George Duncan

Marketing copywriter/consultant, author

Does that include binoculars?

From Watch Your Ads – A media memo by George Duncan

Does that include binoculars?

The NBA has a spot ad promoting ticket sales. The graphics they put with it include extreme close-ups of a players hand, the sweat on his forehead, a basketball hitting the net, you know, all those views you get with seats in the 20th – or 50th row.  Gimme a break, NBA.

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What are you doing here?

I don’t know what the hell Kevin Spacey is doing in a stupid, feckless E*Trade ad proclaiming a covey of idiots as “Type E.” He throws out a few investment keywords like “diversity,” “emerging markets,” etc., no clue that this a day trading outfit, no hint of what technology or market information they provide, and certainly no mention of what’s required to open an account. What was that name again?

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I know that hearing is second thing to go, but…

A GE ad features a nice little girl talking about her mother, who, if I got it right, works at GE. What she does there is lost in the semi-articulate mumbling of a child. I can catch a word here or there, but for what ads cost today, you’d think the agency guys would want to be understood.

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Nuts to you, too!

Speaking of dumb agency types, the Trident Gum ad really makes me wonder how old these guys are. They’re promoting a theme of “Four out of five dentists recommend Trident Gum.” OK, but the graphic shows four so-called dentists saying Yes, yes, yes, yes. As the fifth dentist is about to speak, a squirrel appears, runs up the guy’s pant leg and attacks his groin, causing him to grab his privates and yell. “Nooo!” Squirrel, nuts – get it? Good. Keep it.

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Not for everyone

An ad for Premarin vaginal cream states it’s “not for everyone.” Maybe that applies to the ad, too. Ads like those for Monistat Stay-Fresh Gel with references to “down there” and Osphena Tablets clearly trading on sexy scenes, strike me as a little over the top. Some women I know agree, so I don’t think it’s particularly sexist of me. Ads like these and other pharmaceuticals are designed, it seems to me, to make an end run around the health care providers. Sell the end user and when they “talk to their doctor” as the ads suggest, they’re essentially putting him or her on the spot. If the doctor refuses to prescribe the medication, and later something untoward happens, they stand to be sued for negligence.

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Just call Mr. Smarmy

A spokesman for The Mortgage Specialists, presumably Mr. Specialist (didn’t catch his name, if he gave one), solicits calls from folks needing loans. He starts off by claiming that the economy, or perhaps just the housing market, is in a state of “stagflation.” Really? That’s news to the folks at CNBC and to the industry research sources at They report low mortgage rates are pushing valuations higher. Commercial prices and values are up, all of which indicate “continued housing market strength.” This guy’s whole manner reminds me of the Texaco pitchman on the old Texaco Star Theater with Milton Berle. The flack came out with a loud sports jacket, sleeves pushed up (nothing up my sleeve) and touted Texaco Motor Oil like a 42nd St. flack; (You say you’re not satisfied? You say you want more for your money?”) But back to Mr. Specialist. He ends the ad with a request to visit which is of “great importance to all of us.” Turns out to be about a corruption case involving the mob, a race track and a New Hampshire judge.

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A direct miss

There’s something creepy about the DirecTV ad featuring puppets being jerked around on highly visible wires. The wires are the point of the ad, pointing out that with DirecTV there are no wires. Big whoop. To make the point, the “wife,” a cute blond puppet, shows up unexpectedly and almost smashes a tray of lemonade on the coffee table. In another ad, the puppet is the guy’s kid who runs in and hits the table, collapses on the floor and then gets his wires caught by the ceiling fan which whirls him around near the ceiling. “See?” says the father, “I can’t do that.” Well, gosh. The agency guys couldn’t find a better way to say that DirecTV has no wires?  I bet they think the audio is what makes it work, forgetting that some 80% of our input is visual. Must be watching too much MadMen. The drinking part.

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Keep clickin’ – and if you have any similar stuff, send it in. I’ll run it here.

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