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My Love/Hate Relationship With Commercials

Sex sells. Don’t try and tell me that those commercials with washboard-abs guys and beautiful bikini babes have never enticed you even a little bit—we’re wired to appreciate those people. That’s nothing to be ashamed of. What irks me is that sex often enough has nothing to do with what’s being sold.

“Now wait just a cotton-pickin’ minute, Chickadoodle!” you might be saying. “You admit to loving those Isaiah Mustafa Old Spice commercials, and yet, you say that you dislike ‘sex sells’ commercials! You’re a hypocrite!”

Well, let’s think about that, for a minute. First, yes, Isaiah Mustafa is sexy. But part of the point of Old Spice is to be good-smelling, and thus, in one way or another, attractive. At least the guy’s advertising what he’s selling! Second, and probably a bit more importantly, those entire commercials are Mustafa making an absolutely hilarious parody of how sex is meant to sell! Nobody actually expects Old Spice to turn you into Isaiah Mustafa, or whoever you think is the most irresistible guy on the face of this planet! And while a lot of commercials try to play on that, they so often miss the point exactly by throwing someone (often enough the opposite sex, considering how very little LGBTQ people are represented at all, let alone accurately, in pop culture, but that’s another post entirely) at this incredibly attractive person that it veers straight out of lampooning and back into “Oh God, if only…”

I don’t like commercials that feature men running around in underwear for no other reason than to scream “SEXY!!!!!” I don’t like commercials with scantily clad women waving flags or gesturing at this TV for no other reason than that putting a pretty woman next to something somehow raises the attraction factor of the object itself. It boggles the mind: how does a sexy human increase the appeal of the TV? Are we supposed to want to have relations with the TV? Are we supposed to anthropomorphize the TV? The TV does not come with a sexy woman to gesture at it, so what’s the point? Someone help me out, here!

(This, by the way, is one of the reasons I love the Toyota Rav4 genie commercial. You’re conditioned to think she’ll be an incredibly sexy slip of a thing, but nope—she’s an average woman in a purple suit with a Chihuahua and sometimes, she gets things wrong.)

But sex is only part of my gripe. I just don’t like commercials that have nothing even peripherally to do with what they’re trying to sell. The Geico commercials about “X was expensive, so Y” do push it, even though I like them, but the vast majority of commercials I like are clever in how they sell their products without veering off into la-la land. Allstate mayhem commercials, for example, are things that do happen; just presented humorously. I just want to know why I should buy something, and “our commercials are funny” doesn’t count; it only proves that you have creative people on your advertising team. Back it up with experiments! Back it up with facts! Yes, those are a little more difficult to make entertaining, but I just don’t buy things that I can’t see some sort of lasting value in.

I know I’m not the only one who buys like this, but there must be a market for these commercials, and they must be successful—how would they still work, otherwise? I just don’t want a desperate bid for my attention. I want products that work. Maybe you should invest that ad money in working products, instead.


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