Humbug! Holiday Advertising Turns You into a Grinch

Ba rum puh puh pum, ba rum puh puh pum. Oh no, he’s baaaccckkkk! Have you, like me, ever imagined all the evil things you would do to that little drummer boy if you ever caught the kid off duty after Christmas?

OK, I admit he is kind of ingratiating – for maybe the first three times you hear him, which seems these days to be on Halloween night. The last trick or treaters leave your porch whooping and hollering their way to the next house, and then finally, as only the rustle of falling leaves punctuate a dark evening slouching toward midnight, a keen ear can just start to capture the first strains of ba rum puh puh pum…slowly slithering over the horizon toward every department store in town.

He’s not only back, he’s everywhere! Ubiquitous. Omnipresent. Pervasive. Numbing. No longer ingratiating but downright grating. Probably the only thing worse than “Drummer” are all the other holiday tunes that tinny loudspeakers blast 24/7 at those of us who have acquired mush for ears over the years.

The only way to tune all this out is to stay home, away from all that tacky holiday cheer. This is actually good for the environment – fewer cars on the road, less gas consumed; good for the catalogers and online shopping outlets; and good for you – more time with the family, less parking lot rage, lower stress levels when you don’t have to engage in hand-to-hand combat in Toys R Us as you try to snag the last whatever.

On the other hand, staying at home so much can possibly lead to a worse fate as you cast about to find something to do when you can’t stand one more holiday special with seven minutes of content and 23 minutes of advertising. On the verge of Christmas overload, you look around for something to read. And what do you find? The coffee table, piled high with – you guessed it – holiday advertising.

I’m not totally against advertising. I’ve found some interesting, even useful information in advertising. (And, with a journalist’s need for full disclosure, I have to acknowledge I’ve made a buck or two in this lifetime writing some advertising.)

So understanding the need to get the word about a company’s goods or services out to the maximum possible population, I’ve never particularly complained about it. Until I realized it’s gotten as out of hand as that darned holiday percussionist.

Take, for example:

The inside of the toilet stall door in a ladies room. Puhleeez! Talk about a captive audience. I was not positively moved by the experience, so to speak. And, I heard only recently, video ads will be broadcast above the men’s urinals at a major broadcasting corporation’s headquarters. Do you know any guys who really want some beaming pitchman looking and talking right at them while they’re, uh, doing what they do there?

But two items a few weeks ago finally got a full measure of froth foaming around my mouth. This time I yelled ENOUGH already! Double puhleeez. Is nothing sacred anymore?

The first example of “there’s nowhere left to get away” concerns the beach. Picture your favorite beach. Wide, flat, whatever-the-hue sand glistening in the early morning sun. Waves curling in, sweeping back out. Smell of salt, cry of gull, tiny little footprints of the wading birds leaving fanciful trails across the wet sand.

Ah yes, the sand. Look closely at the sand. There in the damp area, where the cleaning machine just smoothed the beach for your ease in walking or jogging – and advertising pleasure! Yes, someone is quite proud that his machine is leaving behind an endless stream of advertising messages imprinted in the freshly dragged sand, and hopes to bring it to the beach of your choice as quickly as possible.

And the final desecration? Not only are your romantic expectations of a sublime, uninterrupted expanse of natural beauty gone from the beach, the moon is next. Well, I may be exaggerating a bit, but I can envision all too soon a laser-generated silhouette of McDonald’s arches or Mickey’s ears splashed across the moon just as you are gazing upward to admire that magnificent orb in all its natural romantic splendor.

Too far-fetched you say? Well, they’re already halfway there as far as I can tell. Back in the aughts, there was a tall, powerful rocket that propelled itself off the launch pad. That magnificent symbol of American technology and drive to explore the frontiers of the universe…. What did it have plastered all over it? A patriotic statement of our country in bold stars and stripes? Nope.

A graphic rendering of a human being to introduce ourselves to the cosmos? Wrong again.

It was the ultimate world of tacky, intrusive, gone-way-too-far-this time advertising. Our sleek metallic warrior was adorned with a great big fat ad for a major national pizza chain.

Well, so much for establishing a pizza as my new traditional holiday food. Ba rum puh puh pum.

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