Mixed Blessings

The Golden Meaner, Unharmed Brain Cells, Ballpark Estimate, Etc.
And to think that the ’90s used to be such a nice decade. A few years back, when we were supposed to be doing penance for any complicity in ’80s greed, it’s hard to believe a mainstream advertiser would have dared to present meanness as a chic attribute. But Lexus does so unblushingly in an insert featuring illustrations by Robert Risko. (It runs in Vanity Fair, for which Risko serves as a contributing artist.) Do you suppose “mean” has been burnished into respectability by its link with “lean” in the lexicon of ’90s business? Or maybe it’s simply time for a backlash against niceness. A little of that namby-pamby stuff goes a long way, you know.

What’s a Netanyahu? “It’s a search engine on the Internet.” At least, that’s the guess hazarded by a man in a new spot promoting The Columbus Dispatch. The implication is that he’d know better if he read that Ohio daily. Actually, as uninformed answers go, the one he gives isn’t bad. Asked about the Dayton Accords, another guy in the spot nods knowingly and says, “Yeah, they make those cars right here in Ohio.” Fahlgren of Dublin, Ohio, created the commercial.

While ABC has seemed to celebrate the pleasures of stupidity in its campaign to drum up viewers, a public-broadcasting outlet in Canada takes the high-minded road. An ad for a courtroom drama on TVOntario assures us that “No brain cells were killed in the making of this series.” Or, one assumes, in the viewing of it. Axmith McIntyre Wicht of Toronto used its own gray cells to devise the ad.

Parents fret about the perils their kids face in growing up today. But that doesn’t mean the grown-ups always have rosy recollections of the world in which they grew up. In conjunction with a program it’s funding to refurbish community ballfields, Ballpark Franks conducted a poll in which parents were asked (among other things): Did you have access to a safe community ball-field or park when you were growing up? Though 68 percent) said “yes,” a strikingly high 32 percent said “no.” So much for the idea that parents view the world of their own childhood as an idyllic Eden. Still, it beats the current state of play, as just 10 percent of respondents said there’s a ballfield close to home where they would feel comfortable letting their kids play without supervision.

How do you promote high-brow culture in a resoundingly low-brow era? With a middle-brow technique that’s stood the test of time. At any rate, that’s the approach Seattle’s Cole & Weber takes in a transit ad publicizing an exhibit of Leonardo da Vinci’s notebook at the local art museum. Considering that “Codex Leicester” sounds like the name of a British cough remedy flavored with cheese, the ad is no doubt wise to emphasize more familiar elements of the artist’s oeuvre. And the slogan “Leonardo Lives” has a nice ring to it. It’s less successful as the core of an Internet address for a site related to the exhibit. At first glance, the eye is likely to read www.leonardolives.org as the address of a site for Leonard Olives. Will that be pitted or unpitted?

When they’re not going to art museums, Seattle-area residents find other ways to pass the time. To make sure they don’t harm themselves in the process, the county health department has launched a campaign in the style of personals ads to warn of the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases. Each headline is tailored to a specific disease, including “Love hurts” for gonorrhea and “Looking for a lifetime partner” for herpes. Matthaeus Halverson Ayriss of Bellevue, Wash., created the series.