A Look On The Lighter Side: When TV advertising needs to get real

Judy Epstein

Generally, when we’re watching TV together, my husband and I get along. We long ago negotiated what he must watch without me — “Naked and Afraid” — and what I must watch without him — “Married at First Sight,” essentially the same show, but with fewer snakes and more clothing.

Which left us in relative harmony…

Until the other night, when I was shocked by an outburst of criticism emanating from my life’s partner.

“That’s insulting! It’s stupid! Who would even watch such a thing?” he yelled, presumably at the television, though it felt aimed a little bit at me.

What was the abomination?

A young man and woman were kissing by firelight on a beach when suddenly a bell buoy in the foreground fell over, making the sound of a bell. The young woman got up and walked, zombie-like, out of the surf and straight to … Taco Bell.

My husband was furious. “Look at the shape of that thing!” he said, meaning the buoy. “The whole bottom part is missing. It’s like using just the top of an iceberg — there’s always more below water or why would the top stay on top?”

“OK, but they just wanted to make the noise…”

“And that’s another thing! It would never ring like a bell, falling over onto sand. It would just thud.”

“Is that all?”

“Certainly not. This thing, whatever it is, is red, but it’s painted with the number 5. But odd-numbered buoys are always green. Everyone knows that. How dumb do they think we are?”

He ranted on, completely missing the most important point, namely what bothered me — where was the young man? It’s like she left him for dead when she went for the tacos. Why didn’t he go with her? Unless he really is dead and she’s truly a zombie? In which case, what’s in those sandwiches?

To be fair, there are some ads we both like. Oddly, most of them are for insurance companies.

For example, we both enjoyed the Allstate commercials where actor Dean Winters played the personification of “Mayhem” as a driver’s blind spot or a phone buzzing under the car seat or — my favorite — as a cat riding a Roomba, stopping up sinks and generally wishing its owners dead. “Avoid Mayhem like me,” was always the tagline.

I tolerate the Geico gecko until one day I can’t. The Gecko is walking through a forest, blathering on about how you can’t plan when a chestnut might fall onto you. Then suddenly one almost does. Except…

“That’s not a chestnut! It’s not even an acorn! It’s a hazelnut,” I rant. “Do they think I won’t know the difference? They sell chestnuts on every corner this time of year.” Then the Gecko talks to the hazelnut, saying, “Well, got things to do, Mr. Chestnut.” How stupid do they think I am?

Our lowest moment came with another ad for Allstate. A woman is driving along in a convertible when suddenly we hear the cheery brass music of the late Hugh Masekela’s hit, “Grazing In the Grass.” When we look back at the car, musicians are in the back seat playing flute, cornet and electric guitar.

“That’s so stupid! It’s ridiculous! How dumb do they think we are?” my beloved complains.

“What’s wrong with it?” I ask. I have unwittingly set off an explosion.

“What’s wrong? What’s wrong, you ask? Have you noticed that nobody is blowing into their instruments?”

“Now that you mention it, I see that. But maybe it’s for a COVID-safe workplace,” I suggest meekly.

He’s having none of it. “They could at least move their fingers!” he roars. “There’s no danger in that. But no, they just sway back and forth with their hands frozen. How can anyone believe that?”

“I don’t think anyone looks for ads to be believable,” I say.

“And where’s the cowbell? There’s no cowbell! There’s no COVID problem with a cowbell!”

I didn’t dare to mention that the electric guitar was not plugged in.

Then another ad comes on featuring an instrument that I happen to know something about. There’s a man at a piano keyboard playing up the scale until his hands leave the keyboard entirely, but the notes still continue as if played by ghostly fingers.

“That’s so stupid!” I say. “Don’t they think I’ll notice that?”

My husband gives me a wicked smile and says, “Maybe it’s for COVID-safety.”

It’s going to be a long night.

TAGGED: Judy Epsteiin

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Judy Epstein

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