One of the great things about the recent election is that we won’t have to see another political commercial for two or three months, when, after a short break, the campaign for 2012 election will begin. Some reports say the two major campaigns spent $750 million this year, most of it on television advertising. That doesn’t count money spent in local races.
Now, how many ordinary, non-political TV commercials have you seen in your life? Thousands? Hundreds of thousands? Yet you rarely see a car commercial that makes you angry or an ad for a dishwashing liquid that makes you want to change the channel. Most of us will even suffer through adult diaper commercials without feeling strongly about them. Cat people will watch dog food commercials and vice versa without complaining.
So why can’t they can’t make a campaign commercial that doesn’t have half the country screaming at the television?
Why don’t we scream at airline commercials? Their ads are all pretty much the same, you see a plane flying, it lands in some beautiful Shangri-La, a place you would love to visit if you had the money and when the plane lands a bunch of happy, smiling passengers get off the plane looking as if they had just stepped out of a relaxation booth. You watch it, but you don’t stand up and yell at the television, “That’s a lie! Those people just spent ten hours on the tarmac and the toilets overflowed and not one of them is going to get their luggage! How can they get away with putting that kind of stuff on television. There oughta be a law, I want equal time! I will never fly that airline again!”
Since the biggest difference between most airlines is the color of the flight attendant’s uniform, you have to wonder why they advertise at all. I buy the cheapest seat I can get. Who cares what airline it is?
How many fast-food commercials have you seen where the restaurant is spotless, the staff is clean, friendly and smart enough to make change. In the background all the customers are attractive and skinnier than supermodels? And the reality is ...? And yet few of us yell “Lies! Fraud! Distortion! Untruth! How do they get away with that?” at the television when we see a fast-food commercial.
I’ve never been in a country band, but I’m pretty sure if the guitar player started singing “Viva Viagra” at a rehearsal, the other guys wouldn’t join in, they would club him to death with their instruments knowing full well that no jury would convict them. Yet we watch the commercial unemotionally, coolly detached as if we could care less.
But political commercials aren’t just annoying – they are offensive ... to their supporters! Every time the guy I liked ran an ad I would think, “Is that the best he can do? Nobody’s going to fall for that crap. Why don’t you say this? Why don’t you say that? Doesn’t anyone in your campaign watch television? Have they ever seen a commercial before?” I figure if your commercial offends your supporters, you’re doing it wrong.
Why don’t politicians do what the airlines do? You show the candidate’s plane flying through the air, it lands in a beautiful place – the future – where Arabs and Israelis walk down the street holding hands; where everyone has a high-paying job; where no one pays any taxes; where there are no potholes and cars run on used coffee grounds; where all teens are so well-adjusted and happy; where stocks never go down, where all children behave; where school teachers get paid like basketball players and basketball players get paid like teachers; where all marriages last forever; where lawyers don’t file frivolous law suits; where CEOs give their employees a raise before they give one to themselves.
Wouldn’t you buy some of that?
Jim Mullen is the author of “It Takes a Village Idiot: Complicating the Simple Life” and “Baby’s First Tattoo.” You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright 2008, Newspaper Enterprise Assn.