The Sublime Subliminal

The ad men will do anything to get our attention. Anything. It's a dirty job, but someone has to do it.

Once upon a time it was mild sublimininal cues like, say, a print ad in which the ice cubes in a tumbler of brown liquor formed the word sex" in shadows and light. Hey, I already knew that about liquor, but what the heck?

Some ads are not so subtle, like those dominating the airwaves lately in which the husband is always the oaf and the wife sprightly, smart -- and oh, so, smirkingly patient with Dumbo. This is as offensive to me as the sitcoms in which slobby overweight husbands have those svelte and sexy wives who, in real life, wouldn't look at them twice. (At least Roseanne got it right.) That head-scratcher aside, if I hear the jerk in the pizza commercial bray one more time about how he fooled the delivery boy and got away with three pizzas for five dollars, I'm going to throw one of my three pizzas at the screen. (The one my wife insisted on topping with pineapple and anchovy.) Or I could just toss them slice by slice at all the ads portraying men as hopeless bumpkins. (Apparently we're everywhere.) I may need a few more pizzas for that; good thing they're 3 for $5. I get the need to stop promoting cliche depictions of women as mindless housewives; it's been about time for fifty years. But why take it all out on us guys? Don't we already have plenty to worry about, whether it's peeing too often or not often enough. Or trying to get that "Viva Viagra" song out of our heads at the most inopportune times. I wonder if the band also does "Stairway to Hard-on"?

I also have a tough time with those drug ads in which motor-mouthed car stereo ad announcers (Hey! Tom Campbell here ...!) or people playing people playing doctors on tv, try to soft pedal the side effects the law requires they reveal. That is, except for the one that tells it like it is and admits one downside of the drug could be ... uh, death. Not "unfortunate terminal event" or "unexpected expiration." Not, "permanent loss of consciousness," or "what you've been wishing you could do to your spouse since you found out about the affair." Nope. Just death. Makes dry mouth, sleepiness, constipation, stomach ache, nosebleed, cough, viral infection, headache, hives, leg pain, sporadic bleeding, sudden drop in blood pressure, the Nasonex bee flying up your nose, and priapism seem like a day at the beach. Maybe in the name of truth in advertising this drug-maker's ad men should go all the way and include a shot of someone in an open coffin. Just a quick flash, mind you. Smiling.

But when it comes to letting it all hang out, Kellogg's latest All-Bran 10 day challenge commercial takes the cake -- and quickly gets rid of it in ways impossible to miss. Is it brilliant viral marketing or just proof that opinionated idiots like me still watch commercials even though we have two TiVos -- and can be suckered into writing about it and spreading the the word even though I wouldn't touch All Bran with a ten foot I-beam? Is this ad the best argument for going back to the good old unsophisticaled subliminal days of posing sexy girls next to hot cars to suggest that some backseat action is a possibility depending on the size of your engine? Hey, I learned about that when I had a '65 GTO in high school, but what the heck?

I could go on, but I've got to watch Alberto Gonzales resign. Talk about dumb guys.

As for the All-Bran Challenge: You decide. You've got ten days.


More by David Rensin:
Previous blog post: Hard Sell
Next blog post: Summer beachcraft
Recently on Native Intelligence
New at LA Observed

LA Observed on Twitter