Years ago Ian Carmichael got Joy and I hooked on Dave Barry — a funny man at the Miami Herald known for his incisive reporting style with regular catchphrases like…
“I swear I am not making this up” or “Alert reader Mr ….. of Miami submitted the following news article…” or “All of which logically brings me to cow manure”.
The following is a piece of his on advertising… indicative of his style. It’s not necessarily his best writing, but it’s what I could find before I stopped looking. He’s talking about a terrible ad for wisk detergents.
There was a time when the “ring around the collar” campaign was arguably the single most detested aspect of American culture. Many people swore that, because of those commercials, they would not purchase Wisk if it were the last detergent on Earth. Yet the commercials stayed on the air for years. Because somebody was buying Wisk. The question is: Who?
My theory is that it was the Soviet Union. These ads ran during the height of the Cold War, when the Soviets would stop at nothing to destroy America. I believe they sent agents over here with the mission of purchasing huge quantities of Wisk; this convinced the Wisk manufacturers that the “ring around the collar” campaign was working, so they kept it on the air, thereby causing millions of Americans to conclude that they lived in a nation of complete idiots, and thus to become depressed and alienated.
I believe that virtually all the negative developments of the ’60s and ’70s—riots, protests, crime, drug use, “The Gong Show”—were related, directly or indirectly, to Wisk commercials. I also believe that to this day, somewhere in the former Soviet Union, there are giant hidden underground caverns containing millions of bottles of Wisk.
I’ll tell you another kind of ad I hate: The ones where they give you information that could never be of any conceivable use to you. For example, there was a series of ads for some giant chemical company, I forget which one, where they’d show you, say, a family watching television, and the announcer would say something like:
“We don’t make televisions. And we don’t make the little plastic things that hold the wires inside the televisions. We make the machines that stamp the numbers on the little plastic things that hold the wires inside the televisions.” When I saw those ads, I wanted to scream: Why are you paying millions of dollars to tell me this? What do you want me to do?