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As seen on TV

Whilst shopping in a Manchester supermarket some time ago, and as I picked up an item I saw the legend: ‘As seen on TV’
‘What could this item be?’ I can hear you ask waiting with bated breath for the answer: a DVD of Desperate Housewives? A new cleaning product advertised in an hilarious manner, by a stereotypically balding football fan and his much smarter wife?
No; nothing so obvious: it was a bag of carrots……

Had I missed something? Were these some super carrots, containing some invented compound called carrotum tastebudum to help a balanced diet, combat cancer and heralding a new era in world politics? Or maybe, mainstream television programmes were now being presented by genetically modified food ? Or was the latest reality TV programme a look at the secret lives of root vegetables? I suspect that none of the above were true and the real story is that: it was something to write on the package, to make it different and draw our attention to it!

I have to say that there is some advertising that I do admire not for it’s ability to sell us anything, but for its creativity: the comic brilliance of Joan Collins and Leonard Rossiter advertising whatever drink it was, the ‘bold ‘reassuringly expensive’ campaign demonstrating the depths that a human being will sink to, rather than part with a drop of this particular brew, and the splendid visual imagery of the incomprehensible Guinness commercials.

On the other hand, there’s the addition of the words ‘as seen on TV’ to a pack of carrots! This is the same vein as the nonsensical addition of adjectives to a product’s name: exciting, new improved, and my current favourite ‘professional’ This is normally used to conjure up the notion that a particular brand is the preferred choice for people whose livelihood depend on it, an approach that does have some logic. But why am I being offered ‘professional chewing gum’. I have had a few weird jobs in my time, but I’ve yet to come across a vacancy which stipulated ability to chew skilfully as a preferred attribute.

Of course, sometimes the advertising states the blindingly obvious. My attention was recently drawn to a charity shop window in which there were folding umbrellas for sale: with a tag saying: ‘Keep the rain off! Umbrellas £2’ The fact that someone assumed that we needed to be told that this was in fact an umbrella is insulting enough: but to then imply we are not sure as to what purpose we should put them is doubly insulting! Or maybe I am being unduly sensitive, as the exclamation mark may, in fact, be there to indicate the element of surprise that the tag writer had experienced with the realisation of the potential use of the umbrellas, though I would rather not venture any possibilities as to what use the writer had previously put the instruments.

This notion of explanation, of course, has reached the zenith (nadir?) of banality with the ‘corporate tag line’ summing up the organisation’s ethos (or mission statement—sorry for mentioning that) in a single phrase. For example, the Fostering Network’s ‘Helping children to thrive’ is acceptable though what that adds as explanation of the work of an organization involved in fostering, I’m not sure. ‘Public Arts—people making places’ is nonsensical, if not downright confusing. Advertising legend has it that computer manufacturer Wang once came up with a slogan to emphasise their caring nature, though for some reason it appears the slogan ‘Wang cares’ did not have a long life. First prize though has to go to this pretentious drivel I saw ‘writ large’ on a lorry: ‘Paragon –passionate about laundry solutions!’ Oh, please!

Rowland Jones: moaning about stuff!

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