Is it Them or Me?

Some commercials are crass and annoying. Some are clever and entertaining,  Some are dull and boring.  In recent years, I’ve seen a number of commercials that seem designed to be insulting.  Whenever I see them, I get the impression that the designers are ignorant and/or stupid … or they believe I am.  Is it Them or Me?  Is it Them or Us?  Here are some examples of insulting commercials and what I think They are trying to say about You and Me?

It’s not just for heart attacks anymore.

One of the more insulting commercials is from a well-known drug company selling their aspirin. The scene is inside an airplane. A passenger asks the flight attendant if she has anything for pain. She offers him the company’s aspirin. He says something like, “Oh no … I’m not having a heart attack. It’s my back.” The flight attendant goes on to explain that the aspirin is good for back pain too. What ignoramus believes that the only (or even primary) use for aspirin is heart attacks. If he said, “Oh no … I don’t have a headache. It’s my back,” it would make sense. Isn’t aspirin one of the 2 or 3 default headache remedies? I can understand that someone might not understand that aspirin is a general pain reliever. (Some may wonder, “How does the aspirin know where to go?”)  As it stands, the designers of this commercial are really ignorant … or they think we are.


The cable company to which I subscribe has a feature that allows you, as their commercial states as it begins, “to stream programs on-line or download them for later”.  So far; so good, but the commercial soon takes a questionable turn. A salesperson mentions that downloading the program to your phone or tablet lets you view them anytime and anywhere.  A customer says, “I could watch on the train.”  The salesperson adds, “… or on a plane.”  With surprise, another customer asks, “This works on a plane?” Why wouldn’t it work on a plane?  The whole point of the commercial is that the feature lets you stream or download.  If it’s trying to teach the difference between streaming and downloading, the instruction is too subtle.  If it’s trying to sell the feature, it’s aimed at the more techno-savvy customer who already knows that you don’t need to be on-line to play something that’s already downloaded onto your device.

4 Years

One insurance company has some commercials advertising a policy that pays the full replacement value of your car, if you total it.  One of these shows a 20-something young lady who seems to be speaking to another young person in her age group.  Her speech goes something like this: You had your car 4 years.  You named him Brad.  You loved Brad.  The two of you had been through everything together … 3 jobs; 2 boyfriends … and then you totaled him. I can understand 2 boyfriends in 4 years.  I know how fickle people can be … especially at the apparent age of the speaker.  Three jobs in 4 years is a bit more shocking.  Averaging a new job every 16 months speaks rather poorly of the employee or the jobs or both.  Give the jobs as much of a chance as you gave the boyfriends, at least.

I’ve been told that job-hopping to gain experience is or is approaching the norm. Although I’m sorry to hear that, I accept it. In 54 years, I’ve had 10 jobs in 8 businesses. I moved through the last 3 businesses by surviving one corporate buy-out and one corporate merger. During that time, I moved through 3 jobs as well … but, the beginnings and endings of the jobs did not align with the corporate changes. I’m beginning to suspect that I’ve become a bit of an anachronism.

Up, Up, and Away

There’s an ad for a local car dealer that states that your old car could be worth “up to $3,000 or more” when used as a down payment on the purchase of a new car.  What does that mean?  Either $3,000 is the limit (up to) or it isn’t (or more).  It can’t be both.  Why did someone believe that the “up to” is needed.  “Your old car could be worth $3,000 or more” seems sufficient.  The “could be” is conditional.  It shows that $3,000 isn’t guaranteed.  The “or more” is good bait.

Did that Really Fix It?

There was a commercial for a place that claims to cure addiction that had the lines:

This isn’t a 12-Step program. This works. I should know.

When I first heard this, my reaction was, “Does he mean to imply that 12-step programs don’t work?”

Since then, one of two things happened

  • A lot of people wrote to them complaining about the slur.
  • Someone at the advertising agency came out of their collective coma.

In either case, they dropped the “This works” part. Now, the lines in question are:

This isn’t a 12-Step program. I should know.

Does that fix it or just make the speaker sound ignorant or arrogant? I would hope he knows what kind of program it is. He’s their spokesperson. Maybe he thinks we’re too stupid to understand something that obvious. Maybe they should have simply told us the attributes of their program and never mentioned someone else’s approach.

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