is our way of life. Commercial imagery -ads, packaging, public relations,
film, television and so on- plays an ongoing part in the reinforcement
of this way of life.”
-Channels of Desire, Stewart Ewan & Mary Ewan
But not you; you’re unaffected. You’re so nihilistic and
jaded that when a commercial comes on you go to the bathroom while repeating
the ad verbatim. Yes, very postmodern. But ads do work on many levels;
otherwise industries wouldn’t spend billions of dollars a year on them.
Ads work; that’s why the “Friends” pulled in a million
dollars per episode and 30 seconds of ad time for the Super Bowl could
feed a small nation. It’s why Jennifer Anniston could buy Brad Pitt
solid gold sexual devices for Valentine’s Day, if she so desired. And
if she did, you can be sure that we would read about it in a gossip
column, and then buy a magazine for the exclusive interview.
Well, the BEAST’s self-declared marketing analysis expert
is going to the source, selflessly volunteering his time to watch countless
hours of TV, all to answer the question: what are ‘they’ selling, and
what are we buying, other than solid gold sexual devices?
These two television ads ran last summer on major networks.
Both are for a large telecommunications company and their high speed
Ad #1: A 10ish white boy in a swimming suit waits
in a suburban back yard for a 40ish white man, whose face is turned
away from the camera as he sits at a computer. The man’s internet service
is “Too slow!” says the boy in youthful protest. We soon find out the
boy has been waiting to go to ‘Big Al’s Water World.’ The ad cuts from
shots of the faceless man to the boy who is prancing around the yard,
playing with hoses, inner tubes, and performing jazz hands* as he struts
in front of a picket fence. Finally, there is a shot of a limp hose
as the man becomes completely frustrated with his internet connection.
Ad #2: A 40ish white male in a suburban house
answers the door at night. 12ish boys and girls go into his basement
to use his high-speed internet connection. There’s a shot of them eating
pizza and surfing the web. The doorbell rings, more young kids go into
the basement ‘to use the internet.’ The possibly single (we are not
told he has kids) man shows mock frustration. He goes back upstairs.
It’s the pizza boy. He goes into the basement.
Well, let’s see: we have a place called “Big Al’s Water
World,” which sounds like the name of a urine fetish porno, a faceless
man, a young boy in a swimming suit surrounded by large sexual metaphors,
and a basement that fills up with preteens when you combine pizza and
What’s next? Is James Earl Jones going to crash a red
and black rocket into Uranus?
The young boy didn’t adlib “Big Al’s Water World,” and
the man whose identity is hidden didn’t pull a ‘Marlon Brando’ and decide
to act with his back to the camera. Someone in marketing thought hiding
the identity of the target audience was important. And let’s not forget
the preteens entering strange basements. A 40ish single white male is
not the typical demographic you would think would be entertaining 12-year-olds
in his basement, at night. So why are they there? Maybe they’re a visual
metaphor as well…
Commercials are vacuums for advertisers to fill with meticulous
detail, to plan out camera angles, to match actors with target audiences,
and to make sure the dialogue is just right. But we only see the seamless
30 seconds, and then on to the next ad, and next one and the next one.
Until finally your show is on, the very special episode of “Friends”
where a Pottery Barn apothecary table is the central focus of the story
(which sent sales of the table through the roof), and you ‘forget’ all
about the telecommunications ads. You’re even shocked when a local high
school teacher is dragged away in handcuffs on the 11 o’clock news.
Now stay tuned for these important messages…
Next Issue: The Navy courts young headbangers who hate
*Jazz Hands: Theatrical shaking or shimmering of hands,
which often flare out near ones face, or extend to the side as arms
move circular motion.