Grace's Mosaic Moments

Saturday, March 30, 2024

How to Kill a Commercial

 Out of a past we are very glad to put behind us . . .

My daughter took the two photos below on March 29, 2020. They are of the usually heavily traveled exits off I-4 to Universal Studios and Disneyworld in the depths of the Covid pandemic when we didn't yet have a vaccine.

Exit to Universal

Exit to Disneyworld



Grace note:  No mention will be made in this post of political ads, except to say I dread the months between now the November election.


From the first days of television—and yes, I remember them well—I was fascinated by commercials. Except for Dragnet, I had little interest in TV's content, particularly sit-coms, but visible, animated commercials? Wow! And over the years I've kept a sharp eye out for the commercials that are particularly well done . . . and for those that should never have left the drawing board. Unfortunately, my memory fails me as to the first time I was so annoyed by a commercial that I felt I had to complain, but I would like to mention a series of commercials that are among my all-time favorites:  the vintage Budweiser wagon and the magnificent draft horses that pulled it. When there was no Bud horse commercial on a Superbowl broadcast, I mourned.

Which brings up a tale that has to be told . . .

I lived in the small and absolutely beautiful city of Venice, Florida, for 25 years. For most of that time it was the Winter Headquarters of the Ringling Brothers, Barnum & Bailey circus. (Until the railroad tracks broke down and were too costly to repair.) I lived only a few blocks from the end of the line and was often among those who turned out to welcome the Circus home, watching the parade of performers and animals as they crossed the drawbridge over the Intracoastal Waterway on their way to their performance space beside the airport.

I suspect some connection with the Circus—possibly the filming of a commercial?—accounts for the following:

One afternoon, I drove to my grocery store, my mouth falling open as I discovered the Budweiser wagon and horses stationery in the Publix parking lot! I wasn't seeing things—they were actually there. Wow! I suppose I finally stopped gaping and went inside to get my groceries, but, believe me, this is a sight I will never forget.

Special kudos to Publix Supermarkets, whose ads are consistently well done, as well as family-oriented and heart-warming. One of the most recent—the "Chris" ad—one of the best ever. (Which is probably why it is currently enjoying a re-run.)

And while we're talking about great commercials, I'd like to mention a new one, seen on the televised PGA tour this past week.  The producer - Comcast Business. The commercial shows a golfer teeing off, the commentators breathless as they follow the ball, which ricochets from pillar to post ("Where is it? Where's the ball?") before it plunges into a pond to groans all around. And then . . . a gator pops up with the ball in its teeth, tossing the ball onto the green, where it rolls into the hole, making a Hole-in-One. 

A truly well thought-out, well-executed commercial. If only there were far more out there. Sigh.

But . . .

What to do if you find a commercial offensive, too in-your-face, or whatever.

Yes, Virginia, it is possible to get a commercial taken down. I've done it. There are two primary requirements:

1.  Write a really articulate letter. (Yes, snail mail.)

2.  Address it to the Boss. This usually means the company's president or CEO.  Yes, you can send your complaint to the Director of Advertising, but, hey, he or she likely approved the ad you're complaining about.

Is the CEO going to be opening his/her mail? Of course not, but one of the Administrative Assistants will be. And if you have expressed yourself well enough, the matter will be called to the attention of the Powers That Be.

Of my complaints in the distant past, I recall only one—what I considered the egregious misuse of 9/11 to promote a product. That commercial disappeared so fast I can only assume half the country rose up against it. But my other complaints were also effective; within a few weeks the offensive commercials disappeared forever.

Here are three examples from recent times:

Around three years ago, when I was looking around for a new car insurer, I opted for Progressive. Why? I admit I really liked the "Flo" commercials. Like the Geico gecko, Flo had enduring appeal. Or so I thought until the tone of the commercials changed. Flo was now the butt of bad jokes, made to look stupid. In fact, it looked like the Advertising Department was doing its best to retire Flo in the worst possible way. So I looked up the name of the CEO of Progressive, a female, and laid out my case:  I was writing to her because I suspected the Advertising Department would ignore my complaint. I stated that I had switched to Progressive because of Flo, yet Flo was now being denigrated—a really strange way to encourage new customers, etc., etc. 

My complaint seemed to be successful, buying Flo a few more years, but then came another set of Perfectly Awful Progressive ads and renewed indication that Flo was on the way out. Sigh. Clearly, Progressive's Ad Dept is run by a group of Insensitive Idiots. The latest travesty—the "Don't Become Your Parents" ads. Here is a paragraph from my second letter to Progressive (January 2024), which I stupidly addressed to the Director of Advertising: 

"The problem:  the blatantly anti-parent commercials. Not funny to anyone over thirty, believe me. The big puzzle is, why are you so anxious to sell to the twenty-somethings that you have forgotten those in those in their 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s, 80s—and yes, some even as old as I am? Almost all of us parents, grandparents, great-parents, and all POTENTIAL CUSTOMERS. Customers currently being mocked by your commercials. Now maybe older family members are mocked in your family, but most certainly not in mine! Nor, I am certain, in a very high percentage of American families."

Interestingly, this letter, which ran to two pages, resulted in the instant withdrawal of the anti-parent commercial that most offended me—mockery of women producing handwork, such as knit and crochet. (I told them I made shawls for the church and caps for the homeless, and thank God for those still keeping these skills alive!) The barrage of other parent-mocking commercials seems to have lessened as well. I still have my car insurance with Progressive, but mostly because I'm avoiding the hassle of switching. (But I'm sorry I didn't choose Geico instead of Progressive.)

The third example involves Lexus.

I probably watched the Lexus "Sasquatch" commercial fifty times before it finally annoyed me enough to write a protest. Remember the one?—a family driving, a boy of around 12 in the back seat. Father mentions Sasquatch; boy asks:  "What's a Sasquatch?" Father starts to answer, seemingly attempting to make a joke of it. Mother shuts him down, concluding with some remark about the child probably never being able to sleep again.

The first few times I saw this, I managed a weak smile, but after a while I began to see how truly insidious it was.  A boy of 12 is far more likely to be thrilled by talk of a Sasquatch than frightened. The father comes across as a weakling; the mother as a "Karen," a helicopter parent who even has her husband cowed. I asked Lexus if this was really the right family to appeal to potential Lexus owners?

That commercial was gone from our screen almost immediately, replaced by commercials featuring a wide variety of Lexus customers. Wow! 

Want to try your hand at killing a commercial?

I have two strong targets for you.

Seminole Hard Rock Casino

Near the end of this blatant promotion of gambling, we hear:  "Gambling problem, call 1-800-ADMIT IT." Which might be considered a good idea, except that immediately following this statement, a voice proclaims:  "Anyone can win at Seminole Hard Rock, Tampa!"   Sigh.

Even worse, as I'm sure these commercials are seen nationally—the absolute inundation of commercials for Inspire. Ads I consider shockingly deceptive, if not fraudulent, since they give the impression Inspire is a cure for Insomnia when the truth is Sleep Apnea is close to opposite. When my husband suffered from it in his last year of life, I was told his sleep apnea could cause him to stop breathing altogether, resulting in death for someone as frail as he was at the time. As for younger sufferers from Sleep Apnea . . .

From the AARP website:

Not unlike a partner snoring in bed beside you, sleep apnea — defined as the repeated stopping and starting of your breathing while you sleep — can easily disrupt a good night’s rest. Did you know the condition can also be a serious risk to your health?

Untreated sleep apnea has been linked to a number of health issues, including cancer, chronic kidney disease, heart disease, dementia, type 2 diabetes and more.


 'Nuff said, I hope. I urge you to become more critical of the commercials you see. And, yes, you can do something about the bad ones.

~ * ~

I chose Hidden Danger, Hidden Heart for this week's Featured Book after seeing some perfectly beautiful Muslim architecture on Facebook. Hidden has a rather lengthy scene at the Alhambra, which I was privileged to visit sometime in the distant past. One of the things that struck me at the time was the stark ugliness of the fortifications the Crusaders built on the edges of one of the most intricately beautiful palace complexes on earth. The contrast in cultures was startling, and not flattering to Europeans.

When Ashley van Dyne, founder and president of an organic foods business, finds herself in the middle of a world-wide threat to the food crop, she has no choice but to turn to entrepreneur Rafael Guerrero, resulting in a resounding cultural clash on two continents. There is also the problem of Ashley's young sister and three other teens who have no idea they are being used for a terrorist's personal agenda. HIDDEN DANGER, HIDDEN HEART offers Suspense, Romance, Drama . . . and a warning.

Grace note:  While walking in Granada, I peeked through an opening in a thick stone wall and saw the courtyard described in Hidden Danger, Hidden Heart and knew, like the Alhambra, I had to put it in a book.

~ * ~

For a link to Blair's website, click here. 

Thanks for stopping by,

Grace (Blair Bancroft)


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