Ever since advertisers discovered the efficacy of the broadcast medium to ply their wares, we’ve been subjected to a broad spectrum of radio and television advertisements. Some are wonderfully memorable – the Choo Charlie and Chevrolet’s See the U.S.A. television ads from the Sixties. Please Don’t Squeeze the Charmin and Where’s the Beef from Burger King. There are the not-so-memorable television ads – Sierra Mist’s Bagpipe Kilt Marilyn Monroe spoof, Holiday Inn’s Sex Change ad, the Visa Card ad where a cash-paying customer ruins everyone’s day.
Radio spots don’t endure in the memory as well. One unmemorable spot is family legend, way back from the Sixties that simply involved a maniac laughing. My mother hated it so much that we never forgot it. The best national radio ads were probably the Club Med ads. If you went to a Club Med and could actually sing their song (and everyone could), you got a special citation. And of course, who can forget “I’m an Oscar Meyer Weiner”?
WEAF of New York is credited with airing the first paid radio commercial, on Aug. 28, 1922, for the Queensboro Corporation, advertising an apartment complex.
Over the decades, advertisers have become more sophisticated in their audience tracking. The feedback they get from advertisers is more timely and efficient. If they discover an advertisement is unintentionally offensive, they can yank the spot fairly quickly. The last thing a company wants to do is offend potential customers.
Not so the United States government. Now that they’re almost completely in the business of running our lives, they’re playing advertisements to make sure we know it. Two PSAs – Public Service Announcements – are particularly obnoxious.
The first is a partnership with the Ad Council. The commercial features a young father explaining Swiss cheese to his three year-old. So, what parent hasn’t engaged their kid at the supermarket? No one, you would think, by the sound of this advertisement. You’d think that it was a completely new idea from Michelle Obama’s Nabob Squad.
It’s not that the father is really objectionable, although in the first few seconds of the spot, he sounds more like the Geico Gecko and you think you’re about to sold insurance rather than Swiss cheese. Except for that bit of confusion, the Dad is okay. The dialog is kind of stupid but all right. Hey, he’s talking to a 3 year-old and the kid is cute; the first time she speaks, she sounds smarter than her father.
It’s the Mary Poppins announcer. In the voiceover, she deigns to explain to us the obvious – that a father is teaching his kid about Swiss cheese. Well, if that just isn’t what we all need, especially parents - Nanny State Poppins teaching us how to talk to three year olds, and talking to us as though we were three year olds. It’s one of those commercials that you just can’t reach the control panel fast enough to turn off.
The other commercial is for Food Stamps. This is actually a pair of commercials. In the first commercial, Marge tells us not only how food stamps help her make ends meet economically, but actually assists her in nutrition. You may laugh, but that’s because the Food Stamp program has a grocery list; there are only certain foods you can buy with the stamps.
That wasn’t always the case. The food stamps go back to the mid-1960s and welfare people on Food Stamps can and did buy the most amazing food items: filet mignon, lobster, potato chips, Kool Aid, Lucky Charms, Coca-Cola, Chips Ahoy. My father made minimum wage. We were not on food stamps or any other public assistance. My mother bought milk, hot dogs, ground beef, beans, spaghetti, tomato sauce.
Now Food Stamp recipients are required to buy only the best. Only fresh fruits and vegetables will do. Do you know how much those fresh fruit and veggies are costing us per pound (especially when they’re out of season). No macaroni and cheese for our poor people.
No wonder the pair in the companion commercial, observing their friend Marge’s excellent health titter and tee-hee their way through the entire spot.
Food Stamps are for everyone who can get their hands on them. Tee-hee, tee-hee! Why should you clip coupons like those poor working slobs? Tee hee hee! You don’t know what you’re missing. Hee hee hee hee! You can buy all your food retail, too. Didn’t you know? Tee hee-hee!
And the best part is, you never know who’s on Food Stamps! Teeheeheeeheeeheeehee!