Station Break with Paul Farhi: When Did Fast Food Advertising Get So Skanky?

Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 28, 2009; 1:00 PM

Washington Post staff writer Paul Farhi was online Tuesday, July 21, at 1 p.m. ET to talk about the latest news and topical issues in the pop culture world of TV, radio, movies and trends.

Today: Remember Paris Hilton eating a dripping burger a few years back? Since then, a parade of babes have been chomping dripping burgers. The latest eyebrow raiser -- a Hardee's campaign that suggests off-color names for its biscuits -- has drawn the ire of the Parents Television Council. When did fast food advertising get so skanky, and why?


Paul Farhi: Greetings, all, and welcome back round...So, here we go again. Another tacky ad is getting the attention it so richly seeks. The Parents Television Council has come down on Hardee's (again) for another spot that goes for the raunch. Hardee's, of course, is owned by the same company that ran the famed/infamous Paris Hilton car-washing ad of 2005 and the somewhat more tasteful burger-eating ad with Padma Lakshmi last year. Okay, sex sells, especially to the young men who are the prime targets of fast food ads. But my complaint is this: If you're going to push buttons (and that's exactly what Hardee's is up to) please do so in a more artful way. As I wrote back when, the Paris ad "worked"--if that's the right word--because of the brilliance of the button pushing. Indefensible as a basic piece of communication, but ingenious for the way it fed into the media-cultural-moral zeitgeist. It was dumb, no doubt, but dumb in a kind of clever way (if that makes any sense).

Well, enough of me. Let's go to the phones.


Indianapolis, Ind.: Hardees' ad agency is clearly lacking in creativity and going straight to the gutter. My younger pals in the office think I'm a nerd because I'm not impressed by the foodie celeb Hardees has on its commercials dripping sex and condiments. The ads are practically pornographic. My hubby attends the church of NASCAR every Sunday and the few minutes I'm there for the final laps, I'm slapped with that ad several times. I put it on same level as the orgasmic gal washing her hair.

Makes me long for "Where's the beef?"

Paul Farhi: Hardee's (or really it's ad agency, Mendelsohn-Zien of Santa Monica) strikes me like the band that had a big hit once, and has been putting out the same thing ever since. They can't really move on, or move forward.


Washington, D.C.: Should we expand this topic beyond just babes to inappropriate/raunchy advertising in general. It believe it was Arby's who late last year or earlier this year release a TV advertisement where a man lays in bed and his wife walks through the bedroom door dressed up in a fast food uniform and strolls over to him (seductive music playing in the background) and holding a plate with a burger on it. After he mumbles a line about being grateful she does all of this, the Arby's hat springs up above his head like a halo with a "boing" sound suggesting his arousal. I was irate that this ad could be shown at a time when children are around.

Paul Farhi: Well, at least she was his wife and not his one-night stand/conquest. Which, if you think about it, is really the fantasy that the fast food guys are trying to sell--you're young, you're free, you do your own thing, you don't apologize for it--so come in and indulge in a 6,000-calorie double bacon cheeseburger.


San Francisco, Calif.: Hey, do you guys have Quizno's out there? If so, perhaps you've seen the ad with the Quizno's worker and the talking oven that makes suggestive remarks about toasted sandwiches, such as "put it in me now." I love those ads! But I'll never eat at Quizno's (for the record, I wouldn't have gone there anyway)

Paul Farhi: Aye, Quizno's has done some very revolting advertising, though not necessarily of a sexually oriented kind. Those screaming meemies in their ads a few years ago just about put me off them forever.

_______________________ Paris Hilton Car Wash Video (YouTube)


Alexandria, Va.: It's not just fast food advertising, Paul. How about that ad for Phillips Colon Health featuring the perky woman riding the airport people mover and proclaiming, "Diarrhea, constipation, gas, bloating ... that's me!"

She may be the first actress to readily admit she stinks up the joint.

Paul Farhi: Haha! I might be tempted to take offense, but then I think of Kristen Wiig as Jamie Lee Curtis in the parodies of those smarmy Activia yogurt ads. And then those ads just become hilarious.

_______________________ Padma Lakshmi Carl's Jr./Hardees Commercial (YouTube)


When did fast food advertising get so skanky, and why? : Easy: When the research showed that the main people 'choosing' a fast food joint were males between 15-30. We all grab a burger now and then, but the decision-making is more based on proximity than advertising.

And by the way, isn't it fairly apparent that most of the ads for late-nite chow kind of assume that you're high?

Paul Farhi: Never thought of that, but yes. All of the we're-open-late advertising you now see must have its roots in research indicating that most of the people going to Wendy's at 2 a.m. are stoned young dudes out for some munchies.


Albany, N.Y.: Come on, Paul. Advertising for EVERYTHING aimed at 18-49-year-olds has gotten skanky in the last 15-20 years. It's how you catch their attention these days. Fast food chains were "late adopters" because they have targeted families for so long, rather than singles. But some of them are realizing that singles are a target market and are shifting ads accordingly.

Paul Farhi: But isn't that inherently self-defeating? That is, if EVERYONE is doing the skank thing, why be me-too about it? Why not try a different tack--humor, our food tastes better, we're cheaper, whatever--to set yourself apart?


Weird Palm Pre Ad: Forget about the skanks... I'm totally mesmerized by the strange Palm Pre ads. I don't know why, exactly. There's the eerie, Mona Lisa-like quality to the woman who is hawking the product. There's the strange music. Her magnificent hairdo, from the back, anyway. And her eyes appear to be made of plastic. It's as if she's half computer generated. Perhaps she's an app.

Paul Farhi: See, I love advertising for this reason. You can be "totally mesmerized" by something that has nothing to do with the thing being advertised. Getting your attention is about 83 percent of the battle. But the remaining 17 percent (yes, I have done very precise calculations to come up with these percentages) is much more difficult--convincing you to buy the product. So what does the Mona Lisa person have to do with the gizmo? Why should I buy or even investigate this new thing?


Old Blue in Exile: I thought Paris Hilton's burger ad was for Carl's Jr., in California.

Paul Farhi: That is correct.


Pittsburgh, Pa.: We don't have Hardees up here, so don't receive the commercials in question. Could you please be a bit more specific about the offending ads, or link to someplace that is?

Paul Farhi: Check the PTC's web site ( The lead "story" will explain the controversy, at least from their point of view.


Arlington, Va.: Hardee's ads and others of their kind -- they're just part of a genre that I call knuckle-dragging advertising campaigns. Created by knuckle-draggers (who just don't have another idea in their non-evoluvionary heads) for that small percentage of Beevis and Butthead types who still respond to these ads ("GIRL! heh, heh, heh"). These campaigns must work well enough since they keep puttin' them out there, but as usual I believe they miss the majority of their potential market.

Paul Farhi: Interesting point. Benetton, I think, pioneered this ad strategy some years ago. Benetton kept putting out ads they knew would be offensive or shocking--one had the image of a dying AIDs patient, another showed a man kissing a nun in a very salacious way. The idea was SOME people would find these ads arresting and cool while driving away everyone else. Indeed, that was the point--to define the cool people as their target customers. In other words, the strategy was, offend the many to attract the few.

_______________________ Parents Television Council


Seattle, Wash.: What's with the bathtubs in the Cialis ads?

Paul Farhi: I think there's a Ph.D thesis in Freudian psychology and/or Jungian symbolism there. But I'm too dim to figure it out either way. Anyone have a suggestion?


The actual ad: Hardee's A Hole/B Hole Commercial (YouTube)

It's not that bad. In fact it's pretty funny. I bet you were one of the people who was protesting that Borat was a new low for society. Not all humor has to be for everyone and G-rated. It's a funny play on words and everyone should lighten up.

In fact this is far better than the Cialis ads aimed at your age group.

Paul Farhi: Not gonna defend Cialis or Viagra or such (though I do find them occasionally amusing, too). Tell you what I do find offensive EVERY time out: Pharmaceutical ads that say "Tell your doctor about X." Tell my doctor? He/she doesn't know? Why am I going to this doctor if I have to tell him/her about X?


Those screaming meemies in their ads a few years ago just about put me off them forever. : And I was put off by their food!

Paul Farhi: Well, to each his/her/its own. But I kinda like the toasty sandwiches...


Whittier, Calif.: Are you kidding me? I just watched the Hardees commercial.... after this chat, I'm going out to grab a burger!! More commercials like that and less whining from Puritans!

Paul Farhi: That's me. And have you met my wife, Hester Pryne?


Manassas, Va.: I agree you don't have to get Stanky!

Another Pet Peeve of mine is the use of real sounds, pictures in the use of advertising.

For example, the old Bug crawling across the screen to advertise Pest control was too creepy for me. Made me want to turn off the TV.

Using Beeping horns or siren sounds on the radio before a traffic report. Its distracting enough and real enough to react to the sounds and not what follows! Very dangerous indeed.

Using financial data below an ad for Car Warranty or other such ads. Makes it look like its endorsed as an approval by CNBC because they have such rolling financial data below their news!

Paul Farhi: Loved the bug ad! Very creative. But, yes, no more sirens or car horns, especially in radio ads. And anything that makes an ad look like a news story--fake anchormen, shaky video to simulate real footage, etc.--goes in the dumper, too.


Long Beach, Calif.: Why should fast food chains be banned from using sex to attract attention, when it's across the board in America? What I find VERY OFFENSIVE is when fast food chains make fun of the animals we eat. That is truly pornographic, as it makes a lack of empathy into a sick joke. YOUR OPINION?

Paul Farhi: I'm not an animal rights sort of person, though I am starting to come around to the argument that eating red meat is basically unhealthful, environmentally destructive and, okay, cruel to animals. But it sure tastes good!


Skanky ads?: Hello, Cialis?!

Which is worse -- dripping burgers or watching something innocuous with your young children like sports on TV with the clicker too far away to change quickly when a Cialis "erectile dysfunction" commercial comes on?

We could save big dough in health care if prescription drug ads went back to being banned on TV (although it would probably put many TV stations under at this point).

Paul Farhi: It's fascinating to watch late-night TV for this reason. You see all kinds of stuff you'd never see during the day, such as the wonderfully odd commercials for Enzyte, 800 chat lines, and the completely pornographic Girls Gone Wild videos. They've obviously been shoved into late night because the products, or the ads, ARE skanky. But Cialis, et al, get prime time and even daytime. Why? I'm not even suggesting that Cialis ads should be late night only. I'm just observin'....


Silver Spring, Md.: The Quiznos ads with the Spongmonkeys (they looked like rodents) were totally unappealing. Why would I go to a restaurant that has rats?

Paul Spongmonkeys: That's Spongmonkeys! Those ads DID make you think about the target audience: Why would THEY find them funny or appealing in some way? My guess: Because gross is hilarious to stoned young dudes. Or just young dudes.


I-270, Exit 1: I find the commercial funny. The juxtaposition of the market and the Hardee's bag is hilarious. However, I'm more inclined to watch Padma Lakshmi's TV shows than eat at Hardees, but I've enjoyed looking at her for years.

Paul Farhi: Confession: I found the Padma ad fascinating, on several levels. Level one: Why is she selling out this way? Level two: My, she certainly is an attractive person. Level three: Just how low will she and Hardee's (or was it Carl's) go to sell her sexuality?


"Tell your doctor about X.": This is when they realized it is cheaper and more effective to convince the consumer to demand the prescription from their doctor than paying a pharm rep to convince the docs to write scripts for that medicine.

Paul Farhi: Yep, my point exactly. It's a very subtle reflection of how messed up our health-care system (if any) is. Patients now lobby their docs for medicine. And docs willingly provide the pushy ones with the pills they want because they don't really have time to consider other courses of treatment, or even think, period. And because it's easy to do so. Makes everyone feel good. Except when the stuff doesn't work.


Why is she selling out this way?: Is she selling out? I think even a great chef can appreciate a fast food burger.

Paul Farhi: I would like to give your comment full consideration and thoughtful analysis....Okay...Yes, she is selling out.


Navy Yard: I had the absolute "joy" of watching three or four "Extenze" (or however it's spelled) ads this weekend when I was stuck visiting my NASCAR-watching family. Nothing like watching some guy and his wife prattle on about the increase in size, endurance, and pleasure at 2 in the afternoon with my parents and high school-aged sister. Ewwwwwwwwwwww.

Paul Farhi: 2 in the afternoon? Wow. Some station is really, really desperate for the ad money. And, if it's any consolation, I recall as a teenager feeling EXTREMELY uncomfortable sitting next to my parents as the Tampax and Massengill ads rolled by our eyeballs.


Okay, all this talk about burgers : is about to ruin my diet. I'm leaving the chat to go find some healthy fruit to snack on.

Paul Farhi: Opening scene: Long shot of Scarlett Johanssen strolling a city street. She stops at a corner grocer.

Close up: Apples, bananas, pears, etc.

Scarlett fondles the fruit seductively as wah-wah music rises up in background.

Close up: Scarlett enjoys eating fruit, in a kind of lascivious way.

Voiceover (Scarlett): "Fruit. It's so sexy."

End of ad.


And docs willingly provide the pushy ones with the pills they want because they don't really have time to consider other courses of treatment,: Really? I can push my doctor into giving me some sleeping pills?

Paul Farhi: That's gotta be an easy one. I wonder what the tougher ones are. Cholesterol medication? Naw. Arthritis drugs? Naw. Hmmm...


"Tell your doctor about X": Do you suppose Michael Jackson told his doctor about Diprivan (Propofol)? Wouldn't you love to see what a commercial for THAT drug would be like?

Paul Farhi: Ah. Yes, that would a hard one to talk your doctor into. "Hey, doc, can I get some of that stuff the anesthesiologist was using for a heart transplant operation the other day?"


Selling Out: I always wondered what that meant. Are you selling out to the Post?

Paul Farhi: I wish we were. We often have a few leftover copies every morning.


Why is she selling out this way?: Didn't Rachel Ray do an ad for Dunkin' donuts?

Paul Farhi: Ah, yes. Though, as several people pointed out when this came up a few months ago, Rachel's not really about fine cuisine. She's about fast and simple and tasty. I guess that describes a donut. I would also ad, however, that "fattening," "artery clogging" and "worst thing that you could ever put in you if you hope to live past 50" would also describe a donut.


Checkers, AD: Have you seen the recent ads for Checkers Drive-throughs that generally involve two people in a car -- I think they're ads for a frozen drink/shake thing -- are quite clever. And funny!

Paul Farhi: Yes. I like those, too. Very low-key. No hard sell. Not hilarious, but actually amusing. Makes Checkers seem cool.


Hold it: You are comparing an ad for Extenze to ads for menstrual products? One, a scam targeting the vapid and vain; the other a natural part of life that every female has to deal with. Hmm.

Paul Farhi: Fair point. I withdraw the comparison, your honor...I'd also add: The code language in the Extenze/Encyte ads ("male enhancement") is much funnier than the code language in the Tampax ads ("natural protection").


St. Louis, Mo.: Sometimes I feel like an old curmudgeon because these commercials are just gross (to me). My husband and I (we're in our 50s) haven't eaten at a "Hardees" (which is headquartered here in St. Louis) in years. But, as he likes to say "we're not the target audience" even though we're the baby boom generation with the money. It is a sad commentary on our culture . . . and I use the cliche that "that's an example of why the world hates us!"

Paul Farhi: Well, I wouldn't go that far. If the world hates us because we have the freedom to put stupid or gross or offensive commercials on TV, then let the world hate us. That's the world's problem, not ours.


Rachel's not really about fine cuisine.: She's also not skinny, so I CAN imagine her eating donuts.

Paul Farhi: Perfect spokeswoman, yes. And I'll repeat what I've said about the Dunkin's campaign before: Where does a donut company--a donut company!--get off saying "American runs" on its product, complete with a little running-man icon? I understand the pun (runs on = gets energy from) but the suggestion of healthful activity is just mindblowing. It would be like Marlboros saying, "Marathon runners prefer Marlboros."


Ads for menstrual products: All I can say is, women don't really care about whether the products have dots or wings. I can't stand all the weird marketing.

Paul Farhi: Well, it's like toothbrushes or soap, isn't it? It's such a basic product that the marketer has to find SOME point of differentiation. I mean, look at the evolution of toothbrush and/or toothpaste marketing and advertising. In the 1960s, I bet they never could have envisioned the fantastic progress we've made in this country in bristle designs. The lab boys must be mighty proud.


Extenze : Are those the ads with the chirpy music and the smiling guy, that at first appear to be an ad for some office product?

Paul Farhi: I'm actually not sure which is which (a failure of the ads?) Extenze (sp?) and Encyte (sp?) both advertise heavily. One uses a kind of slick, kitschy approach with a perpetually smiling character named Bob. The other uses an ultra-earnest couple talking about how the product helped their marriage.


Even worse....: Yuck, those commercials for the KY "Warming cream." I hate the way the couples they show are so coy about what it is used for.

Paul Farhi: Yeah, well, that would be a pretty tough product NOT to be euphemistic about, wouldn't it? Go ahead. Try to come up with a script that would pass the networks' censor (if the networks still have censors, which I'm not sure they do).


Albany, N.Y.: Re "stoned dudes": if this is right, I guess we can date the shift to "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle," 2004.

Paul Farhi: I think there were stoned dudes with munchies before then, or maybe I'm not remembering my Cheech n' Chong accurately.


It would be like Marlboros saying, "Marathon runners prefer Marlboros." : See, selling out would be Lance Armstrong doing a Marlboro commercial. Lance is sitting in the beautiful Swiss countryside, wearing the yellow jersey and says "Come to Marlboro country." or "I'd ride 20 miles for a Camel."

At least we know Padma really likes to eat.

Paul Farhi: Actually, from the looks of her, it's not clear that Padma likes to eat. Quite the opposite.


Boston, Mass.: For fast food ads, I always laugh at the Sonic ads. We don't even have Sonics up here, but if we did I would eat there. The husband and wife in the car crack me up. Best fast food ads out there by a mile.

Paul Farhi: Ah, yes, it's Sonic, not Checkers. We had that wrong a few comments ago. Thanks for the correction. And, yes, I think those ads are really great, mainly for the fact that they are so unlike everything else in the fast-food category.

_______________________ Sonic Drive-In Ad


The Airless Cubicle: Paul -- If you really want to hear bad advertising, listen to Ed Walker's program. Some of the programs he plays have the original ads, which are hard sell and bring up bodily functions through euphemisms. We are reverting to the norm in advertising; the Jerry Della Femina era was an era of excellence.

Paul Farhi: Another perceptive comment from Airless! Thanks, AC...The only thing I'd ad, however, is that back when, there was a much narrower range of products advertised. You didn't have anything like the stuff that started popping up in the '60s or '70s and continuing to this day. No Massengill or Trojans or KY or, for sure, Enzyte. I'm not saying this is good or bad, just that it was.


Sellouts: It's the name of the game, P-Far; Tyler Florence was pimping one of those Applebee-type bacon-and-cheddar on everything places, Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill sold his soul to Burger King, and Rachael Ray shilled for Dunkin' Donuts, as an earlier poster pointed out.

Hardees is a desperate brand, though, and like desperate brands, will stoop to stuff that the other guys won't do. Remember the monster thickburger ads from a few years back w/people putting fists in their mouths?

Paul Farhi: You're absolutely right. The celebrity-chef-endorses-fast-food-joint is a trend. I guess each one gives cover to the next one. And also true: When you are No. 4 or 5 or 6 (or whatever Hardee's and Carl's ranks)in the market, you do have to swing for the fences more often.


Metro D.C.: Okay, is it me, or did the marketing geniuses somehow think we'd buy a certain brand of toilet paper if the commercials featured bears with paper hanging off their lower regions? Oh, and the other day, I saw a razor commercial geared toward women, where the razor shaped an unruly green "bush" into neat topiary. People, please, it's just wrong!

Paul Farhi: I think the topiary commercial was a YouTube gag. And it's really hilarious.


Stoned dudes: Taco Bell has specialized in catering to stoned dudes for at least 20 years. (I've nearly always hated their ads, but still must admit to a Taco Bell craving that dates back to high school.)

Oh, and I disagree about wings -- those things literally changed my life when they first came out.

Paul Farhi: We're not talking about the Paul McCartney band, are we?...As for Taco Bell, my personal fave was the slogan of a few years ago: "Run for the Border." I wonder how that slogan played in Mexico, or in border states.


Another perceptive comment from Airless! Thanks, AC: You're giving Airless the nickname of AC?

Paul Farhi: No? How about "Cubes"?


Herndon, Va.: Jerry Della Femina -- one of the ad greats. If you can find a copy, get his book on the advertising biz, the title of which is from his brilliant proposed ad line when his agency got the Sony account back in the 1960s - "From those Wonderful Folks Who Brought You Pearl Harbor."

Paul Farhi: Very clever, that. Reminds you of Mel Brooks' great line about how tragedy plus time equals comedy.


Am I Missing Something?: Do either Hardees or Carl's Jr. advertise in the D.C. market?

Paul Farhi: Hardee's might, but I'm not even sure anymore. Carl's doesn't; they don't have any franchises east of the Mississippi...By the way, always like Carl's. Kind of an improved Burger King. But no In-and-Out Burger.


When you are No. 4 or 5 or 6 (or whatever Hardee's and Carl's ranks)in the market, you do have to swing for the fences more often.: When we were driving back from the beach we kept passing by Hardee's and I remember thinking I didn't know they were still around. Back when I was in college, though, Hardee's was the place to go first thing on Saturday morning to get cinnamon biscuits. I think they opened at 4 a.m., so it was a bunch of drunks coming home from parties. Myself included.

Paul Farhi: Hardee's is/was very popular in the south. They tried to expand north by buying the Roy Rogers chain some years ago. Didn't work too well.


Falls Church, Va.: re: "Marathon runners prefer Marlboros."

Are you too young to remember the cigarette ads with Doctors saying how smooth the cigarettes were?

Lucky Strikes

Paul Farhi: Amazing! We've come so far. And not.


Paul Farhi: I think the topiary commercial was a YouTube gag.: Nope, it's real. Ran over in the UK. And it's brilliant.

Paul Farhi: Oh, lord. Shouts out to the Brits. So daring, Wonder how that one would fly in the good ol' U.S. of A. It's so funny and sly that you can't possibly take offense.


Reston, Va.: Why is it selling out when they're just trying to make a buck? I'd do a Hardee's commercial if they'd pay me a few grand...

We all have got to get by in this world.

Paul Farhi: I think the selling out is by Padma Lakshmi, who until now was associated with fine cooking (cookbooks and a TV show about same). She's trading on her cooking cred to push sloppy burgers.


No? How about "Cubes"? : Well it's just that Airless and AC are kind of opposites.

Paul Farhi: Ah. Hadn't occured to me. Okay, I'm going with "Cubes."


Virginia: Carl's may be no In-and-Out Burger, but In-and-Out Burger is no Five Guys.

Paul Farhi: Here I will respectfully have to disagree, or at least try for Solomon-like judgment. In-and-Out is super fresh, super low price, super clean stores, super limited menu. Whereas Five Guys is super fresh, super limited menu, super clean stores but higher priced. A clear distinction, of course.


Most disturbing commercial ever: I've seen it exactly once and it was on MTV but it was in the middle of the day during the weekend: You see mime hands in white gloves and they have a condom in a package -- the mime opens the package and then mimes putting on the condom. I was so weirded out -- I didnt know whether to laugh or change the channel. (And, I'm a not too-prudish 20-something. I can't imagine my parents' reaction to it.)

Paul Farhi: Hmmm. Haven't seen that one, but my impression of condom ads is that the networks were so freaked out about running those ads until about a decade or so ago--an almost criminal delay, in my opinion--that they pushed around the condom makers to be ultra- ultra tasteful about the way they sold the product. Maybe the, um, dam is breaking now, and they're letting the condom people get away with more.


Petworth, D.C.: Who can forget John Belushi on SNL as the decathalon winner who fueled himself with little chocolate donuts! With a smoke too if I remember correctly.

Paul Farhi: Brilliant ad parody, yes, coming right after Bruce Jenner did his flag-waving victory lap in the '76 Olympic decathlon. A bit written, btw, by a fellow named Al Franken.


I think Padma: suffers from years of living with Salman Rushdie. Have you ever noticed she never has an original thought on the show? She just repeats whatever Tom says.

Paul Farhi: No, I hadn't noticed. I guess I was distracted.


Arlington, Va.: I wish advertisers of some products were forbidden from illustrating what their products are for. Like those bears who have a problem with TP getting stuck to their butts. We get it. Thanks.

Paul Farhi: And bears. Why bears? Does it have something do with the rhetorical question that ends " the woods?"


Pruning the Bush: The Topiary ad IS ON in the U.S. I've seen it many times and I'm in Northern Virginia.

Paul Farhi: Oh, now we're getting somewhere! Everyone join me: "I'm proud to beeeee an American..."


Herndon, Va.: Folks it could be worse -- I'm so old I remember a guy in a white lab jacket saying "Old Golds -- not a cough in a carload" (or maybe it was Chesterfields). Or -- the immortal "Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should." At least that crap is off the air.

Paul Farhi: So true. Just in case anyone thinks that money corrupting our public values is a new invention. Things were worse then.


The scary thing: Is that spokesmodel hosting Top Chef Masters who looks like a Bulimic's Bulimic. She. Does. Not. Eat. Her neck is so skinny compared to her head it hurts to look at her. It's offensive.

Paul Farhi: I guess no one wants to see overweight people on TV, even if the show is about enjoying food.


Dunkin' Donuts: Despite the name, Dunkin' Donuts hasn't been a "donut company" for years. They're a coffee company now. You "run" around on it because you're hopped up on their caffeine.

In Spain, they're actually called "Dunkin' Coffee", though that's also because someone in Spain trademarked the word "Donut," so no one else can use it there.

Paul Farhi: Ah. So they've dumped the Boston Cremes for tofu and sprout sandwiches? Was not aware of that.


Seattle (again): ID: In Freudian theory, the division of the psyche that is totally unconscious and serves as the source of instinctual impulses and demands for immediate satisfaction of primitive needs. (

Should we rename it "id-vertising"? There are some might primal needs referenced in this chat!

Paul Farhi: Excellent suggestion! Would class this joint right up.


Speaking of bears: I dreamed I'd just bought a house in a new town, and a bear got in the house. A bunch of people were over and we all escaped to the roof to get away. Then someone on the roof says, oh, hey, that's just Fred, he' our local friendly bear. So we all went down and talked to Fred for a bit.

Paul Farhi: Where are my Freudians at? We need dream analysis, stat!


Eliminati, ON: Speaking of gross/suggestive advertising, what about Quaker Oats "Go People Go" ad series? Am I the only thinking they're making a (subtle) defecation joke?

Paul Farhi: I'll never look at those ads the same again. Thank you. Or actually no thank you.


Washington, D.C.: What do you think about More to Love -- speaking of overweight people?

Paul Farhi: That's one of those shows I'm glad is on TV, as a kind of equal-time and/or empowerment thing. It's also one of those shows, because it seems like an equal-time/empowerment thing, that I never want to watch.


Springfield, Va.: And then there is this:

BK Goes Crude With 7-Inch Burger Ad

Paul Farhi: Oy vey. I'm afraid to hit that link...


How about the birth control pill ad...: ...that touts how it also helps to clear up acne?

Paul Farhi: I still find that one fascinating, and wonder how it came to me. I imagine someone in marketing said, "You know, anyone can do birth control. We've got to have a gimmick, an angle. What is it? Oh, what IS it?" At which point, a little guy in a lab coat put up his hand...


Chantilly, Va.: I loved the spongmonkey ads. (Technically "spong" not "sponge," but I doubt anyone cares.) And I never figured out why people thought they were "gross." My reaction was "crazy Photoshopped things wearing sailor hats and sombreros playing guitar and singing an absurd song about subs", and I laugh at absurd things. Young male or not, I've never liked "gross" stuff (that's why it's "gross"), but I never had that reaction with the spongmonkey commercials.

I will fully admit that I more or less starting going to Quizno's after those ads and have continued fairly regularly in the 5-6 years since, in the hope that an ad executive will see this and say "We should bring back the spongmonkeys!"

WE LOVE THE SUBS COZ THEY ARE GOOD TO US Quiznos Spongmonkeys We Love The Subs Ad (YouTube)

Paul Farhi: I like your analysis but you forgot one aspect of the Spong/Spongemonkeys: Their unfortunate resemblance to something you wouldn't want to eat.


And, if it's any consolation, I recall as a teenager feeling EXTREMELY uncomfortable sitting next to my parents as the Tampax and Massengale ads rolled by our eyeballs. : I rented a movie once for my mom, dad, sister and I to watch once. I'd already seen it but had forgotten about a scene where a woman discovers the joys of masturbation. We'd been laughing and joking through the movie, and then during that scene... silence, red faces. Then my mom says something like, "oh goodness" and the tension was broken a little bit.

Paul Farhi: How'd she like the diner scene in "When Harry Met Sally"?


Forget the stank: What I can't stand are the horror flick ads. My kid doesn't need to get totally freaked out by an ad for Saw while we're trying to watch some sports. I can't react quick enough to flip the channel.

Paul Farhi: Yeah, those are loathsome. So are the ads for the violent shoot-em-up games.


Sex sells?: If you look at what's been found in marketing and social psychology research, associating a product with sex only increases recall of the sex aspect of the ad (or accompanying sexy TV program), but not the brand name nor the product. Also, in experiments in which people observe a sexy ad vs a non-sexy ad, and then are given the opportunity to chose or "buy" a product, the sexy ad is not associated with greater choosing or buying.

Paul Farhi: Interesting. Thanks for classing up this discussion! (We promise not to let it happen again).


Paul Farhi: Folks, do you realize that we've covered sex and Cialis and munchies and bears and Freud today? It's practically the outline for a new Fellini movie. Congrats. I think. I'd better shuffle along back to reality now, but we can crank this up again next week. Thanks to everyone for coming this time. In the meantime, as always, regards to all! --Paul.


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