That One Commercial


You turn on the television, and there’s the commercial. You know, that one commercial. People are dancing. There’s an upbeat song. There might be a dog and a car. Twenty-seven seconds into the commercial, and it’s obvious. The commercial is for…

Deck paint. No, Beer. No, retirement funds. No, cell phones. No, pet food. No, erectile dysfunction medication. No, energy efficient light bulbs. No, feminine hygiene wash. 

As soon as I learn to work a video camera, or even to set the time on my DVD player, I’m quitting teaching to begin a career in ubiquitous film making. Thirty seconds of generic genre at a discount price and I can market to every product out there.  

The Man Package: A group of eight men, some Caucasian, some African American, sitting on a neutral colored microfiber couch, watching sports, laughing aggressively. Possible dog placement. Inconsequential women bringing food into the room and then leaving, and they will have long hair and will look nine years younger than all males in the film.  No cats. Music will include an electric guitar. One high five and two fist bumps included. Possible purchasers would include cable companies, cholesterol drug companies, the aforementioned beer and erectile dysfunction medication companies (which I suspect may be one in the same) and carpet stain removal manufacturers.

The Woman Package: Several women of questionable ethnicity, shot independently, except for one shot of two women laughing and side-embracing in a non-lesbian yet an I-kissed-you-in-college-and-liked-it way.  All women will appear highly medicated and completely satisfied with their careers, sex lives, marriages, parental relationships, and as if their children are honor roll students. No men will appear in any form. Women will wear light colored clothing which will flounce in wind, a wind which will not cause their hair to become disheveled.  Women will appear low maintenance, but will in actuality be high maintenance in order to appear low maintenance. No shoes will be worn, as it would distract from the carefree dancing performed by all women. Women will be beachfront and the weather will be sunny and cool enough to avoid hot-flashes, approximately 71 degrees. Possible purchasers would include cereal manufacturers, the estrogen replacement/anti-depressant/facial injection drug company, diet food product manufacturers, on-line colleges, and carpet stain removal manufacturers.

The Kid Package: Seven 6-7 year-old children (more kids than in a typical household, yet not so many as to have the Department of Family Services called,) in a picket-fenced, chemically treated yard. Sprinklers. Dogs and cats, living together, with a surprising absence of animal feces in said yard. Upbeat music only, as to block the actual sounds that children make, including crying, shrieking, begging, tattling, spitting, and “whaa” (the sound that goes with fake punching and karate chopping.) Possible purchasers would include highly-sugared food companies, utility companies, highly-sugared food companies, insurance companies, highly-sugared food companies, and carpet stain removal manufacturers. 

Confuse the Old People Package: Tattooed band members. Afros. Young people drinking things. Dancing people driving. More shots of tattooed band members. Scantily clad girls with piercings and highly orthodontured teeth paid for by disappointed parents. Peace symbols. No one working. Possible purchasers would include beverage manufacturers, software developers, and car companies (as it makes perfect sense to market expensive automobiles to young people with no jobs and $75K in unpaid student loans.) And, obviously, carpet stain removal manufacturers.  

I see a huge future for me in the ad industry. If filmmakers can sell 30 second spots of hot (obviously not habitually cat-owning) women practically making love to their fluffy white cats, I can sell this.  It’s not about the product anyway – it’s about selling a way of being.  Being young. Being happy. Being virile.  And we all know those things can be achieved with a single purchase. For years, we’ve talked about The Beauty Myth and The Mommy Myth (both amazing books, the first by Naomi Wolf and the latter by Susan J. Douglas and Meredith Michaels) and how society and the media has brainwashed women to be slaves to consumerism. And now we tell the world through these generic ads, “You want this life, and you can have it if you buy this.”  They can be generic because they aren’t even ads for products at all. They are lessons on how we should be living, according to manufacturers. The ads aren’t selling products – the ads are selling fulfillment, and the products are simply a necessity to get it. It. Because you know what It is, or don’t you?  

5 thoughts on “That One Commercial

  1. Absolutely perfect! I see a huge future for you out there in Ad-land! So, so, so true. A little sad, really, but I have to say you hit the proverbial nail straight on the head.

  2. ‘Lessons in how we all should be living’…until you actually translate it into real life. My daughter’s a child model and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve looked at the upgraded version of my life and the fake mum to my 6-year-old has been a girl in her early-20s. Which, by my maths, means that she would have been 16, 18 max, when she had my daughter…and we all know the reality of teen motherhood isn’t a luxury townhouse in trendy parts of London. Nor a washboard stomach and a wardrobe full of heels for doing the school run. It makes me laugh every time.
    The scenarios sound spot on.

  3. It’s the drug company ads that get me with the disclaimers: may cause bleeding from the rectum, heart problems, blindness or possible death.” Is the cure really better than the problem? Lately, I’ve noticed ads for a drug that treats blind people who can’t tell night from day. What happened to Madge and Palmolive dish washing detergent that would soften your hands as you washed the dishes???

    1. I think there’s a warning on the detergent that warns of possible rectal bleeding, rare but fatal cancers, and night blindness.

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