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© 2004 The Beast


 “Consumption 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 internet service.

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 the internet.

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 minivans.


*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.



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