Tag Archives: advertising

Subjective Produce Experience

I opened up a carton of grapes to find this little label on the underside of the lid:


But shouldn’t *I* be the one to decide that, carton of grapes? Isn’t it up to ME what flavor these bulbous purple orbs hold?

Am I not master of my own taste buds? Do I not bite into the grape myself and feel it burst like a cow’s eyeball betwixt my molars?


(Upon further review, the grapes were actually very tasty. Possibly even delightful-adjacent. I’ll point out, though, for the benefit of the copywriters for these particular grapes, that I don’t know what “fresh” tastes like [and neither, I suspect, do they], nor do I know what a “satisfying flavor” is [and neither, I suspect, do they].)

In fact, since noticing this odd little blurb inside the carton of grapes, I’ve noticed that tons and tons — maybe even most — ad copy is like this. It tells you — brashly, confidently, even arrogantly — what your experience of the product will be. But aren’t these things subjective? Doesn’t every single thing we experience get filtered through our own rose- or mauve- or barf-colored sunglasses? I can’t know, under any current technological parameters, what your experience is when you bite into a juicy, ripe grape. Hell, I can’t even be sure that the color you see is the same purple that I see. Your rods and cones might be all inverted and misshapen, and you actually see a blue, yellow, or (I shudder to think) brown grape. Or maybe it’s MY rods and cones that are all upsey-downsey. All I can do is assume that your experience is pretty darn close to mine and agree that we’ll use the same word to describe it, and go through our lives hoping for the best.

But I can’t know what it’s like to be inside your head.


And these grapes, unless they’ve made some truly staggering leaps in sentience, damn sure can’t know what it’s like to be in mine.

Truth be told, I can’t even be sure that you have any experience at all. I can’t even be sure that you’re not a robot. I can’t even be really and truly sure that I’m not a robot.

But let’s not go getting too existential. They’re only grapes after all. (And maybe I took my recent re-viewing of WestWorld too much to heart.)

*eyes the carton of grapes suspiciously*

*chomps one*

*tentatively considers grape sentience, and by extension, grape genocide*

*decides it’s worth it and eats most of the carton*

Star Wars: STOP (but really, don’t ever stop)

The moment is upon us.

The new movie opens tonight, and my inner child is all atwitter like R2D2 playing back a sketchy, 1970’s-era hologram.

I was skeptical when I first heard that the franchise had been handed off to Disney, as I think a lot of folks were. At first. But then I tossed a glance in my retrospectrometer and realized that George Lucas lost his mind somewhere between the release of Episode V and VI. Further, nobody seemed inclined, realizing that he had in fact lost his mind, to stop him from actively driving the entire bus off the cliff with the making of Episoded I, II, and III. So on balance, perhaps the franchise going to Disney isn’t such a bad thing.

For fargo’s sake, they can’t do worse than Jar-Jar.

But here’s the thing: the marketing campaign is so wide, so diverse, so all-encompassing, that even I, who love Star Wars more than is probably healthy for an otherwise normal guy to admit (even the prequels, I’m ashamed to say), am getting a little tired of it. Honestly, Star Wars might as well be woven into my DNA, but I’m getting sick of seeing it around. You can hardly step foot out of bed in the morning without hearing the thrumming whoosh of lightsabers, the tromping march of stormtroopers’ boots, the unforgettable leitmotif of the Skywalker theme.

Because it’s everywhere. Star Wars has altered its DNA, bred with some hapless advertisement progenitors, and bled over into absolutely everything. I thought I was watching an ad for the new film, but it turns out I was looking at a Target advert. I was watching football over the weekend and thought I’d stumbled onto a new promo for the film: nope, it was a cable TV ad spot. I went to watch a little bit of youtube and found all the controls had been replaced with glowing blue light beams and lightsaber sound effects. (Okay, the last one is actually pretty cool.)

And I just have to wonder, as one who is unversed in the ways of advertising: have we not reached the saturation point? Fans of the existing films are pretty much going to go see the films, regardless of how many promos they see or don’t see. And those fans will convince a fair few of their non-legion friends and family to come along with them to the films. And there are probably, maybe, a few people out there unfamiliar with the Star Wars universe, seeing the promos, thinking “hey, laser swords and spaceships, that looks pretty awesome,” who will come out and see the movies as well.

What I’m saying is, the future of the films is not in question. As long as there are nerds, there will be Star Wars, and the franchise will be ludicrously profitable. With this massive ad campaign, have they not by now reached a point of diminishing returns?

How much Star Wars, in short, is too much?

Actually, phrasing the question like that made me realize the answer.

There’s never too much Star Wars.


The Power of Repetition Compels You (To Buy Liquor, Apparently)

We drove out to beautiful Tybee Island yesterday, and while there’s a lot to be said about that on a variety of topics, one thing really struck me funny on the trip.

Around exit 212 heading out of Atlanta, I noticed a series of billboards. Billboards advertising a liquor store.

These billboards didn’t do anything unusual as far as billboards go. In fact, they couldn’t have been more straightforward. “Liquor Store, exit 212,” they advertised. “Liquor Store, just ahead,” they proclaimed. “Liquor Store, just two miles” they slavered.

No suggestive pictures of women. No mouth-porn of frosty beers or bottles dripping with icy condensation. No clever wordplay.

The unique thing was, there were ten of these billboards. (That I counted.)

Ten is a lot, and it’s doubly a lot when they occur within a space of about five miles, and when their sheer number and volume overpowers every other ad in the area. Ten is enough for me to think, that’s a heck of a lot of billboards, maybe I should count them. Ten is enough to make you wonder if you’ve driven out of the universe you know and into an alternate reality wherein instead of a series of fast-food restaurants and dubious tourist attractions and real-estate salespersons, the only thing a town has to offer is a liquor store.

Needless to say, by the time we got to exit 212, the only thing on my mind was this liquor store. How big was it? Did they offer fancy specials, like a free beer cozy with purchase of a carton of imported tequila (worm included)?

But we didn’t go.

Because, really, is one liquor store not, more or less, like another? And even if one store really is unique, is it worth making a special stop for? And even if it is worth making a special stop for, am I really going to make that stop when I have my kids and family with me in the car? Of course not. But the fact is, I wasn’t going to stop even if I was driving by myself. Because a liquor store is one of those need-based excursions (and yeah, I’m not going to get into the complications of saying “need-based” when alcohol is clearly not a need of any sort). You need booze, you go to the store. Nobody goes to the liquor store to schmooze around and shoot the breeze.

Do they?

So it left me wondering. Billboard space on I-75 is not cheap; investing in even a single billboard is a pretty major expenditure, especially for a locally-owned business. Ten (or more) billboards is obviously even more of an investment.

So how much revenue does a billboard for a liquor store generate?

How much revenue do ten billboards generate?

How does the owner of a business make the decision to buy out ten billboards, rather than, say, five? Or seven? Or two?

All that repetition definitely made their store the focus of my thinking, but it didn’t make me pull over and visit, which is ostensibly the purpose of a billboard.

I couldn’t help but wonder whether all those ads — or at least nine of them — were totally misplaced.

And that got me thinking about writing, though I can’t really answer my own question in any useful way today, because I’m a little too sun-baked to really noodle on this stuff (all I can do is idly muse, my thoughts drifting this way and that like a lazy ocean breeze, not unlike the one drifting past our balcony at the moment).

How much can you repeat yourself before you turn an audience off?

Do We Really Listen to Advertisements?

Who loves commercials?  This guy does.  Commercials are fantastic.  They’re an art form, really, and a tremendous challenge: in what other medium are you up against the task of wresting your audience’s attention away from their phone, their wife, their plate of hot wings, their fridge?  In what other medium do you have a limit of just fifteen or thirty seconds to make a convincing point — enough for your ideas to stick in the mind of your audience?  Advertisers have a hard job, and some of them are very very good at it, but some of them are very very bad at it.  Pardon my complete lack of wordsmithery, I’m still coming down off the pain meds and the old bean is throbbing something fierce.

But that’s a nice tie-in, because I want to talk about a specific commercial that’s affected me in a very specific way.  The product in question is Lumosity, a product I neither use nor endorse, because — as is my wont — I know nothing about it aside from what I’ve seen in the ads.  What I’ve seen, however, is beyond stupid.

First things first.  Is the ad effective?  That depends.  I can’t ever see myself buying or recommending the product.  That would seem to be a fail for the ad.  However, I don’t know that I’m in the target demographic for the product (brain training, memory retention, seems to be marketed at an older crowd, even though it’s all young people in the ads), so that’s a wash.  However, the ad has without a doubt stuck with me: so much so that I’m here blarging about it and I’m about to tell you why it’s stuck with me so inextricably, and if the goal of an ad is to plant an idea in your mind — to Inceptionize its audience, so to speak — then it’s certainly effective.

Take a look at the video below.  I saw this ad on my television about three days ago and it’s latched into my brain with white-hot raptor claws.

Anything in there strike you as odd?  Nonsensical?  Let’s ignore the central claim about games being able to strengthen your brain.  That may or may not be a valid claim; I certainly haven’t done the research, though I did play a sharknado-ton of video games as a kid, and well, let’s just say I didn’t become a rocket scientist or anything.  But no, it’s not that.  Ads claim all kinds of things that are dubious.  Just look at any ad for a weightloss product.  No, at about the 14 second mark, the talking head in the ad says something so idiotic that my brain actually made me play back the commercial — I ACTUALLY REWOUND THE PLAYBACK TO RE-WATCH A COMMERCIAL, OK — and watch it again to make sure I heard it properly.

He says “It makes my brain feel great.”

Ponder that for a moment.  Let it marinate in your thinking parts and ooze its septic juice all over your cortices.  Feel the throbbing pleasure build in your brain as you process the wonderful feeling that critical thinking produces.  Oh, what’s that?  You don’t feel anything?  That’s because the brain is not a sensory organ.  Ergo, it can no more feel great than it can ride a bicycle or teach a monkey to dance.

I’m straying into the realm of science I don’t know enough about here.  I know that.  The brain is nothing short of a miracle of evolution.  But it can’t feel things.  It can interpret electrical impulses that your various organs that actually do sensing relay to it, but it does not create sense data of its own.  Claiming that your brain can “feel great” is beyond stupid.  YOU can feel great.  YOU can feel intelligent or smug or satisfied or capable of world domination after playing Lumosity’s games, but your brain doesn’t feel ANYTHING.

But, they said it.  And it made it through first draft to the final draft and into the commercial, so they obviously thought it was a good line.  And why not?  Who wouldn’t want their brain to feel great?  I know I would!  Gosh golly gee, my brain just lives in the dumps all day long.  It feels like total crap most of the time.  I want my brain to feel better!

…See how dumb that sounds?

There’s another ad in recent history that I sadly can’t find online at the moment.  It was an ad for a toothpaste, Sensodyne I think.  In it, a woman says she suffered from tooth pain due to damage to the enamel that drinking coffee had done over years and years, and that Sensodyne helped her get some relief.  WELL AND GOOD.  But then at the end of the commercial, she starts listing the virtues of this magical angel’s butt-paste.  It whitened my teeth.  It repaired the damage I’d done.  It allowed me to drink cold beverages again.  It helped me to eat healthier.

Wait.  Hold on.  Stop the train.  You want to claim (or rather, the company wants you to claim) that this toothpaste turned you from a french-fry mobbing, pizza-devouring, I’ll-have-seconds-on-my-ice-cream-no-make-that-thirds unhealthy eater into a healthy person that makes smart food choices?  NO IT DIDN’T.  Sorry, it didn’t.  MAYBE in learning about the toothpaste and the damage you were doing to your teeth you realized that you were eating like a human garbage disposal and THAT realization made you reconsider the things that you put into your mouth-hole.  But the toothpaste has no more to do with the decision than it did with Obama’s re-election.  (Unless I’m on to something here.  In which case.. uh… yay, Sensodyne?  Please don’t bug my house?)

Okay, I’m fixating.  I’m reading way too much into what should otherwise be a throwaway moment in a commercial that shouldn’t matter to me.  BUT THIS IS THE POINT.  Advertisers will say anything — literally, ANYthing — to make you buy a product.  Who among us doesn’t want to eat healthier?  Who wouldn’t like to have their BRAIN FEEL GREAT?  These nonsensical claims, ridiculous as they are, sound good when we hear them and they work on us subconsciously , tricking us into thinking that the products they’re hawking are actually worth a monkey’s turd.

All this is to say, next time you see an ad, just think about what’s really being said.  Seriously.  Stop and think and engage those critical muscles in your brain (OH WAIT THE BRAIN DOESN’T HAVE MUSCLES JUST KIDDING) and actually consider what they’re saying.  You might just stop yourself from wasting your money.  Or at the very least you can get a preachy blarg topic out of it.

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