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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Something That's Been Bothering Me

I'll take a cue from a paragraph that Robert Gorelli of Future Now slips into his post critiquing GoDaddy: the part where he basically reminds us: "come on, guys -- is the massively sexist cheesecake model the best way to sell a tech product in 2007"? T&A to sell product. To guys. Gorelli more or less asks: "don't a lot of women make these purchasing decisions, too?"

Yes, as a pretty liberal, joke-loving guy, I'm back on the Bob Garfield train: I am actually quite a conservative when it comes to my reaction to these interruptions that assault me from the ad world with notions that are actually offensive, not funny.

Some of the worst stuff I run across involves unfunny ethnic stereotyping. I mean, I don't run across it, it yells at me while I'm on an elliptical trainer or trying to endure a reality show not of my choosing.

Funny ethnic stereotyping? Sure, it can be done. A matter of perspective, but the rum ad that has an artificially officious lineup where you need to take a number and wait in a straight line just to buy fruit from a stand in the Caribbean... now that's funny. Apparently, I don't draw the line at melon jokes.

But I do draw the line somewhere.

Not funny:

I really didn't much like the ads for the recent Metro Toronto Home show that couldn't let go of the idea that the words Feng Shui are really funny. First it was on the website: Feng Shui isn't a Chinese vegetable. Then on the radio: Feng Shui isn't dim sum ya know (or something like that). This is just so far from amusing, I don't know where to start. Why work so darn hard, and wind up actually insulting people (their intelligence, at least)? Is the Home Show so trivial that we need to distract from its benefits? Did Feng Shui have anything to do with it, for 90% of the attendees?

In the unforgiving world of measurable search ad copywriting, I have never come close to seeing messaging like this succeed. It simply confuses people, and doesn't work.

Now, YellowPages.ca - "the find engine" - is running radio spots that truly fail to tickle the funny bone. Get this, imagine you type "hot chocolate" into an "ordinary" search engine, and you wind up getting, ha ha, an adult escort website (complete with the sexy voice of said male escort). That, the ad says, is the stuff you DON'T want. You really wanted Josie's Coffee House, or whatever. Whatever.

Not only is the sly stereotyping out of place, it makes you wonder what you might actually get when you typed the query "hot chocolate" into one of those "other" search engines. How bout Google? Looks like a range of results, including some gourmet hot chocolate ads in the margin. And a nice Onebox result pointing to the music of Hot Chocolate, of "You Sexy Thing" fame. If truth is the best sales tool, I think Yellow Pages Group just proved that Google is a pretty good search engine. Using local.google.ca in the "Find Businesses" category, I got a mapped view of the results, including the Low Carb Grocery and Pusateri's. On YellowPages.ca I got three results, pretty much bulk providers of hot chocolate - including Mother Parker's coffee. YPG, your search engine is actually giving me worse results!

They have another one on the radio. Something about typing in "iron curtain" and getting some crazy Russian guy instead of the drapery shop you were trying to find. (I can't be bothered to remember what the actual commercial said, but we are assured that this Russian dude is what we DON'T want. Is this 1970?)

I know, they're not supposed to be real examples - they're supposed to be amusing. Mostly, they're grating.

Signed,

An uptight liberal with (some sort of) sense of humor

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