Ads That Don't Add Up


February 16, 1992|By DAVE BARRY

I like beer. On occasion I will even drink a beer, to celebrate a major event such as the fall of communism or the fact that our refrigerator is still working.

So you'd think I'd be receptive to TV beer commercials. Most of these have the same plot: Some guys open some beers, and instantly the commercial is overrun by friendly, semi-naked young women resembling Barbie but taller and less intellectual.

If you just got here from Mars, you wouldn't know, from watching these commercials, that beer is meant for internal consumption. You'd think it was a chemical Hot Babe Attractant, similar to what moths use to locate each other so they can mate. You'd think that the Swedish Bikini Team was constantly prowling the countryside, sniffing the air for a whiff of Old Suburbs of Cleveland Beer, or whatever brand it is they're allegedly attracted to.

What bothers me is, in more than 20 years of opening beers with guys, I have never seen the Swedish Bikini Team show up. Almost always, the teams that show up in beer-drinking situations consist of guys who have been playing league softball and smell like bus seats. Maybe, to avoid misleading consumers, the beer manufacturers should be required to make realistic commercials. For example:

(As the commercial opens, some guys are sitting around in the woods, holding cans of beer.)

First guy: You know guys, it just doesn't get any better than this.

(Nothing happens.)

First guy (raising his voice): I said, you know guys, it just doesn't get any better than this.

(Nothing continues to happen.)

Second guy: There sure are a lot of moths around here.

Third guy: This beer tastes like llama spit.

While we're at it, I want somebody to explain the current magazine ad campaign for Timex watches. You probably remember the old Timex ads, starring John Cameron Swayze, in which professional watch-abuse technicians would strap a Timex watch to a boat propeller, or a jackhammer, or a British soccer fan. The watch would then be subjected to a severe beating, after which the technicians would hand it to John Cameron Swayze, who would hold it up to the camera and say, in a dramatic voice: "It broke." At least that's what I assume happened the first 35 or 40 times. But eventually they'd get a watch that was still working, and John Cameron Swayze would say: "Takes a licking and keeps on ticking!"

That was an advertising campaign that I could understand without the aid of narcotics, in stark contrast to the current Timex campaign, samples of which have been sent in by a number of alert readers. These ads consist of photographs of people wearing Timex watches; superimposed on each photo is a paragraph telling you about some horrible thing that has happened to the person. For example, one ad features a photo of an attractive woman, with the following paragraph, which I swear I am not making up:

"Louisa Murray was eating a sandwich when a bowling ball fell off of a ledge three stories above and hit her in the head. Doctors gave her a one in a million chance, but she fought back and last spring graduated from college. The ball did leave 'a little dent' in her head. Louisa is wearing a striking Timex women's fashion watch. It costs about $50."

Other Timex ads feature a rock climber who "fell 85 feet and landed on her tailbone"; a man who "was attacked by a 1,200-pound Great White Shark" that "tore open his entire upper torso"; and a scuba diver who "was sucked into an offshore water intake pipe for a nuclear power plant." Each victim is modeling a Timex watch. I don't know about you, but the `D message I get from these ads is: "Wear a Timex watch, and something very bad will happen to you." At the drugstore, I find myself edging away from the Timex display case, which I figure must be a powerful disaster magnet. Any moment a Great White Shark could come lunging out from behind the counter, holding a bowling ball.

I don't mean to suggest here that all advertising is misleading or incomprehensible. There are many informative ads for excellent products, especially the products advertised in this newspaper, all of which I personally recommend and endorse and use in my home. So do my frequent houseguests, the Swedish Bikini Team.

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