Tuesday, September 13, 2005
Voices Carry
It's not that I don't understand the need for advertising, because I do. As counterintuitive as it is for me to think about a purely altruistic public service devoted entirely to spreading useful information to a huge amount of people exclusively for their own benefit and with no other agenda or motivation by the advertisers or the corporations who employ them past sharing something important to them with a public they love and respect, it exists. I mean, if it weren't for advertisers, how would we know that food exists, that it is in many cases "zesty" or "savory" or "creamy" or "smooth", that it is shockingly (shockingly!) inexpensive and that we would be wise to go out right now and get us some? All the people in America not starving to death right now have advertising to thank. It's the only thing between full-bellied survival and sitting paralyzed and unprompted in our recliners until we starve to death and then having our corpses dragged off by the army of super-intelligent rats who live, patiently biding their time, in the walls of all of our houses.

Besides reminding us of things we didn't know about in the first place and how consumption of said things is really in our long-term best interests, I also appreciate the way advertising makes an effort to be palatable, comprehensible and tolerable. Soft-lit images of women walking slowly along the beach with their moms, engaged in easy, intimate conversation, occasionally throwing a Frisbee for their golden retriever to... retrieve among the paw-deep remnants of broken waves. Inoffensive piano music in the background, genial, attractive, responsibly-cast lovely faces telling me things I need to know in front of a glorious Pacific sunset. Yeah. That's the kind of thing really speaks to a person at the core of who they are. Massengill has been my brand of douche ever since.

Unless that type of feel-good approach isn't appropriate to the product. Then I need to be bludgeoned to death by images cut together so fast that the human eye has no chance to process them. After thirty seconds of crunchy guitars behind footage of people falling off stuff on purpose, I have a splitting headache and maybe my eyes are bleeding a little bit, but I understand. The message has been delivered: the Dew must be done.

OK, sometimes I will admit that even some of the great ideas advertisers come up with are inexpertly executed or simply don't work as conceived. For instance they keep putting "sneak preview" DVDs in my Entertainment Weekly hoping that I'll watch Episode One of the high quality television program they would like me to see and thus become a regular viewer. Thus far I have politely declined. The reason isn't because I object to the fare being offered (and boy, who doesn't want to see the can't-miss Chris O'Donnell lawyer comedy Head Cases?) it's because inflexible DVDs stuck in the middle of my magazine make the whole thing stiff and awkward, page turning becomes difficult and it slides off my legs when I'm reading it while... um... seated. My objections are practical.

Being the week before the new TV season begins in earnest, my latest copy of EW (we insiders just use initials... it's not laziness, it's coooool) was so chock-full of inserted promotional material as to be almost completely unopenable. It was more rigid than George Bush at an NAACP convention (which is a theoretical example because he's never actually been to one). What I'm saying is, not-so-bendy.

I assumed, naturally, that it was becuase of the multiple DVDs crammed inside.

Imagine my surprise when I happened upon the cardboard pages about half way through emblazoned with the title-card for NBC's new Jason Lee show My Name Is Earl. I could tell there was something between the pages, but thought nothing of it. So I turned the page.

I feel fortunate that at the time I was in one of the very, very few positions in life where it is acceptable to shit yourself. Because it scared the fuck out me, along with several other things best left undescribed. In a tiny room with the door closed and lock, certain I was the only one in there, and of all the rooms in my house, by far the one with the best acoustic, my magazine started to talk to me.

Actually, it was Jason Lee. Some kind of goddamn speaker device that is activated by opening the page whereby Mr. Lee, in character as the raffish, porn-star-mustachioed "Earl" launches into like an 8 minute point-by-point plot description and basic philosohical underpinnings of the show all in glorious tinny mono-speakered wonder, exactly the type of quality sound you'd expect to find emanating from the middle of a magazine. And it was loud.

Once my Pacemaker kicked in a re-started my heart, everything was fine. But just so you know for the future, advertisers, it is not OK to frighten your potential consumers half to death with un-warned recordings in the middle of otherwise non-speaking magazines.

Although, now that I think about it, I bet I'll never forget the name of that show or that particular piece of advertising.

Aw, I can't stay mad at you, you magnificent bastards. Kudos, sirs. I say kudos.

This post on the Narcissus Scale: 8.1



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