Some fervor in Ad Land over the latest Popeye’s commercial featuring “Annie, The Chicken Queen.” The controversy is two fold. First the obvious question: Is Annie a stereotype of black women? She’s in our face, shucking and jiving, yammering about fried chicken. So, yes, Annie is a stereotype. But what makes the bit even more controversial is the idea that a bunch of white guys in Texas created the commercial. Indeed, GSD&M is taken to task on Agency Spy. Perhaps with good reason. In the comments, a frustrated African American woman makes numerous good points, and not just to white America. The article and the spot are attached:

Agency Spy on Annie the Chicken Queen

The use of offensive stereotypes in popular culture is nothing new. But the amount of it in fast food advertising is acute. Twelve years ago Chiat Day and Taco Bell introduced a talking Chihuahua. “Yo Quiero Taco Bell!” I was so startled by this campaign I ended up satirizing it in my new novel, The Happy Soul Industry. A yapping Mexican Chihuahua? Hadn’t we been down this road before with the Frito Bandito (to say nothing of Speedy Gonzales)?

Apparently not. Yet another dubious Diablo inhabits Burger King’s recent commercial for the Texican Whopper. Here the height-challenged stereotype is a masked wrestler and he’s donning a Mexican flag for a cape. Aye Carumba. As of this writing BK’s agency, Crispin Porter & Bogusky is reworking the spot to make it less offensive. The story and commercial are below.

AdAge on Burger King

And speaking of inappropriate behavior…Sexism reigns in recent campaigns for Hardees and Carl’s JR. In one, hottie chef, Padima makes love to a colossal stab of beef. In the other Paris Hilton tries to eat hers while having sex with a car.

What is it with fast food advertising and isms? I understand that young people and minorities eat junk food but pandering to these audiences with soft porn and stereotypes rankles. And besides aren’t Paris, Padima and Queen Annie all wrong anyway? It does seem like middle-aged white ad guys trying to be “dope” and, of course, failing.

And what to make of Burger King’s latest campaign, which mashes a bootylicious anthem and Spongebob Squarepants?! Not only is the ad sexist (joyfully so) but it’s presumably for children. Or is it? Adrants has more.

Adrants on Spongebob booty call.

Sigh…Almost makes one nostalgic for McDonald’s fake white America. Actually, we ought to give Mickey D’s props for getting pop culture right at least once. Last year’s “How Low Can You Go?” commercial seamlessly weaved hip-hop with middle America in a musical and visual treat for, of all things, Happy Meals. My kids liked it and so did I.

I’m taking on a lot here, I know. Look at the work. Besides creating a fast food nation is the Quick Serve industry (and its advertising partners) also committing more egregious fouls?

Foxy ladies, would you like to see my big gun?"
“Foxy Ladies, would you like to see my big gun?”

I know my “MO” is about creating my own content but you’ve got to see this spot for the Ukrainian Army. I found it on Adrants and it had me howling. If you’d told me this was a skit from SNL I’d be less surprised. The concept, the casting, the wardrobe; it’s all too priceless for words. Check it:

think-the-marines-are-hot-go-to-war.php

The author praying for book sales!

The author praying for book sales!

The publisher of my second novel, The Happy Soul Industry brought several reviews to my attention, emanating from the spiritual community. (I’m attaching a couple for your consideration.) Though they are not universally praiseful, I’m thrilled. I’m also kicking myself.

When the book launched this fall, we focused most of our attention on the advertising community, neglecting a far bigger community of potential readers: religious and spiritual. After all, the book is about God. And God has more followers than, well, anyone. Thank God, then, Inkwater Press had the good sense to pitch the novel in that direction.

Not that the attention from ad land hasn’t been awesome; it has. Ellie Parpis from Adweek reviewed it. Adrants. Adpulp. The American Copywriter. Before it’s all over I may even get my ass kicked by none other than George Parker from Adscam. But there are only so many ad persons in the world and, due to the failing economy, less and less of them every day.

Finding readers elsewhere is a Godsend.

Besides, the spiritual reviews are fascinating –mostly because they come from people so unlike my peers, at least on the surface. The two critics here gave my story kudos but got stuck on the profanity and sex in the novel.

“I think that this could have been a great book had the author not felt the need to include the f-word on several occasions,” said Patrice Fagnant-MacArthur of SpiritualWomanThoughts.blogspot.com

The full review

Bob Zykowski of Bobzbookreviews.blogspot.com was snider: “The author mines his knowledge of the ad biz to create an interesting story with characters that readers will care about. That is, if readers can get past the soft-porn.”

The full review

Um… as I said, I’m thrilled by these reviews. That professional, God fearing people found Happy Soul to be an “engaging” book filled with “good ideas” is a blessing.

In the novel’s defense, how in the *%&$ do you tell a story about advertising without dropping any f-bombs?

At the same time, the polite condemnation of the book’s naughty bits is not only understandable but also, frankly, charming. I’m not being patronizing when I say I’m delighted people still take exception to, shall we say, racy content. Somehow, it’s reaffirming. It makes me smile.

Am I slightly irked by the negativity in these reviews? According to Bob and Pat, I’ve written a spiritual and highly engaging story sullied by sex and off-color language. Sounds damn entertaining to me! Now, come on folks, the book is only 9 bucks on Amazon. Tell them God sent you and you’ll receive free shipping!

The Happy Soul Industry on Amazon

imagesme before God, a church in Cannes.

Not including a few early and naive attempts, it was one year ago I officially started the Gods of Advertising. Like this year, I had been visiting my father in Palm Springs. My brother (Jeremy) had been with us as well. On top of a new son (Jasper), my brother had brought along his many technological contraptions and, with them, an almost fetishistic passion for the Internet.

He showed me fabulous, barely legal sites where he “obtained” new and unreleased music as well as classic recordings not generally available to mortal men. He revealed bloggers in Europe and even Russia, who were more than happy to “share” pieces of music they had pirated or illegally recorded. At that time, I’d used the blogospere primarily for reading up on advertising and even then, only sparingly. Sure, I adored the Internet for its access to infinite information, its killer websites, and, of course, email. But the blogospere was still more or less alien to me, a place for geeks and hardcore technophiles (like my brother).

Watching Jeremy converse with a man in Germany about old jazz records, I had an epiphany. It went something like this: If I’m talking and selling social networks to my clients (I was), shouldn’t I be social networking myself? At the time I didn’t even have a Facebook page, let alone any online friends. Lord knows I was beseeching my clients to pay attention (and money) to these popular entities. I’ve always believed in learning by doing. It became painfully clear to me that it was time I walked the walk.

And I haven’t stopped walking. The blogosphere was second life to me. I found news about my industry that was more vital than from my bookmarked trade publications. The American Copywriter, Adpulp, Adrants and others like them captured so much more than the trade press. And it was a different kind of more: more timely, often more prescient and, dare I say it, more fun. Adscam and Agency Spy, for all their vitriol, captivated me. I knew it was naughty but I had to participate.

And that’s the word, isn’t it: participate. Now I could navigate the worlds of other ad agencies, see inside the minds of other copywriters and creative directors. Not just view their work, but understand the why of it. When something dramatic happened at one agency or another, I became privy to it in ways the newspapers never allowed. It put the machinations of my own agency into an entirely new perspective. Other bloggers revealed insights into what was once proprietary. I found this invaluable when it came to steering my own ship. Icebergs ahead! Opportunity over there! And so on.

Another windfall was all the thinking and writing that participation required. Let’s face it- with over 60 writers and art directors working for me, I wasn’t penning much body copy anymore. Yes, I had my books and stories to write, but those were more an avocation. Blogging seemed to transcend my personal and professional worlds like nothing ever had before. Participating in this way became critical. On top of that I was honing my craft. I was relearning everything. Avoid adverbs and clichés. Get to the point. Who? What? Where? When? Why? Not since college had these lessons been so necessary.

This brings me to my final point. With Gods of Advertising, I’m doing what I’ve wanted to do all along: write. I think bloggers, by definition, are narcissistic. We like the sound of our own voices. We think out loud. We enjoy opining, often at the expense or on behalf of others. Either way, the blog let me do this and more.

Is Gods of Advertising a must read for everyone in the industry? Hardly. But for me, it is a “must write.” I try for three “columns” a week, come hell or high water. Hundreds of you visit the site every day. Not only am I grateful, I am compelled to try and reward you. When I choose a topic it is with you in mind. I am not venting (usually). I want you to be provoked and, in turn, to participate. Do I make mistakes? All the time. I learned the hard way not to pimp my own agency or its work. Even so, I continue to “advertise” my novels, The Happy Soul Industry and The Last Generation. When they’re best sellers I’ll stop.

Maybe one day GOA will be a win-win; in other words, the blog will be as good for you as it is for me! Until then, thank you for your patience, opinions and above all, your readership.

Next post, I’m going to continue this review, delving deeper into the motivations for blogging, as well as covering some of the mistakes I’ve made and what I’m doing to correct them. Until then, for a good laugh, check one of my very first posts –a reckless review of a Bruce Springsteen concert (!) October 23, 2007.


This car commercial is driving me crazy. And like any good screw to the brain, it keeps turning and turning. Not since “Save Big Money at Menards” has an advertising jingle so infiltrated the mind space of my household. It is like flu, a cult even. My little girls gallop about our home singing of their savior Zero.

At first I laughed at this lunacy. Hearing my 7-year old humming the lyric while playing Legos, I couldn’t help but feel a sick pride about our industry’s raw power. (Just last week I’d blogged about my own ultra-crappy jingle cum phenomenon: Not your Father’s Oldsmobile.) Anyway, like most forms of pride it quickly deteriorated into something dire: This is an awful song in an awful commercial. Shut up, already!

Despite it’s ubiquity and cheapo-repetitive production values, the eye of this spot’s awfulness is, absolutely, its music. “Saved by Zero” is a crap re-recording of a crap hit from eighties new wave has-beens, The Fixx. I’ve no idea the song’s original meaning but it’s painfully obvious the current adaptation: zero percent financing on a new Toyota.

Our economy is a wreck. Of course good deals are what panicky car sellers will be shouting about. But this commercial was produced before the markets crashed. The serendipitous use of the word “saved” is merely coincidence and cannot redeem this commercial. Nor should it. For the most part regional/retail car advertising always blows. The agencies that make this chum are usually second and third tier shops, often at odds with the car maker’s higher profile brand agencies. Commercials like these are the closest thing to junk mail on TV.

While searching for an image or video, I discover that a colony of haters for this ultra-annoying spot exists on Facebook! Then I see Adrants ranting about the spot as well:

http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=31682248390&ref=mf

http://www.adrants.com/2008/10/saved-by-zero-makes-viewers-into.php

So this paltry commercial has its own cult of personality. And we are growing, for here I am, and so too the spot. Would you believe the thing ran while I was writing this, watching Game 7 of the ALCS? Sure ‘nuff.

Lord knows we have bigger problems than posed by this silly commercial. Besides, when Saved by Zero is kaput another odious paean to a numeral will replace it. “Five dollar foot long,” anyone?

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