We’ll Be Back Right After These Messages…

Published in The Ferndale Record-Journal, March 31, 2010

You know that somebody did something right when you remember a TV commercial—even if it’s one you dislike. They got your attention and that was the point.

Here are a few that have rattled my cage lately. See if you agree.

First, the bad news.

Jack-In-The-Box’s enormous, white, bulbous head is starting to really annoy me. At first it was a little creepy, then it was a little clever, then I got used to it. Now, it’s time to mothball the novelty head and get fresh material.

But was it ever really that great of a marketing coup to begin with? The advertisers would have us believe that Jack is just a regular guy, married to a woman with a normal noggin. Really? Face it. These commercials have always been unnatural and a little perverse.

And while the brand name is unmistakable (mission accomplished), the ads in no way have made me more of a Jack-In-The-Box customer than I was before. I’ve visited this franchise twice in four years.

Next up are those superb Dos Equis beer commercials about “The Most Interesting Man In The World.” Even if you happen to just hear one of these ads from the next room, you get to the TV in a hurry to see what they’re talking about.

The narrative is classic: “His blood smells like cologne.” “He once had an awkward moment just to see how it feels.” “He lives vicariously through himself.” “His personality is so magnetic he is unable to carry credit cards.”

After a series of video clips showing the hero engaging in wildly intriguing situations with rugged and beautiful people, he’s seated at a table with adoring companions. He looks up and says, “I don’t always drink beer. But when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.”

Then, with that swarthy Latino accent, almost at a whisper, he purrs directly into the camera, “Stay thirsty, my friends.”

I don’t drink, and this advertisement doesn’t make me want to. It does, however, make me a little thirsty. Not to mention a tad bit curious about The Most Interesting Man In The World.

Well done, Dos Equis.

Finally, here’s the one that caught me off guard—in a good way.

It was a simple evening in front of the tube, and out of nowhere, The Scorpions’ “Rock You Like A Hurricane” started up. Instead of writhing dancers, black leather, or motorcycles I looked up to see soup and crackers. That’s right.

Bowls of thick soups in a prism of colors, splashing over the top in high, vertical peaks as perfect, square saltines rain in from above—all in slow motion.

An uppercut of marketing brilliance, this commercial had me mesmerized. Was it Nabisco’s Premium Saltines? Was it the raucous music set to mere crackers plunging into creamy tomato bisque?

I don’t know, but whatever it was, and without realizing what had just happened, the combination made me hungry for—you guessed it—soup and crackers.

Here’s the deal. I don’t watch a lot of TV, but when I do, it’s fun to see well-crafted commercials that demand my attention because of their creativity.

Jack, I beg you to hang up the giant cranium. And Dos Equis and Nabisco, you’re the clear winners for now. Keep ‘em coming.

The Thing About November..

Published in The Ferndale Record-Journal, November 11, 2009

I like November.

I like the flashy leaves, the wind, the cooler, bordering on cold weather. I like a late World Series, Thanksgiving, pecan pie, and the promise of December’s holidays.

But the real reason I’ve always liked November is because it’s my birthday month.  I get a little goofy inside when Halloween’s over and I suddenly realize it’s almost here.

November days until my birthday are just preparatory. I’m not sure for what, exactly. There doesn’t have to be an event, a party, or anything thrilling planned to make my birthday extraordinary.  But, hey—it’s MY day. I know I probably share it with a lot of other people. I even know some of them. But it feels like it’s all about me.

I have to credit my mother with making birthdays an exceptional experience. They were always a big deal, and I perpetuated the tradition with my own children. Surprises, balloons, friends, cakes, parties, dinners out, presents—they were always extravaganzas.

I’ve learned that when you’re an adult, you usually have to plan your own party, except for when little children and spouses make an effort to fuss over you like you’re nobility. That’s always nice. But minus kids or a significant other, you get to do whatever you want and that’s not bad either.

Best birthday ever? My 17th.

My boyfriend, who lived about 40 miles away, told me to expect a surprise. I knew it wouldn’t be a visit from him, but he was nothing if not a romantic. Whatever it was, it was going to be great.

Around 5:00 p.m. I watched a flower delivery truck pull into our driveway.  The driver handed me a dozen red roses and a gift card that I still have. Yup. The boy pulled through in a big way.

That night, my best friend, Lila, came over for a dinner Mom made at my request. Roast beef, homemade Au Gratin potatoes, and for dessert, a Tunnel-Of-Fudge cake. And yes, it was as insanely delicious as it sounds.

After these tasty eats Lila and I went to a movie, then I came home and shut myself into my bedroom all alone with those fragrant roses. Every deep breath reminded me that someone was in love with me. How awesome is that?

I haven’t had a worst-ever birthday. I think it’s because I expect them to be fun. Phone calls, Emails and a little extra attention go a long way with me. I don’t consider myself high maintenance, although others may argue that point.

I worry very little about aging, so the numbers don’t matter. Although, lately I’ve become slightly unhinged at the thought that I’m considerably older than I feel, and I know the end of this story, which is, with any luck I get to grow even older.

So, I anticipate my birthdays, no matter the year, and feel a kind of sweetness about having a day all to myself, even if people standing in front of me in line at the post office don’t know it. I know it, and that’s all that matters.

Eleven other perfectly good months come and go. But when the wind starts to howl and Jack-o-lanterns begin rotting on porches across the nation, my inward excite-o-meter begins to rise, looking forward to the love and remembrances coming my way.

It’s November, and it’s my birthday.