Thursday, December 23, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
Thursday, December 9, 2010
You know what I miss?
I kinda miss tact.
It's a concept that seems to be turning up in shorter and shorter supply these days. And one that would appear to be entirely lost on the good folks at Proctor & Gamble, makers of popular bath tissue, Charmin.
I mean, we ALL know how toilet paper works, right? We don't really need it spelled out in graphic, scatological detail ...
Or DO we?
Well, if you've seen any of Charmin's cartoon bear-based commercials, or any of the numerous billboards currently posted around NYC ... well, they seem to think we do.
To be fair, I don't wish to suggest that the good people at Charmin are somehow unaware of subtlety, class or nuance.
But I do wish to suggest that they are deliberately ignoring such things because they wish to have more money.
Which is especially disappointing since these are the people who introduced the world to paragon of propriety, one Mr. George Whipple, Grocer. Who was more dignified, proper or fusty than Mr. Whipple?
Nobody. That's who.
Unlike the new cartoon bears, Mr. Whipple never had to be overly literal about the specific uses of the product. It wasn't necessary. We were all perfectly well aware of what he meant. It was his job merely to suggest to us how "squeezably soft" Charmin was. It was toilet paper, after all. If you were in the market to buy some, presumably you had already figured out the logistics.
I mean, sure ... we all knew that by "squeezably soft" he actually meant: "pleasing to rub against your tender, tender anus."
But he didn't need to spell it out. Unlike advertisers today, Whipple respected our intelligence enough to employ a bit of subtlety.
"Charmin: Your tender, tender anus will thank you." --G. Whipple, 1967 (while drunk)
(Although ... when you stop and think about it ... Whipple's curiously vehement crusade against Charmin squeezing ... coupled with his own inability to keep his feverishly palpating mitts off the stuff ... well, in retrospect, it smacks of the kind of hypocrisy usually deployed by virulently anti-gay preachers who love nothing more than secret gay sex with boy prostitutes in seedy motels out by the airport. Huh. Weird, right?)
But I digress.
The point is, this is a thing that now exists right here in New York ... a Charmin-run public toilet:
Oh, come on, Charmin. Red and blue bears? Just take that last, little step and make them brown and yellow. You know you want to.
Now, to be clear, I certainly don't have a problem with public toilets. In fact I've been known to use them myself on many an occasion. They have been the mark of civilized society since the Romans. And, truth be told, I actually find this to be a pretty brilliant publicity idea for a toilet paper company. Especially given how incredibly crowded and chaotic NYC can be this time of year.
But where Charmin and I part company is in the overt literalism of their ads. I mean, Mr. Whipple only wanted to squeeze the package. His interest was oblique. You never saw him dancing around with his hands thrust betwixt his legs, dangerously on the verge of explosively filling his slacks.
That would have been undignified.
And that was not how Whipple rolled. No sir.
The cartoon bears? Well, they don't seem to have much of a problem with it.
And you know what? While we're on the subject, why the hell would you use bears as your toilet paper mascots in the first place?
The implicitly "clever" notion embedded in that choice is, of course, the unsaid association with the famous phrase: "Do bears shit in the woods?"
Clever, right? You've ingeniously linked your toilet paper brand to the act of defecation! Well played, sir! Perfect! Call the animators! Buy some ad time during Wheel of Fortune!
But ... if they'd taken another moment to parse it out ... they might have changed their minds. Because it would seem, if you're going to put people in mind of that famous rhetorical question ... you might also want to make sure the answer to that question somehow intrinsically involves the use of your product.
The answer: "Yes. Bears DO, in fact, shit in the woods. And when they're finished, they rarely, if ever, use Charmin brand toilet paper. Or any toilet paper at all, really. Or toilets. Because they're BEARS."
"Young man, no one likes pieces left behind! So you FINISH eating those hikers this instant!" (Because ... see ... BEARS.)
But again ... I digress.
Back to the gripe at hand -- the erosion of tact in the selling of bath tissue. Right.
Gone, it seems, are the salad days when gentle euphemisms like "quilted softness" or "super-absorbency" would be used to highlight a brand's quality.
Today's consumer doesn't have time to be sifting through all that rocket science like a WWII codebreaker! Get to the point, dammit! Somewhere C-list celebrities are dancing! And we're missing it!
So instead, we dress people up as toilets.
"WANTED: Performers to wear costumes for in-store promotions. No benefits. Sense of dignity not a prerequisite."
And don't even get me started on the obviously unintentional -- yet still way-icky-when-you-think-about-it -- misogynist overtones of dressing ladies up as toilets. It's just creepy.
Now, far be it from me to dictate what demographic Charmin should be trying to sell their toilet paper to.
If people find that sort of thing amusing and sales increase, well, I can't really argue with that. Hell, I've seen it first hand. I pass this establishment on the way to work every morning, and there are plenty of people who seem to find toilet costumes to be the very zenith of the Comedic Arts in the Western World.
And I certainly can't begrudge them. After all, the people who go to Spencer Gifts to see the latest in rubber vomit technology ... or to hear which country tune the hilarious wall-mounted fish will be singing this season ... well those people need toilet paper, too.
Just because they aren't my demographic, doesn't mean they shouldn't enjoy having squeaky-clean underselves, too.
Alas, I'm just an artifact of an earlier time. A time when things were just a little more innocent. A time when the lowest common denominator was just a smidge higher. A time when cartoon bears didn't regularly wipe their asses on TV.
A time when we didn't have red carpet openings for public restrooms.
Oh, didn't I mention that? They had a red carpet opening for a public restroom. Press, celebrities, velvet ropes ... the whole deal.
In fact, former boy-bander Joey Fatone was among the glitterati allowed behind the brown velvet ropes at this star-studded gala event. The press ... oh hell, why not ... let's call them the "pooperazzi" ... got plenty of photos.
Joey Fatone: Mostly just happy to be out of the house.
Also present ... the uber-ubiquitous Kim Kardashian! Who is famous for some reason!
"Did you need me to pose nude? I can pose nude-- OH GOD, KEEP LOOKING!! IF YOU STOP LOOKING AT ME, I'LL DISAPPEAR!!"
Presumably Ms. Kardashian was invited because of her notably fulsome derriere. (Though I'm beginning to wonder if the folks at Charmin might be laboring under the misconception that it looks that way because it's swollen with feces. It probably isn't.)
Though it's also possible -- likely even -- that Ms. Kardashian was not on the guest list at all. She may well have tottered in of her own accord, hypnotically drawn to the sound of clicking of cameras ... very much the way a mindless zombie is irresistibly pulled by the sticky-sweet scent of warm, throbbing brains.
But I'm digressing again.
Anyhow, in closing, I suppose there is a tiny bit of a silver lining in all this. We can still be thankful Charmin hasn't teamed up with Jamie Lee Curtis and her poop-inducing yogurt.
Till next we meet ...