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Archive for the ‘Advertising’ Category

In The Political Brain•, Westen mentions that the Republicans are remarkably good at making their values appear to be the values of the majority of Americans when it comes to controversial issues, even though the polls consistently show that the Democratic positions are actually more similar. This is due to two things, Westen says. First, Democrats shy away from “controversial” issues, like abortion, guns, etc. because they are too worried about offending anybody, and by refusing to lay out a coherent, principled Democratic narrative on guns or reproductive rights or the environment or whatever, they allow Republicans to define the Democratic position in the public’s mind for them. Then, in the absence of any counter-narrative from the Dems, voters take Republicans at their word. They fail to realize the extremity of the Republican position on these issues (the official position on the Republican Party is that abortion should be outlawed in ALL circumstances, even those that are life-or-death for the mother, and that there should be absolutely no restrictions on gun purchases) while maintaining an exaggerated belief in the extremity of the Democratic position.

A good examples of this dichotomy, I think, is with birth control. Ninety-eight percent of women of reproductive age have used one or more methods of birth control, generally the pill or condoms. Things used by nearly all American women at some point in their lives cannot, by definition, be radical.

Although the RNC platform lists no specifics about birth control, Bush’s funding of abstinence only programs not just for teens but for low-income women and global health centers belies an administration that is obviously not to keen on condoms or birth control pills. Yet Bush has refused to ever specify his exact position on these. Why? Because it is at odds with all but 2 percent of American women.

And yet the Democrats rarely bring this up (when I say Democrats, I mean party leadership and politicians, as opposed to, say, left-wing bloggers, who bring this up all the time). Afraid of appearing soft on sex, Democrats fail to point out the extremity of the Republican position on contraception while simultaneously failing to put forth their own coherent narrative on the issue, which means Republicans can continue to get away with convincing voters that they represent the “middle class,” the “mainstream,” the “family values” position when it comes to family planning.

An excellent article in the Baltimore Sun today examines the way Mitt Romney and other Repub candidates have been speaking out of both sides of their mouths on birth control:

At National Right to Life’s conference this year, Mitt Romney set out to convince anti-abortion leaders he was their candidate. At the podium, he rattled off his qualifications. To a layman’s ears, it sounded pretty standard for abortion politics. He wants to overturn Roe v. Wade. He supports teaching only abstinence to teens.

But for those trained to hear the subtleties, Mr. Romney was acknowledging something more. He implied an opposition to the birth control pill and a willingness to join in their efforts to scale back access to contraception. There are code phrases to listen for – and for those keeping score, Mr. Romney nailed each one.

One code phrase is: “I fought to define life as beginning at conception rather than at the time of implantation.” The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists defines pregnancy as starting at implantation, the first moment a pregnancy can be known. Anti-abortion advocates want pregnancy to start at the unknown moment sperm and egg meet: fertilization. They’d also like you to believe, despite evidence to the contrary, that the birth control pill prevents that fertilized egg from implanting in the womb.

Mr. Romney’s code, deciphered, meant, “I, like you, hope to reclassify the most commonly used forms of contraceptives as abortions.” In fact, he told the crowd, he already had some practice redefining contraception: “I vetoed a so-called emergency contraception bill that gave young girls abortive drugs without prescription or parental consent.”

No matter that emergency contraception has the same mode of action as the birth control pill and every other hormonal method of birth control. To the anti-abortion movement, contraception is the ultimate corruptor. And so this year, the unspoken rule for candidates seeking the support of anti-abortion groups is that they must offer proof they’re anti-contraception too.

Being anti-contraception obviously will not fly with the majority of American voters. But Republican candidates have found a way to make their messages heard and not heard, an anti-contraceptive whistle that only fundies tuned to precisely the right frequency can hear. Yet Democrats being as they are, we are more likely to see Democratic candidates respond to the surface messages here when what they should be doing, every time they are given the opportunity, is pointing out the extremity of the Republican position on contraception.

This is what progressive and feminist bloggers have been saying for years. Most women who take the pill don’t know exactly how it works (many don’t even know that the “periods” had while on the pill aren’t even real), and men have no idea. If you keep letting conservatives associate contraception with abortion in the public’s mind, it is bound to stick on some level. As Westen would say, even if it doesn’t make sense rationally, unless there’s a prevailing counter-narrative to prime the public’s minds, then the neural network associations for both contraception and abortion will become inextricably tied, until activating one network will always activate the other. People are still going to rationally realize that their monthly birth control packs don’t contain 28 little abortions each month, but they may be more likely to be weary of things like the morning after pill, teenagers getting the pill without parental consent, etc.

For now, the candidates vying for the Right to Life endorsement are doing their best to avoid directly answering mainstream voters’ simple questions on the subject, such as, “Do you support couples having access to safe and effective birth control options, including emergency contraception?” Considering that even 80 percent of self-described “pro-life” voters and a majority of Republican voters strongly support contraception, it’s no wonder why.

So what should Democrats do? I don’t know. I’d say make Republicans answer the question.

• I am pretty sure everything I write this week will somehow tie back to this book.

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Free for Chubbies!

Last one, I swear.

Lane Bryant ad, vintage

If you were carrying a few extra pounds, wouldn’t this totally make you want to buy clothes from Lane Bryant? Charming, chubby-size clothes?

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So looking up drug ad pictures for my last post, I came across this (via AdFreak):

Vintage Drug Ad, Mornidine

I can’t read the small type, but the gist seems to be: “Is your wife too depressed to cook you breakfast? Pump her full of uppers, and you’ll have eggs and bacon again in no time!”

[Not that I’d really object if anyone wanted to provide me with a steady supply of uppers. In fact, I’d probably cook you breakfast if you did. Huh. Maybe they were onto something here].

More great vintage drug ads here. My second-favorite is probably an ad for barbituates that pictures a man hovering over his conked-out wife, with the text, “When crisis demands quick-acting hypnotics.” Drug your wife, obviously.

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Vintage Drug Ad
The good old days of drug advertising

Does this seem like a ridiculous waste of time to anyone else?

Federal regulators plan to study whether relaxing, upbeat images featured in TV drug ads distract consumers from warnings about the drugs’ risks.

Of course they do. That’s the point. The good news is, consumers — distracted by that cute little Zoloft bubble or those evergreen hills that represent the vitality of the old couple’s newly viagra’d sex life – can’t just ignore the risk warnings completely and then run out and buy the drug. They have to go to a doctor. The doctor will tell them the risks. The doctor will refuse to prescribe the drug if the risks are too great. Rendering the question of whether or not the TV ads are distractingly upbeat just about moot.

[We should really start keeping a tally on which agency spends more time and money investigating banal/ridiculous things, the FDA or the FCC?]


Too Distracting

One ad for Eli Lilly & Co.’s impotence drug Cialis features a middle-age couple returning from shopping while smooth jazz plays in the background. Toward the ad’s end, a male voice lists common side effects, including headache, back pain and muscle aches.

“If advertisers were really interested in getting information about drug risks out, they’d show pictures of those problems, but you almost never see that,” said Sidney Wolfe of the advocacy group Public Citizen, which frequently criticizes drug-industry marketing.

Sigh. This is kind of like the people who insist that if junk food companies are going to advertise to kids they should also tell kids to eat broccoli or something like that (Eat Fruity Pebbles – but it may rot your teeth and has no nutritional value and make sure to get 7 servings of fruits and vegetables in per day as well!). Do these people completely fail to grasp the point of marketing? You can’t compel companies to advertise in ways that betray their own interests; if so, they’ll simply stop advertising. And advertising is an essential part of our economy. Sure, we have a compelling national interest, I’d say, to make sure ads are factually accurate and not overwhelming misleading, especially when we’re dealing with drugs or food or other things that affect people’s health. But it’s kind of silly to expect advertisers to actively dissuade people from purchasing or using their product.
Vintage Drug Ad
Of course, maybe I'm just writing this because I'm a secret operative for the pharmaceutical companies. And you are too distracted by all the aweseome illustrations I've peppered throughout this post to even notice that risk.

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“OMG! Talk about casual chic! He’s dirty. He’s sexy. He is so money. Only Jeremy Darling could make a formal occasion look like an after-party… and for him, it probably is.

Via Outta Mind Outta Site, the next step in online advertising: inserting ads directly into “the blogstream.” Sure, businesses and politicians have been trying to do this sneakily (with what level of success, who knows?) for years, but this brazen display of advertlogging (hey, if you people are going to persist in making “vlogging” into a word, then pardon me this one) by celebrity-blogger Perez Hilton is somehow more and less offensive at the same time. I mean, it is marked “advertisement,” but it’s also designed to look and sound identical to a typical Hilton post. Catherine writes:

perez hilton, what the hell is this? for a couple of weeks now i’ve noticed these oddly-written, oddly-imaged posts and wondered if you were on crack while writing them. and now in my slow stupor i finally realize they are ads for dirty sexy money, placed as posts, right in the blog stream.

In my limited knowledge of Perez, I’m not sure he’s ever claimed NOT to be a complete shill. But still. Keep this up, and people are going to start calling for some sort of professional-standards-inducing “blogger’s union.” Oh, wait

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Bad news for street vendors and discount retailers alike: fashion designers are currently pushing for copyright protection for their designs. They’re claiming that knock-offs of haute couture fashions (i.e., those “Coach” purses sold by the guy on the corner) are harming their sales, and Sen. Charles Schumer and a gaggle of designers are backing the Design Piracy Prohibition Act, which was introduced in the Senate on Aug. 2.

What the world needs now is certainly not more classes of copyright protection. Without knowing anything of the legal history of the push for copyright for fashion (of which a quick Google search reveals there certainly is) or any sort of legal knowledge of this issue to back up my analysis, I can still come up with a handful of common-sense reasons why this really shouldn’t fly.

People buy designer clothes for two reasons: the quality (a lot of the really high fashion pieces are all hand-sewn, etc.) and the label. Even if that Hermes knock-off looks exactly like an Hermes original at first glance, it’s not going to be as well-made, and it’s not going to have the authentic label (attaching a designer label to a fake is currently prohibited under trademark law). So for people who are really in the market for designer goods, the knock-off isn’t going to cut it. For some it will be a matter of quality. For some it will be a matter of snobbishness. But the kind of folk who are willing to pay $3,000 for a Kate Spade handbag aren’t going to settle for what my friend calls a “Kate Spode.” Since look really isn’t what adds the value here, copy-cats without the label or the quality can hardly detract from the value of the real thing.

The claim that people buying these knock-offs is hurting business because these customers would otherwise buy the real thing is also dubious. This argument is similar to those horribly inflated statistics media companies like to trot out about all the hundreds of DVDs an individual would buy each year if only the films weren’t freely available for download. People buy designer knock-offs because they’re cheap, and most people can’t afford real designer fashions. If the knock-offs weren’t available, this doesn’t mean people would suddenly have more money to spend on the real thing – they’d just buy other brands of clothing instead.

The other question is, where would this fashion copyrighting stop? Designers are claiming it would only apply to a whole item that is visually identical to a designer item, but it seems it wouldn’t be too long before designers were copyrighting elements of particular designs, cuts or buttons or patterns, etc., or going after designs that were merely similar to their own. Because so much of fashion relies on similar elements – things are trendy (what one wants fashion to be, generally) because they follow the trends – this could create serious limitations for all but the most powerful and branded designers. Shirts and dresses just don’t really have the capacity to be as inherently different as novels and screenplays, and they shouldn’t have to be.

David Bollier at the Lear Center notes:

Copyright protection for clothing would shut down the robust competition and creativity that allows this great global industry to develop new ideas and trends. Big-name fashion houses could monopolize a design, and then sic their lawyers on competitors who dared to do what they have always done – produce “substantially similar” shirts, trousers and jackets.

Do we really want judges deciding whether Donna Karan’s latest line of dresses ripped off a previous designer?

We already know the answer: Of course she did! Fashion is based on constant borrowing, imitation and transformation of prior works. While there are obviously many creative geniuses in the fashion world – especially in the timing of their new designs – no one is wholly “original.” Giving exclusive property rights based on some slippery, legalistic notion of “originality” would undercut the energetic creativity and imitation that is the engine of the fashion business.

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… because I’ve already written about 27 billion posts today but I like these posts too much not to say something …

OldManCoyote compares radical anti-abortion activists to Islamic terrorists

And before all you radical anti-choicers get your Jack Bauer underoos in a bunch and accuse me of comparing you to terrorists, let me clarify:  I am absolutely comparing you to Al Qaeda.  If the neo-fascist anti-democratic one-God-fits-all theocratic shoe fits…

Jezebel deconstructs the photo-shopping of Faith Hill.

And Jessica Valenti asks whether the “Obama Girl vs. Giuliani Girl” pillow fight video is funny, instulting, or just dumb?

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