April 17, 2014
Since I began Gods of Advertising almost a decade ago (!), I’ve carefully avoided demonstrating hatred of any kind to persons, places or things. When I was critical, say of an ad campaign, I tried to look at it from all angles, positing why, perhaps, an advertiser or agency would put something so questionable into the cosmos. Most of the time I have succeeded in being personally true to my feelings while maintaining respect for other points-of-view. (My last post bemoaning Selfies is a good example.)
When I’ve (perhaps) crossed a line you let me know. And I’ve published virtually every comment to that effect, unless they were patently offensive or obscene. Take a look at a piece I wrote about an ad campaign for Walgreens, featuring the cloying (in my opinion) voice-over talents of John Corbett. 62 people came to John’s defense, condemning me for being rude, cynical and worse. Precious few take my side. Either way, a new comment to this post shows up in my inbox every month or so. I publish all of them.
While I seldom defend myself I don’t freak out either. We have a conversation. I’ve written far more interesting pieces. Yet precious few engender as much feedback as the Corbett story. Proving, yet again, everyone loves or hates a critic.
As an experiment, I tried come up with three things I hate unequivocally. My one criterion (or do you say “criteria?”) was to limit selections to only matters germane to advertising and popular culture. God forbid, I drift into politics or anything particularly important.
As cynical as I am it was harder than I thought. I came up with three.
1. Laugh tracks. Oh my God, how I loathe laugh tracks. A remnant of the Golden Age of Television, the laugh track is, for me, an utter and complete turnoff. Now mainly a staple of kid’s TV, they elicit the exact opposite effect in me: one of utter and complete revulsion. I find all programs that use them guilty by association. A pass is given to the many inane sitcoms of ancient times, like Green Acres or Gilligan’s Island. That shit’s funny.
2. Auto Tune is to popular music what the laugh track is to TV. Why this dopey audio implant isn’t as reviled as lip-synching I’ll never know. A million years ago Peter Frampton Comes Alive came out to boffo reviews and went mega-platinum, largely because of his “Wa-Wa” infused number, Do You Feel Like I Do. I hated it then and make-out nostalgia aside I still do now.
3. My most controversial and final selection is the current spate of faux premium lagers, like Bud Light Platinum or Miller Fortune. Who’s kidding whom? These variations on a theme are nothing more than marketing ploys to upsell customers, who are dumb enough to fall for them. Like the so-called Ice beers of yore, they come in gaudy bottles that supposedly evoke class and distinction. They are anything but. I consider these brand extensions the Ed Hardy of beers. A badge for douche bags.
4. Honorable mention goes to Reality TV. This much-reviled yet inexplicably popular genre is far too low hanging fruit to make my list. None of these shows are real. They’re just shitty.
So, that’s my hater blog for 2014. I hope you liked it, or hated it, as the case may be. If you have something to add, this is the time and this is the place.
I just dropped some serious coin on braces for my three daughters, which I’m happy to do because it seems like that’s what good father’s do. They provide. But then I read about this craze in Japan, where cute young girls are spending good money to make their normal teeth look bad. For a bunch of whack reasons, it apparently is fashionable and even sexy to have snaggleteeth. How crazy is that? Apparently, in Japan it is not.
Anyway, it just goes to show you how strange and different our world is. Up is down and geeks are cool and my God we just had breakfast for dinner!
We in Adland have always prided ourselves in being forward thinking, up on popular culture. But popular culture is getting pretty fast and loose, isn’t it? There are so many “in” crowds nowadays I don’t think anyone is out. Once outcasts, Gross hillbillies like Honey Boo Boo and her kin are raking it in. Talentless individuals have huge followings of adoring fans. They are multi-million dollar brands.
Back in the day ad agencies liked to talk about target audiences in terms of huge numbers: 18 to 34, people who make over 100K, black and white. Now targets can be microcosmic. A couple hundred people like something on Facebook and Voila! It’s a target audience. Odd minorities can find likeminded friends online. People who were reluctant to identify with a certain group now seize the opportunity. We relish in fetish.
I wonder. Can big data really mean anything when everyone is so damn unique? Yet, fashions and trends have always changed. That’s what they do. That’s what makes life so interesting, even if it is increasingly tough on advertisers. (Good thing we have so many planners to help us figure it out.)
Back to the braces thing. When I was a kid I had to get them. And I hated every minute of it. Not only were braces painful and gross but they were also considered just about the most uncool thing on earth. Now my girls were asking for them! OMG. What happened? Yes, technology made them a little less painful and gross. But still. Maybe it had something to do with all those ridiculous grills hip hop stars began sporting in the eighties. Braces became a status symbol. Now a right of passage. Like you’re a dork if you don’t have them.
Sometimes seismic shifts in coolness have obvious origins. Take bicycles and electric cars. Not too long ago no young person would have selected either, if they could have Dad’s old Honda instead. Thank you Global warming.
But the snaggletooth craze in Japan? Inexplicable. Especially when you consider that for so long the Japanese culture was known for order and symmetry. Yet there are reasons for this bizarre altering of the zeitgeist and even if we don’t comprehend them they are real.
As fate would have it, about half way through the designated time frame I was supposed to wear my braces I pried them off with needle-nose pliers. I’m not kidding. Subsequently, my bottom teeth remain crooked to this day. But maybe I was just ahead of my time. After all, in Japan my mouth is now SUPER AWESOME!