My first impression of TV commercials growing up wasn’t that they were too loud or too obtrusive or too untrue. It was that they were, in the word we used frequently in elementary school, “conceited.”
“Why do they brag about themselves like that?” I remember asking my mother. “Isn’t it more polite to be modest? Why do they keep telling us how great they are?”
I forget my mom’s exact response, but I’m pretty sure it involved me going outside to play until it was time for dinner.
In my senior year of high school, I entered a scholarship essay contest in which entrants were to explain how advertising contributed to our great American democracy. Sponsored not surprisingly by the local advertising council, my theme was that TV commercials and other ads represented “freedom of speech” and therefore were intrinsically good. Sure, I argued, limits were necessary in some circumstances — you couldn’t yell “fire” in a crowded theater and you couldn’t say Kentucky Fried Chicken was edible — but in general all was fair when it came to advertised self-promotion.
Needless to say, I won a $500 scholarship.
Now I am a fully matured adult and recognize the realities of the commercial marketplace for what they are. There’s no point in resisting the thousands of impressions we receive each day from advertisers. We need only do what they say and trust that they know better than us. After all, they’re on TV and we’re not.
There are, however, three commercial spokespeople frequently seen on network television these days whom I wish to address about certain issues I have with them.
Dan Hesse has used his position as chief executive officer of Sprint to wrangle a role as company spokesman. I’m sure the ad agency Sprint works with thought the executive’s idea to put himself on television was a brilliant masterstroke of salesmanship, or at least that’s what they better think if they expect to be paid.
Hesse appears in a whole series of commercials, usually standing outside somewhere in an overcoat and scarf. He speaks earnestly and directly into the camera, trying to convince viewers he’s smart enough to run one of the nation’s largest wireless carriers even though he won’t come in out of the cold to film his ad.
One particular spot has caught my attention. In it, Hesse tells how “I looked up the word ‘unlimited’ the other day” and it said nothing about hidden fees, overage charges or any other features of cell phone billing that consumers have come to hate.
I have two suggestions for Mr. Hesse. One, next time you pull out that dictionary of yours, please look up the word “rapacious”. Or I could save you the trouble — it means “greedy and grasping, especially for money, and sometimes willing to use unscrupulous means to obtain what is desired.” This is the word I tend to think of most when I’m considering the cost of my wireless service.
Secondly, can you use your power to get me appointed to the position of authority that will allow me to enforce what I think should be the rules of public cellphone use? For example, regarding the young mother I saw pushing a baby stroller across six lanes of rush-hour traffic while talking into the phone tucked between her shoulder and ear: can I turn her in to social services so the child can be put into foster care?
I’m sure you have the power to make this happen. Just reach into that overcoat of yours, grab your smartphone, make a few calls, and I shall become Cellphone Warrior, enforcer of arbitrary rules against the kind of usage that annoys me for some reason, though I’m not sure why.
When I was in second grade, I had a crush on a little girl by the name of Cory Boulter. To show my affection, and to convince her I was someone she should not just like, but “like like,” I would give her my lunch money every day. It wasn’t much, even in those pre-inflationary days, when a quarter could still buy you choice of salisbury steak or sloppy joe, tater tots, creamed spinach, applesauce cake and milk. But I thought if I gave her enough quarters, she’d get the idea.
Hey, it worked for Donald Trump.
Today, I have that same innocent, pre-pubescent crush on the so-called “T-Mobile Girl.” I’m eager to sign not just one two-year contract with her company, but as many as they’ll let me sign. Just in the hope that she’ll notice me and maybe consider my offer to squire her to the Norland Elementary School Spring Dance.
She’s so cute! Though she might also be sexy, my affection for her has nothing to do with such a base, animal attraction. See how she swirls her kicky pink sundress as she prances past the T-Mobile logo? Notice how she almost bites her lip with coy insouciance as she watches some shlub complain about excessive buffering on his device? I could be that shlub, if only she’d give me a chance.
Unfortunately, the recent announcement on Wall Street that AT&T will soon be acquiring T-Mobile will probably crush the dream I have of the two of us skipping through a daisy-filled meadow, our young hearts pounding first from the exertion and then, as we tumble into the grass and our eyes meet, with an intense passion. Unless the Federal Trade Commission intercedes and considers the proposed merger to be monopolistic.
Please, FTC, I beg of you! Allow our relationship to bloom! I’ll give you a dollar if you’ll only block this acquisition. It not only excessively dilutes shareholder value; it’s also dilutive of a love that no federal regulatory agency could ever understand.
Finally, I wish to address a bright but misdirected young man by the name of Tate Dillow. He’s as plain a fellow as T-Mobile Girl is sparkling. Yet you have to admire his passion for creating the perfect boneless chicken nugget to accompany Domino’s pizzas.
Tate is the guy you see in the current ad campaign, reluctantly brought to center stage as the master chef who will create the perfect chicken to accompany tasteless, cardboard-textured pizza. A handheld camera watches him schlep around his kitchen, fretting over whether people will like his real-not-preformed chicken and, by extension, him.
His boss and the company’s marketing department have devised special packaging that allow consumers to weigh in on whether or not Tate should keep his job. “Did We Get It Right?” asks the type on the box. Our choices include “Nope,” “Almost” and “Yes We Did!”
Tate scowls at the camera as CEO Patrick Doyle describes how the survey will work. “I don’t like it,” Tate says of the feedback, and you get the vague impression he’s willing to do something about it (like travel around the nation to each of the 2,000 Domino’s franchisees and personally spit on every order).
Unexplained is how the box, once checked-off, makes it back to corporate headquarters. I’m guessing they have the same crews that collect “fresh” pizza ingredients from dumpsters being on the lookout for this discarded packaging.
Or, you can simply go to dominos.com and watch the Facebook and Twitter feeds coming in, like these that showed up just today:
The new chicken is horrible. The new ones are tasteless, tough, and a total disappointment. Sorry Tate but I don’t like the new chicken at all and won’t order it.
[Domino’s chicken] is, was, and always will be nasty. Found a big chunk of dark mystery meat in it one time.
Absolutely terrible. Ridiculous that this is what Domino’s can offer. Screw you Dominos. Take you ads and stick it up your ……
Just ordered the wings…They were soggy and meh.
Overpriced, tiny little nuggets that have no flavor.
Your chicken sucks.
Don’t let these nay-sayers get you down, Tate. I don’t want to be reading about any incidents of workplace violence up there in the Domino’s labs. Your life could always be worse. You could be a chicken.