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Home > Lucki Stars > Adding Insult

Adding Insult
Lucki Melander Wilder

Lucki, I think we're kindred spirits on the advertising thing.  I notice many of the same little nuances,
and have often thought I should keep a notebook handy to write them down.  -- Tom Ligon, SF author

It's surprising (or perhaps not) how many times I see a "Say what?!" moment in TV advertising, and want to share the fun with someone (everyone?) else.

Feel free to email me to subscribe and receive notice of new entries, with feedback, or to call my attention to your own (un)favorites. Not all feedback necessarily appears in this page, and may be edited for links, typos, multi-source redundancy, and relevancy. That doesn't mean, though, that we consider negative feedback irrelevant or refuse to post it, as negative feedback can often help us learn to do more and better.

Wan Cave

My thesaurus says that one synonym for "white" is "wan". And my dictionary defines "wan" as "colorless and weak". Yep, that fits.

The oh-so-white insurance company has gotten creepy again. This time, it's not any of Flo's fault. This is the advert about the two guys in the basement man cave. And it's not any of their fault, either. Although one of them seems curiously oblivious. Or maybe he thinks he's hallucinating and he's trying to act like nothing's happening/wrong.

It's a cool man cave. A super man cave, even. At least the two guys think so. I'm willing to concur (references to alcohol aside). Big screen. Great sound system. Leather easy chairs. Three-stool bar. Pool table. Pinball machine. Dart board. Skateboard. Weights. Suit of armor. Football-field carpet. Hunting and military and roadtrip and sports memorabilia and trophies. Etc. And remote-control everything. Your nachos even come to you on a tooting toy train exiting a beer-keg tunnel.


But as the commerical progresses, everything in this colorful man cave starts turning white. I mean everything. By the end of the commercial the only anything in that wan cave that's not white - barring the two drones from the competition on the TV screen, who are white guys anyway ... and of course the pool balls, 'cuz how could the happily heedless white-guy buddy keep playing with all cue balls? - the only anything is Kyle Erby, the brother who plays the owner. Said super cool cave man is just confused. Hesitant. And, I should think, unhappy.

I mean, hey, if I thought that buying insurance - or any product/service - would take everything in my house, or even just in my favorite room that I worked so hard to get just right, and turn it all white and wan and colorless and weak, I'd never ever even think of making that purchase in the first place. And I'd raise holy hell if the bleachiness cropped up as a side effect they never warned me about.

But maybe that's just me.

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Entries During

2018-01-01 Wan Cave

2017-12-04 Pizza Crumbs

2017-09-30 As Opposed To?

2017-08-08 Balto & Company

2017-07-25 Autos on Parade

2015-06-05 Let There Be Lights

2017-05-14 Forgive Me Not

2017-04-14 Cold Cuts

2017-03-15 Amok Time

2017-02-14 The Bird's Afoot


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Pizza Crumbs

I like pizza, even though I don't often eat it. Sometimes I'll make my own versions. Elsewise, I'd prefer to go to a worthy local pizzeria. Especially with a good friend or six. Rarely do I frequent some big pizza chain. Let me rephrase that. I don't like cardboard pizza, so I don't waste my limited income on those big chains named for tile games or trying to convince me it's my father's or some emperor's creation or pretending they're just this little one-oven operation in a nearby shanty.

#1 Dad hatSo I pretty much ignore their commercials. But I will sit up and take notice when I think their commercials have been put together by insensitive boobs.

Like the one where the little boy criticizes his father for not bringing home the best pizza dea (not, BTW, the same thing as the best pizza). Shames him. Makes him feel a failure. And strips the "#1" symbol off his "DAD" hat. Talk about harsh. NOT funny. That mouthy brat shoulda had just one line: "Thank you, Dad." (I'm not gonna get into whether the kid's folks should be feeding him cardboard pizza in the first place. That's beside the point here.) Kid desperately needs some lessons in honoring thy father.

Downward trend on onscreen chartThat was bad enough. Another of their commercials - yeah, same company; they're obviously in a rut - crows about their new product making the pizza economy boom. Exudes about all the new workers they'll need. Questions where they'll get them. And as the "analyst" from the Bureau of Pizza Labor and Toppings looks out his spacious office's window with his binocs, he sees a herd of people stampeding to one of the stores, waving applications.

Oh yeah, let's really do make a joke of our flailing economy and the desperation of so many talented people who can no longer earn a middle-income living ... or any living at all. It Ain't Pretty. I know some of them. Up close and personal. (I likely woulda been one of them if not for the calamitous providence of becoming disabled.) They're angry and impatient and despairing. 'Cuz they're frightened. My heart goes out to them. Obviously the hearts of this pizza chain and their ad agency don't. Assuming such hearts are not made of stone. Or even exist.

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As Opposed To?

There's a string of commercials that's come out over the last while. Each one starting with the same tiptoe-through-the-paintcan-pallets/palettes music and scene-set. It touts a particular brand of house paint. These ads enumerate the various wondrous attributes of their paints and stains. And posit a lot of "what ifs". What if their paint could:

Paint can & brush, green= Withstand blazing sunlight without fading?
= Self-balance to its richest color?
= Resist not just moisture but clouds of steam?
= Rejuvenate something old, dated, even extinct?
= Protect your deck in every kind of weather?
= Pass rigorous testing of its new, superpowered ingredients?
= Make you question everything you do and don't know? About paint, anyway?

Question mark, fusciaAnd so on. And then they ask you: Is it still paint?

Well, duh. Yes, it's still paint. You yourself are saying your paint is paint. That's what you're calling it. Paint. So as far as I'm concerned, it's paint.

Unless you were lying. In which case, why would I want to buy your whatever-it-is?

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Balto & Company

My previous post here started me thinking about another type of false advertising. The subliminal kind that indoctrinates us. That bombards us below the threshold of consciousness and affects/infects our minds with hideous, insidious memes without our being aware of it. By telling us certain things are universally true that just plain aren't. Worse, telling our children these lies.

(Maybe this article really belongs over in the Abiding Blog. Tough. I'm leaving it here. With all the other negatives. For now, anyway.)

If you've seen the 1995 animated movie Balto, you've seen one of these ads. A 78-minute commercial for racism. Training our children to see all things dark as dangerous and all things lighter as good.

Do you see that sled team in my previous article below? Do you notice the color of the lead dog? It's black. That's not mere happenstance. Many aboriginal/traditional mushers firmly believe that black dogs make the best lead dogs. Some even traditionally named their dogs according to how much black the dog had. Blackfoot. Blacklegs. Blackback. Many-Black. All the way up to the coveted Black-All-Over.

As I understand it, much of this bias was due to the fact that lead dogs might sometimes be unharnessed from the team so they can scout ahead some 50 paces and find a safe way through. In a case like that, a black dog would show up best against the snow. Heck, a black dog could also show up best in the harness in a blizzard. Which would make it easier for the musher to determine if the lead dog was steering as expected. So mushers naturally selected to combine the important traits of intelligent, brave, independent, fast, strong, and black. And over time, black dogs indeed became generally the best lead dogs.

Balto in museumWhat does all this have to do with false advertising? Simple. Hideously, insidiously simple. In films long and short (and believe me, there are untold numbers of them) like Balto, the villian is black and the hero is not.

Think Sylvester in the Tweety cartoons. Think Scar and the hyenas in The Lion King. Think Ursula in The Little Mermaid. Think Maleficent all in black in Sleeping Beauty. Or think the dumb, lazy crows in Dumbo, including - I KID YOU NOT - their leader being named Jim. And for a real change of pace, think the little black centaur in pickaninny braids waiting hand and hoof on all the big showy white centaurs in Fantasia. (Oh yeah, never mind, they finally edited that character out. After, like, 30 years! Can you say "historical whitewashing"? But I saw it as a kid. And I didn't forget.) And let's don't forget Tiana. The only brand-name princess who spends most of her movie being a frog. (And, of course, she's not a real princess until she marries that not-black prince, right?)

Balto, the real Balto, was mostly black. He had some white sock, bib, belly and, when he got old, muzzle markings. Places that woudn't normally be visible to the musher when the team was coursing. He fit to a tee the description of "Black dog makes the best lead." But you wouldn't know it from the movie. In the movie, the dark dog, the one that looks most like the real Balto, is the odious villain. Vain, mean, bullying Steele. And it ain't like the animators didn't know better. They could go see for themselves, right there in the museum. So I guess the coloring decisions were made with malice aforethought, yeah?

Wasn't the first time. Won't be the last.

False advertising. Secretly selling you a load of absolute bull. The biggest insult of all. And one that definitely causes injury. Beware!

P.S. In case you're wondering, the other dogs in a team behind the lead dog/duo are now commonly called the swing dogs, followed by one or more rows of swag dogs, and lastly the wheel dogs.

P.P.S. "Fits to a tee" doesn't really refer to either a T-shirt or a golf tee. It originally (probably) referred to a T-square. I dote on discovering stuff like that. Especially that one, which took me back to my long-gone days of wielding a T-square and triangle.

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Autos on Parade

Four harnessed sled dogsDear Young Lady with the pristine white turtleneck and the pretty red parka and not even a scarf: Is it really much of an adventure when you call your significant other or bro or whomever to come out in his big "adventurous" car and ferry you and your sled dogs across a knee-high melt?

And when they tell you, the viewer, that their car with the luxury interior, internet access, and safety features STARTS AT  X dollars, what does that obviously mean? That your X dollars gets you that car without any of those glitzy features. So be prepared to pay beaucoup bucks for each one added.

Then there's the insurance company with the big promise. If you get their special "forgiveness" package, they won't raise your rates after your first accident. As if you couldn't figure out that their special package raises your rates from Day 1. Before your first accident (whether you ever have one of not).

A similar pitch tells you that if you had the other guy's insurance company, and if you got into an accident, and if they then raised your rates, you didn't have the wrong plan. You had the wrong insurance company. So come over to us and buy our accident-forgiveness insurance. Wait a minute. Not just our normal, everyday insurance? Our accident-forgiveness insurance? Isn't that a PLAN?

Plus which, when I saw the robot horses, and then a real one winning through, the only car I expected wasn't that luxury Japanese car. (Shoot, I had to look that up, 'cuz I couldn't even remember what they said it was.) The only car I expected was a Ford Mustang. Not terribly, um, accurate, was I? Didn't the ad firm/car company realize that was bound to happen?

Burly brown bearBut the cleverest commercial I remember is, in a way, also the saddest. There's the little boy securely belted into the back seat. Good thing, 'cuz the witchy tree they almost backed into is trying to catch the car in its waving woody tentacles. Next, the bearded guy in their blind spot turns into a burly bear on the run. Growling. Then they nearly rear-end a trailer-borne boat. But of course it's really a 3-masted ship pitching wildly in the stormy sea. Probably a pirate or some similar kind of (dare I say it?) rogue. And finally, as the tired boy waves goodnight to the car that safely got them all home, the car's headlight winks goodbye back.

Very cute. Vibrantly creative. Keeps you engaged in the wonders of a child's imagination. I wonder what young Hunter Frieborn felt when he saw it with the SFX all put together.

All, sadly, merely to sell you a new car.

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Let There Be Lights

OK, I get it. The senior walking his dog at night can't understand why the "haunted" house's lights are going on and off. Not all at once. In different rooms. In no particular pattern.

Lights randomly going on & offOf course, we can't really tell if he's also hearing the overly portentous sound effects. Or just we are. We also can't really tell if that second - creepy - repetition of "What's happening?" is the high-pitched voice of a ghost or ghoul sneaking up behind him. Or his voice and he's being strangled to death. Or he's on his cell phone using one of those scary-voice apps to call a friend. Or the neighbors who own the house. Or 911.

In any case, it turns out the light show is compliments of a little boy playing with his mother's smartphone. Which, why did she have it where the kid could reach it in the first place? For that matter, it's a family dinner, so why is her phone out, and on, at all?

And do you notice how, when the kid is doing something untoward (though obviously very "kid") - on her phone, remember - suddenly he's not her son, he's the husband's son? "Your son"? Not "my son"? Not even "our son"? Waydahgo mom.

Yeah, I admit, that's a common trope. But should it be? We think kids don't notice what we're saying. Don't remember. Don't take it to heart. But they do.

And just to really confuse the kid with mixed signals, mom and dad also offer a smile and a doting look askance as reward for the kid's antic.

So, all that aside, here's the really weird point. She takes the phone away from "your son". She leaves the house-security app. She even goes to an insurance app. Problem solved.

Only, the lights at the house are still going on and off. Is it maybe really haunted? Is mom maybe so amused as to forget something as simple as clicking the wonky lights off. Has the app maybe learned how to keep itself on after you shut it down? Like, you know, so it can start to take over the world?

Maybe that old pet-owner is right to pick up his dog and run.

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Forgive Me Not

That kid ought to be in sales. (Not just the character. If Matthew Isen ever decides to "retire" from acting, he too could probably still make a bundle selling some modern version of snake oil door-to-door. But then, isn't that what actors...?)

He sure has the gift of gab. Can glad-hand and blarney and smarm with the best of them. Has mastered the vocabulary. Done his homework. Marshaled his facts. Knows his audience. Displays the right combination of confidence and diffidence. Understands the art of sidetracking. Etc.

AND knows when to take "yes" for an answer.

Snake oil salesmanSee, he had this very minor fender bender. In an unreasonably narrow fast-food drive-thru lane. But it's OK. 'Cuz he checked with the insurance company. And the family policy includes accident forgiveness.

Now firstly, the commercial is called "Grounded"; but the kid isn't. Yeah, he can't drive the car for *gasp* four whole weeks. Big whoop. He can still go out wherever he wants. Ride with friends who have cars whenever he wants. He can take a cab. The bus. Bike. Walk. What, when your feet have to touch the ground somewhere/somewhen along the way, that's you being "grounded"? For that matter, he can still go shoot hoops, attend a rock concert, talk and text his posse and femfriends, play video games, access the Netflix account, all like that. *Grounded* my asterisks.

Secondly, if it's such a very minor fender bender (or even if it weren't), how come he gets to foist it off on the insurance company? So, like, you know, if heaven forbid the family ever gets in a major accident and totals the car, the "first-accident forgiveness" clause won't have already been used up on a very minor fender bender. And what, they have no deductible anyway?

I don't own a car and never did. But if it were me and my kid, I'd be telling him about how the only place he gets to go for the next month or six - besides school, of course, until he graduates - is to (find) work so he can make the money to pay me back for the repairs on his very minor fender bender. Then he'll have accident forgiveness.

P.S. Plus which, what the blazes was he doing in a fast-food lane? So late that his parents were already in bed? How come he didn't come home to eat supper with them in the first place? Preferably something healthy? And why didn't his folks raise that point, either?

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Cold Cuts

You know, I'm all for convenient cleaning products. Provided they have at least some ecological soundness. Which means I'm not usually into disposable cleaning cloths, though I do use them on rare occasions.

But I don't think they're a solution to things that are more important than cleaning house. And I certainly don't think they should be a distraction from things that are more important than cleaning house.

Diabolical barberWhich brings me to the commercial with the diabolical little barber.

He's been scissoring away at his yellow-haired stuffed lion. His green-haired stuffed gorilla. His black-haired and blonde dolls. (Well, maybe they're aren't really his.) And now he's about start on his little red-headed sister. With a diabolical look askance at his chagrinned mother.

And what does she do? Does she holler at him to stop? Does she take the scissors away from him? Does she send him to his room for a time-out? Does she even at least tell him in no uncertain terms that his sister's hair is verboten?

No. She flourishes her disposable-sheet mop and duster. With a similar smirk on her face. Like she just won. Like cleaning the fake hair off the floor and table and chair is going to solve the much bigger issue of her son trying to take the scissors to his sister's hair.

I don't know who's more cold-blooded, the son or the mom. Maybe the kukui nut doesn't fall far from the tree.

I'm sorry, lady, but even once you trap and lock all that debris in your mop/duster, your job still ain't DONE. Not by a long shot.

P.S. On the other hand, I'm down with that sheet-mop-wielding dad who more-or-less calmly lets his little princess play with her muddy-footed frog.

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Amok Time

Have you seen the "Kindergarten" commercial? I have. It's not childlike fun. First of all, there's all the rowdy, out-of-control, vandalizing kids who are (in alphabetic order):

ABCs=  bouncing on a ball
=  hitting the teacher in the head with a giant spit ball,
=  messing with the aquarium, including sitting in it,
=  pairing up to duct tape a third kid to a chair,
=  pounding the wall with a giant tube,
=  scraping the greenboard with a broom,
=  spelling a childish 4-letter word on the wall with tacks,
=  smacking a globe onto the floor with (I think) a cricket bat,
=  talking on the phone...apparently the teacher's phone,
=  standing on the teacher's desk, and
=  throwing toys at each other...hard.

Where is this school anyway? So I can avoid it. 'Cuz I sure don't want any kid I know going there.

Malicious little impsNow maybe the principal has it in for the teacher. Has assigned her every trouble maker in a hundred-block radius. Is nefariously trying to drive her insane.

Or maybe, more likely, she's incompetent. (Certainly nothing like most all the teachers I have known. Dedicated, hardworking, child-nurturing teachers who keep it together no matter how horrid the circumstances. Who don't deserve to be dissed.)

Or both. In either case, she doesn't need a vacation. She needs a different career. One she can handle. Yesterday.

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The Bird's Afoot

Three bright birdsLike the tap-dancing white pigeon (or dove, if you insist; but pigeons are bigger than doves, and those two white birds look biggish), I too am happy that somebody's finally eating vegetables. Especially those kids. Although I wonder what their parents were doing, letting 'em get away for so long with NOT eating their veggies.

True, I wouldn't be tap dancing. Still, a little joyous disco dancing wouldn't go amiss. Ya know, help me beef up that daily, pedometer-measured step count I've been doing. But that's neither here nor there.

What royally galls me about the commercial is that the pigeon clobbers himself silly with a fork that's as tall as he is. And a lot harder-headed. And what does the family do?


LAUGH?! At someone or something hurting itself? Not just the kids, who maybe don't know any better yet? But the adults, too? Which explains why the kids don't know any better yet. Shoot, even his fellow spokesavian just shakes its head at the dancer instead of moving to help him. I don't care if it's animation. WTF kind of message is that to send kids?

I don't know about you, but I prefer the messages I get from Άbdu'l-Bahá (the first three from Bahá'í World Faith and the last from Selections from the Writings of 'Abdul-Baha):

     Educate the children in their infancy in such a way that they may become exceedingly kind and merciful to the animals. If an animal is sick they should endeavor to cure it; if it is hungry, they should feed it; if it is thirsty, they should satisfy its thirst; if it is tired, they should give it rest.

     Ye must not only have kind and merciful feelings for mankind, but ye should also exercise the utmost kindness towards every living creature.

     The physical sensibilities and instincts are common to animal and man. Man is, however, negligent of this reality and imagines that sensibility is peculiar to mankind, therefore he practices cruelty to the animal. In reality what difference is there in physical sensations! Sensibility is the same whether you harm man or animal: there is no difference.

     To blessed animals the utmost kindness must be shown, the more the better. Tenderness and loving-kindness are basic principles of God's heavenly Kingdom. Ye should most carefully bear this matter in mind.

'Nuff said.

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