Ranting


There are some things I see in ads on TV, hear on radio or read in print which just really piss me off.  Most of these are abuses of the English language or flagrant insults to the audience's intelligence.   Many of these are general in nature, and not directed toward any specific ad or company.
  This is merely the stuff I yell at the TV or the radio, and now I'm sharing it with you.


---- "Blondie" c.2006 King Features Syndicate.  Used without permission

So effective, it's patented!

This one's one of the most pointless.  To get a "patent", (at least in the U.S.) an invention doesn't have to work or be effective... just original.

I could get a patent (for the $650 or so fee) for my "anti-gravity boots," as long as my design is significantly different from someone else's anti-gravity boots.

(A technology company I worked for generated an average of two "false patents" for every real invention they generated.  That is, they'd draw up designs for ludicrous, fake "inventions," and file patent applications on them, paying all the filing fees and dealing with all the regular paperwork of a real invention.  They did this so their competition would waste time hunting down and attempting to recreate their fake "inventions," and lose time hunting down the real ones.  Today they own hundreds of patents for non-functional, useless crap.

Thus, "So effective, it's patented!" is as pointless as "So effective, we even made a commercial for it!" or, "So effective, we even have printed business cards with our company's logo and phone number on them!"

The Mattress is Never Free.

A Mattress store here uses the tagline in all its TV and radio ads, "If we can't beat the price on any comparable mattress, then the mattress is FREE."  Let's examine this claim a little more closely:

1)  We purchase a mattress wholesale for $100.
2)  We sell said mattress retail for $200.
3)  Our competitor offers the same mattress for $180.
4)  We can:
    
a) BEAT our competitor's price and sell the damn thing
          for $179, reducing our profit to $79, OR
    
b) give it away for FREE, reducing our profit to (- $100.)

Which option will we choose?!?!?  Using the word "free" in the ads sounds a lot better than "We'll beat our competitor's prices by a dollar!" 

By encouraging customers themselves to go out and find the lowest prices at other shops, stores save themselves the trouble of sending out  "retail spies*" to find the best deals, and the lowest going rate for common goods.

"When you don't have time for pain."

See, the drug companies understand that I'm busy!  They're not trying to sell me pills; they're trying to help me.  Because they understand that I'm busy!  Has anyone ever woken up and said, "Boy, here it is, Saturday morning, I have two days off from work, and nothing to do.  I think I'll sit back and have me some pain, because I have time for it!"

"We just want you to find out for yourself how great DirecTV programming can be."

A specific example, but the tactic's been used by others before.  Let's examine a few points here:

"...find out for yourself..."  See?  They're empowering me.  They didn't shove their product down my throat!  I found it out for myself!

"...can be." Yes, it can be great.  Usually, whatever's on TV sucks, but sometimes, it can be enjoyable.

Finally, the whole sentence implies that no, they don't want us to buy their product; they just want to help us!  Other versions of this use the phrase "We just want to share some information with you!"  Selling = Bad.  Sharing = Good!

"Better [whatever] than anyone."

Might be better prices, better selection, better product, doesn't matter.  What does matter is that they leave off the extremely necessary word "else" at the end of the sentence.  If I have better prices than anyone, my prices are apparently better than my own prices, as I must be included in the pronoun "anyone."  Better prices than anyone else singles me out from the crowd.

"That's a lot of ands!"

Okay, this one's specific, but this commercial has single-handedly caused me to yell at my television more than perhaps any other.  Olive Garden® is running this campaign right now where the waiter tells two ladies about the lunch special which features unlimited "...soup AND salad AND breadsticks," to which one of the women turns to the other, and with the biggest airheaded smile in the world exclaims, "THAT'S A LOT OF 'AND'S!!!!" 

And I start throwing things at the TV and yelling, "IT'S TWO!  IT'S ONLY TWO 'AND'S!!! TWO IS NOT 'A LOT'!!!!!!"

"Got [product]?"

The California Milk Processor Board came out with the "Got Milk?" campaign in 1993, and every moron under the sun who had something to pitch replaced "Milk" with some other word.  It's stupid, it shows a complete lack of creativitiy, and it's a blatant ripoff.  HOWEVER-- In researching this entry, I discovered that the CMPB not only doesn't mind this practice, they feel it actually boosts milk sales, and has pages on their website devoted to the offenders.  For the press release about their stance on this practice, go here:

http://www.gotmilk.com/news/news_042.html

And they've even provided a .pdf poster of their favorite 100 offenders:

http://www.gotmilk.com/fun/got_ripped_off.html

You ripped off the wrong song.

No, no... I'm not going on a tirade here about how obscene it is that companies buy the wonderful music that we grew up with and use it to pitch their crap.  I think it all hit a zenith when Cadillac used "Rock 'n Roll" by Led Zeppelin in their TV spots.  At that point, the planet kind of conceded defeat.  It just couldn't get worse...

But it does.  Companies buy the rights to a song and re-record it with new lyrics to pitch their crap.  "Unbelievable" by EMF is now being used to sell crumbled cheese bits, with the lyrics "they're Crumble-lievable!"

When school started last fall, Target actually had an ad showing children wearing backpacks while dancing around to Sir Mix-a-Lot's 1991 song "Baby Got Back," except instead of "I like big butts and I cannot lie," the lyrics had been changed to "We like back packs and we cannot lie!" Here come the four horsemen.  I'm not suggesting that the lyrics to "Baby Got Back" were especially meaningful nor romantic; it just seems wrong to use that song to sell backpacks to kids.

But every now and then, you just have to wonder WHY they chose the song they did.  Kentucky Fried Chicken is currently using a loop of the guitar intro from Lynrd Skynrd's song "Sweet Home Alabama" on their TV ads.  Let's think of a song which makes people think of Kentucky.....  hmmmmm.... I know!  "Sweet Home Alabama!"  Idiots.

Marketing dollars poorly spent.

Companies spend millions identifying just who their target audience is, and the best way to reach them, and then spend millions more to advertise to those specific people.

If they discover that I spend a couple hundred bucks a month on pizza, for example, then it's a good bet I'd be interested in their pizza advertisement.  If they discover that I subscribe to Car and Driver and Motor Trend, for example, it's a good bet I'd also be interested in subscribing to Road and Track.

But every month I pay about a hundred bucks to Comcast, and every month I get about fifty pounds of junk mail -- from Comcast! -- encouraging me to subscribe to their services, including "New subscriber offers!"

Dear Comcast:  Take your "Current Subscriber" file.  Now take your "Potential Subscriber" file.  Cross-reference the two, and if you find any names and addresses in common, remove such names from your junk mail list.  You have now saved a billion acres of forest, as well as a few million bucks in printing and postage.

Since you've saved so much money, I expect my Comcast bill to be cut in half.

It's a Sales Event!

No, it's not.  The moon landing was an event.  Your business reducing its prices by 5% for the weekend is not an event.  Nobody is buying tickets, nobody is bringing their cameras, and nobody will be regaling their children 50 years from now about the time they went to buy a damn TV.  It's a freakin' sale, get over it.

We're Overstocked!

Car lots are the worst offenders on this one, followed closely by mattress and furniture stores.  They plead with us to help them out because, gosh darnit, they've got too much product!  Well who the hell is your purchasing director?  FIRE HIM.  Many car lots here run this drivel four, five times a year.  "We bought too many cars, so we need to sell them fast!"  Why?  So you can buy more cars, and then complain again that you have too many cars?  Somebody needs to learn how to take inventory, and purchase stock accordingly.

Creative Mathematics.

Many, many offenders on this one.  Typically, it goes something like, "You could save up to 50%...or more!"  Well, what the hell is the purpose of "up to" in that statement?

Similar to this is "you could be spending too much!"  For that matter, I could be on fire.  Currently, I'm not.

Another one I seem to be hearing more is the ol' Multiplication Gimmick.  "You could save five dollars a month!" isn't too impressive, so they say "You could save sixty dollars a year!"  Sounds better.  One college here has even started telling us how many millions of dollars more we can earn in a lifetime if we have a degree.  Wow!  Millions!

Competitive Pricing.

"We offer competetive prices."  Well, no shit!  We live in a free-market capitalistic economy, where the prices of goods and services are dictated by supply and demand.  If everyone else in the area charges three bucks for a gallon of milk, but I charge 12 bucks, the economy dictates that either I will lower my prices (to be, by definition, "competitive") or I will go out of business.  "We offer competetive prices" doesn't say that our prices are better than anyone else, or even that we're cheaper than most; it merely says "our prices are about the same."  It's pointless.

The service department for an auto dealership here is currently running an ad where they tell us, "our prices are very competitive!"  Wow!  Their prices are really, really about the same!

Text content and original graphics c.2006 by T. Graff / All ad images and scans copyright their respective owners.