On my way to a doctor’s appointment this morning, I was listening to talk radio, not my usual sports talk but a news show. Do your remember when we tuned to FM radio because they played fewer commercials? Of course you don’t … it was eight and a half million years ago. These days, talk radio has almost as many commercials as talk, unless you count the commercials delivered by the talk show hosts themselves. I’ve always thought that a journalist loses credibility when he does commercials on his own show but given the state of radio journalism … sports talk or not … is there really any credibility to lose? Still, whether it’s a sportstalk host hyping male hair removal or a political commentator hyping his own brand of iced tea, I’m inclined to prefer professionally done ads. Sometimes, they even provide blog-fodder.
Take this morning. A commercial for Cisco Servers featured basketball used-to-be and NBA commentator, Charles Barkley. Now, I think that Barkley is a very entertaining fellow when he talks about basketball and even when he wanders off into politics or sociology, he can be very funny. Of course, that’s the irony of the commercial, Sir Charles talking about defense in basketball and an engineering-type talking about the security features of Cisco servers. I even understand the power of sports analogies to sell products in this sports-obsessed country. But seriously … servers, those ubiquitous software and computer systems used to provide network service to industry and hundreds of thousands of bloggers like Older Eyes? Can Barkley sell servers? My media-type readers will remind me that the only purpose of the commercial is to get me to think of Cisco first when I think of servers and that this post is proof that it worked. My opinion … which should carry some weight, since I am an engineer … is that ads that try to sell technical products with less than technical pitchmmen actually drive away buyers. But … since I’m not in the market for a server, I’ll just say it seems like an odd choice.
Which got me thinking about other odd choices for commercial spokesmen. Did you know that in the 1800s, Pope Leo XIII endorsed Mariani wine? Of course it was For Sacramental Purposes Only. No, I made that up … but not this. Vin Mariana was a made by enhancing Bordeaux wine with coca leaf extract, aka cocaine. How about Joe Namath in a 1974 ad wearing and endorsing Hanes Beautymist pantyhose, the pitch being: if his legs can look good in them, what can they do for yours? Of course, the commercial ended with his getting a big kiss from a beautiful woman, just to dispel any doubt about his sexual preference. Senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole did a commercial for Viagra featuring the after effects of his prostate surgery. It may take a little courage to ask your doctor about erectile dysfunction, he said. And even less dignity to do a commercial about it, I’d add. Some odd celebrity endorsements are self-inflicted, attempts to make some additional cash by endorsing their own products. How about Sylvester Stallone’s High Protein Pudding or Mr. T. Cereal? And some celebrity spokesmen only turn out to be odd in retrospect, for instance, Eric Clapton being chosen a a spokesman for Michelob Beer … shortly before checking himself into a rehab for alcohol and drug abuse. Or perhaps James Garner being featured in the Beef Industry Council’s Beef – It’s What’s for Dinner ads … then needing a quadruple bypass to survive a heart attack.
The classic, of course, is this:
What could by more ironically funny than OJ running through the airport, needing to rent a car fast?