Saturday Morning Massacre

A plethora of new ads strip-mine the short-attention-span generation's psyche


Rob Spillman
October 24, 1996 1:57PM (UTC)

Madison Avenue has finally caught on to the fact that me and my Gen-X brethren have no cultural history outside of TV. Moon landing? Oh yeah, with Lancelot Link, right? Remember where you were when J.R. was shot? Our formative experiences were with Tabitha and Samantha, Fred and Wilma, Jethro and Jed, Josie and all her Pussycats. Politicians, executives, clergy, books, news that's all white noise to me. My celluloid-sealed TV friends are the only people I really trust these days. Especially when it comes to advertising. Who wants to see ads with the now-ancient Sally Struthers or Cher? We need pitchmen who won't get jowly or have major cosmetic surgery, cut embarrassing albums or have messy private lives we need people who are Disney perfect, cryogenically frozen in our consciousness forever.

In other words, I'd buy any crappy little car from Speed Racer before buying a Buick from Susan Lucci. And, oh great country of mine, my prayers have finally been answered. There Speed is, in a heavy-rotation VW Jetta ad, once again saving the day for Trixie and Spritel. Speed knocks the bad guys' cars off the road with his Jetta, so you better believe you'll be able to do the same on those dangerous California freeways.

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But this great ad isn't an anomaly. Finally, there are spokesmen I can really relate to. G.I. Joe, that supercool hunk of an ideal man, is touting Nissans. I recently saw an ad where a thinly-disguised and no doubt non-trademark infringing version of our burr-cut hero burns rubber up to a veritable Barbie dream house. He honks the horn and a vinyl-haired babe appears on the balcony, is instantly and rightfully smitten, and jumps into the macho doll's sporty little Nissan leaving her Malibu Ken boyfriend (complete with sweater knotted around his neck) stunned, stunned I tell you! Oh what sweet justice after all these years.

And just when I thought my bliss was complete, I saw a Mercedes ad where a sleek black car races up and down the TV set that is San Francisco while a TVish authoritarian voice (I like TV authority) intones that they have just the car for Kojak, Mannix, Baretta, Cagney & Lacey and even Barney Fife. Wow, those coppers were guys (and gals) I really really look up to. Sign me up!

I've been so excited by the fact that our true heroes are finally telling me what to buy that I've done a little snooping around to see if any more of my idols are going to be endorsing worthy products. They are! Here are a few of the favorites you'll be seeing soon:

Minoxidil has tapped Shaggy and Scooby for a series of very compelling spots. Seems Shaggy and his buddy Scooby are showing signs of the inevitable male-pattern baldness that so many of us Gen-Xers fear. But thanks to the miracle of Minoxidil and some extremely convincing before and after photos our virility will be saved from such assaults.

Calvin Klein has a great new campaign for its cologne CK-2 featuring my favorite dynamic duo from "Get Smart." Instead of their usual nihilistic-anorectic horror show, Calvin Klein has taken old, never-before-seen outtakes of Maxwell Smart dabbing himself with some liquid, then Agent 99 jumping his bones in Thaddeus's office. Oh, how I long to be in that lucky bastard's position.

Pharmaceutical giant Upjohn has scored a real coup by signing my first real adult hero, George Jetson, to an exclusive five-year contract. Old Georgie must be following on the heels of his swinging space age theme song, which is already being used in the new AOL campaign.

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I've seen the first two George ads currently in the works and they are both brilliant. The first features the nervous, overworked Jetson family patriarch falling off the moving sidewalk and being sucked under the treadmill. Jane rescues him and tells him that he really should stop smoking, that his nasty habit is making him too tense. She slaps a few nicotine patches on George's pointy little elbows and he's instantly a happy, calm clam. George is so much more trustworthy than those fat, ugly commercial actors nicotine patch companies have used in the past. George's second ad shows him having a mild panic attack while he's stuck in intergalactic traffic. The glass walls of his tiny spaceship are closing in when a metal hand pops out of the dashboard and stuffs a dozen Xanax down his throat. Instant Nirvana. I'd always been a little leery of highly addictive mood altering psychoactives, but George doesn't seem to have any problems, so its pharmaceutical cocktail time for me!

And now the future stretches out gloriously before me. I can see all my current heroes lining up to give sage advice on my consumer options: Ren and Stimpy for that breakthrough adult acne cream, Jason Priestly for at-home prostate exams, The Tick for Roach Motels, Lisa Simpson on musical masters degrees through the mail ...


Rob Spillman

Rob Spillman is editor of Tin House magazine.

MORE FROM Rob Spillman



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