Budweiser: Bad for your waistline -- and bad for America

Dick Morris is telling his clients to start running political-style hit attack ads. Here's Salon's exclusive look at the first crop.

Published June 14, 1999 4:00PM (EDT)

Dick Morris, uncontrite guru of political attack ads, has a bright new idea. Now affiliated with the New England Consulting Group, he is urging his corporate clients to apply the tactics of negative, or "contrastive" advertising to their campaigns for consumer brands. In a June 14 interview with Forbes, he offered reporter Julie Androshick several examples of how his signature techniques could be applied to consumer pitches. For instance, Morris advised the Gap to retain its current advertising featuring teens dancing in khakis, but suggested that the company add this voice-over: "All of our clothing is produced in factories where there is no child labor and where there is housing for workers, not sweatshops." And he urged Reebok to focus on Nike's image problems with its suppliers. "The ad should show an American kid wearing Nike sneakers dribbling a basketball," said Morris. "He'd shoot, then you'd go to the kid who's barefoot in a third world country. And HE'S BAREFOOT SO YOU CAN WEAR NIKES!"

Sadly for Morris, companies contacted by Forbes rebuffed his innovative suggestions. "That's why he's a consultant, and we have our own ad agency," a Reebok spokesman scoffed to Androshick.

Largely unreported, however, is the fact that other, more forward-thinking clients have apparently taken Morris' advice to heart. In a rare coup, Salon has obtained draft scripts for several consumer ads written and directed by Madison Avenue's new wizard of darkness. The ads are still in storyboard form, and air dates have yet to be determined. But Morris' corporate converts are said to be so enthusiastic about the new strategy, several of them are already thinking Super Bowl.

Client: Rogaine

Opponent: Propecia

Title: "Side effects"

ANNOUNCER: You've seen those TV ads for the hair-growth drug Propecia.

Maybe you've noticed that cryptic warning about "certain types of sexual side effects."

Certain types?

Merck is telling you only part of the story.

Here are the facts.

Those side effects can include:

  • less desire for sex

  • softer erections

  • less semen

[Cut to close facial shot of middle-aged man seated with his chin resting in his hand. The man sports a luxuriant mane of hair, yet his face is pinched, and expresses deep uncertainty.]

ANNOUNCER: If you want less semen in your life, Propecia may be for you.

[Switch to intercutting pictures of couples walking along the beach and clinking glasses over dinner. Heroic music starts gently, then builds.]

ANNOUNCER (voice brightening): Rogaine promises robust erections. And plenty of semen.

Propecia. Put it down if you want to get it up.

Client: Burger King

Opponent: McDonald's

Title: "Furlough"

OPEN: A steady procession of convicts circling through a revolving gate, and marching forward -- toward the viewer.

ANNOUNCER: Remember Michael Dukakis?

He vetoed the death penalty. Then he gave furloughs to first-degree murderers not eligible for parole.

One of them was Willie Horton.

[Blurry black-and-white photo of Horton being arrested.]

ANNOUNCER: Horton was sentenced to life without parole, but Dukakis gave him a furlough. Horton went on to rape and torture others.

[Cut to close-up mug shot of Horton's scowling, unshaven face.]

ANNOUNCER: And what did Willie Horton request for his last meal?

A McDonald's Filet o' Fish.

[We see Horton's face morphing into a Filet o' Fish sandwich.]

ANNOUNCER: At Burger King, we DON'T believe violent career criminals deserve a break today -- or ever.

That's why Burger King supports the death penalty for first-degree murderers.

[Cut to another procession of convicts circling through the Golden Arches, which have been converted into a revolving turnstile.]

ANNOUNCER: McDonald's on crime. We are all victims.

Client: Chi-Chis

Opponent: Taco Bell

Title: "Extreme"

OPEN with shot of Taco Bell Chihuahua running over to a fire hydrant and lifting his leg.

ANNOUNCER, in tone of sneering disbelief: What's Taco Bell putting out this week?

[Cut to shot of new "Extreme Fajitas," splashed across the screen in fluorescent blue colors, accompanied by harsh sound effects.]

ANNOUNCER: Taco Bell is at it again. They say their Extreme Fajitas are the right choice for America.

[Insert grainy shot of newspaper headline.]

ANNOUNCER: The nonpartisan Veterinarian's Weekly is an authority on who's telling the truth.

And according to Veterinarian's Weekly, 70 percent of Chihuahuas fed a diet of Extreme Fajitas developed tapeworm.

Chi-Chis opposes Taco Bell and its risky, extreme taco schemes.

[Cut to images of the Statue of Liberty, rolling wheat fields, and a rippling American flag, intercut with photos of enchiladas and chimichangas.]

ANNOUNCER: Here at Chi-Chis, we share your most treasured values. We support traditional Tex-Mex meal concepts -- and we always will.

Read our lips. No new tacos.

Client: Baskin-Robbins

Opponent: Ben & Jerry's

Title: "Liberal"

ANNOUNCER: Ben and Jerry say they sell Vermont's finest ice cream, frozen yogurt and sorbet.

But what they're really selling is more of the same tired old liberal solutions.

[Still photos of Vietnam protesters, Charles Manson and the riots outside of the '68 Democratic convention are rapidly intercut with pictures of Ben and Jerry.]

ANNOUNCER: We've come a long way since then. But Ben and Jerry just don't get it. They want to return us to the failed policies of the past.

[Tight close-up of white Popsicle.]

ANNOUNCER: This is a "Peace Pop." Ben and Jerry say 1 percent of profits go to peace.

But the profits really go to organizations like the Children's Defense Fund.

What does the Children's Defense Fund stand for?

  • more welfare

  • more taxes
  • unwed motherhood
  • compassion for criminals

ANNOUNCER: The Ben & Jerry's Peace Pop. The ice-cream novelty of the corrupt liberal welfare state.

[Cut to a photo of founders Ben and Jerry, who gradually morph into Marx and Lenin.]

ANNOUNCER: Ben & Jerry's. Too liberal to swallow.

Paid for by Americans for Just Desserts.

Client: Hugo Boss

Opponent: Ralph Lauren

Title: "Name"

A dark, smoke-filled room. Sitting around the table are a group of fat men. The light glints off their pinky rings. It is clear that they are haberdashers.

MAN No. 1: We just got a truckload full of cotton pique shirts.

MAN No. 2: How we going to unload all these shirts?

MAN No. 3: Hey, I got it. We put a polo player on 'em! People will think they're getting something special. Not more of the same haberdashery as usual.

MAN No. 1: Oy! Ralph, you've done it again.

[Cue nerve-grating klezmer music. As the men sign checks and flourish handfuls of cash, the camera zooms in on their fat fingers.]

INSINUATING MALE ANNOUNCER: What's your real name, Mr. Lipshitz?

Ralph Lauren -- He's not one of us.

Brought to you by Citizens Against Cosmopolitan Dry Goods.

Client: Kool-Aid.

Opponent: Hawaiian Punch

Title: "Grandpa and Susan."

Very old man sitting down in a mythic, light-strewn living room. His granddaughter comes up to his rocking chair. They exchange affectionate glances.

SUSAN: Well, I'm off to the store to pick up a shelf-stable juice product. I think it will be Hawaiian Punch.

GRANDPA: That's nice, Susan. But did you know they've used the same tired old spokesman, "Punchy," for the last 59 years?

SUSAN: Really? I didn't know he was still around.

GRANDPA: Mmmm mmm. He's been holding the same stalemated ideas for a long, long time. Hey, maybe your generation can do something about it.

SUSAN (with pensive look): I hope so.

ANNOUNCER: Think it's time for Punchy to punch out?

Try Kool-Aid. New ideas for a new millennium.

Client: Franco-American/Spaghetti-Os.

Opponent: Chef Boy-ar-dee

Title: "Stand"

ANNOUNCER: Where do you stand, Chef Boy-ar-dee?

FACT: On March 4, 1995, American Home Products, employers of Chef Boy-ar-Dee, announced that the chef's line of prepared pastas would target young kids.

In TV ads, the chef introduced viewers to his son, Chef Junior, who made products "just for kids 6-and-under," and his dog, Rigatoni. The ads touted the young chef's addition of "a lot more cheese."

FACT: On May 2, 1999, Chef Boy-ar-dee flip-flopped!

In an interview with Brandweek, Boy-ar-dee announced the launch of his new Homestyle line, described as "grown-up flavors for more grown-up tastes."
The goal, he said, was to "bring new and lapsed adult users back into the canned pasta fold."

Adult users? What happened to putting children first?

Wake up, Chef. Our kids asked for "a lot more cheese" -- not a lot more sleaze!

Chef Boy-ar-dee. A recipe for deception.

Paid for by Citizens for Spaghetti Equity.

Client: Little Caesars Pizza

Opponent: Domino's Pizza

Title: "Life"

An unadorned talking-head shot of a woman. She is shot in tight close-up, so the furrows of heartache etched on her face are clearly visible.

WOMAN: Domino's Pizza changed my life forever.

Last summer, in his rush to meet the company's deadly pledge of pizza in 30 minutes or less, a Domino's driver ran over my son, Timmy.

Little Timmy was killed -- his wheelchair destroyed.

When their risky experiment failed, Domino's simply changed the subject.

They've scrapped their 30-minute delivery guarantee. Now it's all about their so-called patented "wicking" technology. They say it makes for a hotter, fresher pie.

As for me, I worry that people don't know enough about Domino's record.

So the next time Domino's asks to be a part of your family dining occasion, think of little Timmy.

And ask yourself: Who died for your pizza today?

MALE ANNOUNCER: Little Caesars. Pizza for life.

Title: "Water"

Client: Evian

Opponent: Keeper Springs water.

Ominous-sounding male ANNOUNCER: Maybe you've heard the news.

[Cut to shot of a plastic bottle, featuring a blue label with a pristine waterfall scene.]

Robert F. Kennedy Jr., the environmental lawyer, has introduced a new brand of bottled water. He calls it Keeper Springs.

He says part of the profits will go back to protect water supplies. Whoa, there, Robert.

Haven't the Kennedys had enough trouble with water? First, there was the Bay of Pigs.

[Cut to footage of Cubans wading ashore, their hands raised in surrender.]

Then, there was Chappaquiddick.

[Cut to picture of a bridge.]

ANNOUNCER: Now, Robert Kennedy wants us to entrust our palates to his risky new bottling scheme.

The Kennedys. Wrong for the premium bottled water category. Wrong for America.

By Ruth Shalit

Ruth Shalit is an account planner at Mad Dogs & Englishmen, a New York advertising agency. For more columns by Shalit, visit her column archive.

MORE FROM Ruth Shalit

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