Creative writing and television advertising have a surprising amount in common: dialogue, plot, characters, an evident point of view. Advertising copy is even generated in an advertising agency’s “creative” department. If you were a tad cynical, you could even say it’s all fiction (but that would be unkind). As with novels and stories, advertising can be entertaining. We all have our favourite ads. I love the ones from Ikea. And Volkswagen has such a long tradition of clever advertising, I can’t understand why I don’t drive one of its cars.
Then there are the ads we love to hate. Here’s a candidate: the brain supplement that proclaims that its active ingredient is a substance discovered in jellyfish, animals with virtually no brain.
And I wish someone would explain to me why the side effects of so many drugs include both constipation and diarrhea. How does that work? No, wait. Don’t answer that. Instead, let’s consider — briefly please — the recent ad for a treatment for a curved, erect penis. Why a drug when there’s always the tried and true plaster cast?
But no ad annoys — no, chills — me as much as the one currently airing to promote a hotel chain. There are several scenarios in the campaign. In each, a marketing group tackles the problem of how to communicate the chain’s virtues. A tall, fit, white, man with a mellifluous voice stands by listening as team members try to articulate values related to price, quality, service. Then he closes off the deliberations with this edict: “Just say Badda Book, Badda Boom.”
It’s a slogan. It’s an empty slogan that tells us we don’t need information, persuasion, argumentation. We need an incantation almost as empty as “make America great again.” Sure, the agency that made the ads has used the deliberations of the marketing team to communicate some facts, but viewers can’t escape the message that all you really need to remember is Badda Book, Badda Boom. Even if it’s meant to be humorous, it’s overarching message is that facts don’t matter; only slogans do. Frightening.