Sunday, February 08, 2004

A viscious cycle: Companies hire big-name actors to do their commercials. Big-name actors sign contract to do these commercials and, simultaneously, they instantly become washed up. Companies end up with washed-up actors to do their commercials, and consumers end up getting James Earl Jones pretending to be the one who's doing the fancy dance moves as he tells us about the Verizon freedom package. And there ain't no stopping this, now.

This is the mistake the big-name telephone companies all seem to simultaneously be making today, U.S. Cellular with Joan Cusack, MCI with Danny Glover, and T Mobile with Catherine Zeta-Jones (who is far too hot to be stooping this low, am I right?). Two ways I see around this-- ING's blatant acknowledgement of the situation was a wild success in my mind, if you know the commercial I'm talking about: A man and a woman in the park, the woman sitting on a bench that read 'ING Direct'. The man, standing, asks the seated woman, "What's that?" and she proceeds to explain, "ING? It's a stock trading agency...(etc.)" To this, the man replies, "No, I know what ING is, what's that?" and points beyond her to a man at a table arm-wrestling some other guy. The woman looks and replies, "An affordable celebrity." At first, I found this rather confusing, but once my mom explained to me that the man was Lee Majors...I was still confused. But once she explained that he was in "The Six Million Dollar Man"...and then explained that "The Six Million Dollar Man" was a popular TV show from the seventies, then I began to see the genius of it.

Alright, I can see I've underminded my point somewhat, but I don't think my age group is ING's target demographic.

Still, not every company can go around all willy-nilly acknowledging things like that...heaven forbid a dangerous trend like truth in advertising should break out. ("Nike: We can't make you run any faster, but at least we're giving good jobs to thousands of asian 9-year-olds.") So my nominee for the best solution to the washed-up actor dilemma is this: breath new life into the career of a long-forgotten (but still sexy) celebrity. I'm talking, of course, about 10-10-987 and the gift they've given the women of America in bringing John Stamos back on the air. We all know Uncle Jesse is long-dead, but the loving messages he dispensed to us every Tuesday at Eight live on within our hearts: messages that help us to overcome sibling rivalries, petty disputes, and the prejudice that mullets cannot be hot. (Because he made it work, baby.)

Now a more mature John Stamos is walking into our lives, bursting into our homes to ask us if we're satisfied with our long-distance service and filming commercials during our weddings, and I gotta tell you, my telephone isn't the only thing I'm dialing a little more often.

It's this kind of brilliance in advertising that gives me hope-- because, let's face it, that's what commercials are all about. They sell us hope, even when they do not succeed in selling us dish detergent. Hope that our clothes can be just a little whiter. Hope that our bills can be just a little lower. Hope that James Earl Jones can do a jazzy dance spin on his head despite being an old, broken man. Hope, in summation, for a better, cheaper tomorrow.

On with it.