We watch... so you don't have to.

Thirty-Second Lobotomy

One has to wonder, one does, how many people actually pay attention to TV ads. I mean really pay attention, to the point of cogitating the content, and not just placing the product -- "Syrup!" -- thorough a haze of electron-induced catatonia.

Not a lot, is my guess. Certainly not me. During a brief moment of lucidity the other night while I was watching the tube, I did -- actually and totally -- pay attention. And I ended up either deeply confused, hopelessly depressed or downright offended.

Probably not what the advertisers were after.

According to one ad, and I wrote this down just to be sure that I hadn't dreamt it, the new Chevy Blazer comes complete with "an Exclusive Driver Control System." The ad doesn't say if this is a "driver-control system" or a "driver control-system," but I somehow doubt that Chevy would advertise the fact that their trucks turn their owners into unwilling zombies. It may actually happen, of course, but they wouldn't advertise it.

So we're left with "driver control-system," and I'm pretty sure that this just consists of a steering wheel and some pedals on the floor. Maybe there's a stick-shift or something.

I guess that simply by having an announcer with a booming voice state unequivocally that the new Chevy Blazer has "an Exclusive Driver Control System," we're subconsciously supposed to think, "Oooo, that's much better than those other trucks that have no controls whatsoever. I'd much rather drive a Chevy Blazer up impossibly steep, camera-angle-enhanced mountains than simply sit in a Ford as it slides off the road and plummets down a cliff."

Next came an ad for Arm & Hammer Baking Soda Toothpaste. "Does your mouth feel baking soda clean?" it asked, as a box of the stuff splashed into a clear blue liquid that presumably was supposed to invoke "minty clean," be instead did a pretty good job of looking like a sink full of Ty-D-Bowl.

To which the only possible answer is, "Wha--?"

"Baking soda" and "clean" are not two concepts that comfortably fit together, even without "mouth" thrown in. Apparently the advertisers are trying to implant the assumption in the collective unconscious "baking soda" equals "clean." But to do that, they will first have to dislodge the idea that "baking soda" equals "room deodorizer," which they have spent the past ten years insisting.

At this rate, ads that claim that baking soda is the source of all life on the planet should appear in another decade or so. It's a room deodorizer, it sucks up bad smells in the freezer, it's great for brushing your teeth! And, apparently, it's also useful for, y'know, baking things.

And next came an ad for Doublemint Gum. The spot begins with care-free and happy children playing in fields and segues into frustrated and hopeless adults plowing through their workday. When all seems lost, an adult puts a piece of Doublemint in his or her mouth, and -- blammo -- the days of youth return, with people doing cartwheels in the street. "Doublemint," the ad says. "It's the Fun Part."

And all this time I thought it was the sex.

That Wrigley's should think -- or should even imply -- that the sum total of happiness you can expect as an adult is Doublemint gum should cause rampaging mobs of gleeful grown-ups to surround their headquarters and explain, with baseball bats, how many offensive assumptions that little nugget of commercialism makes. The person who invented the campaign should be forced, through chemicals and electro-shock, to actually have a stick of gum be the only joy he has for the rest of his life. "Oooo," he'll sob from his cell. "Doublemint."

And that did it. My little experiment was over and my assumptions confirmed: nobody pays attention to ads. They can't, because the ads defy everything that "attention" implies -- coherence, logic, some sort of foundation in reality or narrative. Having learned it's lesson, my consciousness swore never to emerge again, and retreated so far down into my reptile brain that I now occasionally lounge on a warm rock.

And television has been a lot more enjoyable since.


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