George Duncan

Marketing copywriter/consultant, author

GE takes a sledgehammer to the holidays

From Watch Your Ads – A media memo by George Duncan

GE takes a sledgehammer to the holidays

One of the current GE ads strikes me as not only wrong-headed from a marketing perspective, but a real downer just in time for the holidays. Though most of the ads in this series are effective, this one shows a dad offering his programmer son his “grand pappy’s” sledge hammer from back in the day. Turns out the kid is more interested in the technology than he is in lifting a 50 pound sledge, thank you very much. But stupid dad, who wouldn’t know a byte from a bite, mocks his son because he “can’t lift the hammer.” Hmm. Altogether it’s a tribute to every kid who ever disappointed his father by yet again failing to live up to his expectations. Great message in the season of joy, GE. Got a lump of coal around for our stockings?

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Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Product Promotion Parade

Right from Al Roker’s animated interview with Jennifer Nettles touting her upcoming film, Coat of Many Colors, which opened NBC’s coverage of Macy’s annual Thanksgiving Day Parade, the promos came fast and frequent throughout the line of march. Aflac, Pokémon, Domino Sugar, Ocean Spray, Pillsbury, Delta Airlines to mention just a few, plus excerpts from numerous Broadway shows, zillions of movies, TV shows, singers and personalities, a few computer games and more. Bullwinkle, we hardly knew ye.

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Glen from the mailroom breaks me up

It’s kind of dumb, but it breaks me up every time. Direct TV’s ad shows the bereft cable guys in a meeting looking for ways to keep viewers. One guy suggests better music for people on hold. He introduces Glen from the mailroom who, it turns out, moonlights as a DJ. Glen starts banging away with his stuff, but the CEO at the other end of the conference table can’t catch what they’re saying about Glen being a DJ over the noise. Finally, the guy yells at the top of his lungs, “It’s Glen from the mailroom!” See, breaks me up every time.

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Reverse logic?

A Duluth Trading ad seems to abandon their usual gravelly voice over for a young(ish) lass named Nora who is at pains to tell us she’s not a perfect gal with nice eyes, nice hair, “nice little everything,” (really?) great car, house, etc. — just like her pony isn’t the perfect horsie. She does own a perfect shirt, however, presumably from Duluth. So there, fellows. Huh?

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Oh how the mighty fall!

What the hell is the GEICO Gecko doing hawking Helzberg Diamonds? Don’t they pay the guy?

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Questions I ask myself

One of the problems with trying to write anything about Donald Trump is just when you think you’ve heard it all, he adds another layer or two of outrage. Another is the phenomenon that no matter how critical various pundits and politicos become, the only serve to further fuel the man’s apparent popularity, at least as measured by the polls. The latest outrage – I thought as I wrote this – is his pathetic denial of his mocking the appearance of a New York Times reporter who has a physical disability. According to one knowledgeable commentator, his denial has all the earmarks of a pathological liar – as do several other of his lies and distortions.  Another would be his insistence that he “saw” a film showing “thousands and thousands” of Muslims in New Jersey cheerfully celebrating the collapse of the Towers on 9/11. Neither Trump or anyone else has since been able to produce such a film. Perhaps the pathology lies in the fact that these lies are so transparent and/or so easily disprovable, they seem to exist for their own sake. Telling it like it isn’t, so to speak, and if the media doesn’t like it they can shove it.

Trump is also an expert backtracker. After declaring that John McCain was considered a hero only because he got caught, he instantly responded to the backlash with “John McCain is a hero…John McCain is a hero…John McCain is a hero” as if that mantra somehow cancels the original comment. Or when he insulted Carly Fiorina’s appearance he immediately followed up with “I cherish women…I cherish women.” How can you criticize me when I clearly stated I cherish women? Sheesh. People are so unfair. (“Cherish” sounded creepy to some women.) With the “thousands and thousands” of Muslims supposedly celebrating on 9/11, he cannily switched to “many people” celebrating as the towers fell, killing “thousands and thousands” of people. See?  He’s able to switch the “thousands” so it sounds the same and he can say he was misinterpreted.

Most of us saw the obvious racism in his anti-immigrant rants, but how many identified the fascism in his Mexican Solution? He told a Jewish Republican group they wouldn’t vote for him, why? Because he doesn’t want their money. Small wonder he’s the hit of the white supremacy bunch.

His reaction to a couple of hecklers revealed the schoolyard bully boy inside. His answer to ISIS is bombing, as if we hadn’t thought of it, as he throws a few four letter words into the mix.  OK, ass is three. More recently, he added killing all their families – handing ISIS a PR plum.

So the question I ask myself – and I hope you’re asking yourself – is why? Why is he still standing? For me, the question comes with a generous helping of dread. Dread that I may know the answer, and it’s too ugly to bear. Why do Trump, and his lesser lights, Carson and Cruz, continue to attract a significant following? We’ve always had demagogues in American politics of course, but Trump goes well beyond that, in my view.  My question: what is it about us that so readily accepts this kind of ignorance and bigotry especially as qualifications for the presidency of the United States of America?

Let me know. Thanks.

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Editor’s NOTE: If you’ve been reading this blog regularly or even approximately, thanks. This will be the last edition of Watch Your Ads – to be replaced in January by Just Sayin’ where I’ll spout off on whatever. Meantime, watch your ads and keep clickin’.

Finally, I want to thank Linda for her help in designing my web site and for shepherding my blog each month. If you need web site assistance, you can’t go wrong with Linda. You can email her at

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