Didn’t vote? You can still make your opinion count

Paul Wong

Like 80 percent of the United States, I didn’t vote in the elections last Tuesday. It was a result of general apathy and forgetting to pick up my absentee ballot, but it’s like Chris Rock said, “Is there anything you won’t be able to do just because your guy didn’t win?”

Yet, I still feel a tinge of guilt for not making my opinion count, and now I will try and make amends by taking on another cause: A progression toward better commercials on television.

Here you can make your voice count with very matter effort – just don’t buy or use the products.

As college students, ages 18-24, we are in the most coveted marketing demographic. Soon, we will have a disposable income and will be eager to spend it. Companies know this and work around the clock to create successful campaigns geared for us. Because of this, we should never settle for the inane advertising that we are forced to deal with.

For example, you should never want to “Dial down the center” to use AT&T for collect calls because AT&T replaced David Arquette with possibly the only person with a more abrasive shtick in Carrot Top. On top of that, there almost never a situation where you would want to pay $2 per minute for a phone call – and if you are in that situation, then saving money over dialing the operator isn’t your biggest concern.

Phone companies and the technology industry are the worst culprits as each try to find a new, hip way of stimulating the interest of its audience. Of course, every company is searching for that very thing, but since advertising companies are paid boatloads for this service, they shouldn’t be rewarded for poor promotions.

You can’t avoid watching television and seeing commercials for AT&T mobile (What is mLife?), Verizon wireless (Can you hear me now?), Sprint PCS (All-digital nationwide network) or VoiceStream (Whenever minutes).

The slogans of these companies have entered our vernacular through sheer repetition. Companies don’t care whether you have a negative or positive to response to their advertisement as long as you associate their company with a service.

Most people would agree that they wouldn’t hesitate to hit a man with glasses if they saw the Verizon guy, but that does not matter if new cellular phone customers continue to choose Verizon. The same could be said for any of the other phone companies.

Computer industry commercials are at the root of the entire problem. As the leaders in new technology, they feel the need to be the leader in witty and hip advertisements. Unfortunately, these spots are very hit and miss and many are guilty of trying too hard (see: Any dot-com ad during this past Super Bowl).

Clever as it may be, you are not going to create a wall mural using your new color Hewlett-Packard printer using 8.5-by-11 sheets of paper. For that you are going to need a little more motivation and about 53 color ink cartridges. If you have that, by all means go ahead, but don’t be surprised if all you use your printer for is printing essays and directions from Mapquest (the color will have an easier time indicating if there is a SixFlags or a Cracker Barrel within two miles of your route).

The computer industry is still susceptible to what I will call common denominator irritating. This is the kind of advertising that nobody really finds amusing.

For this, Dell takes the cake with its Steven series, which stars a twenty-something drama student as a bumbling Dell lover, an abundance of “sweet,” and the motto, “Dude, you’re gettin’ a Dell.” I know that Steven has his own cult following and I don’t care. These are the same people that have goiter fetishes.

Any variation of the reality/hidden camera advertisement no longer has a place in modern television. Whether it is a taste test or cleaning products, the tactic is dated. Unfortunately, while some people recognize this, it didn’t stop Pontiac from showing a series for promoting their Aztek, Grand Am, Grand Prix and Vibe.

In the “What would you do with a Pontiac?” collection, a group of men or women take a trip in a Grand Am and Grand Prix and are taped. The problem is that there is nothing necessary about driving around in a Pontiac. Las Vegas isn’t any more fun if you are rolling up to the MGM Grand valet in a silver Grand Prix.

The same could be said for a the Pontiac Vibe commercials, where a group of people in their twenties analyze the car and are amazed at the amount of chrome inside and the use of an AC adapter. I know that the thought of making smoothies inside a car is intriguing, but it is no reason to plunk down any money for what might the world’s ugliest car.

Also, while I’m reprimanding businesses, I don’t want to see a burger when there are no burger joints open. Seeing a Whopper doing a 360-degree turn on-screen is enough to make me bolt out the door, but after realizing that it’s 3:30 a.m. and I’m already at the corner of State and Eisenhower, I’m a bit frustrated, and cooking a patty on the George Foreman isn’t going to cut it.

I could go on, but I’ve made my point. This may not be the noblest movement, but remember this: Long after al Qaeda is gone and Augusta National admits female members, there will still be ad campaigns that go out of their way to annoy the hell out of you and me.

– Jeff Phillips can be reached at jpphilli@umich.edu.

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