The Annals of Commerce

Let’s see, today we have Ebola, Gaza, Ukraine, and our freedoms under siege by an invasion of children.  Maybe we need a break for something a little less ponderous. Advertising never lets us down:
(1) ARCO thinks we want to buy gas everyone waits in line to avoid. “Eat at Joe’s! Nobody else will!”  Did this work in focus groups? Anybody shooing customers out the door to get a nice inviting empty store?
(2) Coors is selling beer with incredibly expensive little adventure sports productions, whose point is that their beer is really, really – wait for it – cold! Uniquely so: the cold is brewed into it by some secret process!  No other beer can possibly be that cold! This is probably well-targeted to the intelligence of their market, but…
(3) The Viagra people invite us to identify with a guy who drives around pulling a team in a horse trailer to rescue his truck, apparently because he (i) never figured out how to put the thing into 4WD,  or is too dumb to (ii) just drive around a mudhole instead of into it in the first place, or (iii) unhitch the trailer, drive up onto dry ground, and pull the trailer out with a rope. I guess the one who gets to play with the most toys at once wins.
(4) Finally, a blast from the distant past: Rheingold beer had a series of ads showing this or that ethnic group having a party…Greeks breaking dishes, Jews dancing the hora, and like that…drinking Rheingold, with the voice-over (from memory): “New York, a city of dozens of different groups and cultures. Who would think it would have only one largest-selling beer? Well, there is such a beer, and it’s Rheingold.”  I watched a fair number of those before the bell went off in my head: “You would think one beer would outsell all others, but no: it’s a dead tie, down to the last bottle!”

[Cross-posted at The Reality-Based Community]

Washington Monthly - Donate today and your gift will be doubled!

Support Nonprofit Journalism

If you enjoyed this article, consider making a donation to help us produce more like it. The Washington Monthly was founded in 1969 to tell the stories of how government really works—and how to make it work better. Fifty years later, the need for incisive analysis and new, progressive policy ideas is clearer than ever. As a nonprofit, we rely on support from readers like you.

Yes, I’ll make a donation

Michael O’Hare

Michael O'Hare is a Professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley.