I was going to tell you about the presentation I’m doing today. Our organization is changing from using Standard Industrial Classification codes to North American Industrial Classification System. All businesses are given a classification, which helps in data gathering, and NAICS (rhymes with “snakes”) is the most current one. This stuff is actually rather interesting to me. But that’s just me. Others may compare it with watching glaciers melt. So instead I’ll tell you about TV commercials.
I’ve been watching Sex and the City reruns, usually on tape. I don’t have HBO, so, as NBC used to suggest, “They’re new to me.” During every brace of episodes runs this commercial:
VOICEOVER OF COSMO KRAMER, WITH THE WORDS ON THE SCREEN: Who’s gonna turn down a Junior Mint. It’s chocolate. It’s peppermint. It’s delicious!
JERRY SEINFELD (on screen): That’s true.
KRAMER (on screen): It’s VERY refreshing!
I’ve seen this commercial a few dozen times. It never fails to crack me up, as though it were the first time.
What’s WRONG with me?
I never was a big Seinfeld fan. Oh, I liked the early episodes when it really was about nothing. The Parking Lot episode comes to mind. But when George worked for the Yankees, or Elaine stressed over her job- not about nothing. But the ad gets to me.
There is a commercial for a nasal spray called Nasonex. If you’ve not seen it, go here. The male bee weirds me out! It’s the eyes. The irony is that the ad is “designed and directed” by Neal Adams, one of the most respected comic book artists, one best known for X-Men and Batman, but who I probably first saw (and liked) on The Avengers (the comic book, not the TV show with Emma Peel). The bee is voiced by Antonio Bandares, who I liked in Shrek 2.
So there it is: crazy about Kramer, crazed by a cartoon bee.
However, the Nasonex commercial isn’t nearly as scary as a Burger King commercial. Someone raises the shade in the house in the morning and there is a person in that eerie Burger King plastic mask. Arrrgh!
Even worse, though is the ad for some Dodge SUV. A woman, with a girl in the back seat, stops and talks to a guy who reminds me of Clint Eastwood in his spaghetti western days on the side of the road. “Out of gas?”, she asks. The motorcycle gets loaded into the back. All the while, the music, and the camera work are suggesting that this woman is CRAZY for letting this dusty stranger in her vehicle, with her daughter in the back.
Then, “Daddy just HAD to get a motorcycle.” OK – he’s not a potential murder, he’s a relative. But it’s manipulative and creepy, and I don’t think it engenders the sense of security that the purchaser of such a vehicle would want.
There’s a Coke commercial featuring lots of roller skating or blading. “It’s a Coke thing.” It must be a generational thing, because every time I hear it, it reminds me of the theme of the Academy-award-winning movie “Midnight Cowboy”, a depressing flick I’ve managed to see four times in the theater within 18 months of its release. So instead of “Sparkle”, I think of Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) pounding on a vehicle and yelling, “I’m WALKING here!” But what I often tell my wife when she’s perplexed by an ad, I need to tell myself: “I’m not the target demographic.”
And speaking of commercials, Mason Adams died late last month. He had a most distinctive voice for radio and television for decades. I was a big Lou Grant fan, so I remember him as Lou’s boss Charlie Hume. But he’ll probably be best remembered for saying, “With a name like Smucker’s, it has to be good.” As Vietnam-era DJ Adrian Cronauer, who talks about him on this NPR audio clip might have put it, “To sell the Smucker’s catchphrase, Mason Adams had to be good.”