US TV Commercials are very strange!

Insomnia strikes again.  In Chicago, I found myself watching TV at some odd times, and of course it’s over-populated with commercials.  But I was struck by how different the ads are from UK TV commercials.

We expect to see ads for detergents, and shampoo, and frozen foods.  In the US, most of the ads seem to be direct response/mail-order, and mostly for gadgets and gizmos – over and over again.  And they all have a similar format.  After a brief presentation of the benefits of the device, you get an increasingly hysterical voice-over saying “This offer is not available in stores, so hurry!  Order today!  And if you order now, we’ll double the offer and send you two gizmos!  Plus a free gift of a different gizmo!  Order in the next ten minutes and get free shipping too!  That’s a $90 value for only $9.99!”. And so on.

I was so taken with this phenomenon that I made a note of several of the items (they came up repeatedly ad nauseam).  There was the Sonic Pet Trainer.  Teach your dog/cat to do/not to do various things with ultrasonic bleeping.  Heard by the dog, inaudible to the owner.  Harmless to Fido – no dogs were hurt in the making of this commercial.  Also good for intimidating frolicsome cattle encountered on country walks.

Then a number of anti-snoring devices, most of which seemed to be modelled on a boxer’s gum-shield (better than a gum-shoe’s boxers, I suppose).  Is your marriage threatened by intolerable nocturnal noises?  Restore sweetness and light, and undisturbed dreams, with a plastic thingy.  The whole commercial accompanied by tastefully coloured cut-away diagrams of a wind-pipe.  Then there were vacuum storage bags.  These are zippered plastic bags in which you place garments or linen which you wish to store in your cupboard (or in American, “closet”), or pack in a suitcase for your holiday (“vacation”).  Then you attach your vacuum cleaner to a specially designed nozzle (I’m not making this up – honest) and suck out the air, reducing a dozen sweaters to the size of a paper-back book.  A tough, waterproof solution to your storage problems (cut to film of a car wheel going over a storage bag in a puddle).  I can’t wait.

Then there was Craft’n’Spin, a sort of turn-table jobby on which you could place – well, almost anything really – and turn it round to approach from any side.  You could put “your project” – a painted toy dinosaur, or a sample of découpage – even a cake to be iced – and rotate it conveniently.  Brilliant.  Followed by the egg cracker.  Remember how horrid it is to find bits of eggshell in your omelette, or even in your iced cake from your Craft’n’Spin?  (No I don’t, actually.  I can’t recall ever finding egg-shell in my food.  But never mind).  With the new egg-cracker gizmo you can guarantee a clean break every time.  Order today and you get a second gizmo that you can poke into your egg before you crack it and mix the yolk with the white inside the shell!  How did we ever get by without it?

Maybe the most conventional offering was patio awnings (save $200).  And the weirdest was the Shake-Weight (again, I’m not making this up.  Check it out at www.shakeweight.com).  It’s a kind of spring-loaded dumbbell, which like all diet and body-building gizmos, delivers a svelte new you in just a few minutes, with really very little effort.  With Shake-Weight, you just (you guessed it already!) shake the dumbbell rapidly up-and-down, and the springs and the inertia do the rest.  Unfortunately, the manic shaking of the dumbbell is enough to remind you of ….. well I can’t really tell you what it will remind you of, because this is a respectable blog designed for family reading around the fireside.  But not in very good taste.

I’m back in Leicestershire now, but I won’t really feel I’ve come home until I see a few L’Oreal commercials this evening.

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