Thursday, April 06, 2006

midcentury advertising

I just finished my obligatory hour of TV: The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. Sometimes they're both funny. Sometimes one is and the other isn't. And sometimes neither is.

The problem is, when they're both not funny I feel like I've paid too high a price because:

  • I've accidentally caught the tail end of The Mind of Mencia (note to self: stop guessing when you reset the clocks. They're always off by 5 minutes and you suffer as a result);

  • I've had to look up the ingredients in Chaser Plus again (surely that stuff can't work -- homeopathic, isn't it? It's like sucking on a charcoal briquette while you stick your head in someone's bathroom jar of potpourri);

  • I've suffered through the talented Mr. Stewart interviewing someone dreadful like the talent-free Sharon Stone, who is known primarily for a single exhibitionistic act, as well as for chewing the scenery in a number of seriously bad movies like King Solomon's Mines. (The interview was in fact so vile that I can't seem to find it on Comedy Central's Jon Stewart website -- here, you look. I can't be responsible);

but, most importantly

  • I've watched at least seven Axe Deodorant Body Spray ads.

Those ads drive me crazy. They're just embarrassing. They're the demographic equivalent of the Metamucil ads they show on Jeopardy. Surely no-one goes out and buys that foul-smelling stuff (Axe Deodorant Body Spray, not Metamucil) because they think it attracts the unattainable hotties.

Why can't they be more like the midcentury advertising? Midcentury is the new designation for the 50s; it keeps you from thinking about Leader of the Pack and McCarthyism, and keeps you focused on the cool stuff like formica dinettes. I found this ad in a digitized version of the MIT student newspaper, The Tech, circa 1959. Unfortunately the upload is too lo-res to read, so I'll transcribe it here; it's just too good to miss:

I often remember old parties I have gone to, the people present, and their foibles. For example, there is the one Heather Goquickly gave, some years ago, in her tiny Manhattan apartment.

A line formed in front of her place at six o'clock; it was almost seven before I stood, cold can of Schaefer beer in hand, in a crowded corner of the apartment. I watched Heather flying smoothly over the upturned heads of her adoring claque (a stagehand-friend had put up one of those wire rigs one associates with ornate television productions of Peter Pan), dispensing Schaefer-largesse and pointing out chairs to the most elderly of her guests.

A creep shouted up at Heather. His head was huge-big, and he was wearing stilts; without them, one might have thought him a Dwarf Person. Words came out of his mouth like machine-gun bullets: "Rat-a-tat-tat; tat-tat; and tat," he said, handing Heather her three-stringed dulcimer, which she played very well. Strumming it, she began to sing the happy air so popular today: What d'ya hear in the best of circles? "Schaefer all around!" Then she landed beside me and wistfully drank my beer. "How tres, tres!" she sighed in her happy-sad voice.

"Me or the Schaefer?"

"Both of you, darling. You remind me of my brother Ed; the Schaefer, that's easy: it's got a smooth round flavor; never sharp, never flat." A tiger cub jumped into Heather's arms. She handed him to me. "You keep him Ed, or darling, or whoever you are; I think I'm off for Tangier now." Taking only a can of Schaefer, she was gone.

I've heard from her just once: a post card scribbled in Swahili. Of course, the tiger grew too big, and I had to let him go. I've seen him since, though; he's found a proper home with a traveling circus. I hope Heather has too.

Breathtaking, right? It's as if Bud Light were promoted using a parody of Jeffrey Eugenides' Virgin Suicides. Remember Breakfast at Tiffany's was published in 1958 and while it was a slight novel, a novelette in length and frothy of tone, it's still a lovely piece of writing.

Meanwhile, we're stuck with the Axe Deodorant Body Spray ads and Sharon Stone. And now that I've expressed interest in Axe and Sharon, I seem to be seeing more Axe ads than ever.


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