George Duncan

Marketing copywriter/consultant, author

Pinch me? Really?

From Watch Your Ads – A media memo by George Duncan

Pinch me? Really?

When was the last time someone asked you to pinch them? Last week? Probably not. In fact, probably not in this century. People who drive the VW Passat seem to be so taken with the car’s “Turbo Power,” whatever that is, they ask someone to pinch them to be sure it’s real. One woman declines to pinch her companion, “not while you’re driving.” Is power really a unique discovery in today’s vehicles? Hardly. Throwing a dated concept like pinch me into the ad for a powerful new car draws the attention away from the car to the interaction between the two people, I believe.

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Hey, why not hamsters!

Taking the distraction element a step – or maybe several steps – further, KIA has a quartette of hamsters  driving a rich lime green KIA. See a lot of those lately? The rodents are all handsomely dressed with jackets, vests, eyeglasses and more – all the more to distract from whatever the message is regarding  the car. It was lost on me. Another example of creatives gone wild.

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Take a little time for the child with you…

That’s the gist of a delightful tune currently running in an ad for Delta Airlines. Graphics show a business man overseas going through the usual grind. I love the way he almost gets run over facing the wrong way in a London street. Happens a lot. Anyway, after the sturm and drang of the day – or two – that he spends working, he returns to the welcoming, restful arms of his Delta flight home. Nice ad, but what’s unique about Delta hospitality? Especially in Business Class? A flight attendant politely takes his coat but not much more than that.

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Rube Goldberg Healthcare?

AARP has an ad out for their supplement medical plans. It features a small ball rolling on a track that recalls the days of Rube Goldberg and his imaginative creations. The ball goes through twists and turns tipping over one gizmo after another while a voiceover describes the benefits of AARP supplement plans, pointedly including phrases like “roll with you,” and “Keep you on track” (get it?). Here again the visual is captivating but I found it difficult to follow the ball as it goes through its contortions and absorb the benefit message at the same time. Also, AARP’s market is seniors who might have more difficulty with this mish mash than the younger set.

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Q. Why did the chicken cross the road?

A. To help make a point about GEICO insurance. (I wonder how many folks today recall that GEICO once stood for Government Employees Insurance Company?) But back to our chicken who crosses the road and takes off with all the romance that once was attached (erroneously) to those “knights of the open road” who, especially during the Great Depression, traveled the boxcar routes and hitchhiked from one hobo encampment to another. This is a free range chicken, see, and he’s ranging across the country, folkie type song strumming along in the background because “that’s what free range chickens do.” That’s followed by GEICO’s current tag line, about calling GEICO to save 15% on insurance. The visuals are clever, but this whole idea for me is still a stretch.

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First the show, then the snake oil

Many of today’s ads seem to be revisiting the old turn of the century practice of snake oil salesmen who traveled around the country with a magic show or a hoochie coochie show (honest!) in a wagon, stop in a town, drop the tailgate, do the show, then bring out the bottles of booze— er, cough medicine or energy syrup – sell a bunch and move on to the next town.

Another example of this is the ad just out for Nationwide Insurance. It stars the actor Mindy Kaling in a fantasy setting because she’s invisible. She walks through several scenes not being seen ending on a basketball court where it seems she suddenly become visible as she interferes with a kid playing hoops. He complains about her interrupting him and she says something to the effect that “there are worse things than being touched by a beautiful woman.” Then the Nationwide tag line about Nationwide is the company “that sees you as a priority.” Or, “Sees you for the person you are.” Wow. I’m knocked over. Where do I sign? Something inside me suggests that this ad was conceived and written by Ms. Kaling.

Ooops! There’s Mindy again in an American Express ad. She’s a producer and writer as well as an actor, so the odds just went up that she’s taking a crack at the ad business. Seems to me folks ought to learn something about marketing before they go off producing ads.

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OK, you’re shallow

“Call me shallow,” says the guy in the National Car Rental ad as he turns selecting a car to drive into a sexual context. Suddenly the maroon whatever that he selects is “she.” The other black car that he rejects remains silent (for a car, that is) and he comments, “Oh, the silent treatment. Real mature.” The arrogance fairly oozes from his pores. Who writes this junk, a bunch of ten-year-olds? One look at the poor schlepps who drag themselves from cramped plane seats to car rentals to the local Days Inn – the backbone of National’s business – would know in an instant they’ve little patience for this kind of baloney.

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My 2c:

How do they do it?

Aside from differences with policies, I’m always astonished at how easily some conservatives can directly contradict fact and keep a straight face. Like climate change denier Sen. James Inhofe who insists that global warming is a hoax as the polar ice collapses around him – and the fossil fuels industry pours money into his campaign funds. Was it Will Rodgers who said we had the best Congress money could buy?

Speaker Boehner and Ted Cruz are the most recent examples as they excoriate the ACA (Obamacare), consistently referring to it as a “job killing plan,” and a disaster of one sort or another while one non-partisan research study after another demonstrates just the opposite.

Congresswoman Cathy Morris Rodgers – that tallish woman who often stands behind Boehner as he announces the next obstruction – was so convinced of the truth of these distortions she asked people to tell their tales of ACA horror on her Facebook page. What she got instead was hundreds of stories of how the ACA has helped this individual or that family with many exhortations to (1) leave it the hell alone, (2) improve it, (3) shut up. I’m sure by now she has crafted some way of explaining where all that opposition came from and why – with a straight face.

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