Category Archives: advertising



I just got a fundraising letter in the snail-mail. Can you believe it? They must be throwing everything out there.

Well, almost everything. The letter included a return envelope, but they were too cheap to spring for the stamp. LOL.


I just got called by a Republican telefundraising service. They said they were with America’s Next Generation; when I asked who that was, the lady hesitated and then said, “A SuperPac.” I asked where they got their money from and she said, “Republican donors like yourself.”

LOL. I’ve never donated to a Republican group in my life. I’ve never voted Republican in my life, either. How they got my name and number I have no clue, but this happens every now and then — last election I got called by a little old lady who said she was calling from the College Republicans. I mean, you could just tell she was 90 gazillion years old. I burst out laughing.

Anyway, I’m on some list, probably related to church stuff I’ve done. Some mailing list got merged with another mailing list which got merged with another list and then before you know it you’re getting direct mail pieces from Gary Bauer and campaign calls from Republican SuperPacs.

They wanted me to listen to their new ad, which was basically cherry-picked Obama quotes preceded by a scary-voiced announcer dude saying, “Obama said this but here he is in his own voice saying this!” They focused on Obamacare (“he said the individual mandate is not a tax but the Supreme Court said it is!”), the debt (“he said Bush’s debt was unpatriotic but his is worse!”) and Obama’s re-election (“he said he should be a one term president if he didn’t get the job done! Well?! WELL?!“). Then, oddly, I got returned to a real person who wanted to know what else I wanted to hear in future ads. I told them I didn’t want to hear any of this crap and why the hell were they calling registered Democrats and Obama volunteers? They had no clue.

Of course not.

According to OpenSecrets, this anti-Obama SuperPac has spent a big chunk of its money on a company called InfoCision Management Corporation, the nation’s second-largest telemarketing company. Apparently asking you to tell them what other issues you want raised in future ads is the latest in call center campaigning! It personalizes the call! Makes it seem less scripted! Creates a connection between the organization and the individual! Increases the fulfillment rate exponentially! Strategery! Technology!

I dunno, but it seems to me that might work better on something like raising money for the symphony or art league, less well on trying to uproot a president. It also might help if they didn’t call registered Democrats when raising money for Republicans — you know, a little more “info” with your “cision”? But what do I know.

I thought this was funny: Via the Sunlight Foundation, here’s the office of America’s Next Generation:

Funny You Don’t Look Like A SuperPac

Anyway, I’m starting to think that campaigns are running out of ideas. They’ve got all this money thanks to the Supreme Court and no clue what to do with it. They’ve reduced themselves to spam marketers, bombarding everyone with this stuff and hoping something, somewhere sticks. Spamming only works because it costs next to nothing to send 100,000 Viagra and porn e-mails. I’m not sure that works with telefundraising and TV ads though.

Furthermore, we’re starting to read about how people might be tuning out TV campaign ads. No! Say it ain’t so! This is really bad news for the media, since campaign ads are their bread and butter these days. Hell, the news media started gearing up for the 2012 election the day after Obama was elected. It just never stops with them.

It’s almost kind of funny, except it’s not.


Filed under advertising, Housekeeping

Half Time In America

Wow. By far the best Super Bowl ad of the evening, and the game’s not even over yet. Predictably, the right-wingers on Twitter are already sputtering in outrage. Clint Eastwood is inspirational:


Filed under advertising

Free Speech Or Free Hand?

I don’t know why conservatives are always confusing the two. Yet they do. Here’s Ben Stein, suing Kyocera for not signing him as a pitchman because they didn’t want to be represented by an idiot:

According to the complaint, filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, Kyocera approached Stein in December 2010 to inquire as to his availability to appear in TV advertisements for Kyocera printers. Stein agreed and they began negotiating a contract. Three months later, before the contract was executed, Kyocera learned that Ben Stein is an idiot who denies the reality of global climate change. So they changed their mind and withdrew the offer, because they didn’t want to be represented by an idiot. That’s how capitalism works, right? Companies make decisions based on their interests, and contracts are the law of the land.

No! Capitalism works by suing people when you don’t get your way. To hear Stein tell it, even though they didn’t sign a contract, they still had a contract since Stein really, really, wanted the $300,000 Kyocera had offered contingent on signing the contract, which never happened.

Also, according to Stein, he has a right to the $300,000 under the Constitution, which guarantees him freedom of religion. See, Stein believes that global warming isn’t real because “God, and not man, control[s] the weather.” When Kyocera declined to pay Stein $300,000 to represent the corporation in part because it doesn’t want to be associated with that belief, it violated Stein’s constitutional right to $300,000. He also accuses Kyocera of violating his “freedom of speech” and “political freedom.” Stein has no political freedom, because Kyocera robbed him of the freedom when it refused to pay him $300,000.

No, you do not have a constitutional right to be a Kyocera pitchman.

News flash: Kyocera Corp. is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of solar panels and other PV systems. While Stein would not have been hawking its solar products, I can see how having a vocal climate change denier pitching any of the company’s product lines would be a little awkward, to put it mildly. So a big boo to whatever genius suggested Ben Stein for this gig in the first place: advertising agency Seiter & Miller, I’m going to assume. That was just a dumbass move all around.

And I’m sorry, but Ben Stein? Hello? Try reading your own damn columns and books about the free hand of the market. Also, I haven’t had a chance to dig into the memory hole, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we didn’t find something in there from him decrying the burden of frivolous lawsuits and advocating tort reform and all that.



Filed under advertising, Ben Stein, free hand of the market, free speech

Pink Stuff & Super Heroes

A question the Free Hand of the Market has yet to answer:

“Why do all the girls have to buy pink stuff?”

From the mouths of babes. A young girl gets her first lesson in the ways corporate marketers reinforce cultural stereotypes. A young revolutionary in the making. Riley, you rawk:

1 Comment

Filed under advertising, feminism

Liberals/Muslims/Non-Christians Need Not Apply


Shockingly, you can’t do that in Texas:

“The Texas Department of Public Safety certifies individuals to teach coursework and provide training required to be taken by individuals seeking to qualify for a Texas concealed handgun license. Certified instructors are required to comply with all applicable state and federal statutes. Conduct by an instructor that denied service to individuals on the basis of race, ethnicity or religion would place that instructor’s certification by the Department at risk of suspension or revocation. The Department became aware of the statements in question yesterday and has begun an investigation into the matter. The Department will take appropriate administrative action based on the findings from the investigation.”



A radio ad for a handgun safety course in Texas forwarded to me by a friend. No Democrats or other undesirables allowed (click on the link to play; money quote starts at the :43 mark). Makes the “hello friends and neighbors” salutation all the more ironic.

I don’t care how many guns Crocket Keller owns. He’s still an asshole:



Filed under advertising, Texas

Your For Profit Healthcare System At Work

I don’t know why this letter I got from HCA/Tri-Star Health Systems pissed me off so much but it did. It’s a sales pitch for various surgical procedures for obesity, and it came addressed to me (though the salutation is to “Friend”).

You know what? I don’t want to get sales pitches from the local for-profit hospital chain selling me some sketchy obesity surgery. And speaking of fat, I suspect Tri-Star is getting fat off the bloated insurance premiums we pay every month, which is why they can pay to send out mass mailings like this and offer a

FREE bariatric surgery seminar where you will meet with a bariatric surgeon, hear about other patients’ experiences with bariatric surgery and receive an information packet ….

What is this, a hospital or a timeshare?

I don’t suppose we’ll be hearing from too many of these folks, will we?

Maybe what bothers me is this:

Because insurers are increasingly willing to cover weight-loss surgery, hospitals here see it as a growing profit center.

They are mounting marketing campaigns and competing to sign up top weight-loss surgeons.

“There’s a high reimbursement rate for these procedures,” says Bob Benowitz, a Manhattan lawyer whose clients include many local hospitals and physicians.

Nationally, insurers paid hospitals an average of more than $10,000 for the two most popular of the procedures: gastric bypass and gastric banding. Christine Ren, a bariatric surgeon at New York University Medical Center, says some companies pay as much as $14,000.

That story is from 2007. I’m betting those numbers are much higher now. And I’m betting HCA/Tri-Star is cashing in on this profit center, just as the New York hospitals mentioned in the article did. After all, we have no shortage of obese people here in Tennessee.

I find this immoral. The entire idea that there’s a profit motive attached to healthcare is repugnant. No one should get rich off of someone’s healthcare needs. I place most of the diet industry on a par with snake oil salesmen, peddling quick-fixes like diet cookies and powders and shakes. And now HCA/Tri-Star puts itself in the same camp as the hucksters hawking a lemonade-maple-syrup-cayenne-pepper diet.

Read the letter here:

If We're Such Good Friends How Come You Don't Know I'm Not Fat?


Filed under advertising, HCA, health insurance, healthcare

As Seen On TV

Truly the tackiest, most tasteless piece of commemorative War On Terror porn I’ve seen yet. When I saw the ad my jaw literally dropped to the floor. Seriously: what the hell is wrong with you people?

This is just begging for an SNL parody.


Filed under 9/11, advertising

Yes There Is Such A Thing As Bad PR

Sadly, scenarios like this happen a lot more often than anyone would like to admit:

Several bloggers were invited to an exclusive event: A multi-course dining experience at a pop-up restaurant in New York City, with food and spirits ostensibly prepared by George Duran, of Food Network and TLC fame. The bloggers were promised access to Phil Lempert, the “Supermarket Guru.” All was going well until the diners learned the main course and the dessert they were served (meat and cheese lasagna, followed by something called, “Razzleberry Pie”) were not Duran’s creations, but instead were the work of Marie Callender’s, a line of frozen foods produced by ConAgra.

As news of the failed stunt came to light, food bloggers discussed how they cultivate trust among their readers and protect their own independence while fighting off an onslaught of PR pitches that would have them pimping products and places full-time.


Some of the bloggers in attendance shrugged off the stunt, but others were outraged, particularly because they had been asked to promote Sotto Terrra (the pop-up restaurant) in advance. These bloggers were given two tickets to award to one “lucky” reader, who would then take a guest to an evening at Sotto Terra. The upset bloggers felt tricked by ConAgra, a company largely reviled by many food writers and food enthusiasts in general.

Suzanne M. Chan, author of the blog, Mom Confessionals, was one of the bloggers who not only attended the Sotto Terra event, but also promoted it on her blog, awarding tickets to one of her readers. Much of her frustration with the bait-and-switch publicity stunt ConAgra pulled at her expense stemmed from feeling that she had unwittingly violated her readers’ trust. “My readers are loyal because they trust me,” Chan said told me. “If at any time they feel I have become unauthentic, I will have lost a reader if not many.”

I read about the failed ConAgra stunt in the New York Times last week. According to the Times, hidden cameras recorded these dinners — it went on for four nights before ConAgra pulled the plug because they weren’t getting the response they wanted. I guess they hoped to run ads with notable food writers talking about this “yummy” food, and a subsequent “shocked” and “surprised” response when they find out the food is frozen crap from ConAgra. We’ve all seen those ads before, haven’t we?

The gist of the Times article was how the campaign, orchestrated by Ketchum Public Relations, backfired. But I was surprised to read this quote in the piece:

In an e-mail message, Ms. Silverman added, “Ketchum has an excellent reputation for high ethical standards,” but “the social media realm (including bloggers) is new territory for public relations practitioners, and I view this as a valuable learning opportunity.”

Umm, no they don’t! Remember “Karen Ryan reporting”? Remember the Armstrong Williams scandal? Ketchum is a repeat offender when it comes to fooling the public; it’s their business, they’re a public relations firm, and if they’ve repeatedly crossed the line into propaganda, well who cares as long as the product got the desired publicity? That’s the difference between PR and journalism: one is shameless hucksterism, one is reporting facts.

Sadly, the last few decades have seen a blending of the two. What used to be news is now propaganda. It seems every news story is a sales pitch from some corporate or political interest. It’s getting harder to tell the difference between news stories and advertising messages.

This piece from May gave me the sads. It’s long, but give it a read. It tracks how PR firms have infiltrated newsrooms and, yes, the blogosphere. In particular, this:

The Pew Center took a look at the impact of these changes last year in a study of the Baltimore news market. The report, “How News Happens,” found that while new online outlets had increased the demand for news, the number of original stories spread out among those outlets had declined. In one example, Pew found that area newspapers wrote one-third the number of stories about state budget cuts as they did the last time the state made similar cuts in 1991. In 2009, Pew said, The Baltimore Sun produced 32 percent fewer stories than it did in 1999.

Moreover, even original reporting often bore the fingerprints of government and private public relations. Mark Jurkowitz, associate director the Pew Center, said the Baltimore report concentrated on six major story lines: state budget cuts, shootings of police officers, the University of Maryland’s efforts to develop a vaccine, the auction of the Senator Theater, the installation of listening devices on public busses, and developments in juvenile justice. It found that 63 percent of the news about those subjects was generated by the government, 23 percent came from interest groups or public relations, and 14 percent started with reporters.

Trust isn’t just the domain of bloggers. It used to be the stock and trade of the news media. Remember “the Most Trusted Name In News”? Does anyone buy that bullshit anymore? I don’t. Like most Americans, I’ve lost any faith and trust I had in the Fourth Estate. Too many plagiarism scandals, manipulations by special interests; too many inaccuracies and outright stenography. We’ve all got a jaundiced eye now.

PR firms and ad agencies are getting too clever by half. Did you hear about Toyota’s creepy 2009 “Your Other You” campaign? What the hell was Saatchi & Saatchi thinking?

It seems as if newsrooms are in a death spiral: advertisers and PR agencies have resorted to clever “stealth” campaigns because no one is reading newspapers anymore, but no one is reading the papers because they don’t trust what they read.

Where all of this leaves us I have no clue.


Filed under advertising, bloggers, corporations, Media, media manipulation

That Not So Fresh Feeling

These ads for Summer’s Eve are so offensive, I assumed they must have been created by men. Sadly, no.

Talking vaginas that perpetuate ethnic and gender stereotypes? All in the interest of hawking a product designed to tell us women that all is not right “down there”? Silly cartoons? Afros and leopard-print thongs?

The campaign is supposed to be some kind of women’s empowerment thing, “be proud of your vagina,” or as Summer’s Eve marketing director put it:

“This campaign is about empowerment, changing the way women may think of the brand, and removing longstanding stigmas: Summer’s Eve is not a means to confidence, rather it’s a celebration of confidence, of being a woman, and taking care of their bodies.”

I dunno, but telling women our cooters are so nasty that we need a half dozen different products to make things right doesn’t strike me as the epitome of confidence and empowerment. Face it: your product depends on the exact opposite of those traits, you’re making money off of the very stigma you pretend to be removing.

Hail to the V? How about Hell to the no?


Filed under advertising, feminism

False Advertising, Cultural Narrative Edition

Adding to my earlier post today …. Have you seen this Simpson’s Coca-Cola ad? I think it ran during last year’s Super Bowl. I missed it then, but they’re playing it at the movie theater now, so I’ve seen it a gazillion times:

What’s interesting to me is that during this current recession, billionaires didn’t go broke. The “C. Montgomery Burnses” of the country got giant bailouts from the taxpayers and are safely ensconced in their mansions surrounded by their family heirlooms. The people getting yanked out of their homes and selling mementos at the flea market are the middle class and lower class folks — the people the ad shows enjoying the simple, carefree joys of a day in the park and a Coke.

So why does a corporate multinational like Coca Cola choose to present our current dilemma in this way? Was this rewriting of history deliberate? This misrepresentation of facts to put the wealthy in the same boat as everyone else: intentional? A blatant attempt to change the cultural narrative before our very eyes? I mean, unless you’re really paying attention, you might not even notice.

It’s all very fascinating.


Filed under advertising, corporations, economy, pop culture