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Food for Thought

Once upon a time, there were television commercials that were sometimes more entertaining than the programs the product manufacturers sponsored. Remember the Alka-Seltzer bellies? The dancing cigarette pack? The unusual tortures those Timex watches were subjected to? And how about that instant coffee commercial that nearly turned into a soap opera? People used to drop what they were doing and run to the family room just to watch the commercial when it came on, hoping to see another episode of what appeared to be a budding romance.
Like the Burma Shave verses that once delighted travelers along the nation’s highways, good commercials do more than tout a product. They entertain us, even inspire us to come up with some clever ideas of our own; they become almost an art form in themselves. Didn’t there used to be an award for really good, effective, entertaining commercials? Who or what entity was it that did that, and does anybody still offer that recognition? Seems to me that such an award should help improve the quality of the majority of television ads, simply by giving their creators an incentive to come up with something informative and entertaining in addition to letting us know that a product is available, how it can be expected to improve our lives, and how it is better (and in what ways) than its competitors.
Even though we generally consider commercials an interruption of our TV entertainment, and an annoyance, they do serve to inform us of the availability of new products, though I sometimes wonder if many actually do that. Take some of those ads for prescription medications for a few serious but not so common ailments. These are accompanied by discouragingly long lists of side effects and warnings– enough to make me wonder why anybody would want to use them. I guess there are regulations dictating that these warnings be aired, but they certainly don’t help sell the product; at least, they have the opposite effect on me. I would guess that people who suffer from those conditions would be more likely to listen to the advice of their doctors than to an actor spouting words crafted by some advertising agency writer. Do people really ask their doctors to prescribe on the basis of commercial advertisements? And to doctors actually acquiesce?
Having always had what my mother called “a mind of my own,” I tend to view skeptically any commercial that presumes to tell me what I like or want. Fast food franchises and clothing chains are the worst offenders. I am the only person who knows for sure the kinds of food I like and want to eat, or the style, color, and cost of the clothes I wear. I pay no attention whatsoever to commercials for gadgets and jewelry, as most of them are totally unnecessary to my life and happiness and I couldn’t care less what is the current rage or the best value.
A few commercials I’ve seen recently annoy me so much that I’m considering never ever spending a cent for any of the things they are trying to talk me into paying for. Right up there on the top of the list is the one featuring a middle-aged son of an elderly woman; he claims that his mother had lost weight and her house was messy, so he appears to have decided she is probably incompetent and got her some help, claiming he did it for her. Phooey. Any woman who has kept house for over fifty years deserves to take a break from that form of slavery– permanently, if she can swing it. He got her some help so he wouldn’t have to pick up his own dirty socks or remember to refill the ice cube tray.
I was interested to see the depiction of Mr. Clean® as a child, though the whole idea is ridiculous. Apparently his first name is Mr. and he was born with the physique of a weightlifter. In my experience, baby boys are all feet and stomach and never learn to clean up anything. And where did he get the notion that cleaning products should smell like lemons? I avoid scented products in any form unless their scent is their reason for existing. I don’t want soap that smells like lavender, hand lotion that smells like oranges, peppermint toothpaste, shampoo that reminds me of green apples, clove mouthwash, flowery-smelling toilet paper, candles that make my house smell like cherry pie or cinnamon sticks. I have a favorite perfume that I use when I want to be surrounded by a pleasant scent and it’s fairly expensive. I don’t want it to have to compete with, or to be muddled up by all those other aromas. If some company wants to come up with a product that I might buy, they only need one word for their commercials. Unscented.