I saw two commercials lately that were so over-the-top awful I couldn’t help but blog about them several days later (if I manage to come back to something days later to blog about, it must have dug into my brain). They’re not awful in a traditional poorly done sense, they’re awful in a oozing with horrid worldviews way.
Scotts Good Neighbor
The first commercial is for Scotts Turf Builder with Weed Control. I see it pretty much every time I watch NASCAR or hockey, which apparently means its targeted at sports-minded men, so let the stereotypes roll on. The commercial shows a young man talking about his inability to keep his lawn looking nice and how much he wants to please his neighbors with a green, weed-free lawn. He talks about the shame of having the worst lawn on the block and sending dandelion seeds throughout the neighborhood. Scotts comes to the rescue and the guy can hold his head high. His wife talks about how now the neighbors smile at them because their yard is so nice.
Now granted I’m pretty anti-lawn care. I’m the first to admit that I like dandelions and I don’t care how my yard looks. But is a weed-free yard really make a good neighbor? Last time I checked being a good neighbor was about helping each other out and not being the jackass on the block. It’s loaning a cup of sugar or shoveling a driveway or dog-sitting. You don’t need a perfect lawn to get your neighbors to smile at you. Try being nice.
And if it’s not your neighbors, how about your kids? Sorry honey, Daddy can’t play with you, he’s too busy killing those yellow flowers you like to pick. He’d rather have a wonderful looking yard than be a good father. Parenting FAIL. Who on their deathbed is going to say they wish their lawn looked better?
OK, so I’m taking it a little farther than Scotts does, but still. A perfect yard is not the secret to happiness. If you want a weed-free yard, that’s cool. But don’t think it makes you a good neighbor.
Just for Men Just for Jobs
Next up is Just for Men hair coloring. Now admittedly, Just for Men commercials are pretty much always shallow. But somehow taking it beyond the realm of impressing girls went too far. This commercial featured a graying father not excited about an upcoming job interview. His young daughter encourages him by handing him a box of Just for Men. You can do it, Dad. Lose the old geezer image and you’re a shoe-in. Surprisingly, it works! Apparently there’s another commercial where a high school graduate got in to the expensive school and gray-haired Dad has to go back to work to pay for it, relying on Just for Men to get him the job.
Sorry Just for Men, but gray hair isn’t what’s keeping you from getting a job. And if it is, that’s age discrimination and you can sue.
Tweaking Your Point of View
When people rant about how marketing is evil, these commercials are why. Rather than stand on the benefits of the product, these companies are trying to sell you on a way of seeing the world. And it’s a viewpoint that’s just plain false. Getting rid of the gray will not make you a better job applicant. A weed-free yard will not make you a better neighbor.
And sadly this tactic is what accounts for most commercials these days (see any beer commercial ever). Some do it more subtlely than others and some do it more insidiously than others, but the approach is the same.
The truth is few commercial products can change your life in that kind of way. Unless you think you’re one of those rare products, don’t pander to me.