A new kind of commercial has come among us. It is the adversi-tizement -- the sales pitch that is built on misfortune, bad news, bad times or bad tidings.
As Preparation H users can tell us, adversi-tizements have always been around, but in general our advertising has been the upbeat foot-stomper exemplified by those Coca-Cola rousers. And we do still have a lot of premalaise booming on our airwaves and billboards, like Country Time Lemonade. Chevy, also, is practiced in the cheery, march-time, red, white and blue ad that characteristically addresses us as America, as in Wake Up, America, you'll love this, America, freshen your breath, America.
While all that jolly pot-walloping has been going on, the adversi-tizements have been growing in number. The primeexample is that horrid young woman with hair the color of chicken droppings who pushes away the Hong Kong coolie politely trying to sell her a crustacean to shriek through the dock areas of that great Oriental trading city, "Mr. Wong! Mr. Wong! I've lost my traveler's checks!"
Good for you, honey. May all those distinctly non-Americans surrounding you in the commercial drag you off, addict you to opium and chain you to a factory bench making color TVs to be shipped to San Diego. But no, Mr. Wong, foreigner though he may ber and in the full knowledge it is not in her power to regard him, still exclaims, "Not to worry ugly child of an occidental briar patch, we have an American Express office even in these barbaric parts." Then, naturally, Karl Malden steps in and all is well.
Last month the McDonnell Douglas Corp. began a very large and very mystifying adversi-tizement campaign. It features Pete Conrad, the astronaut: "The more you learn about our DC-10, the more you know how great it really is." It is hard tothink of how McDonnell Douglas could have more effectively reminded us that it was in the plane they manufactured that 273 people died last May in Chicago.
The public memory is short. One big plane is very much like another and in all probability very few can -- or could before these ads started running -- remember if it was a DC 10or a Lockheed or a Boeing. After you see this ad a couple of times, it will all come flooding back, the controversy over the engine mountings, the cracked pylons, the emergency inspections and groudings of all DC-10s, it will return and doubtless encourage you to buy a ticket on the airlines not using this equipment. That may be reason that another McDonnell Douglas ad campaign for the DC-10, this one with the slogan "Cleared for Take-off," was grounded by United, American, Northwest and other companies which bought the planes.
It's neck and neck between the government and Pepto-Bismol as to who puts on the most adversi-tizements. The stars in the stomach-aid company's commercials are always ballooning up and truning purple and looking perfectly awful until blessed relief comes, but the Selective Service cannon-fodder ads, although more tastefully done with celebrities like U.S. Olympic hockey coach Herb Brooks, are certainly the ones that would have the greatest trouble passing the truth-in-advertis-ing test. The gist of the ad is telling the young suckers that registration is but a mere gesture, a symbolic act designed to impress the Russians and shouldn't, oh, no never, be construed assomething leading to conscription just as sure and as fast as you can say,"Wait till after the election."
But is that any worse for the viewer's health than the Department of Transportation's audacious suggestion that you prevent your drunken friends from climbing into their cars and weaving their way home or to the hospital or the graveyard? It's more dangerous to stop a drunk from driving than to drive with him.
The EPA has hired Pat Paulson to appear in knee boots in a polluted river, for why is never exactly said. The Department of Energy is actually spending dollars and wasting energy to ry our patience by telling us we can save money if we lower the thermostat. Apparently the news of rising fuel costs has just arrived atthat great appendix in the body bureaucratic.
When will they learn that when faced with ad-versity, the best counsel is to keep your trap shut?