Stay Tuned/5 October 1997

From Eccentric Flower


stay tuned

5 October 1997
(Sunday Papers)

Time for an important announcement.

If anyone had told me back at the beginning of March that I was going to summon up seven months' worth of material from the dark recesses of my brain, I'd have laughed. But here it is, the first Sunday of October, and despite having missed a few Sundays along the way, the column is still going, and its readership is even up into double digits by now!

However, the missing Sundays are indicative of the main problem with this column: I have cut myself too narrow a scope. There are things I'd like to comment upon on television, in magazines, on billboards, et cetera ... and there are ads I'd like to say nice things about every now and then, as opposed to an unadulterated diet of crankiness. But I can't really change the content without changing the title. So ... next week there'll be something else in this space.

Stay tuned for further details. Don't touch that dial.

The Mystery Carton

Since this is the last Sunday Papers column, I've thrown in something that's been sitting on my desk for a while, waiting for me to use. It's not really a criticism per se, just fun and games.

mystery juice

Here is a brand of orange juice. The scan has been distorted to remove the brand name. Try to guess which brand it is before the end of the column. It'll be a short column, so guess quickly.

The Web Death Of the Universe

One thing which quickly fell by the wayside with these columns was the ongoing URL Watch. Though I got a number of unhappy emails when it vanished, it was making me crazy to maintain, and besides, there is too much material. These days it seems to be de rigeur to have a website - even if your product doesn't need one, even if it's completely incongruous for the product to have one. (Doonesbury: "What's my motivation?" "Fear. Greed. Take your pick.")

Tom Lehrer (who, I learned recently, is alive and well) reputedly said that he had stopped writing satire because in a world where Henry Kissinger won a prize for peace, there was nothing left to satirize. I can no longer make fun of websites in a world where there is

"Hi. Our product is made of compressed sawdust held together with wax. You light it. It burns." For this you need a web site?

Recurring Themes Revisited

In the course of this column, I've learned some of my hot buttons (and so, no doubt, have you). For example, I have a thing about snob-appeal pet foods, and breakfast cereal continues to exert an ongoing fascination for me.

Here's one of each, to see you off.


The people at Mighty Dog have a vile-looking product here, but that's not the complaint - I bet a dog would probably like it just fine. The problem is contrasting Mighty Dog's traditional he-man, German shepherd and Irish setter sort of appeal with the obvious prissiness of this glop. I mean, this is some really hifalutin' dog food.

The manufacturers clearly know which side their bread is buttered on, though. Despite the (cropped) copy "It Makes Your Dog A Mighty Dog", the three breeds pictured on the labels are ... a Chihuahua, a Pekinese, and a Yorkshire terrier. The prosecution rests.


Look! It's Fruity Pebbles! No ... it's Kellogg's, taking line extension to the point of absurdity. They also happily tout the fact, in another ad, that they now have six varieties of shredded wheat. This is just their way of making the world a happier place, I suppose.

Location, Location, Location

Finally, one point which I never, never mentioned in all my rants and raves about what can go wrong with advertising. Sometimes an ad can fail miserably simply because of when and where it appears. Placement is nearly as important as content.

This week's Sunday advertising, for whatever reason, had a big push for Washington apples. Several different, unrelated, ads all touted recipes that were well suited to Washington apples, products that went well with them, et cetera. What's wrong with this? Why, nothing. On the face of it.

Except that this appeared in a New England newspaper. During apple season. At a time when you can't open your paper without seeing ads for apple farms, fresh apples, et cetera, I imagine there are a number of people who found these ads an unwelcome sight. Remember, Washington isn't the only state with a brisk business in apples.

This supplement is customized for the New England area; I've seen clearly local ads appear in it a number of times. Including these may not just have been poor planning ... if enough money was involved, they may have been willing to risk pissing off a few readers, as opposed to pissing off the advertiser. But that kind of thing just leads to ill will eventually, for all the products in question.

You might say that one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch.

Ready for the orange juice answer?


They're eggs.

No particular point to this, as I said, unless you find the product as improbable as I do. Just something to keep you thinking until next week.

Hindsight: 2 March 1998

The eggs fooled a number of people, probably because of my deliberate misdirection.

Starting the following week, in case you didn't already get it from the Stay Tuned logo, the column became Stay Tuned, with a broader scope and a somewhat different format.

and now back to our program

The material on these pages is copyright © 1997-2007. All rights reserved.

It is assumed that every brand name, slogan, corporate name, symbol, design element, et cetera mentioned in these articles is a protected/trademarked entity, the sole property of its owner(s), and acknowledgement of this status is implied. When advertising materials are excerpted here it is for express purposes of commentary and criticism, and thereby protected under the Fair Use provisions of U.S. copyright law.

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