Art & Commerce: The Truth Hurts

Or, the word fudge wasn’t invented by ice-cream makers
I love advertising. Unfortunately, though–and this may come as a shock–it doesn’t always tell the truth. Take Grape Nuts cereal, for example. It’s got no grapes. It’s got no nuts. Why is this cereal called Grape Nuts? Being a socially conscious ad guy, I’ve taken it upon myself to present a more discerning analysis of a few popular campaigns.
The Army: “Be all that you can be.” Sounds great, but is it really true? I can’t imagine anyone thinking, “I’d like to be an Oscar-winning actor–I’d better join the Army.” If you want to be a great actor, heart surgeon or just about anything, I’m not sure the Army’s the place. In fact, the career choices seem limited: cleaning, polishing, tank maintenance. I don’t think you join the Army unless you’ve pretty much exhausted all your other options. So how about a disclaimer?
The Army. Be all that you can be.*
* If you don’t have money for college, and you enjoy marching in formation.
Then, at least it would be more honest.
Taco Bell: That chihuahua keeps saying he wants some Taco Bell. I’ve got one question: How good does this food have to be for a dog to want it? Am I suppose to think, “Gee, that starving dog wants it–it must be delicious!” I’ve already got my doubts about the kind of meat they put in those things, I don’t think “dog food” is the association you want to be making.
Budweiser: The only thing stranger than a chihuahua talking about tacos is lizards talking about beer. Actually, the lizards aren’t even talking about beer, they’re talking about frogs. The frogs were the ones talking about beer. Now they’ve got a weasel. Before you know it, the entire animal kingdom will be involved. Maybe they should have the frogs, lizards and weasels drinking the beer. Then they could call the chihuahua, have him bring over some tacos. Now that would be a helluva party.
The Milk Mustache: It’s nice to see a campaign in the food-and-beverage category that actually includes humans. But these aren’t just any humans, these are superhumans, superstars, supermodels and Super Bowl quarterbacks. On the other hand, I’m not sure we want to see that campaign with real people.
Try this. Next time you’re on the E train, take a look at the person next to you and imagine him or her with a milk mustache. Would that make you want to run out and buy a quart of 2%? I don’t think so.
Maybe the real question is: “Can we expect advertising to always be truthful?”
Well now, isn’t the point of advertising to use reality-bending creativity to sell a product? How boring would television be if Walter Cronkite simply held up the product and told us “the way it is” during every commercial break?
Perhaps these self-righteous, ad-hating finger waggers need to lighten up. Besides, every major campaign is backed by big bucks for qualitative and quantitative research to test creative strategy and viewer reaction.
Money well spent, I might add. Every time I pass a Taco Bell, my poodle goes nuts. K