say, all the way to the bank. 

 Another major complaint I have – marketing to children.  We have oceans of cartoons and other “children’s programming” (featuring lippy children), and they’re punctuated by commercials directed at their young audience, featuring must-have toys, clothing, accessories.  (That clothing can be a hair away from pornographic.) If these commercials weren’t effective they wouldn’t have been airing for so many years. So, fill the young with greed and discontent.  Anger them as their parents struggle in this economy. Not the road to, say, discerning and responsible maturity. 

You can contact the National Advertising Review Board (http://www.narbreview.org/about/index.asp) and complain. You can boycott products and services, but that works best if the boycotted know it, so write the company. Don’t use a form letter. Write an original. Encourage others to do this. Enough complaining and ads are pulled.  Really.  

Organizations of which you’re a part can pass resolutions objecting to commercials.  These resolutions, local, state, or national, need to be sent to the commercial’s sponsors. People’s names should be on these resolutions. Yes, there goes the anonymity.

Well, you have to blow it sometimes. Remember John Hancock wrote his name really large on something of vastly greater importance and filled with real, perhaps deadly consequences for him and all other signers -- the Declaration of Independence. And wasn’t that a good thing? 

Independence, something for which I’m thankful. A peaceful Presidential election with record shattering voter turnout, something for which I’m thankful. I’m thankful for so much abundance here and our hopes for peace and plenty throughout the world. And, I’m thankful I can complain. In print even. Long live the freedom of the press (and every bit of the rest of our grand Constitution)!

 I hope Thanksgiving is happy in your nook and cranny. And I like some commercials.  Like, “…Not this time, Johnny.” 

 

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