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July 10, 2013

A Commercial Success


For a commercial to be successful it must achieve its desired goal.

How to achieve that goal is the purview of the great minds on Madison Avenue, like our own Jerry Della Femina. But you don't have to be an expert to see some of this stuff is completely off the wall. You wonder who the lunatic was that conceived it and marvel that someone actually sold the idea.

I bring this up after reading yet another apology from Hyundai, the car company that has drawn international rage after it released an ad showing a depressed man get in his car in an enclosed garage, turn on the engine, and shut his eyes as if he were committing suicide.

Folks from National Suicide Prevention Hotline, already overwhelmed with calls from Mets' fans, where among the most outraged, considering the commercial was viewed in some quarters as a "How To" video.

The point of the commercial was that the car runs on a water-cooled electric engine – no carbon monoxide. The commercial ends with the despondent man getting out of the car a couple hours later, presumably to head for the steak knife drawer.

It reminded me of the sixties when all those anti-drug commercials were running. The problem was these things were being conceived by people in Washington who were so out of it they thought Spiro Agnew was cool.

My favorite was when the one where the guy with an onerous voice held up a single egg and said, "This is your brain." Then he would crack open the egg and drop it into a sizzling hot skillet. "This is your brain on drugs," he would state.

The idea, I guess, was to discourage kids from smoking pot. But I wanted my brain to look like a fried egg! In fact, I wanted my brain to be on drugs with buttered toast and home fries.

Everyone I talked to loved that ad. That means it not only didn't dissuade anyone from smoking pot, it made kids want to try it. Everyone wanted to dip the toast in the proverbial egg yolk.

That wasn't enough. The Coalition for Drug Free America, which at the time was probably the CIA, sponsored a commercial about the dangers of taking LSD. I forget the gist of it (hey, I was probably stoned) but it claimed LSD induced "flashbacks," even 10 years later. Then they'd show a guy driving his kid to school when his mind goes all paisley and swirly-whirly.

Let me state that no one I know ever experienced a "flashback" 10 years after taking LSD, though some of them experienced psychotic meltdowns – completely unrelated to the LSD I am sure.

What the commercial did was actually encourage kids to try LSD. It was a forerunner to the "Buy One Get One Free" strategy so prevalent nowadays.

Even using the word "trip" in the commercial was bad idea. That was because not all hippies were creative intellectuals like myself. Some were dumb, and smoking pot made them duh, duh, duh dumber. They heard the commercial and said stuff like, "Wow when I get my flashback I'm gonna take an LSD trip to Italy!"

"Way to put the thinking cap on there, Sunshine," I'd reply. "But his name is Timothy Leary, not Mario Perillo."

The Canadian government may have commissioned the worst commercial of all time. After the Rolling Stones were detained at the border some drugs were found in Keith Richards' belongings (what a shocker!). He agreed to do a commercial, warning kids about the dangers of doing drugs, and in return the charges were dropped.

So we had Keith, who looked like he had been dropped out of a clothes dryer even then, staring into the camera and urging kids not to use drugs. The comedian Denis Leary famously said, speaking for the Canadian youth, "We can't do any drugs anymore, Keith. There's none left. You took them all!"

Football season is upon us. That means all those pathetic beer commercials. It used to be that guys were thought to be unmanly if we admitted we didn't like them. But I'm outing myself – I can't bear to watch another light beer commercial that flaunts a world of "cool" jocks and scantily clad bimbo blondes, where-in the secret of life is measured by how big the boobs are, how loud the bar is and how many TVs are tuned into the big game.

It's a bad trip, dude. OMG -- I hope it's not a flashback.

  1. print email
    July 09, 2013 | 10:06 PM

    great, great column -- should be required reading!

    Hot Tuna
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