Whole Lotta Shoutin’ Goin’ On
Have you ever been standing in a store looking around at all the things you really wanted to purchase when suddenly some guy in a bad suit comes roaring up to you and begins screaming in your face about the fabulousness of the store’s products? No? Oh but you have. Well, if you wouldn’t buy anything from the dude who maniacally shouts at you to buy the stuff in his store, why do you buy products from screaming, bellowing hawkers on TV?
Whenever one of these guys (yes it’s pretty much always guys) comes bounding on the screen shrieking idiotically into the camera about his great cars on the lot behind him I make an instant vow to never, not ever buy one or even ride in one if I can avoid it. Sometimes there are two screechers and they work off each other. These hucksters shout, fake laugh, bellow and scream about the joys and perfections of their cars and they really do send a message; for me, the message is that I would not be buried in one of their cars. I would not drive one if it were a gift. I would not purchase or drive one of their cars if it were the last car on earth. I would not house my animals in one of their cars. I would not purchase one of their cars if they promised me they’d clear away my wrinkles and wattles forever. See? I can be tough.
I really should not suggest that only people selling cars do those offensively loud commercials, forcing people to turn the volume down, or off. There are screamers and bellowers who get in front of a TV camera and bawl and bray about lots of other products; kitchen, meds, hardware, everything. Who tells them to do that? The advertising people? Do people actually buy cars from those bellowing, embarrassing, screaming automobile hawkers? Apparently they do, because the dealerships are still around and seem to be doing quite well in spite of my expostulations, (yes, I do own a Thesaurus) and those commercials are getting louder, more frequent and more much, much more obnoxious.
I remember when Sir Laurence Olivier, or “Lar” to those of us who knew him well, did a commercial for TV. It was for Polaroid Cameras. Beautiful, sexy Lar sat on a stage in front of a simple, black velvet background and he gently, kindly, softly and with great panache, persuaded viewers to buy that camera. Oh sigh, Olivier was one classy, wonderful Brit, not the type of actor ladies would heave their bloomers at while he was performing Macbeth, but still--. Not only did people buy Polaroid cameras by the tens of thousands because of that commercial, but women, and perhaps even some men, offered to have Sir Laurence’s baby. Sales soared, and Sir Larry never once put on a loud shirt or a hideous animal costume, he never screamed and gyrated, never barked out fake laughter. Never. I for one love advertising. I think lots of commercials are the best things on TV. Many make me laugh. A few make me snorfle, you know, those Kodak moments. Ooops, no more Kodak, right? OK, Hallmark. There are some magazines I have enjoyed just because of their ads; The New Yorker used to have way cool ads in the back. Do they still? The ad biz is a great biz. Imagine, telling a whole story on TV in 30 or 60 seconds, mentioning the product the requisite-- well I forget how many times the requisite is.
As for me, advertising saved my life. Years ago, big magazines ran an ad, if it was called an ad, maybe it was a public service thing, but anyway, it was a big half page thing saying in bold letters; “(Celebrity name inserted here) knows the nine danger signs of cancer. Do you??” And it went on to list what they were. One of them alas, was mine. It said “Any changes in a wart or a mole.” I had a huge mole on my leg I thought would just self-correct, go away, but it didn’t. It got larger, blacker and crustier. The “celebrity inserted” in this case was Frank Sinatra. To this day I seriously doubt Ol’ Blue Eyes knew about such things, but hey, who knows? He lent his name to that cause. In any case, because of Frank’s asking readers about those 9 danger signs, I went off to a doctor who excised the mole, called me back in after a week, said “that’s a cancerous melanoma,” and sent me into a hospital in NYC where they got rid of all of it. That was in 1966. So thanks Frank. Your music was nice too.
So you see, there is a place in this world for good and important advertising and I pay attention to commercials and ads because that magazine had saved my life so long ago, and other ads and articles have forced me to question and think about important health things. And yet I wonder if a medical person had come on the TV screen and had begun to shout and gesture and shriek about those 9 danger signs, would I have reacted favorably? No. If Frank Sinatra had gotten on the tube and had gyrated and howled and shouted about those nine danger signs of cancer, I might have never gone to see a doctor. But fortunately, he didn’t and I did.
It’s not only car salespeople who shout and swagger on the TV screen and the radio about their products. Today I heard a man bellowing to hoarseness about a smoothie he’s invented that will make us all lean, muscular and thin—oh yeah, lean means thin. Well, he promised so loudly about his smoothie concoction, promised so offensively about how he’d send it straight out to me to use for free for two weeks along with his remarkable invented shaker thing which sounded pretty much like a plastic jar one just shook, but anyway, his voice was so high and so loud that I decided to stay unlean and unmuscular and unthin just to show him a thing or two.
Well, there you have it. Will this column change any of the above? Nah. It is what it is.