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Reviewing the Reviews

After a longish period, with not much happening at all, the last week has been a particularly good time for reviews of my 'nostalgedy&#...

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Give Me a Commercial Break - Part 2

The really clever trick is to create a demand for a product which fills a need that no-one ever felt before. Anti-bacterial soap for example, or those sprays and wipes that eliminate germs that no sensible person would ever expect to find lurking in their house in the first instance (unless you really have reason to believe that your kitchen is crawling with MRSA). It’s a wonder that our parents and grandparents ever survived long enough to have offspring, or that we survived infancy for that matter. And don’t get me started on that group of women who are supposed to represent the Sex in the City cast. As they sit around the cafĂ© table, keenly discussing bowel movements and the means to make these more comfortable (another product you never knew you needed) you begin to yearn for the solid dependability of “you’ll wonder where the yellow went, when you brush your teeth with Pepsodent”. By the way, when did the female digestive system cease to function? Was there some sort of announcement that I missed? I’m referring of course to the terrible problem of “slower digestive transit” and the range of ‘good’ bacteria with slightly unbelievable names that we are now supposed to ingest to ensure that our food shoots through (with pain-free results).
Of course, we’re told about these things by people who clearly do not inhabit our world at all. Well, certainly not our country. In evidence, I would submit that annoying child sitting on the toilet, in a bathroom large enough to hold formal dances. In an unconvincing British accent, of indeterminate origin, he witters on about the fact that the wall-mounted air freshener is exhausted and his doting mother pops in to help this, presumably foul-smelling, infant, and they both giggle and beam with pleasure. Now, it should be clear to anyone with half a functioning brain cell, that this gleaming family is American (if it was British, he would be getting claustrophobia from being trapped with the foul odour in an en-suite the shape and size of a broom cupboard) and that the British dialogue has been dubbed over the American original to try to convince us that this is an everyday picture of life in the UK. At least, in this situation, there is a reasonable chance of the words matching the lip movements. A more recent trend is for adverts to be imported (along with the products) from the far extremities of the EU. Here we are asked to believe that the women concerned (and it is usually women), who could easily be reciting a particularly challenging passage from Proust, are actually saying, in an Essex accent, “I just poured it on and the dirt was gone!” or something similar.
The raison d’etre behind any advert (television or otherwise) is to persuade the public that they are going to get something more than they could possibly expect for the price. Hence the car adverts where the particular version, complete with every whistle and bell possible, hurtles around a chicane whilst the small print across the bottom informs the wary that this particular style will cost approximately twice the price that is splashed in vibrant colour over the screen above. Anyone reading this, in detail, in the time available, would have to be a speed-reader par excellence. This sort of thing reaches its peak when the same advert appears on the radio (minus the chicane, obviously) and the small print has to be read out by someone sounding like a chipmunk on amphetamines. Another example is where some revolutionary new beauty product is on display and the large type reassuringly tells us that this has been determined to be particularly effective in a scientific study, whilst the small print tells us that they asked 6 people in the street on a wet Sunday in Scunthorpe.
I’m sure you’ve all got your own pet likes and dislikes. Those adverts that send you screaming into the kitchen to make a cup of tea (even if you don’t like tea), those that immediately engage you and actually improve your evening’s viewing and finally, those that you can’t stand but which you keep being reminded of because of the irritatingly catchy tune that you CAN’T STOP WHISTLING!
But now, its time for a commercial break…