"a fish, a barrel, and a smoking gun"
for 10 November 1997. Updated every WEEKDAY.
Ad It Up


[today i got an email asking me to pleasssse write about the images in these alt tags]

A simple means of adding value

to humdrum TV programming is

already in your grasp: Just find

the remote control, and turn on

both the sound and the closed

captioning. It's free and yields

an endless stream of

unintentional yuks. The hapless

touchtypers charged with this

mind-numbing task often condense

dialog or slip up outright,

rendering prosaic highway taxmen

into fearsome "troll



Prolonged exposure to such

unredacted copy can make a

stable viewer start to feel like

those Oliver Sacks patients who

laugh uncontrollably at Reagan's

televised speeches - the

ludicrousness of what's being

put over is literally spelled

out. Thus a purgatorial talk

show performance by Boyz II Men

morphs into must-see tee-vee as

one goggles at lyrical

masterpieces like "DA DI DA DA

DOO DOO DOO DOO." This quick fix

also sometimes offers bonus

annotation à la Pop-Up

Video, as when one of

Microsoft's "TGI Monday" ads

comes on the set: "(David

Bowie's 'Heroes' plays

throughout)." OK, so only a

Spice Girls fan could fail to

name that tune. And only a

Sidewalk enthusiast could fail

to be rubbed the wrong way by

this willful misappropriation of

a rock classic.


[i considered the logic, and then the responsibility to you, our readers and i came to the conclusion that the images must speak for themselves ... i can not describe them, no matter my amazing articulations ]

And yet Microsoft is by no means

the first advertiser to bend pop

to its own will. Third-wave

hippies rolled their bloodshot

eyes when Excite invoked The

Chambers Brothers' "The Time Has

Come Today," an evergreen anthem

for capital-c Change that has

also caught the fancy of both

ABC and Starbucks. In the early

'90s, Mercedes' retooling of a

Joplin standard and Nike's

gleeful deployment of Lennon

favorites provoked outbursts of

righteous indignation from those

too young to recall John's

hostility for people who carry

pictures of Chairman Mao, or

Janis' zeal for another sort of



Thus it isn't so surprising that

the Pasty White Billionaire has

latched onto the Thin White Duke

- keeping only the song's

misleadingly upbeat chorus while

ditching defeatist lyrics such

as "nothing will drive them

away." A typical three-spot

break in this year's World

Series began with Toyota's

"Everyday People," swung into

Burger King's "King of The

Road," and finished with

Volkswagen's "Da Da Da I don't

love you you don't love me aha

aha aha" - with copy by Sly

Stone, Roger Miller, and Trio.


There's something more

inevitable here than these

workaday conquests of cool, or

than Redmond's lionizing of a

dilettante like SonicNet founder

Tim Nye. Nowadays when a

Gatorade adman hears Nazareth's

"Love Hurts," he doesn't look

back fondly on the glory days of

the power ballad, but rather

forward to the day he can use

the refrain ("it takes a lot of

pain") to sell sugar water. Such

chords sound the death knell of

the copywriter, whose torch has

been passed to the songwriter.

Such a Barthesian development

has been coming ever since Heinz

scoured the Carly Simon song

book for a ketchup jingle.


[so, im sorry but the alt tags are my own private little space.  they make me happy.  i will write whatever i want to here.  have a good weekend. - erin]

And when rounding up scapegoats,

one must always smear some of

the tar on the gates of

motion-picture studios. Their

increasing reliance on movie

soundtracks helped pave the way,

starting with American

Graffiti, continuing through

Saturday Night Fever and Dirty

Dancing, and reaching a recent

apotheosis in retrofests

Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Pulp

Fiction, and Swingers. Now a

climactic meeting of the lesser

minds of Madison Avenue,

Hollywood, and MTV can be

witnessed in the current

television trailers for An

American Werewolf in Paris. The

dialog-free and even blurb-free

spots aim to repeat the success

of Warren Zevon's howl-along

from the London original,

alternating lycanthropes with

shots of Gavin Rossdale, still

preening overtime to play up his

passing resemblance to Kurt



Still, with rare exceptions, such

as Buick's hackneyed use of Ben

E. King's "Stand By Me," pop at

least never makes the world of

advertising more boring. The

same cannot be said of

advertising's incursions into

the world of pop (assuming

there's a difference), as when

the stars of dead-on-arrival

movies rear their frowzy heads

in an otherwise stellar Beck



[oh, one more, i didnt see this one.  sooo anyone do any craaaazy drugs on Halloween?  ]

At this juncture some might get

misty-eyed with reminiscences of

all-star copywriters like Bill

Bernbach, the craftsman behind

famously inventive campaigns for

Life Cereal, Levy's Jewish Rye,

and - isn't it ironic? -

Volkswagen. Must all TV devolve

entropically into MTV? There's

an obvious retort to such

indignant nostalgia: Wouldn't

you be glad if advertisers like

Dial stopped using ponderous

come-ons ("aren't you glad you

use the soap that kills germs?")

in favor of 30-seconds worth of

Nigel Ollson's "A Little Bit of

Soap"? Or better still, The



In closing, and in light of

recent doings at the Justice

Department, we do have a final

librettist's suggestion for Bill

Gates: Throw some more cash at

Bowie (or at least the

closed-captioners union) to

change the words of "Heroes" to

"we can beat Reno."

courtesy of Ersatz