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Adverse Adverts Bring out your dead!
by Bryan Zepp Jamieson
Zepp's Commentaries
March 5
, 2004

I've come up with a great idea for a TV ad. It goes something like this.

[Stock shot] First plane crashing into World Trade Center tower. Fireman looks up, startled. "Holy shit!" bleeped out.

[Voice Over]: "Some days, things just don't go right. The day's plans are ruined, and your routine is disrupted."

[Cut to:] Scenes of hundreds of emergency vehicles, all code three, racing down New York street toward WTC. Use chase scenes from "Blues Brothers" if budget demands.

Voice Over: "On days like that, sometimes good dental care has to take a back seat. You don't want to do that, but sometimes things just happen, you know?"

[Stock shots] Second plane hits other tower.

[Comic interposition:] Footage from old movie of dozens of reporters, press cards in hats, racing to antique phone booths outside city hall to call in "scoops"

[VO]: "When you don't have time to brush, use 9/11 gum. Keeps your teeth clean and your breath fresh."

[Stock shots] People leaping to deaths from towers. Footage of each tower collapsing.

[VO]: "... no matter what kind of day you have."

[Fadein]: Product appears in slow fade in from columns of smoke over ground zero.

[Cut to]: Woman, dressed in black mourning garb. She is kneeling by flag draped coffin, fingering rosary. Face is not visible. Shoulders are heaving convulsively.

[Voiceover, female, understood to be woman in shot]: "My husband was one of 2,700 people who died that awful morning."

[Pause, and cut to] Woman, dressed in summer garb, walking along pretty park or garden path. Pensive, introspective, looking at pathway in front of her.

[VO, same voice, female] "My husband understood the importance of good dental care." Woman pauses to finger flower growing along path. Looks reflectively up at sky, pulls in breath, stifling sob. "If he had stopped at the local convenience store to pick up a pack of 9/11 gum that morning like he usually did, he might still be alive today."

[Fadeout, cut to product image. VO original male narrator]: "9/11 gum, Because some days, you just don't have time to brush."

Well, folks, what do you think? Is this Clio material or what? All we need now is a product called "9/11 Gum" and we're good to go.

Don't worry about people who think an ad like that is objectionable. The psychiatrists tell us they WANT us to talk about 9/11, and that's just what this ad does.

And why can't we make a little money while we're doing it? Are you against capitalism and the American way?

Now, if, despite my brilliant reasoning, you are still recoiling in disgust against my proposed ad, reflect on this:

There is absolutely no difference between an ad selling chewing gum, and one trying to sell a presidential candidate. None.

Well, sometimes the gum is of better quality.

But otherwise, there is no difference. Both are commodities that you are trying to persuade the public to buy, and what you exploit in how you sell it, the tactics and integrity you use, speaks both about the product itself, and the people who are trying to sell it.

A rule of thumb, generally good in regular advertising, and nearly iron-clad in political advertising, is "the shabbier the ads, the shabbier the product."

That Putsch would stoop, right off the bat, in an opening salvo, to using the disaster at 9/11 for political purposes (standing in front of the images of a flag-draped body being removed from the wreckage of the Twin Towers, apparently hoping we all forgot that at the time that image was being filmed, he was, in reality, in panicked flight around the country) comes as no surprise. He's a disgraceful product, and it should be unremarkable that he uses disgraceful advertising tactics. There will be worse to come, no doubt.

But what is amazing is the utter arrogance and stupidity of the White House in facing the storm of protest that the 9/11 ads engendered. Instead of withdrawing the ads, they tried to brazen it out.

Insisting that the ads were meant to encourage public discourse about the disaster (even as the administration continues to stonewall against the Congressional investigation into what happened that day), they brushed aside the objectors, many of whom were relatives of victims in the Towers, including the widow, seven months' pregnant at the time, of the body used to promote Putsch's heroic image in the ad. Instead, they found some depressed drabs who were willing to intone that they didn't mind Putsch using the their dead as a springboard for the campaign.

And of course, the right wing trash media, ranging from the Wall Street Journal all the way down to NewsMax, pulled out their most familiar rabbit: they blamed Clinton. Clinton, they falsely claimed, had used images from the Oklahoma City bombing in order to bolster his campaign in the days after the bombing.

When pressed, they had to admit that all they really had was mention made by right wing disgrace and toe-sucker Dick Morris, now a firm part of their nasty little camp, that he (Morris, not Clinton) considered using the images in the days following the disaster.

Typical right wing noise. When Putsch does something stupid and ugly, as he so often does, try to excuse it by saying Clinton did something stupid and ugly. If that doesn't work, say a Clinton acquaintance, now turncoat, THOUGHT about doing something stupid and ugly.

Yeah. That's the ticket.

Everyone knew Putsch was going to exploit 9/11. After all, it's the only reason his approval ratings didn't just drift down into the thirties in 2001 and stay there for the rest of his single term. 9/11 was the best thing that ever happened to him, and he's going to use it as much as he can. He has nothing else to show for his three years in office except for his super-rich masters.

But Kerry would be wise to address 9/11. NOT use it in his ads. We already know it's tacky and ugly, and won't be improved by having both candidates running slo-mo shots of the buildings falling. But Kerry, if he's smart (and he is) should start TALKING about 9/11. What happened, why the investigation is so slow, what the White House is trying to hide, and why Putsch acted so peculiarly on that awful day.

Not only will that approach not piss off the relatives of the victims and every decent person in America, but America will actually benefit from it.

Except, of course, for Putsch. Real, open discourse about 9/11 is the last thing he wants. He just wants to exploit the images.

It won't hurt for Kerry to set an example by contrast.

[Stock shot] People leaping from windows; towers collapsing.

[VO] I'm sure New Yorkers will be thrilled at this opportunity to support capitalism.

Hmm. You know, maybe I should become an ad writer.

Posted: March 7, 2004


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