Stay Tuned/2 March 1997

From Eccentric Flower


stay tuned

2 March 1997
(Sunday Papers)

Trend Watch

The top story today is that Martha Stewart, the Compulsiveness Queen of New Jersey, is now hawking sheets and towels for K-Mart. Now, Martha is pretty scary by herself, but this is downright odd. Think about it. Would Martha actually be caught dead in a K-Mart? Even the ad (not pictured here) doesn't actually show her in a K-mart - it shows her in a Generic Better Homes and Gardens House somewhere. Doesn't work for me.

Strange Bedfellows

The way I see it: companies can't do joint advertisements with anyone even close to being in a competing market, right? So this is why you end up with these improbable pairings. Makes me want to go out and eat some crayons. Yum.

Depending on your point of view, you'll either find this more or less improbable than the one above:


Misc. Verbiage

Make JELL-O Egg Jigglers for Easter!

Every year JELL-O (note that I am writing this in all caps, with hyphen, the way they like it) pushes its Egg Jigglers in an improbable attempt to link gelatin and Easter. This is probably not as stupid as it sounds. The kidlets like JELL-O in any format. But couldn't they have found a name that inspires a little less inadvertent giggling?

Share your Only Oreo Moment with us.

Write it, videotape it, photograph it, or communicate it the best way you can. If it wins, we'll share it with the world on National Television and you'll Win $10,000!

[Capitalization, etc, verbatim.] When I think too long about it, it actually makes sense: the only thing more cloying than America's collective home videos is a nice big stack of Oreos. Am I being cranky? I suppose so. But doesn't that "use our product and win lots of money" thing hit a nerve with you too?

Go Drug Yourself

Speaking of being cranky: I'm not sure it's a good thing that all these drug products can now advertise without anyone having qualms. I think it just leads more people to become hypochondriacs. Of course, the HMO's love it; it means people will go to doctors less. OK, maybe I'm overreacting. Bonus points: the WIRED-style typography at the top.

Hold That Line

"Line extension" is what happens when you try to separate your product into several subproducts or variations. My favorite example is Coca-Cola: Diet Coke, Caffeine Free Coke, Caffeine Free Diet Coke, and so forth. But if you have a product that basically has been unchanged for hundreds of years, what do you do to get new customers? All right, I admit that I have a favorite shape of toothbrush myself, but this is just plain silly. My First Colgate?

Grease Patrol

Boston Market (formerly Boston Chicken) actually makes better and healthier food than your usual fast food restaurant. That's why it's sad to see them shift their focus from their home-style plate dinners to their sandwiches, and now to the Extreme Cholesterol (oh, all right, Extreme Carver) line. Note to Boston Market: If we'd have wanted Big Macs, we'd have gone to you-know-who.


If you're not selling enough turkey based on health appeal, try disguising it as an elitist cut of meat and surrounding it with extra fat. This is known as "snob appeal." Unattractive when used anywhere; in this case it is ludicrous.


I have saved the worst for last. When a friend saw this, he said, "This is vulgar." I agree. Baby's First Grease, immortalized in "fine porcelain."

Hindsight: 19 February 2007

This article (like many of the ones to follow) was first posted at a time when bandwidth was much scarcer than it is now, and screens coarser, which is why some of the images are tiny little things which are barely readable on today's teeny-tiny-resolution monitors. Thus technology makes fools of us all.

The early columns were called "Sunday Papers," after the Sunday advertising inserts which were their original inspiration. They did not have overall titles, just dates, and the heading at the top will reflect this.

This very first column, an experiment, was inspired by "Eric's First Fries," perhaps one of the most mind-numbing pieces of kitsch the Stay Tuned staff has yet encountered. Eric gets mentioned several more times in the course of these articles.

Bob Garfield, an ad reviewer whose column (at the time) appeared in Advertising Age and who will also be mentioned several times to come, didn't think the Boston Market sandwich line was a good idea either, but he and I agreed that the TV ad, which was to come later, was great. This, too, gets a subsequent mention here.

In the two days after this article first appeared, I wrote two short side articles. One of them is about the color-coding of package designs; the other is about a single very bizarre advertisement. They don't fit elsewhere, so I've linked them here.

I've updated this page several times; the following comments were added to the original on 23 March 1997.

[For the K-Mart item:] The paper this weekend had an article about the fact that while the income gap is increasing - the rich get richer and more isolated, and the middle class slides into poverty - the merchandising gap is getting smaller; as the article put it, "K-Mart and Bloomingdale's are getting closer." They cited K-Mart's Martha Stewart Everyday line as the primary example. Apparently if the sheets and towels sell, Martha will stick her pretty little fingers in just about every other portion of the K-Mart merchandise line. Great.

Why do I dislike Martha? Because she uses the illusion of glamour to sell product. Martha's brand of glamour is even more insidious than Hollywood glamour because it appears to be a lot more achievable - buy my stuff, she says, and with a little elbow grease and hard work, your lifestyle can be as impeccable as mine. And this is desirable?

[For the Uristat item:] A good friend points out that people who get urinary tract infections tend to get them more than once, and after the first one you know when you've got one, and this just saves a return visit to the doctor since he/she will just tell you to go get more of the drug (phenazopyridine hydrochloride, in this case). OK, I concede that. Nonetheless I stand by my larger point: the steady move of more and more drugs to over-the-counter status cannot possibly be a good thing. Most of us do not follow prescriptions properly as is. Why make it worse by increasing the chances for erroneous self-treatment?

[For the Colgate item:] This week's paper showed a toothbrush from the nice people who bring you Aqua-Fresh, the World's Most Gimmicky Toothpaste. As is befitting, this is a James Bond toothbrush: the handle is springy and flexes as you use it, and the head has a certain amount of side-to-side hinge. Seems to me that all that flexibility would actually make it harder to brush your teeth, but what do I know?

Back in 2007, a lot of water has gone under the bridge and Martha Stewart has been to jail and out again without notable damage; the idea of marquee names on product lines in chain stores is not very surprising anymore; and the large department store has nearly gone the way of the dodo. Also, I've changed my mind about medicines going OTC - I am often in favor of it - but I'm still no fan of drug advertising direct to the consumer.

and now back to our program

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