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Posts Tagged ‘advertising’

The Tragic Diary of a Lunar Rover, and Other News

January 30, 2014 | by

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From a NASA presentation slide, 1963. Image via Wikimedia Commons

  • “My masters discovered something abnormal with my mechanical control system … I might not survive this lunar night … I am not fearful … Goodnight, Earth … Goodnight, humanity.” In the heartrending tradition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” a Chinese lunar rover has live-blogged its own death.
  • Meanwhile, in Russia, a man was stabbed to death for having declared, to a very fervid admirer of verse, that “the only real literature is prose.”
  • There now exists a digital version of the Gough map, “one of the earliest maps to show Britain in a geographically recognizable form.” It dates between 1355 and 1366, when roads were a novelty. (Not that they aren’t today.)
  • If you’d planned on watching the Super Bowl “just for the ads,” you might be able to skip the game entirely: you can watch many of the ads ahead of time, because Capitalism Cares™. Now get out there and shop!
  • Under the cobblestones, the beach. Under Versailles, some magnificent subterranean reservoirs.

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Death of a Salesman

October 9, 2013 | by

Cal Worthington

Once called the “friend of every insomniac in Southern California,” Cal Worthington haunted the nether regions of broadcast programming for more than sixty years. Judging by the frequency of his appearances, their consistency, and their longevity, Worthington might have been the biggest television star in the history of the West. That makes him as much a deity as anything California culture has seen in its short history. But he wasn’t an actor or a journalist or a politician. His church was a chain of car dealerships and his prophesies a series of madcap advertisements. For better or worse, everyone who lived in Southern California had to reckon with him.

Worthington’s long-running series of self-produced spots never deviated from a formula. The slender cowboy—six foot four in beaver-skin Stetsons and a custom Nudie suit—always preceded his hyperactive sales pitch with a gambol through the lot of his Dodge dealership, accompanied by an escalating succession of exotic animals. Originally it was an ape, then a tiger, an elephant, a black bear, and, finally, Shamu, the killer whale from SeaWorld—each of which was invariably introduced as Cal’s dog, Spot. Not once did he appear with a canine. The banjo-propelled jingle (set to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It”) exhorted listeners to “Go see Cal, go see Cal, go see Cal,” a catchphrase that became the basis for the most infamous mondegreen in Golden State history. To this day, Pussycow remains a nostalgic code word exchanged among Californians who came of age in the era before emissions standards. Read More »

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Don’t Do It

September 24, 2013 | by

This Dewar’s ad uses words (well, some of them) from Charles Bukowski’s “so you want to be a writer?” While it is all very sweeping and epic and generally the most movingly crass blend of commerce and poetry since Walt Whitman started shilling for Levi’s, the voice actor (cleverly identified by Open Culture as one Tom O’Bedlam) sounds approximately zero percent like Bukowski. But no one can fault the marriage of subject and product. 

 

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Kafkaesque Toilet Paper, and Other News

August 15, 2013 | by

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  • Kafka cameos in a Charmin toilet paper commercial; one of those incontinent bears is a fan, apparently.
  • “But if the sort of world that I am afraid of arrives, a world of two or three great superstates which are unable to conquer one another, two and two could become five if the Führer wished it. That, so far as I can see, is the direction in which we are actually moving, though, of course, the process is reversible.” In a 1944 letter, George Orwell explains his reasons for writing 1984
  • The literally question is, in fact, more complicated than it seems; its misuse (this is known as a contronym) has been going on for centuries.
  • Pioneering Swedish crime writer Maj Sjöwall says contemporary Scandinavian thrillers are are “not about police work and crime, but very much about love and relationships—like girls’ books.”
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    Commercial Fan Fiction

    August 1, 2013 | by

    And we mean that literally: this is a Tumblr of fan fic based on TV advertisements. And is there more fallow ground than this strange world of smart-aleck kids, idiot husbands, knowing wives, yogurt-eating singles, and maniacally friendly fast-food workers? We think not. (The Barilla pasta-stalker alone could be the basis for a series of thrillers.) Also, we offer the following as a prompt.

     

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    My California Trip

    June 26, 2013 | by

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    We were gathered in the publisher’s corner office just off Park Avenue on a snowy afternoon in February, looking at the intriguing series of ads that had been coming in over the past few months. Professionally photographed, seductively styled, they showed a shiny steel apparatus encircled with golden buds of weed damp with the resins prized by discriminating potheads.

    “The question is,” said Thomas King Forcade, founder and head of the publishing empire he’d built under the Trans-High Corporation banner, “what the fuck is it?”

    “Shit to Gold!” declared the ads appearing in the magazine where I was employed, all full-page buys. “Paid in cash,” said the sales director of High Times, the monthly publication dedicated to the ways and means of marijuana. I was on the masthead as a contributing writer on diverse topics, mostly of a cultural nature, on a career trajectory common to New York writers who toil in diverse editorial fields. Penning pieces for anyone who paid, from garish girlie mags to in-flight journals and the glossier monthlies, my expectation was to be sitting behind the publisher’s desk one day in a similar corner office with a Park Avenue view.

    Leaning back in his chair and torching an overstuffed reefer with a switchblade that doubled as a lighter, Forcade said, “More importantly, you dig—” taking a long drag and holding the smoke for a pensive moment before expelling the finished thought in a low tight voice—“does it really work?”

    The device in the advertisement was called the Pot-A-Lyzer. Selling for $299.99 from a PO box in Huntington Beach, California, the Pot-A-Lyzer promised to transform ordinary marijuana of the lowest grade into super-weed equal to the headiest strains known to cannabis connoisseurs. Mexican ditch weed, for example, could be imbued with the psychoactive punch of Maui Wowee, Thai Stick, or Colombian Gold. Ergo, shit to gold. Read More »

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