"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 14 November 1996. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Hit & Run LX


[Jingle Thingy Movie]

With his wax-museum "good looks"

and whorish radar for the most

exploitable commercial

opportunity, continuously

evolving media experiment Arnold

Schwarzenegger has always seemed

more like an infomercial host

than a movie actor; his latest

90-minute unit-shifter, Jingle

All The Way, brings him closer

than ever to his true calling.

The plot of the "movie"? Two

dads try to buy the

super-popular TurboMan doll for

their kids for Christmas. Since

that's all there is to it,

Jingle's website doesn't waste

any time dwelling on the movie's

particulars. (And granted, given

Schwarzenegger's limited comedic

skills, there probably aren't

any particulars to dwell on.)

Instead, it gets down to the

true business of moviemaking

today: the merchandising

opportunities. Best of all is

the site's interactive Santa

wish list. After giving up your

email address and also that "of

at least one friend," you can

tell old St. Nick what crap you

want most this year. Can you

guess which toy appears as a




Speaking of appealing to the kid

in us, Life magazine managing

editor Dan Okrant once told us

that the quickest route to

selling out on the newsstand was

to put one of two things on the

cover: a baby, or a puppy. How

else to explain the L.A. Times's

adoption of Hunter, Your News

Retriever, the most cuddly web

mascot there ever was? Though

we've found the broadsheet comes

in handy while training puppies,

these clever folk have flipped

the paradigm with a pooch that

trains users. Hunter will fetch

your customized daily paper -

plus, he yaps, "you'll get my

weekly columns and my tips on

the coolest stuff on the site."

Expect to see more helpful

animals out there, as

metaphor-challenged marketers

seek warm, friendly mascots for

a cold, complicated medium. Fair

enough, we say. Go wide and roll

out the whole zoo. But fair

warning, Dan: at the first sign

of a gurgling baby, we're outta




Which explains how happy we were

to find that "the liquor

industry has declared open

season on kids." (This according

to the Center for Science in the

Public Interest.) Unfortunately,

the sotted safari has little to

do with a necromantic

distillation of youths - by now

you know that the Distilled

Spirits Council of the United

States (DISCUS) has lifted its

six-decade voluntary prohibition

on broadcast liquor ads, so they're

after kids' money, not their

life. DISCUS folks, of course,

spent much of the last week

hurling well-polished platters

of reassurance towards a

reluctant public. Among the

plate-a-tudes: There are still

restrictions against using

"cartoon figures that are

popular predominantly with

children" or claiming "sexual

prowess as a result of beverage

alcohol consumption." (It's

still perfectly legal to claim

sexual prowess as a result of

what brand of deodorant you use.)

It puzzles us, however, that the

frisbee flacks at DISCUS would

toss around the idea that

"advertising has not been shown

to cause individuals to begin

drinking or to abuse alcoholic

beverages," 'cause then, well,

what's the point?



If it is the case that you can

lead a consumer to firewater,

but you can't make him drink,

spending money producing

sub-Mackenzie spots for

local markets is probably not as

good an idea as formulating the

kind of lucrative product-placement

deals that have worked so well for

other vices, like heroin and

crack. Thus, despite having the

jump on the competition, Crown

Royal's cuddly campaign (they

must have been reading Okrent as

well) seems like a case of

throwing good money after

not-quite-bad-enough intentions.

And in an era when the bidding

for rights to indie cred starts

quite, er, high, Crown's ability

to look a gift horse straight in

the mouth seems like the product

of tight thinking indeed.

courtesy of the Sucksters