March 29, 2004

Got Advertising Rants?

I think we can all agree that it is no longer an effective marketing strategy to mimic the successful “Got Milk?” ads. Please -- can we agree to stop copying this tagline? The once proud and mighty “Got Milk?” slogan has lost its steam. It served its purpose, now it’s time to let it take its natural course. Much like ‘the wave’ at sporting events or Dan Aykroyd, it’s time to put it to sleep and out of misery.

Aside from the grammatical error in the “Got Milk?” slogan, it is a brilliant ad campaign (and, let’s face it, “Do You Have Milk?” sounds stupid and doesn’t fit easily on a black t-shirt). Each advertisement was expertly executed and I imagine it’s one of the most recognized marketing runs of all time. But I have a question…did anyone really buy more milk due to this multi-million dollar ad buy? Isn’t milk one of those things you either use or don’t use?

If they advertised heavily for the use of salt or butter (not a particular brand, but the substance unto itself) would you use more of it? Maybe it’s because I drink soy milk (and feel that “Got Phlegm?” is a more appropriate tagline despite what the focus group say) that this “drink milk…any milk at all” strategy doesn’t make sense to me. Everyone knows milk is supposed to be good for you (notwithstanding several studies raising points to the contrary), so how does this ad make you desire more milk in your diet? Does anyone say, “This ad really spoke to me. I think I’ll start pouring milk on my cereal in the mornings instead of beer or grenadine.” Or “Dunking these freshly baked chocolate chip cookies into mugs filled with sand isn’t hitting the spot…hey, do we ‘got milk?’”

Perhaps the worst result from these successful dairy spots was the copycat ads. Usually in the form of a local business or small company, the “Got _____?” text appeared to be everywhere. “Got Life Insurance?”, “Got Bagels?”, “Got Estate Planning?” I even saw printed on the window of a car “Got Good Grades?” as a promotion for a tutoring service. No, I don’t “got” good grades -- my tutor can’t write a sentence correctly.

I can’t count how many times I saw this clever copywriting piggyback being done, however, I knew it was truly over when I saw a sign that read “Got Smoked Fish?”

Yep. The official end. Like when Bob Saget began to wear a goatee, thus signaling it was no longer cool (and perhaps one of the signs of the apocalypse), the “Got Smoked Fish?” slogan is the checkered flag, the rolling credits and the final bow to this once successful tagline.

Rest in peace little fella’. May your message of strong bones and sturdy teeth help you where you go next. Say hello to the surly “Where’s the Beef?” lady and the poor “I’ve Fallen and I Can’t Get Up.” woman. I hope you ‘got life insurance’ before it was too late. Godspeed.

Posted by Kaya at 01:21 AM | Comments (8)

March 23, 2004

Mormon Temple of Doom

San Diego is home to many wonderful icons. The “World-Famous San Diego Zoo” (although do you really need to put the words “world famous” into the title if it is?), Sea World,, the Hotel Del Coronado and beautiful beaches. Oh, and a massive Mormon Temple. And, try as I might, it’s hard to ignore the architectural curiosity that is the Mormon Temple.

Cruising north along Highway 5, just after La Jolla and before you hit the exit to a great fish taco place, there she proudly stands. It’s a squintingly bright white structure with ornate, sharp spires. It looks a bit like where the Wizard of Oz lived. Or a spaceship. Or as if it should be underwater as the kingdom for King Triton. It’s like Las Vegas put one of their casinos, such as The Excalibur or Caesar’s Palace, right next to the freeway. Only the Church of Latter Day Saints isn’t exactly known for their loose slots.

There aren’t many Mormon Temples in the United States and they are extremely sacred places. So sacred that only Mormons can enter the Temple – and even many Mormons are not allowed to enter until they are “approved.” Needless to say, if it wasn’t for a brief three-month viewing period after the Temple was built but before they began worship, these dastardly eyes would have never seen the inside of this monstrosity.

I had arranged to get tickets to see the Temple during the time when the unclean would be let in. I was later told they re-painted the walls and replaced the carpet after all the tours were completed. I’m in favor of keeping certain spaces sacred, but re-painting seems a tad excessive. Did anyone befoul the walls during our 45 minute, guarded tour? I’m not usually one to ‘tag’ my name in feces on the walls of religious buildings that I visit, but knowing that the walls would be repainted anyway may have encouraged me to do so.

I was excited and intrigued to take a trip into such a unique place. Having visited some of the most famous churches in Europe, I was curious to get a glimpse of a prominent edifice that I wouldn’t be able to visit ever again. The chances of me becoming an approved Mormon and entering this sacred space again were as good as my chances of marrying Rosie O’Donnell. Neither of us want to be tied to the other...and I think everyone is okay with that.

In front of me in the Disneyland-like line to enter the Disneyland-like castle/temple was a woman in a wheelchair. She was 102 years old, but didn’t look a day over 101. The uncomfortably cheerful man pushing her chair kept saying that she was “102 years young, and sharp as a tack. Yep, sharp as a tack.” As I welcome the opportunity to interact with my elders, I went for a closer look...and I’m not so sure she was still with us. Her eyes were stuck in a far-off stare, her head tilted to the side and her mouth was slightly open. She may have been ‘sharp as a tack’ at some point, but now she was barely as sharp as tapioca pudding. Perhaps “mellow as an eggplant” would have been a better descriptor.

She sat perfectly still as her caretaker pushed her to the front of the line, bragging about her remarkable, but as of yetunseen, mental prowess. It eerily reminded me of a scene from the “Weekend at Bernie’s” trilogy. I half expected a bug-eyed Andrew McCarthy to run in trying to catch up with the corpse in the wheelchair and blathering about some get-rich quick scheme involving pretending this woman was alive and heiress to the secret Mormon diamond mines.

When it was finally time to enter, we were asked to put hospital ‘booties’ over our shoes so we wouldn’t ruin carpet. With so many curious visitors arriving each day to take in (and viciously judge) the glory of the new temple, they had to protect the carpet. Hadn’t I been told that they were going to re-carpet the place anyway? I was in no position to challenge the rules set forth by God or Morma or whoever was in charge.

I obliged and covered my Doc Martins in the soft, light blue shoe coverings. I could no longer track in the heathenness I keep on the sole of my shoe onto the new, clean carpet. If nothing else it gave the tour a formal introduction and made us feel as if we were undertaking an important and sterile task. Like going into brain surgery or donating sperm.

I then looked over and saw the caretaker down on one knee carefully placing booties over the 102 year old woman’s shoes.

I was stunned. I can’t imagine the level of faith one would have to possess to believe that this 102 year old woman (reportedly ‘sharp as a tack’) was going to leap from her wheelchair and muck up the carpet with her shoes. I don’t think she had done much walking recently. I also would have bet that the bottom of the shoes she had on were pristine enough to eat lasagna off of. And I certainly didn’t believe that she was going to need to have those protective booties on during this 45-minute tour...unless this was a clever plan to lull her caretaker into thinking she was comatose before she made a break for the diamond mines.

The tour was less thrilling than I had hoped. There were no massive halls like the ones that dominate traditional Christian Churches, rather the building was broken into several smaller rooms. The coolest part was the “Marriage Room” that had gigantic mirrors facing each other. You were supposed to stand side-by-side with your spouse and see the reflection of your reflection of your reflection to symbolize that you aren’t simply married for this lifetime, but for eternity. Even while looking at hundreds of reflections of myself standing next to a sharp 102 year old woman in a wheelchair, it was still pretty cool. I politely told her I wasn’t really in a place in my life that I could commit to ‘eternity’ with her, but that I hoped we could be friends. I could see in her blank stare that she knew I was right.

The tour also featured a wonderful propaganda film about the church. I had read about how the Mormon Church was predominantly Anglo, so it seemed surprising to see most of the folks in the promotional video were people of color, many with strong accents.

“Dee church has been bery importante en mi life. I bery happy now.”

It was a bit over the top. And not in a classic Stallone arm wrestling movie way, but in the am-I-the-only-one-who-thinks-this-video-is-absurd way. It was like watching a Benetton ad for religion.

It’s easy to make fun of religion, some faiths more than others. (It’s hard to resist low-hanging fruit, especially when they have rules like not drinking coffee or tea). I did, however, appreciate the opportunity to learn how the church operates and be welcomed, even if only briefly, into their sacred space. I hope the Mormon missionaries that come to my door will forgive me when I don’t allow them into my home.

On second thought, they can come in, but they’ll have to wear hospital scrubs and repaint the walls before they leave. Or at least help me with this crazy get-rich quick scheme I’ve hatched with my buddy Andrew McCarthy.

Posted by Kaya at 07:33 AM | Comments (14)

March 16, 2004

World Series of Stereotype Poker

I’m not exactly sure how it happened, but poker is the hottest televised “sport” around. Poker. The card game. How is it fun to watch people sitting around a table playing cards? This sounds intolerable in person, why would anyone watch this on TV? Yet somehow, there are 47 new shows dedicated to poker tournaments.

And I must admit, despite logic and reason, these poker showdowns are surprisingly entertaining to watch.

I don’t even understand all the rules, but I find myself rooting for certain players and fascinated by the color commentary.

“Ol’ Bill took a tough draw on this game of Texas Hold ‘Em. He’s got deuces on the backside with Jade sitting in the driver’s seat with her Queens matching in the flop.”

I have no idea what this means, but I start to really want Ol’ Bill to do well. I suppose it’s the cast of characters that really grab our attention. The game is fine, with the strategies, mathematical odds and luck. A full house beats a flush and a straight beats three of a kind, etc. But the cast of characters is what keeps me watching.

It’s as if a B-movie producer found people to play the role of “Card Shark #3” in a casino caper flick. Each person represents an clichéd stereotype. There’s the good ol’ boy in a cowboy hat, strong southern accent and red face. He plays a rough ‘n’ rowdy style of poker and let’s his balls hang out on every hand. Then there’s the wiry Asian with shoulder length hair and shifty eyes hiding behind slightly tinted sunglasses. He never speaks and hardly even moves while playing – he also has a ethnically-questionable nickname like “The Jade Monkey” or “Zen Dragon”.

Next is the way-too-cool black guy with a slick suit on and mirrored sunglasses. He smiles brightly when he wins and stares down opponents when he loses. He also has a nickname or two...something like “T-Bone” or “Cool Daddy”. There’s also always a guy that appears to have kept up his ‘look’ since he established it in 1983. He wears a thin moustache, big dark glasses reminiscent of “Blue Blockers” (as seen on TV infomercial years ago) and an awkwardly patterned shirt. He looks like a bit like a bad guy from “The Fall Guy” or “The A-Team”. Not the main bad guy, but one of the cronies in the background.

I keep checking back at these poker tournaments not just to see who wins, but to see what ethnic stereotype will appear next. Like villains in a James Bond movie, I expect to see an overweight bald man stroking a Persian cat delicately with a slight smirk on his face. Or a Hispanic man with a large moustache wearing a sombrero and a brightly-colored poncho. Maybe even a few rows of bullets worn across his chest like an intimidating sash to complete the look. He’ll sit across from the Nazi wearing fatigues and a World War II war helmet who screams out German obscenities every time he folds. Welcome to the World Series of Stereotype Poker!

As entertaining as these folks are, I’m still amazed at the amount of poker shows. My Dad accidentally ‘told’ his TiVO that he liked televised poker and it filled up the memory in a couple of days. At least he can fast forward through the agonizingly slow internal debate before each player’s move. Tell me again why this is interesting?

Now if ‘Strip Poker’ were televised...

Posted by Kaya at 04:04 PM | Comments (1)

March 01, 2004

Tales of a Teenage Gum Thief

In junior high I thought I was the Robin Hood of chewing gum. I would steal gum from the rich (the supermarket or local gas station) and distribute it to the poor (my friends at school). I believed gum needed to be enjoyed by the common folk, not reserved for the bourgeoisie, spearmint-masticating elite.

I’d seen too many smug looks from these aristocrats with their limitless expendable income allowing them all the Carefree and Bazooka Joe they could wish for. No more would my people (12 to 15 year-olds) be oppressed. No more would we beg our parents for a stick of Juicy Fruit. No more would the greedy oil companies (in particular the Mobil station up the street) control the flow of gum in my neighborhood, restricting who would get the sweet tastes of Hubba Bubba and Bubble Yum depending on your ability to pay for it.

Perhaps I have a different understanding of freedom, but if a young boy or girl can’t enjoy their god-given right to Watermelon Bubblicious without having to subject themselves to an oppressive capitalist system based on payment for goods, then...then...ah, who am I kidding? This belief in the inequality of the allocation of gum in our society (did you know only .1% of the population controls 80% of the gum?) and making up gum-based statistics was simply a way to ease my gum stealing guilt.

I had all kinds of ways to justify my gum theft. If it wasn’t that gum was being hoarded by the upper crust and I was chosen, like Moses or Neo, to free my people and share the gum, it was that my Mom had probably been overcharged, “like a million times” at the gas station and now they owed my family some gum. Besides, I didn’t just steal it and eat the entire pack – I always gave away all but one piece, which I saved for myself. It was a small commission for making the deal. Even non-profits have to pay their employees...and I do like me some Dubble Bubble.

My life as a Gum Baron didn’t last long, but almost every school day for about a year I stole a pack of gum. The amazing thing is, other than this chewing gum kleptomania (CGK), I was a well-mannered, honest and kind kid. I didn’t steal anything else in my life (okay, baseball cards once) and I never got into trouble (okay, I got caught going into the swimming pool when my parents weren’t home). For the most part, I was a good kid and the last person that you’d suspect to be operating such a prolific theft operation.

My main target to pilfer was the gas station. The gum and assorted candy was kept on a shelf in front of the cash register, right under the cashier’s nose. With a long sleeved shirt on (riding our bikes to school at 6:30 am was always a bit chilly) I would nonchalantly grab a pack of Chewels or Extra or Big Red and casually pull my hand within the sleeve of my shirt. I’d look around a bit more and eventually walk out with my loot easily hidden in my hand, obscured by my oversized shirt.

It may not have been an elaborate scheme, but it’s beauty was in its simplicity. I was then off to school with my merry men chomping merrily on our sticks or cubes of sugary goodness. The gum is happily dispensed among the young and oppressed and I’m the hero that gives out free gum. Everyone is happy. I’m sure stealing is wrong, but I was only evening up the score with the supposed overcharging that I was sure had happened to my parents. Right? Besides, there’s no better way to first approach the light brown haired girl with the pink sweater than to offer a free (and purloined) piece of Trident.

Despite my knack for stealing sweets, I never stole other candy. Perhaps it was due to the shape of other candy (I would’ve had to wear a trench coat to sneak a Charleston Chew out of the store) that I focused my “work” on chewing gum.

Gum had always been a passion of mine. For Christmas one year I asked my Mom for a box of Cherry Bubble Yum bubble gum. A box. Sixteen packs of massively sweet gum. All cherry. I imagine it was like buying a carton of cigarettes for someone who enjoys smoking, but never really had many cigarettes around. I was chewing through a pack a day. At least.

I began to eat the gum like candy. While that may sound like what you’re supposed to do with gum, I would literally eat it like I was partaking in a bag of Skittles. I’d chew it and swallow it and grab a new piece. Chew it, swallow it and grab a new piece. Chew, swallow, repeat.

It’s easy to go through a pack of gum in a couple of minutes this way.

I can only pray that the “gum stays undigested in your stomach for seven years” rumor is untrue. If not, I’m screwed. I probably swallowed more gum than real food for roughly a month. I’m still afraid to go to one of these groovy, organic, holistic, colonic places for a treatment. How would I respond when Raven, my colonicist, asked me about the half-pound of cherry gum lodged in my colon?

“Um...that’s part of a performance art piece I’m working on. Just leave it there.”

Despite my swashbuckling ways and interest to share the gum wealth in my community, I ended by gum burglary ways before I was caught. One morning when I was snagging a pack of Dentyne, my fortunes changed. Just as I had the pack of contraband gum securely in my shirt I heard an enormously loud “BOOM!” While I was surprised that the store owner had decided to shoot me in the back with a shotgun, I *had* been stealing an awful lot of gum.

In reality, I wasn’t shot at all. The remarkably timed and exceptionally jarring explosion had been a boy outside who had over inflated his bicycle tire. The explosion scared the bejeezus out of me and I instinctually shoved my hidden gum back onto the shelf. I took it as a sign and never stole gum again. And, like that, my triumphant career as the Robin Hood of Gum had unceremoniously ended.

When you don’t share Fruit Stripe and Chiclets with your buddies each day, you really learn who your true friends are. Like the old saying goes, “If your friends stick by you when you don’t have any gum to share, then they’re your friends for life.”

Amen to that.

Posted by Kaya at 04:06 PM | Comments (9)