Madison Avenue doesn’t think much of us, do they?

Madison Avenue doesn’t think much of us, do they?

mad-men-logoWhy does Madison Avenue hate us? Well, maybe not hate us but think so poorly of us? As I watch various expensive television commercials, I really wonder how the current crop of Don Drapers views the American public.

For example, do they see us as fetishists who love our material belongings more than, say, our children, our infant children?

Nationwide Insurance obviously has that view, with their ultra-creepy spot featuring a gigantic baby to represent a car that its owner dotes on. Ick factor: off the charts.

Or maybe they think of us as mesmerized sports fans who thrill to the prolonged call of an obnoxious announcer? Progressive Insurance has that market niche pegged with its “buuuuuunnnnnndddle” call in a spot that has anyone with ears and a brain reaching for the mute button.

Again with the insurance, Allstate must think we thrill to the sound of a stentorian-voiced declaimer, so much so that they’ve put the richly hued voice of actor Dennis Haysbert in other people’s mouths, even those of children. This might not be as icky as a giant baby, but it’s close.

What is it about insurance that brings out the worst of advertising’s creativity? Liberty Mutual’s “responsibility” ads now feature very clueless folks cutting tree limbs that fall on neighbors’ cars, opening car doors in the midst of traffic and more thoughtless actions. Note to execs: that’s “irresponsibility” you’re promoting there. Get a dictionary.

And, then, of course, there’s that annoying gecko that has become so omnipresent (along with Progressive’s not-cute-anymore Flo) that the subliminal message the companies are actually sending is: We can’t retain our current customer base, so we must aggressively and constantly search for more.

Speaking of subliminal messages, the prize here goes to Progresso Soup, but not for the quality of their communications. No, they get a star for triggering unhealthy heartbeats while advertising heart-healthy soup. Any ad featuring someone asking to pull the rip cord on a parachute gets the ticker thumping, doncha think?

In the marginal category are the Sonic ads that feature two rather dorky middle-aged guys eating Sonic’s food. Sure, the spots always make me hungry for a burger and fries, but not enough to tootle over to a Sonic. Maybe because I don’t think of myself as a dork? Is that really how you view your customer base, Sonic execs?

Or what about the Tums commercials that have food—including in one spot, a giant chicken or turkey—“fighting back?” Do today’s mad men really believe that tickles America’s funny bone? That’s not slapstick, fellas. It’s just…slap.

Okay, enough whining. Here are some ads I do like: the E-trade baby spots and the Lexus commercial with the mysterious couple in white. Both commercials manage to imprint the name of their brand in a positive way. The Lexus one, in particular, packs a lot into its few seconds: mystery, beauty, luxury. I always wonder if the couple in the ad is at the beginning of their story or the end–hypnotic villain enticing heroine away or clever hero rescuing her from danger?

Either way, kudos to the Mad Men who designed it. As to the rest…what were they thinking?

Libby Sternberg herself is a storyteller. Follow her on Twitter at @LibbysBooks


Libby Sternberg

Libby Sternberg

Libby Sternberg is an Edgar-nominated novelist whose works include humorous women’s fiction, young adult fiction, and historical fiction. Her political writings have appeared at Hot Air, the Weekly Standard, Insight, the Wall Street Journal, and Christian Science Monitor.

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