Stay Tuned/23 March 1997

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23 March 1997
(Sunday Papers)


Trend Watch

Another slow week for bad advertising.

The Easter advertising blitz is in full swing; the candy manufacturers are having a field day; this and Valentine's Day are their big season. The ham sellers will not be this busy again until Christmas. I saw a few truly icky recipes from Reynolds Aluminum in mid-week, but for the most part, Easter cooking ads are somewhat subdued, what with all those religious overtones and all. (Christmas has lost all religious connections as far as the advertising industry is concerned.)

Mostly what I noted this week was an odd abundance of certain kinds of ads. Apparently there is a race on in the toothpaste industry to see who will be the last to develop a toothpaste with "whiteners" - which in this context usually means baking soda and peroxide. The baking soda always gets top billing, because everyone knows it's healthy, and anyone who thinks about peroxide too hard eventually realizes that what you're actually doing is bleaching your teeth.

Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily. But as usual, the message here is aware consumption. If you buy a toothpaste with "whiteners," know what you're getting.

(This is a blatant and unpaid plug: If you live in the New England area, do try the toothpaste from Tom's of Maine. I recommend starting with the Cinnamint, as it is less disorienting than their other kinds. You see, Tom's doesn't really sweeten their toothpaste. After you try it for a while you will wonder at why other toothpastes seem to need to make their product so sweet (in fact, I can't use other toothpastes now), but until you get to that point, it will taste a little odd. OK, end of plug.)

Back to the odd themes. The last couple of weeks, I've noticed that greasy soaps are back. You know: Dove, Caress, soaps like that, which claim to "moisturize" et cetera. Often they bill themselves as "beauty bars" - one day I hope to find out if that's because "soap" legally requires a certain fat-to-lye ratio.

I like to call them "superfatted soaps" ever since I heard Ben & Jerry's and that crowd referred to as "superfatted" ice creams. Here's the mnemonic: Dove Bars are superfatted ice cream; Dove bars are superfatted soap.

Anyway, they're back. The latest is the Jergens "Soft Touches" line. You may have seen the commercial on TV. This commercial really bothers me. It has a mother and child, both mostly unclothed because they've been bathing, and the child says things like "mommy, touch me" over and over. If this were taken out of context, a case could be made that it's child pornography.

I do not in any way, shape, or form approve of child pornography - it's just about the only kind of porn I don't approve of, heh - but we have to make our standards consistent. In our area recently, a woman was arrested because she took photos of her kid in the bathtub, and the film lab turned her in. Jesus! If you can't tell that from kiddie porn, you have reality problems. Meanwhile, this stuff, which made me squirm, gets on the air without comment.


My Date With Fabio

Let's change the subject; I'm rambling.

Here I have an ad from the nice people who make I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! It says:

Victory is Sweet in
The Recipe for Romance
Dessert Contest

Then there's a picture of old Fabio, hair, cheekbones, and all, saying:

If you have a passion for baking delicious, buttery-tasting desserts, enter the Recipe for Romance Dessert Contest. As the Grand Prize winner, you'll receive $10,000 cash and join me in New York City for a special awards ceremony in your honor. I look forward to tasting your ultimate "recipe for romance." See you in New York!

"Buttery-tasting," eh? Fabio and the lawyers must have had a confab beforehand. Look here: any good "recipe for romance" would involve butter, damn it. You can't run a romance on this fake stuff. (You can run a marriage on it, but that's another story.)

Note, please, that I'm not picking on Fabio. I've made that mistake before. He is inviolate. Besides, the guy's got a healthy sense of self-parody and I respect that. However, if I were one of his fans, I'd kinda resent the assumptions this ad makes about my eating and purchasing habits.


I was going to insert another rant here, but I decided it was too offensive. If you've read a couple of pages of this material by now, that statement should be enough to give you pause. So enough said.



Hindsight: 20 February 2007

At this late date, I no longer remember what the third rant was. Probably for the best.

This column, though short, is more like the ones I wrote later, where I take one or two items and focus on those, rather than a lot of little tidbits.

I didn't start giving out corporate URLS wholesale until later, which is probably good, because some of them have gone away. Reynolds Aluminum was bought by Alcoa in 2000. The old pages have all been left to error without being redirected. If you would like the recipe/cooking site which has spawned so many horrible recipes, try Reynolds Kitchens. The old Reynolds corporate URL redirects to the Alcoa corporate site.

I Can't Believe It's Not Butter! was singled out in a couple of columns to come; I found its site and campaigns rather offensive, for the reasons above and others to be named later.

Since the toothpaste stuff was written, items which unabashedly bill themselves as tooth-bleaching kits, without the "whitener" evasion, have appeared on the market and apparently sell well enough to stay there.

Tom's of Maine has now gone national, as a result of Tom and Kate Chappell selling the company to Colgate-Palmolive in 2006. As of this writing the quality of the toothpaste has not appeared to suffer, and Chappell is still running the company as an independent business unit.



and now back to our program


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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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