SATURDAY’S CHILD – Hitting rock bottom
“I have always believed that writing advertisements is the second most profitable form of writing. The first, of course, is ransom notes.”
This was a quip by Philip Bernard Dusenberry, a famous American advertising executive. He was responsible for the Pepsi slogan The Choice Of A New Generation.
In a way advertising does hold a captive audience to ransom. As one wit put it, “Advertising constantly invents cures to which there is no disease.” At times, too, the lines between truth and fiction are blurred. The Arctic explorer and ethnologist Vilhjalmur Stefannson observed that unethical advertising uses falsehoods to deceive the public while ethical advertising uses truth to deceive the public.
Sometimes, though, the public is not deceived and while ads catch fire and go viral, some go into a tailspin and down the chute. One of the weirder ones is an ad by the budget Australian airline Virgin Blue which wanted potential passengers to take advantage of a special low-cost offer. The ad suggested that they “chuck a sickie”.
This does not mean to throw an ill person off the plane but is Australian for taking a day’s sick leave. The head of the airline, Brett Godfrey, did not share the view that the campaign was harmless fun. He was against any support for workplace absenteeism and immediately ordered the ad to be dropped.
McDonald’s did not get a break when it joined up with General Motors to give away 42 million Humvees with its Happy Meals for kids. First, there were protests about using kids to get their parents to buy gas-guzzling, environmentally unfriendly vehicles. Then the company set up a blog which said that in the eyes of kids, the Hummers were just toys.
However, the negative comments by readers were not allowed so that the critics took their complaints to the entire Internet and McDonald’s eventually had to end the ad.
Then in August 2007 chipmakers Intel did something that was not quite intelligent. It ran a print ad with a man standing surrounded by six sprinters on their marks. The problem was that the man was white and the six sprinters were black and looked like they were bowing to the white man. Intel apologized and stopped the ad.
If you want to ad insult to injury, this is a good case. Jessica Simpson starred in commercials for Pizza Hut’s Cheesy Bites pizza and then revealed to Elle magazine that she’s allergic to wheat, tomatoes and cheese.
Which brings us to a brand new ad which I saw on Sportsmax with the new pink look of the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB). It starts off with an empty fishing boat on a beach with the WICB logo proclaiming “We are the West Indies”.
A few of my colleagues spotted it and called me saying that it was a symbolic ad since “We are the West Indies” was on a boat that was going nowhere and seemed to be stuck in the sand.
“Enough of this ship talk, “I responded.
“Life is a beach and those who run, or in this case, ruin the show might be suns of beaches.”
This sparked as much animation as the scantily clad, red-bikinied ladies in the ad, who wined, raised their legs and showed off their natural endowments. Then the ad ends with a lady in red on whose bikini bottom is emblazoned the WICB logo and the words “We are the West Indies”.
I tried to work out the significance and symbolism of this act. Is it a cheeky way of saying that the West Indies have bottomed out?
Is it that we have reached rock bottom in terms of our standing in world cricket? Is this the same logo that Courtney Walsh kissed when he got his 500 wickets? Is this where our cricket and our region have got to?
I suppose we could say, “Thereby hangs a tail.” However, as one friend said, the “We are the West Indies” on the woman’s posterior demonstrates clearly, if we ever needed proof, the insensitivity of the WICB to the people of the West Indies. Have we reached the bottom of the barrel?
Tony Deyal was last seen saying that putting “We are the West Indies” on a bikini bottom is deliberate and more than a mere slip of the thong.