Commercially speaking– it’s for the people!

Commercials have always fascinated me.

I grew up in the print age, when TV was still in toddler steps and everything was bigger and better if you had the “next big thing”.  Back in the olden days when cigarettes and alcohol ads were still shown in magazines and on TV.  When the Marlboro Man single-handedly herded 5,000 head into town and lit up to celebrate.

I still don’t know what he did if he ran out of smokes on the range.

When “Mad Men” went off the air, I was happy to watch seasons of episodes on the internet. OH!  It was delightful–the luxurious sets, the crazy campaigns, the hours spent thinking  about the “next big thing” ads on the

office sofa after the 3 martini lunch.  Super chauvinist but reflective of the times, the ads changed as the times did.



Now, I will never be able to think of the “I’d Like to Buy the World a Coke” song without seeing Don Draper, complete in zen position and Nehru jacket,


sitting peacefully on that hill. I firmly believe that Old Fashioned’s have made a comeback surge because of the this show, but that’s another story.

As someone who was paid for writing ads, I probably pay more attention to details of the commercials than the average person.

At least the first time around…  I look for things big and small and pay attention to what’s before and after a spot.  That piece used to be called “traffic” and at the radio station I worked at it was a big deal if there were two commercials in a row for different car dealers.  I see that once in a while now and wonder if they have to give a credit or if it’s just the crazy feed from national vs. local cable.

Medical commercials seem to have the largest budgets, with sometimes intricate backgrounds, helicopters and very important doctors curing all the ills with a fine remedy, but you just have to look out for the side effects….

For example–the bladder control tablet with the female conductor for the band. There’s at least 30 people in the band, a few more in the doctor’s office.  They have to play parts of the 1812 Overture, they have to walk in a straight line and turn in sequence and the flag girls don’t do anything.  All this while the bladder skips around and is annoying.

I would have to kick my bladder if it behaved like that.

I’m sure this is a real thing and it would be most hateful, but here’s a commercial with at least 36 people involved, plus a couple of sets and football field.

Considering this one drug, that gives side effects of difficulty breathing, has created a $3 Billion [yes, Virginia, that’s with a “B”] market for bladder control. I think my plan of serving masses of water to masses of people must be doing something wrong.

Then there’s the GEICO commercial of the Spy with the helicopter and his mom calls during his “double naught” spy time.

You have to be of a certain age to even catch the humor there……..

Couple of bad guys, mom, spy, helicopter, high range film crew–probably with another helicopter.  You see my point, this all starts to add up and you, dear reader, are the one paying for it if you use these products.

We don’t even have to be around to express our feelings if we have the right sort of cell phone.  A recent one is the magical phone that you can draw all sort of artwork on and build the relationship to the “I love you” stage without having to be in the same room/city/country.  For you starry-eyed dreamers, I will burst your bubble and point out that they knew each other before the first shown text was sent, otherwise how else could she have text him? Technology is great but I still am insistent for human connection for declaring undying love.

The online college commercials make me crazy. You know the ones–log in on your cell phone and they will connect you with a college for free so life is then fabulous.  Pay attention the next time that catchy jiggle comes on. As the girl [it’s always a female] dances around her apartment singing about her bills and low paying job, check the apartment.  She has a big screen, a nice furniture set up and a fancy phone that she can run apps on to connect “free” to the magic college that will get her into the next tax bracket.

Speaking of college commercials, there’s some great ones coming out of Hancock County, Indiana and their NASA Youth Council. There spots are accurate and I appreciate the message, although I don’t always love the delivery.  I realize there is only so much that can be done in the length of time, but if my child ran in and said “I got a college scholarship”, my next action would not be to say “go celebrate with your friends”.

I love car commercials.  When Bob Rohrman was only in the Chicago area with his dealerships and WGN was reached best with a good antenna, he did the hokiest late night commercials.  They were great–they kind of thing you see in Will Ferrell movies. Mr. Rohrman is still doing commercials but without the crowns and panache he once did.

Which leads to the current king of car commercials, Fred Grote of Grote Automotive.

Image result for fred groteI hear some of you groaning out there. Yes, some people find them super annoying [I find them amusing], but those a have done what an any ad writer hopes for: it has made a memorable connection. Whether you like them or hate them–you remember them and talk about him and remember what his product is.


After all, he is a dealer for the people…….




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