Sunday, August 21, 2011

Taking a station break: Having some commercial fun

When I wrote a column for the Arizona City Independent/Edition, I sometimes took a break from serious think pieces by sharing opinions on some of the more (or less) interesting commercials on the tube. It’s been too long since I’ve done that sort of thing, so I’ve decided to throw in a few entries like that now and then. Feel free to post your comments, especially to share your thoughts about the many ways in which companies try to sell products and services to us.
I’m probably not the only person who’s happy to hear Burger King is dethroning the plastic-noggined monarch that tried in vain to increase their share of fast-food customers. Trouble is, the plastic-headed ruler was a rip-off from more successful Jack in the Box ads.
Not only does the King’s expression never change, he’s stuck with that weird grin that generated the judgment from pundits, from CNN anchors to a USA Today columnist, that he’s just plain “creepy.” Jack’s head might be merely an outsized pingpong ball, but at least he displays situationally appropriate expressions during his always funny ads.
My first thought was that at least the King won’t need embalming when he’s buried. My husband suggested they melt him down and make something useful from the plastic, maybe toys to lure in kids to ask for the food they claim is fresh and healthy. We’ll see how that goes.
A couple of commercials that get under my skin come under the heading of something my father used to say. Dad was a master of turning around old sayings to make statements that reflected more truth than the originals. One of my favorites: The labeled need not be obvious. (Think about it.)
“The World’s Greatest Spokesperson” isn’t and neither are just about all the Nationwide ads featuring the duller-than-dishwater company rep. The only two that might raise small smiles are the one with three-handed shadows to show how policies are bundled and the one about vanishing deductible in which the spokesperson does too. Trouble is, neither ad holds interest the second time around. Besides, I’d rather have the check Allstate sends to the best drivers twice a year than a deductible that pops back into effect if you have an accident.
Then there’s the guy who Dos Equis calls “the most interesting man in the world.” Every commercial he’s in is just a boring string of reasons why the guy’s supposed to be so cool, including the fact that “both sides of his pillow are cool.” If that’s the case, then it’s time to bury him along with the BK King. He’s been dead so long, he’s beginning to stink.
And while I’m at it, I’d like to report a commercial that turned out to be a lie. Earlier this year, we purchased a dishwasher from Sears for two reasons:
  • Many of their appliances are Consumer Reports Best Buys.
  • Their RAD (responsible appliance disposal) commercials generated trust that the old appliance would be recycled.

I especially enjoyed the ad where two teenage boys accuse the Sears delivery person of dumping the old refrigerator he’s replacing. When the man explains the RAD program, the expression of the boy on the left, with one raised eyebrow, is priceless. Unfortunately, we learned first-hand that the truth is far different from the promotion.
When I called to order the dishwasher, I explained to the agent several times that the RAD program was a big reason we chose a Sears appliance. Since I always take time to make sure of all the details, I assumed everything was set the way I wanted it. But when two men delivered the dishwasher a week later, they informed me no arrangement had been made--or even requested--for installation of the appliance.
Minutes later, I was on the phone chewing out everyone, from the first agent who answered all the way up to the supervisor I demanded to talk to. I finally learned Sears no longer installs dishwashers--I don’t know about other appliances, but I’m not about to test them again--so their RAD program doesn’t apply in such cases.
Instead, they depend on another company to do the job, but they don’t volunteer that detail when they sell the appliance. I had to call the other company and set up a date three weeks later to get my new dishwasher installed. You can be certain I made sure they recycle the old dishwasher. Otherwise, I’d have looked elsewhere for the service.
Because I was so adamant and had all the names, dates, and call details carefully recorded, the supervisor did refund our delivery charge, but it barely makes up for the fact that we had to wait a full month until we were actually able to use our new machine. When I shared my experience with my sister, she regaled me with an equally vexing problem she had when ordering a trash compactor from Sears. Our negative experiences apparently aren’t isolated events. Suffice to say, the company has lost a couple of customers from way, wa-a-ay back.
Meanwhile, I have not seen another Sears ad touting their RAD program. I wonder if complaints like mine are the reason the campaign ended. I’m happy they’re no longer claiming something that isn’t true, but do miss that kid with the raised eyebrow.
Okay, your turn. I’d love to hear what you think about some of the spots that are supposed to get you to buy a product or service but just don’t make the grade. Do your darnedest. I can use the (station) break.


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