Monday, February 18, 2008

And Dedicate Them All To Me

Re: Your Terrible Commercials

To Whom It Concerns:

We've had a long relationship, what with it being impossible anymore to watch TV via a signal that travels though the air. In that time, you've promised me the NASA Channel and BBC America, both of which you failed to deliver. Remember that? Ah, good times! Lately, every few minutes my picture goes all pixilated, which is mildly annoying, and every time I try to get the channel guide the screen goes to the iO logo because somehow the signal gets cut off for at least a few minutes every day, which is also annoying. But that's not why I'm writing. Nope: about half your commercials sound like they were written by drunken, 22-year-old county college communications majors, and not the smart ones.

See, the thing is these commercials were written by people who don't understand the phrases they're using. I know, I know. People misuse English all the time, but it takes special talent to get that blatant, craptastic phrasing through a room full of proofreaders and - curiously - grownups. This talent is usually reserved for really cute girls or that frat boy who by virtue of his size intimidates anyone who's ever cracked a dictionary. Fortunately for you, I don't scare easy.

Example Number 1: Last year's jarring mistake was the tagline "Who says the world isn't flat?" That one's easy. Sailors, pilots, astronauts, astronomers, meteorologists, geologists, and every mapmaker in the world know the world isn't flat. Little children know the world is not flat. It is an obloid spheroid. Your copywriter was making ham-fisted reference to Thomas L. Friedman's recent book, which in itself was a ham-fisted attempt to be clever.

When your narrator intones "Who says the world isn't flat?" smart people say, "Huh, maybe I'll go read Profiles In Courage."

Example Number 2: More recently, two commercials use the words "Here's something else too good to be true," and recommend your service. The problem is these words mean the exact opposite of what your commercial suggests. Here's the breakdown.

If something is too good to be true, that means it's a lie, it's a falsehood, it's a swindle.
If something is almost too good to be true, it's a dream, it's Heavenly, it's a great offer.

In other words, your commercial, as it's written, suggests your service is worthless.

Let's not even discuss the iO international commercial set on a beach with a throbbing beat and amateurish choreography. In its way, that ad must be effective because I recite the phone number in my sleep, but it is grating beyond endurance. I keep hoping that guy in the lobster suit goes all full-metal Godzilla on the beachgoers, but the commercial ends the same way every time. Alas!

There's no need for iO to transgress against the English language. Any experienced copyrighter should be able to untie the half-assed linguistic rigging, provided you let him or her push overboard the person or committee who committed these word crimes. If all this was the work of your brother-in-law, I'm sorry. It's time for him to pursue other career opportunities.




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