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Kids – and ads – say the darndest things

“Yo, Watson. What up?”

I imagine that’s what Alexander Graham Bell would have shouted into the mouthpiece of his new personal interaction tool had he invented the cellphone, a device that, along with ubiquitous access to the World Wide Web, ushered in a brave new world of instant and gravely extemporaneous communications.

As PITs have ingratiated their way into our everyday lives (like an insidious worm of mass destruction), we have regressed back to a minimal, much less effective or easily understood form of speaking, like the simplistic fantasy language of children.

So why shouldn’t AT&T Wireless use kids to help sell its cellphone services? It’s a natural, if you’re willing to discount the disturbing and forced disingenuous cuteness and lack of a unique selling proposition. But then, USP is a quaint concept only dinosaurs (such as I) still cling to as the correct way to sell.

Oh, you can make an argument for creating a “brand,” one of my favorite sleight-of-hand tricks of the modern manifestation of Madison Avenue magic, but the purpose of branding is to make a product memorable, top-of-the-mind awareness and all that.

Even if your only purpose is to make people aware of a product’s name, you still must create uniqueness of some sort to penetrate the overburdened, overstimulated, over-opaque mind of today’s average consumer.

As a result, we’re bombarded with bright, flashing lights, exploding graphics and shrill copy delivered a la middle-school boys’ locker room lexicon and point of view, which would be insulting if we weren’t totally focused on the comic treat payoff delivered in most advertising to capture our limited attention spans – Pavlov’s dog, drooling impatiently. But, like waiting for Godot, no real payoff, no USP.

While the majority of people don’t know the difference between 4G, 3G or Kenny G, cellphone companies insist on avoiding the real issues we many, we unhappy many, suffer daily at their hands: lousy service, incomprehensible and incorrect bills and phones that refuse to work after you’ve put one in the pocket of your bathing suit before enjoying a relaxing glass of wine in the hot tub.

Who cares about one company being a nanosecond faster than another? Get me a phone I can take scuba diving. Or that bounces off my very hard and unforgiving concrete garage floor when I’m getting into my car in the morning.

Let’s deal with real issues here, folks!

Issues that children, no matter how dear and precocious, cannot possibly comprehend. Actually, the commercials make me sick, like I’m watching child abuse in action. And the adult twit in the spots leaves me fairly certain I don’t want to have to deal with him for any reason.


The guy feeds presumably innocent kids questions designed (scripted?) to solicit opinions of the most base and inappropriate values, like doing two things at once is really cool even though multitasking is a ridiculous concept that presumes you can give 100 percent of your attention to different tasks at the same time.

And two are always better than one, which in this case is demonstrably untrue because we could have gone on living quite nicely with only one of these annoying ads.

But no, more and more ads are being spawned every day (like “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”), and we’re being subjected to exponentially growing syrupy vignettes of life in-the-fast-is-better-than-slow lane (and too bad for all the dumpy, dawdling kids out there playing video games and chowing down on Cocoa Puffs, who are being subliminally taught that they’re worthless in the high-speed world of all-encompassing-all-the-time validation, or AEATTV as we call it at the outpatient clinic).

I get it. They’re trying to demonstrate that their technology is better and more relevant than the other guys’.

But who cares?

And why use kids to fight industry battles that are simply too arcane for the masses. Most of us are not interested in the latest gizmo that we’ll never learn to use anyway. All we want to know is does the thing work when we want it to work and do we really need a 96-page bill.

Just saying.

You may argue that most advertising today is annoying, and I would agree. Having spent the better part of my career selling advertising, it upsets me to see what passes for acceptable execution of marginal concepts, not to mention that the amount of advertising we face daily has become prodigious and daunting. I mean, you can’t go anywhere or do anything without being blasted by multiple mendacious messages, because, as we learned from AT&T, more is better.

It’s like, last week I went to an advertising event and a minor league baseball game broke out. Have you seen major league arenas and stadiums lately? Advertisements are everywhere, but minor league teams have taken it to an even higher level.

In the park I visited, there were so many ads that you couldn’t possibly see them all in just one visit; you’d need to go several times to take them all in.

I tried to figure out how many billboards were in the outfield, but lost count and ended up with a headache. In the stadium concourse, there were ads on poles, walls, floors, pennants. Every conceivable surface that could accommodate a decal was covered, including the cup holders on the chair backs.

Even the bathrooms were inundated with ads. Like in the urinals. No, not over the urinals, in the urinals.

I couldn’t even exit the place without being accosted by promotional messages. As I left, I passed signs for a law firm that read, “Thanks for coming. Have a safe trip home.”

I don’t think that’s very smart advertising for a personal injury alchemy shop. No, I’d say something like:

“Drive safely, but in case you forget, please give us a call. Because Accidents Do Get Upsetting, You Suffer (BADGUYS).”

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