Pop Culture Princess

Pop Culture Princess
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Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Reading between the lines of today's TV commercials

TV advertising these days is especially tricky,since the number of other channels to click over to during the breaks in regular programming is higher than it was,say,30 years ago.

Of course,many of the commercials are also shown online which increases the audience reach but adds on the pressure to quickly capture consumer interest. That need may account for some of the off the wall approaches given to certain products lately but what does it say about those products and/or the people they're being aimed at? Let's do a little compare and contrast to see what's really being said:

Nook Vs. Kindle

Recently,I was given a Nook by my family as a celebratory gift for publishing my first e-book and while my physical book piles are in no danger of being completely ignored,the Nook is a welcome addition to my home library.

Part of the reason why is how Barnes and Noble has gone about promoting it. Their best commercial shows a woman's reading life from girlhood to teens and now as a mother with books to guide her along the way. The Nook is shown towards the end as a natural evolution for a lifelong reader meant to be a helpful extension for leisurely reading in her busy life. Using this tact with reluctant literary lovers is smart and satisfying:

The Kindle,on the other hand,tends to be a bit more snarky in their sales pitch. Their recent set of ads features a Reader Girl who keeps running into a Techno Boy who gently but firmly points out the benefits of his e reader over doing things like reading a print book or going to an actual bookstore and even just carrying around actual books and magazines!

Yes,I know this is supposed to be funny but depicting people who like print books as peppy dimwits who need to be enlightened by sleek techno lovers is extremely off putting,to say the very least:

My Tide with new attitudes?

What's even more interesting is how mixed messages can be sent out for one product by their own company. Take Tide,for instance-their latest campaign is called "My Tide" which showcases individual perceptions regarding the use of the detergent. Some of the ads are amusing without ruffling too many feathers.

However,a couple are causing some concerns. One spot has a lady strongly proclaiming that she will wear white pants after Labor Day if she wants to,which some interpret as making her own fashion statement while a few feel that since the woman in question is African-American,her behavior is stereotypical. That's a debatable subject but one worth thinking about:

This ad,however,immediately rubbed me the wrong way. It shows a mom dressed in a rather 1950s style of wardrobe watching her little girl play with blocks and bemoaning the fact that her daughter prefers to wear "hoodies and cargo pants."

At one point,Fifties Mom talks about how Tide prevented her child's regular clothes from being ruined by crayons in the pocket and the wistful regret in her voice is beyond obvious about that. Say what you will here but the white pants Tide ad does seem to salute the lady in it for being an independent thinker while this one clearly has it in for tomboys and not in a good way:

Why is Jell-o so childish about adult desserts?

A few months,folks were in an uproar about the advertising campaign for Jell-o Temptations line of "adult only" mousses that insisted upon parents scaring kids away from them. The company pulled a couple of their more troublesome commercials off the air and have released one that proves they can promote this product in a enticingly mature way:

However,some of the "creep out the kiddies" ads are still around. While an Edward Gorey theme has been the underlying tone for two of them-one for Olive and the other for Benny-the parents subtly threatening their children vibe hasn't left the picture.

Just listen to this bedtime story where Mom dangles the dark promise of her daughter's favorite stuffed animal disappearing forever over taking one of those damn desserts. Don't give me the "it's only a joke!" argument,because losing a cherished toy like that is no laughing matter to a little kid:

Maybe I'm making too much of this yet what does it say about all of these ads when the automatic defense to them is that they aren't meant to be taken seriously. Making something a joke is not a free-for-all excuse,in my opinion,and while I and many others who are raising their eyebrows over some of these commercials do appreciate a good jest,there is a fine line between gentle mocking and meanness.

Then again,commercials are all about perception and what makes one person vow to avoid that product or place like the plague can easily make a dozen others rush out to shop. It's just harder to laugh it off when the joke is on you:

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