Not Just a Client

#Advertising

Mon, May 15th, 2000 03:00 by Jester ARTICLE

“I’m not only the president, I'm also a client.”

Sy Sperling, President of the Hair Club for Men first uttered thosewords as he held a picture of his old noggin. It looked like acueball wrapped with a raccoon's tail. Now, thanks to his company,he has a full head of nylon--I mean, hair.

Senior Sperling probably wasn't the first President to appear on TVflogging his own company's goods, but he is one of the most famous.There are dozens of them now. President's Choice has Dave promotingMemories of (insert place name here) brand (insert product here).Dave Thomas is by law required to appear in a Wendy's commercial everyten minutes of air time. And who could forget Victor Kayem, who likedhis shaver so much he bought the company?

Oh, how I so want to inflict violence on all of them.

It might be my natural psychosis talking whenever I see President/CEOtypes appearing in their own propaganda, but oh boy do the voices inmy head urging me to do unspeakable things with a Garden Weasel everstart to sound reasonable when they start opening their yaps.

I hate advertising at the best of times. I hate corporations andtheir officer's attempts at having an "image" even more. Do peoplereally fall for this stuff? Do they really believe that the greying,puffy bastard talks 'straight' with us, or pretends he's your pal orsome loveable wacky guy who actually works behind the counter of hisBorg cubes located through North America? Or has anythingapproaching a human heart? I bet some of them grind up the employeesto make vittles for their 800 purebred yappie dogs.

I hate the ones that try to act cute and loveable, when you just knowthey'd erase thousand jobs before a nice leisurely day of golf.Wendy's Dave Thomas tries this tactic. He comes on with a combinationof the cuddly and a Steven Wrightish sad sack delivery. His directorsdo this is because like most of his kind, the man can't act. Listento his voice, and you'll hear a 1st grader trying to tell his firstknock-knock joke, only not as natural as that. It's pretty sad whena man has to work at deadpan.

And what a hard worker he is! His commercials show him behind thecounter of a Wendy's, serving food. Uh-huh. I'll bet he also worksthe late night drive-through shifts when someone calls in sick andhelps clean the grease trap.

If you don't know a grease trap is, you aren't qualified to discussthe concept of disgusting until you've been around one or worse,cleaned one (like lucky ol' me). Picture a well of grease trappedbeneath the restaurant left to collect and rot for months. I'llbet disgruntled Wendy's employees fantasize about drowning cuddly,loveable Dave in their grease traps.

'Cause they are bastards. I actually know someone who knows one ofthose "I'm friendly on TV because I don't have your money yet oryou don't work for me" president types, and he filled me in on thegory details. This particular boss guy had a dog that appearedwith him in all his commercials, and was treated better than thestaff. When the dog finally died, the employees all got togetherand threw a party.

Some of these CEOs don't do a particularly good job of representingtheir company either. I thought Microsoft had finally figured outthat they shouldn't let Bill Gates speak on their behalf, but I wasmistaken. This is a man who came in third in a personality contestwhen his competition was a high school vice principal and a squirrelthat had been lying squashed on the highway for a week.

Ever hear him speak? Neither have I. This is because he doesn'treally speak. He just mutters and stutters. During the anti-trusttrial, Bill Gates gave videotaped testimony, not live. This isprobably because any decent lawyer would make him tapdance to anytune they wanted if he showed up and had to work without a script.

Ever seem him improvise? There's a famous .avi showing him at aWindows 98 demo watching one of his minions trying to install anew piece of hardware. Up popped the blue screen of death beforea hall of journalists. Needless to say, anyone who is acquaintedwith Windows has spent time staring at this screen. After thelaughter and cheers died down, wily Gates quipped in a voice likethe freshly castrated to the effect of "I guess that why we're notshipping Windows 98 yet." Ok Billy, so what was Windows 95'sexcuse?

Even with a script he's pretty impaired. Shortly after theanti-trust ruling Microsoft had him appear in a commercial tryingto repair the company's image. In it, Gates states the much-usedMicrosoft line that the company has always done what it believesis the best thing for its clients and software, blah blah blah.Two problems here. First, Microsoft either can't or won't admitthat this isn't the point. Microsoft has never been on trial forhow good its products are (which is fortunate for them, becauseotherwise the creators of Outlook would be sentenced to sixtyyears without possibility of parole), but the circumstances underwhich they made and marketed them. The US Justice department saysthat they broke US laws trying to make and market them. Microsoftsays "we have always done what's best for our clients."

Ok, now picture this. A prosecutor accuses you of murderingsomebody in a court of law. Your defense is "I have always donewhat's best for my clients." That's pretty damn arrogant. Butmore to the point of our discussion is Bill Gates, and how herepresents his company. During that commercial where he deniesMicrosoft's plans for global domination, he got to the "always donewhat's best for our clients" part and a tiny little smile that looksanything but sincere plays across his lips. I can't pictureout-takes of the commercial:

Gates: We have always (snicker) done what's...hee hee hee...donewhat's....must keep straight face...DONE WHAT'S BEST FOR OURCLIENTS! HAHA AHAHAHA!

Why is it that only certain companies have their upper managementboast about how they personally use their products anyway? Whydon't you see the CEO of Ramses Condoms saying that he liked themso much he bought the company? Or the President of Depends adultdiapers saying that he's not just the President, he's also a client?

Perhaps they're just embarrassed. Or camera shy. It hardly matters.But it is worth pointing out that any CEO or President type has avested interesting in your believing that they personally use theirproducts. If you've ever worked in some kind of menial job, youknow that even if this is true, it's utterly meaningless. The CEOwas not around when that product was assembled. Now if the basiclaborers use the products (and I don't mean the actors who playthem on TV), then that means something. They know all the dirtysecrets behind the production lines, so if they still use theproduct, you can bet it's safe.

There's a kind of blindness to this though. In the world ofadvertising, it's CEOs saying "I eat at my own restaurant so youcan too, and make my stock go up." In the restaurant itself,it's managers never wanting customers to see restaurant staffeating. This is backwards, because the server knows his meal issafe. Meanwhile, the CEO is probably eating the saliva of avengeful cook.

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