"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 21 August 1997. Updated every WEEKDAY.

Hit & Run XCVII


[The cover of Spy Magazine featuring a smiling Peewee Herman with a friend. Peewee is my role model and, hopefully, will be many children's role model in the future.]

Since its resurrection, Spy's

Rasputin-like existence has

suggested a band of insiders

bent on producing issues so free

of quality as to sabotage the

whole thing. Sure, usually it's

fun to watch a magazine die

(especially when it tries to

hire or pander its way out of

its fate - like, say, Esquire),

but Spy's death throes have made

for less-than-bad theater -

they've made for bad comedy. In

sustaining this prolonged and

erratic morbidity, the

September/October issue is,

well, kinda good. Highlights

include an exhaustive memoir of

Original Zinester and Channel 35

excrescence Al Goldstein, a

phone prank involving the

"director's cut" of the Tony

Danza vehicle She's Out of

Control, chilling interviews

with Cosmo's 101 Sexiest,

Smartest, Funniest, Most

Passionate, Ready-to-Commit Men,

and a thorough parody of The New

York Times Magazine. While the

issue is still ad-anemic enough

to line a modestly sized

birdcage (no news there), the

general funnying up suggests

second thoughts on

assassination. The undead Spy

has often (well, sometimes) been

better than it gets credit for,

and some institutions maybe

deserve a smidgen of respect -

especially when so few of their

studiously snide godchildren are

still breathing.


[The Nissan Motors logo, in all its splendor, and very appropriate to the story it helps illustrate!]

In advertising, no one can hear

you scream. Or, what's worse,

they confuse your yelps of pain

with squeals of delight, and

complaints about annoying ad

campaigns get transposed into

triumphs of "brand recognition."

At least, that explains Nissan's

decision to trumpet last week's

birthday of their "Enjoy the

ride" campaign. "Our research

showed that people hated

automobile ads," spouted Nissan

content-generator Tom Orbe,

whereas Nissan customers "tell

us over and over that they love

the campaign and, most

especially, our magical man."

They're right about one thing -

people hate car ads. In fact, we

at Suck hate this series of ads

as well, so excuse our

obsession with this "magical

man" who appears

ever-so-enigmatically on

billboards across the country.

Though actual sales of Nissan

cars dropped 3.2 percent in

1996, the campaign continues to

coast, proving our previous

observation that the solution to

people hating car ads is to not

even try to sell cars. Sell action

figures instead!


[This is a picture of an illustration of some sort of futuristic world. I'm not so sure it is appropriate to the story but it's very science-fiction-like. It scares me.]

As the toy-soldier battle over

the right to make gewgaws based

on the Star Wars prequel

trilogy suggests, the money's in

more portable vessels of

consumer identity, anyways. Bids

have now topped the US$1 billion

mark, and toy manufacturers are

starting to grumble. "It's

similar to paying Sylvester

Stallone $20 million," one exec

groused to The Wall Street

Journal on Tuesday, referring to

the 1995 salary misstep that

eventually produced both The

Cable Guy and Cop Land. While

that analogy does open the

tantalizing possibility of a Todd

Haynes film based on Stallone's

fluctuating career (and weight),

we know what he means: Will it

be worth it? Current sales of

mid-series Star Wars thingees

make up 10 percent of Hasbro's

entire revenue, and almost half

of Galoob's, but the toy

industry is littered with the

mangled plastic bodies of action

figures that just didn't move.

(Anyone want to unload a Lost

World Vince Vaughn?) One

solution might be to share the

cost of the licensing deal with

someone who can sell little

people but doesn't care

about profits: Nissan. People

the Nissan ads with miniature

Ewan Macgregors, slap an oval on

the pre-Millennium Falcon, and

feel the force of brand

extension at a theater near you.


[This is a photograph of a happy postal worker. It's gotta be some kind of ad campaign. The smiling ups employee is actually an actor.]

"Strikes are ugly. Businesses get

disrupted, employees who had

worked together become

adversaries, and people get

hurt." So went a sermon from

the editorial page of the

Washington Business Journal this

past Tuesday. The editorial

concerned the AFL-CIO's new $5

million pro-union ad campaign,

but it was hard not to think of

the culminating UPS strike as

well. The WBJ contends that,

since the strike is a union's

"ultimate weapon," the shiny,

happy people in John Sweeney's

new ad campaign are merely a

duplicitous front for the

violent, chaotic murk of

eco-political dissent. It's

worth remembering, however, that

UPS had an injury rate in 1996

of 33.8 per 100 workers - more

than two and a half times the

industry average - and actively

worked to defeat the institution

of OSHA ergonomic standards

designed to prevent such

injuries. Despite the death of

one strike-breaking driver and

the stabbing of one scab in

Miami, one could easily argue

that UPS employees got a

much-needed rest these past two

weeks. Maybe John Sweeney could

commission Barry Manilow to

reprise his jingle-writing

success for McDonald's: "You

deserve a break today/So walk

out and strike today...."

courtesy of the Sucksters

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