January 4, 1990


The quality of a commercial is inversely proportional to the quality of the product.

Pilgrim's Second Law

It seems as if the media hucksters never run out of gimmicks. They are so good at it, that even a hard case like me occasionally falls for one. Like the time Elliot Gould did one for some brand of coffee. I went out and bought a can. The commercial had me convinced that it was going to be excellent coffee.It was as mediocre as it always had been.

If someone has a great product, it still has to be marketed. What good is it if no one knows about it? The seller's goal is to get people to try it. After that, he doesn't have to advertise it except occasionally, to catch a new crop of consumers. A good restaurant just has to get you there once. If the food and service are really good, you'll be back.

For other vendors, it's name recognition: when you think of moving, think of Wreckit Movers. They want to make sure that they get a chance to bid for your business.

Most highly advertised products are either no damn good, flagrantly overpriced or are no better than the competition. Now these products need the best that Madison Avenue has to offer. They need marketing surveys, psychologists, gimmicks, great actors, novelty and cuteness.

One TV commercial that really frosts me is for an insecticide that is supposed to be so harmless that they advertised it with a man biting into an apple that he claims has been sprayed with it. No one really believes that that apple was sprayed --the man doesn't look like a complete idiot-- but it sure is an attention getter. It does sell the product. That's pretty good for something that really doesn't do a very good job of killing bugs. If you want to kill bugs effectively, chances are that you have to use something that will make a human good and sick, or dead. One of the best insecticides was chlorodane. The big drawback was that it killed a lot more than termites and ants. If you are into organic gardening, you don't want to use anything stronger than a water jet and Ivory soap which, as everyone knows, is 99 and 44/100ths percent pure. I've tried to forget that, but I can't. It's virtually impossible to forget anything trivial. I've been trying to forget The Alamo for years. What I forget is where I put my glasses or the car keys, or what I came to the store to buy. At any rate, soap water does a good job of washing the bugs, and clean bugs spend more time admiring themselves in the mirror and less time sucking the life out of your plants. You knew that I was talking about aphids, didn't you? Don't bother telling me about lady bugs; I've tried them. In order to keep a good crop of lady bugs going, you have to have a good crop of aphids etc. To refer to the people in advertising agencies as "whores" is to insult the practitioners of the oldest profession. When I meet a person in advertising, my first question is "where did you go wrong?"

The purpose of a lot of advertising is to get people to pay money for things that they don't need, don't want, and which, if they had them, would either do them no good at all or harm them.

When the California public voted to have a state lottery, no one told us that it would be extensively advertised on radio and television. The cost of that advertising is, of course, deducted from the amount that goes to the winners and to education.

Advertising people win no matter what happens. It makes no difference if the product is any good, if it actually kills like booze or cigarettes can, or if it is worthless, as is the lottery to the many millions of loosers who buy tickets. The advertising people get their big paychecks regardless! Who said "crime doesn't pay"?

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