Not as Advertised

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Men are not as brainless as advertisers want you to believe

Is it just me, or are we men getting slammed by American advertisers? Every time I turn on my TV, another poor guy is being made to look foolish and stupid. Do commercials have to sacrifice the intelligence of men to sell a product? I don’t know about the rest of you men, but I’m getting tired of being thrown under the media bus.

Now, I admit some men are a little awkward in some situations like casual conversation and interpersonal relationships, but that does not make us dumb. Sure, we have done some stupid things and have even won awards for idiotic behavior. The Darwin Awards, for example, are symbolically given to people who die from such stupid conduct so as to ensure the long-term survival of the species. By selectively allowing one less idiot to survive, the gene pool is protected. Men have won 88% of all Darwin Awards, but those guys do not represent the rest of us who survive stupid conduct every day. Anyone would agree that such an award for the male terrorist who mailed a letter bomb with insufficient postage and opened it upon its return, or the man who died trying to take a selfie next to an injured bear he spotted in the woods. I insist that men are not universally stupid and certainly not as stupid as commonly portrayed in today’s TV commercials. To prove my point, consider these few examples of premeditated attempts to display men in a false light.

Let’s begin with one of the worst offenders, Liberty Mutual Insurance. Not only do they incorrectly assume all other insurance companies are ripping off their customers by selling more coverage than they need, they do it in a way most offensive to men. They put this character, Doug, on the street to carry the company message to random people in the most irritating and harassing way possible. “Only pay for what you need,” says Doug to everyone he meets. The ads are apparently directed at people who may have a fear they are being overcharged for insurance, but why does that require a messenger who is not only irritatingly stupid, but he wears a bright yellow shirt, tinted aviator sunglasses, a mustache disguise, and his partner is an emu also wearing sunglasses. That’s right, an emu just to make Doug’s absurdity more obvious. The chief of marketing for Liberty Mutual describes LiMu Emu and Doug as a demonstration of “surprise and humor.” Yes, but men are always the butt of the humor, and especially those legitimately trying to sell insurance. Would you want to buy insurance from a clown on a treadmill with an emu? Neither Doug nor his emu has any credibility, and their only redeeming value is to look ridiculous.

In its continuing effort to demean men, Liberty Mutual now has an ad featuring a food cart vendor selling – wait for it – “wet teddy bears.” Not hotdogs as expected, but “wet teddy bears.” Are these people insane? The newest ad shows a female DJ in New York harbor waiting to play music. An attractive well-dressed and normal looking woman walks up and requests a dance song. A disco version of the company jingle begins and a witless man who looks like a refugee from a lumberjack convention enters from the opposite side trying to do the moon walk and begins to dance a bad version of the funky chicken mixed with the robot. I’m sure you’ve seen the one starring a tall skinny guy with straight blond hair to his waist sitting with his twin Afghan Hound. They engage in synchronized movements apparently to make the point that stupid men who look like dogs should buy insurance from Liberty Mutual.

Our next clueless star appears in a hearing aid commercial. Charlie goes to visit his girlfriend at the home of her parents and they are talking in the kitchen as her father, wearing his new hearing aid, reads the newspaper in the adjoining room. The girlfriend whispers across the kitchen island to our hero inquiring if he brought condoms. Initially, he doesn’t understand her and she repeats the question in a low whisper deliberately mouthing the words when her father, with his back to the kitchen, says, “Condoms, Charlie. She wants to know if you’ve brought any condoms.” Now, that part of the commercial was designed to sell hearing aids, but then clueless Charlie replies aloud to the girlfriend, “Yeah, I brought them.” That part was gratuitously designed to make Charlie and all other men appear hopelessly dumb and inept.

It is likely this whole dumb man thing started with Barney Fife. Advertisers have obviously studied his character and insert a little Barney in any commercial where male stupidity might help sell the product. Why else would Progressive Insurance give us Jamie every hour of the day and night? Jamie, now there is a lost ball if there ever was one. He eats and goes to sleep with food on his face while pretending to give a driver road test, and he makes the driver stop for free wood scraps on the side of the road. In one episode, Jamie believes that the handsome new hire, Scott, looks exactly like him when they obviously bear no resemblance. Jamie is so oblivious, he’s an embarrassment to men everywhere. Thanks to Flo for making sure we understand bundling.

Who in the world thought it would be a good idea to run those ED commercials now so prevalent on TV? Most men are still shocked the subject is even discussed openly in the media. Recently, I was watching a waiting room television in a doctor’s office with about 10 other patients when our silence was broken by a descriptive commercial about ED’s big brother, PD, using vegetables as exhibits. I dared not make eye contact with anyone in the room and buried my head deeper into the Cityview magazine I was reading.

These ads are not only uncomfortable for any male over 10 years of age, they are specifically designed to make men feel that all adults are having sex all the time and everywhere. Apparently, all men but me are out of town at some resort or at a big party dancing on a cruise ship with a hot babe engaged in some type of mating ritual I was never told about. Like most men, I learned all I know about sex between the seventh and the twelfth grades and ED was never mentioned. Do these drug advertisers have any idea the harm they are causing by making men feel inferior and causing us to believe all is well and we can come to the party anytime and dance around like a Laysan albatross if we just pop a pill? What torment! Intentionally blunting what little male sensuality we have left.

I would like to meet the fool who was sitting around in an advertising agency trying to come up with a convincing message and said, “I’ve got it. Why don’t we appeal to old people who are on Social Security by hiring Jimmie “J.J.” Walker to remind them what a halfwit he was 46 years ago by having him scream “DYN-O-MITE.” Or, “If J.J. is not available, maybe we could permanently kill off another male hero by propping Joe Namath up long enough to read the same script.” Why would anyone really make a man look so dense as to go down on one knee in front of his girlfriend in a swanky restaurant to make a candlelight proposal that she join him in a T-Mobile account “forever”?

Brothers, we have to stop this advertising assault. I feel so inadequate now, I may never recover. Men everywhere, I implore you, wake up and smell the abuse. Time is short, and we must regain our rightful reputation as masters of the remote control.   

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