Boy sees girl. Flash. Music. Girl sees boy. More flashing. Then a series of body contortions, twists and bends as a hidden announcer in the television commercial hawks bon jou jeans.
That combination of sounds, sights and sell makes the bon jour jeans commercial one of 19 television ads criticized as "insulting" by a Washington Area consumer group yesterday.
"This ad . . . has all the grace of a grade-C horror film," said Ann Brown, chairwoman of the committee, which spent all summer monitoring television commercials and judging them on the basis of the information offered and whether the presentation was condescending to the viewer.
Yesterday the committee announced four winners and 19 losers.
"American television viewers are not idiots," Brown said. "They are merely treated as such by most producers of television commercials."
The good commercials, according to the consumer affairs committee of the Americans for Democratic Action, included the Johnson & Johnson baby powder ad, in which a baby appears to whisper a secret to his parents; the Jell-O ad, which stars comedian Bill Cosby; Kodak Colorburst Camera, which depicts children and animals at a zoo; and the Johnson's Odor-Eaters, which shows bystanders moving away from an athlete removing his shoes.
Commercials criticized by the committee were divided into three categorises:
one group of "specific insulting" ads which were deemed condescending to a particular group of people -- women in some cases, fat people in others; a second group of "general insulting" ads, and a third group that Brown's committee said attempt to create a need for new, unnecessary products.
Here is a summary of the ads in each category:
"Specific insults" included Tomytronic Tennis, which shows a "significantly overweight man portrayed in an unattractive manner trying to play tennis;" Stove Top Stuffing Mix, which depicts a wife asking her husband if he would prefer potatoes or stuffing mix; Charlie perfume, which tells nothing about the product but features a woman walking through a restaurant; Charmin toilet paper, which shows a grocery manager squeezing the product while women shoppers squeal; Wisk, which claims to "sink in and start to clean before you wash;" Grecian Formula 16, which presumes that gray hair is unattractive; Tropical Blend Dark Tanning Lotion by Coppertone, which relies on sex to sell; and Birdseye frozen vegetables, which depict a pregnant woman about to go to the hospital to have a baby. As the woman is leaving the house, her husband complains that he may starve to death while she is away because he doesn't know how to cook. The commercial shows how he can survive her absense by purchasing frozen vegetables from Birdseye.
"General insults" included bon jour jeans, Schlitz Malt Liquor, which shows a bull crashing through a wall; Dodge small trucks and cars, which are described as having "ram" power; Topol smokers' tooth polish, which claims to remove "tooth stain;" Wesson oil, which promises to give the user "Wessonality;" 409 All Purpose Cleaner, which the ad says "starts to work before you do;" and Mello Yello soft drinks, which the Brown Group said is the "ultimate in lack of information."
"Unnecessary products" included Summers Eve flavored douche, Porcelana Medicated cream for "ugly age spots," Ultra Brite toothpaste, which promises a "smile so bright it gets you noticed," and Lee Nails, which assume that longer nails are more beautiful than clean short or medium-length nails.
Manufacturers of the products in the "losing" ads generally declined to comment on the survey until they have had time to study the results. "I don't know the group which made the survey and I don't know what standards they used," said Frank Stansberry, a spokesman for The Coca Cola, Co., which makes Mello Yello.
A spokesman for Ultra Brite said that product is intended for consumers interested in the cosmetic benefits of toothpaste.
And Andrew J. Graham, the counsel for Jeffrey Martin Inc., the company which makes Porcelana, said the cream is made for people who "want to get rid of brown spots. . . . If the good ladies in this consumer group want to keep their spots, they can."
Asked to respond to the consumer rating on the bon jour jeans advertisment, company vice president Charles Dayan said: "You mean the one that agravates people -- the one with the punk?"
Dayan said the company expected controversy when it produced the commercial because the material presented a new approach. "We didn't mean to aggravate people, but you cannot satisfy everyone."