Oct 16

Does an Ad Work if it Annoys the Heck Out of You?

Does the larynx cancer guy bug you as much as he does me? In case you’ve somehow missed him, the larynx cancer guy is an anti-tobacco spokesman whose TV commercial seems to be on every station every minute of the day.

The larynx cancer guy first appeared a couple of years ago. He walked around a pool, telling us that he once loved to swim. But, because of throat cancer caused by smoking, he now has a hole where his larynx once was. As a result, he’d drown if he dove into the pool. The capper, though, was his voice. It was unbelievably irritating, sounding something like a cross between E.T. and a robot.

The campaign ran for a period of time and, thought I, the larynx cancer guy had made his point and would go wherever it is that anti-tobacco spokespeople go.

But, he’s back. And, he’s even more annoying and more in your face than before. I’ve heard countless people tell me how turned off they are by the new spots. The larynx guy has, in fact, become synonymous with channel surfing.

So, when one defines success in advertising, does this sort of negative reaction register? Is grossing people out considered a win? We all know smoking kills. But, do we need to keep seeing and hearing this annoying, irritating little man with the hole in his throat? He seems to be the anti-tobacco industry’s answer to the Dell guy, who was equally annoying. Remember him?

So, while I respect the need for the message, here’s hoping the larynx cancer guy soon disappears in a puff of smoke and joins other annoying ad pitchmen of the past like Crazy Eddie, the Jolly Green Giant and countless local Mazda dealers.

Oct 02

Exercise Your Mind or Your Body. But Not At the Same Time

I go to the gym for an intense workout. Whether it’s running, lifting weights, cruising through the elliptical trainer or some combination thereof, I like to push my body to the max. It helps me unwind and refresh at the same time.

So, I honestly don’t understand the people who sit on the exercise bike, walk on the treadmill or slowly stride their way through an elliptical trainer workout while reading a book or magazine!

What is that all about? How many calories does one burn while ever so slowly scanning the latest tips from Cosmo?

I wouldn’t mind so much except that it always seems these are the very same people who boast about their regular exercise. Puh-lese. Sure, reading a book while slowly strolling on  a treadmill is better than doing nothing. But, I wouldn’t categorize it as a workout.Campbells

Just last night, ABC World News Tonight ran a segment about the amazing rise in popularity of comfort food.  According to the report, only one major corporate stock rose during Monday’s freefall: Campbell’s. Savvy investors apparently know that people turn to comfort foods (read: fatty foods) during times of extreme uncertainty. While that may be understandable, it’s certainly not laudable. How can a nation with
two-thirds of its population already overweight possibly stand by and watch them load up on even more junk? On the other hand, fewer people mean more jobs for the rest of us.

Americans need to turn away from comfort food, put down their books when cycling and start some real exercising. In my book (which I don’t read while running, btw), exercise trumps eating for stress reduction any day of the week.

Jul 09

Who’s to blame when we’re all at fault?

Is there a more disgusting spectacle on television than the now-annual Nathan’s Hot Dog eating contest?Hot_dog
As almost everyone knows by now, the contest’s goal is to challenge contestants to ingest as many hot dogs as possible within a given time frame. Cash awards are enormous. The competition is fierce and the media coverage has escalated into, dare I say it, a veritable feeding frenzy.

Juxtapose this truly gross spectacle against the reality of our country’s childhood and adult obesity epidemic and one is left to ponder: what’s become of corporate social responsibility and/or good old common sense?

Why are ESPN, CNN and all the major networks airing segments from the franks feast yet paying short shrift to the latest set of recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics? Alarmed at the wave of obese kids in our nation, the nation’s most influential group of pediatricians is recommending that docs start testing overweight kids for high cholesterol at the age of two!

It’s absolutely mind boggling to contemplate that some of today’s kids are already in trouble within 24 months of leaving the womb. On the other hand, it’s not so surprising at all.

Why is Nathan’s dismissing the health and well-being of our country’s kids by promoting a hot dog eating event that literally sickens contestants and viewers alike? Why are the sports channels and mainstream news networks covering the spectacle with jocular, lighthearted segments? And, why are Americans attending the event in person and watching it on TV?

You know our country’s out of control when no one takes responsibility for mitigating a disaster like this. If I were asked, I’d allow the event to continue (free speech, and all, etc.), but I’d display all sorts of warning labels, posters, and admonitions as well as have myriad spokespeople available to warn viewers, readers and listeners to avoid hot dogs if they have any hopes of leading a long and healthy life. I’d also run a few, up-close-and-personal case studies of morbidly obese Americans who’ve gorged on garbage like hot dogs and paid the ultimate price.

To paraphrase the Bard of Avon, the fault lies not in our stars, but in our stomachs. Nathan’s: stop promoting unhealthy eating. ESPN and others: stop publicizing this crap. My fellow Webizens: wise up and stay away from junk like hot dogs. We’ve got to stop the madness now.

Jun 24

Barry Schultz puts it all in perspective

My hamstring hurt. My allergies were bothering me. And, I was than thrilled to be rising at 5:30am thisFundraiser_2
past Saturday to drive 110 miles south to Cape May County, NJ.

It was already hot, humid and windy as hell when I arrived in a godforsaken schoolyard in the middle of the Pine Barrens. I was there along with hundreds of other bicycle riders to compete in a charity fundraiser. It was a great cause. But, let’s just say I wasn’t thrilled to be there.

Then, I met Barry Schultz. Barry has been struck down by ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. He was diagnosed with it two years ago, but shows little ill effects from a malady that carries a prognosis of two to five years.

Words do not due justice to Barry’s can-do attitude. He’s bright, bubbly and outgoing. And, he was champing at the bit to start the fund-raising bike ride.

And, ride we did. And, ride Barry did. And, sure enough, my hamstring cooperated, my allergies subsided and I cruised through the woods to the seashore.

It was cool to finish the race. It was cooler still to watch my fellow riders cheer Barry a few minutes later when he wheeled across the finish line.

Our team raised $19,000 for Barry and ALS research. It’s a drop in the bucket to be sure. But, every dollar counts.

What counts more is the lesson Barry taught us on Saturday. He showed us how one can, and should, live one’s life. Despite the death sentence, Barry makes the most out of each and every minute he has.

What a different world this would be if Barry was the norm, and not the exception. Talk about image and reputation management! Barry could, and should write a book. There are quite a few CEOs and politicians who would learn a great deal from it.

Jun 12

The only thing we have to worry about is worry itself

Many years ago, we had a management supervisor who literally fell asleep during client meetings. TheSleeping
first time it happened, we apologized to the client and warned the MS not to let it happen again. The second time it occurred, we moved him off the account and told him to fix the problem. When it kept happening, we parted ways.

Since he was reticent to explain exactly why he was passing out at work, we guessed there was some sort of serious sleeping issue. But, we never would have guessed he might have been getting too much sleep!

According to a new report, our chronically fatigued MS may have been getting too much sleep at night. It sounds counterintuitive, but too much sleep is just as harmful as too little.

Researchers say most people believe they’re not getting enough sleep. That perception, in turn, causes them so much stress that they don’t sleep. As a result, they go to work battered, beleaguered and believing they won’t be able to function. The truth is that most of us only need five or six hours. The problems arise (pun intended) when sleepers get too little or too much.

Fear of getting too little sleep, say researchers, is a root cause of the insomnia epidemic. The experts urge insomniacs to get up, walk around and distract their minds when they can’t sleep. Such activity actually enhances sleep since it distracts the mind from the fear of not sleeping.

Bottom-line? As FDR might have said, “when it comes to insomnia, the only thing we have to worry about is worry itself.”

Jun 11

This gives a whole new meaning to getting to second base

Baseball’s latest ‘scandal’ would be hilarious if it weren’t so serious.  According to various sources, RogersViagra_2
Clemens and other major league ballplayers routinely pop Viagra for on- and off-the-field performance enhancement.

Not content with their existing surfeit of steroids, athletes are now apparently ingesting the fabled little blue pill as well. Yes, Viagara, the bedroom drug of choice for Baby Boomers has become quite the ‘hit’ in baseball locker rooms from coast to coast.

Looking at this latest revelation from an image standpoint, one wonders who has the ‘bigger’ challenge: ballplayers such as Clemens or the big pharma company, Pfizer, which markets Viagra? Certainly the latter can’t be faulted for any misuse of its product. And, today’s generation of ballplayers have become so ‘tagged’ with drug use and abuse that the Viagra revelation leaves me, well, deflated.

As a matter of fact, I think this particular news item will last about as long as the average dose of Viagra. The larger question is this: who knows what long-term damage the ballplayers are doing to their bodies and to our national pastime.

Apr 29

Girth of a nation

The mainstream media has been laden with stories about America’s losing fight against obesity. EachAmbulance
year, it seems more and more Americans fall behind in their personal battle of the bulge.

By now, everyone knows about the various side effects of our super-sized population (i.e. Heart disease, diabetes, etc.).

But, what had escaped my notice until recently, were the various cottage industries that have sprung up to ‘support’ our country’s weighty issue. 

One such example is a new generation of super-sized ambulance equipment. Fire, rescue and first aid departments around the country are investing in stretchers and gurneys that can accommodate patients who now routinely weigh up to 600 pounds and more.

A friend of mine, who is a volunteer fireman, can attest to the need for these extra-strength units. He told me he and his fellow volunteers are becoming increasingly worried about injuring themselves and their patients because of the latter’s obesity.

How sad is it that American ingenuity can provide a ready-made solution to transporting increasing numbers of morbidly obese citizens, but still be unable to solve obesity’s root causes?

America’s falling behind in every conceivable global competitiveness measure except, perhaps, in inventing new widgets to deal with our self-destructive wantonness. It’s enough to make a blogger say, ‘Hey, ‘weight’ a minute. Has anyone in a position of power noticed that our dollar has shrunk in inverse proportion to our expanding waistlines?

Apr 02

There’s nothing like hot dogs and a beer after an intense 10-mile race

I’m competing in a series of 10-mile, 15k and half marathons this Spring as I prepare for my firstMarathon_2
marathon (San Diego in early June).

Road races are a blast to compete in and provide an amazing sense of accomplishment when completed. They also provide very cool pre- and post-race bonding experiences with fellow runners.

As is the case with other aspects of life, however, there are well organized and not-so-well organized runs (last Summer’s Chicago Marathon, for example, will be forever remembered as the ‘Bataan Death March’ of competitive road racing).

I finished a 10-mile race on March 30th that had a little bit of everything: superb planning, a scenic course, supportive crowds and hot dogs and beers for the finishers. Say what? Yup, the 19th annual Freehold Area Runners Club St. Paddy’s Day 10 Miler provided some very non-traditional food and drink.

And, while I ‘get’ the St. Paddy’s beer part, I was floored to see steaming hot dogs on either side of the finish line. I was even more flabbergasted to see exhausted runners actually downing the dogs. Yuck! How could anyone ingest such dreck immediately after cleansing one’s body?

It was mind boggling and image rattling at the same time. But, hey, to each his own. As for me, I’ll stick with the post-run bananas and quart of cold water, and hope that my more traditional dietary strategy pays off in California.

Mar 26

Why do I have this uncontrollable need to play Blackjack?

TV commercials touting the latest prescription medication cure for god knows what malady absolutelyMirapex
dominate the airwaves. I don’t have access to the exact statistics, but I’ll bet they account for a third or more of all network spots.

Some are well done. Most are formulaic and banal. All carry those wild side effect warnings at the end (some of which say the meds might actually cause the malady they’re intended to prevent).

My favorite meds commercial is for Mirapex, a drug intended to lessen restless leg syndrome (who knew restless leg syndrome even existed before these spots began to air?). Anyway, at the end of these ads, a stern, male voiceover warns that taking Mirapex might lead to uncontrollable gambling urges. Now, there’s a first. Taking a prescription med might make me break out a deck of cards and, say, challenge others to a winner-take-all game of five card stud? Amazing. Alarming. Astonishing.

Card playing requires one to maintain, well, a poker face. But, suppose one suffers from restless leg syndrome, pops a Mirapex, has a sudden and uncontrollable urge to gamble and then proceeds to ‘tip off’ his or her strategy with a shaking leg? Wouldn’t that be counterproductive? Actually, it could make for a nice line extension for Mirapex. Maybe they should produce MirapexFullHouse, a pill that controls leg spasms for the duration of a card game. After all, you’ve got to know when to hold them, know when to fold them and, if you’re popping Mirapex, know when to keep them from shaking.

Mar 13

DI*T Ads are DU*B

Weight Watchers is running a god-awful advertising campaign in which they purposely leave out the letterDiet
‘e’ in the word ‘diet.’ The shelter ads I’ve seen feature huge orange posters blasting out the four-letter word minus, of course, the letter e.

I know advertising is desperately trying to break through the clutter and capture the average consumer’s attention, but gimme a break. Obfuscation isn’t the solution. In fact, confusing me doesn’t ‘involve’ me more in the advertisement, or make some sort of visceral connection. It only pisses me off.

I’m not a Weight Watcher’s candidate but, if I were, this particular campaign would drive me straight into the waiting (weighting?) arms of, say, Valerie Bertinelli or Kirstie Alley.

This is a DU*B ad, Weight Watchers. Lo*e it, pronto!