Last Name…Dumb

The thermostat in my living room is set at 65 degrees. Although my front-room office is insulated and has a heat register, it is often at least 7 degrees colder than my kitchen, dining and living room. After working a few hours at the computer one night this past fall, I felt chilled to the bone. I walked into my relatively warm living room, wrapped myself in a blanket and sank into a chair.

The picture tube in my 27-year-old RCA television had gone “poof” a few months earlier. Since I haven’t watched television since 2005, I didn’t really care, but knew my grandchildren would. They occasionally watch DVD and VHS movies while visiting me. Deciding to use a flat screen television once belonging to my brother, I discovered I have access to digital programming the old set didn’t provide; mostly vintage and public television stations.

Feeling like a queen, I imperiously pointed the remote and clicked. In the past, only my late husband Arnie used the remote control. He liked shows that I didn’t like. That night, after a 15-year hiatus from watching television, I discovered I enjoyed cooking, travel, home repair and detective shows. Obviously, television enjoyment hinges on media control. If anything makes me uncomfortable or bored, I either change the channel or turn the television off.

Commercials pay for the costs of production and airing of shows. When my family got our first television in 1961, there was only one commercial during a program interruption. Now it appears networks routinely advertise one product after another during each break.

Commercials are often as interesting as the programs being shown. As a teenager I remember one advertising Anacin. It showed a woman in her kitchen cooking a meal. Her elderly mother was bumbling around, trying to help. Finally, the younger woman shouted, “Mother, Please! I’d rather do it myself!” she then turned away, holding a hand to her aching head.

Another unforgettable commercial during the 1970’s showed a woman getting ready for an interview, but not using Johnson and Johnson baby powder to help her stay cool and calm. Panicked, she looked into a mirror and shrieked, “Why did I get my hair cut? I look like a squirrel!”

Who can forget the commercial of a man lying in bed, holding his belly? His eyes wide and incredulous, he tells his slumbering wife, “I can’t believe I ate the WHOLE thing!” He sits up on the edge of bed and takes an Alka Seltzer. Suddenly everything is better.

Some people look forward to seeing the commercials aired during Super Bowl games. Time slots for those ads are highly coveted because over 100 million people are watching. 30 seconds of air time during the half-time extravaganza sells for 5.25 million dollars! One of the most popular are for Budweiser beer, with beautiful, giant Clydesdale horses and sweet, small puppies.

Some commercials are so annoying, they make me want to boycott the product. One advertisement is for the Ford Motor Company. I suspect the writers for the commercial were trying to sound hip. It shows a Ford vehicle zooming around curves on a mountain side. A man sings, “Hold onto me…don’t let me go.” Scrolling across the screen, like subliminal messages, are the words, “Drive like a guru.” and, “Drive like a race car driver.”

The hip singer then croons, “The first name is Freed, the last name is dum (dumb?)” After the car zooms around a few more curves, the singer screeches in falsetto, “Freedom! Freedom!”

This commercial leaves me with so many questions. How does a guru drive?  Why was the word, Freedom, turned into a first and last name?

Do commercials really work? Overall, I think they do, especially the good ones. To this day when I am at the grocery store buying peanut butter, a jingle from a commercial comes to mind. “Choosy mothers choose Jif!” That makes buying Peter Pan or Skippy peanut butter unthinkable. Whoever wrote that commercial deserves a bonus.




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