Tag Archives: television

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.

Do We Hate Women This Much?

My wife and I don’t have cable.

I view this as a good thing because gone are the nights of watching something just because it’s on.  (Oh, a 36-hour marathon of Law and Order, Extra Sassy Unit?  SCORE.)  If we want to watch something, we have to seek it out.  But it’s also a bad thing, because there are times when there is a serious dearth of decent entertainment to be had, and that time is the summer time.

Anyway, if you, like we do, get your programming on a streaming device, you know the glory of the commercials that you see five, six, twenty times in an evening.  The computer tailors ads to your interests and funnels them into your eyeholes, banking I suppose on the law of averages; if I see the ad enough times, I’ll just go ahead and buy / watch / ingest the damn thing.  One thing I won’t ingest, however, is the show on the advertisements of the last couple of weeks, Celebrity Wife Swap.

A brief sidebar.  As a creative type, I think — and it may be wishful thinking, I’ll grant you, but that won’t stop me thinking it — that Reality TV may have run its course.  It’ll kick around and thrash in its grave for a little while longer, and we’re certainly not done with the likes of rinkydink shows like Duck Dynasty or Pawn Stars, but the days of Reality dominating the discussion are over.  Recent ratings of powerhouses like American Idol and others tell me that.  The fact that a bizarre, quirky, what-seems-like-it-should-be-a-niche-diversion show like The Big Bang Theory can run the show when it’s airing tells me that.  But that doesn’t stop the Reality ship from setting out to sea again, like the Exxon Valdez transporting its load of hey-you-need-this-stuff-for-real on a crash course with your unsuspecting occipital lobes.

/soapbox on

I won’t be watching Celebrity Wife Swap, in the first place because it’s just another Reality show putting “ordinary” people in “everyday” situations and I have real fargoing life if I want to see that.  But this show has really struck a nerve with me, and I’ve not even watched an episode (I don’t even know if it’s a first run or if it’s back for another “unbelievable” season).  To be clear, it’s struck two nerves.  One: can our entertainment-obsessed society delegitimize women ANY MORE?  Two (and it’s a far lesser concern than the first point, but it still irks): it seems on the surface like the worst kind of celebrity worship extant.

Let’s start with marginalizing women.  It’s not bad enough that our “great” nation’s highest court has just placed the rights of intangible corporations above the rights of women, or that women’s roles in narrative entertainment are always viewed and evaluated through a male gaze, but now for your evening entertainment, we have Wife Swap, a show whose very title is working to shoot Feminism in the kneecaps in between adverts for spaghetti sauce and overpriced luxury sedans.  If you’re a regular reader of the blarg here, you know I’m an English teacher, and as an English teacher, I tend to fixate on language.  The way things are said matters.  Think about the LANGUAGE OF THE TITLE OF THIS SHOW.  Celebrity Wife Swap.  “Swap.”  What do you swap?  Property, first and foremost.  The searing I-can-hardly-call-it-subtext-with-a-straight-face subtext of the title says that YOUR WIFE IS YOUR PROPERTY.  Brilliant, I knew there was a reason I married my wife.  Now I remember, it’s because I got sixteen acres of land and a couple of donkeys into the deal.  Wait, no I didn’t, because it isn’t THE FARGOING DARK AGES ANYMORE.  The last time people were considered property in this country, I’m pretty sure there was a pretty significant disagreement over it, and that disagreement reached the conclusion that hey, no, people aren’t property.

To dig further into the entrails of this fetid carcass of a show title, what sort of property do you “swap?”  The kind of property that has no practical value to you anymore.  The toys that you’re done playing with.  The intrinsically worthless “collector’s items” that you’re hoarding for no reason other than that they’re “exclusive” or “limited edition.”  “Swap” is a word most at home between preteen boys and their baseball cards.  What’s that?  Dated reference?  Sharknado.  Um… Pokemon cards?  No?  Damn… look, the point is, you swap something because you don’t want it anymore.  So your wife is your property, and you’re done playing with her so your neighbor can have her for a while.  Brilliant, ABC.  I mean, the housewives that are watching this steaming pile of horse turds are probably past the point of redemption, so I’m not worried about them, but what about the next generation of women in this country?  That’s the message we want to send on NETWORK TV, of all things?  It’d be one thing if an obscure cable network were showing it to garner some viewers, but this is a broadcast network.  We have to do better.

The other point, here, is much more of a personal one, and it’s one of celebrity worship, which is one of the most useless forms of idleness and of opiating the masses that I’m aware of.  I understand a fascination with celebrities… to a point.  They star in your movies and TV shows, they run the touchdowns, they lounge around inheriting hotel fortunes.  Bully for them.  By all means, watch the celebrities in your movies and TV shows, watch them run the touchdowns, watch them do whatever the likes of Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian do WHEN THEY’RE DOING THE THING FOR WHICH THEY ARE FAMOUS.  As soon as you start wasting your time worrying about what Ryan Gosling has going on in his personal life, you’re essentially saying that your own life is less interesting to you than the life of somebody you will never meet.  Ultimately, celebrities are just people.  On one level or another, their lives are as mundane as yours and mine.  When we (and by “we” I mean people who are not me, because I don’t go in for that sharknado) live vicariously through celebrity, we give up a bit of ourselves, and that is really, really sad.

So what’s the point?  The point is (and I’m conjecturing, here, because again, I’ve not seen an episode and I don’t plan to) that Celebrity Wife Swap is going to show you some of your favorite “celebrities” and put them in the ridiculous situation of stepping into another family’s life for a few days for the purpose of your amusement.  This is idiotic thinking of the highest order.  One family’s life is not like another’s, OF COURSE there will be conflict and misunderstanding and argument about what should be done.  It doesn’t take celebrity to make that situation any more compelling (and here I say compelling not in the sense that it’s actually compelling but in the sense that the network execs think we’ll just HAVE TO WATCH IT).  What, then, is wrong with putting celebrities in this situation?  Because it’s just an iteration of knocking down the other guy to make yourself feel better about your life, which is lazy and lame and sad.  “Oh, look at how silly *insert celebrity name* looks trying to deal with *other celebrity name*’s wife, MY LIFE IS SO MUCH BETTER THAN THAT.  God, I feel good about myself.”  No.  Don’t.  Begrudging somebody their success is just being selfish.

You might argue that the show is just a bit of frivolous fun, that I read too much into it.  Maybe so, but if you want an idea of how screwed up a society is, look at what they do for fun.  Roman gladiator arenas, anybody?  Greek debauched wine-fueled orgies?  TV is possibly our nation’s greatest escape, and the things we PUT on TV and the things we WATCH on TV say a hell of a lot about us.  In short, if you’re watching the show, you should be ashamed, because you’re telling the network that this is the kind of thing you agree with.  That is, you agree with trading women like cattle and with watching the lives of other people rather than living your own.

/soapbox off

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