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I Do Not Think That Means What You Think It Means

Recently, I've been seeing a lot of commercials that, superficially, seem to say one thing* but also saying another much less flattering thing. This cracks me up, because it seems like, if I'm seeing these things, shouldn't the people who get paid a lot of money to create the commercials see them, too? But let me give some examples, so you can see what I'm talking about:

1. The Swiffer Commercials

Look, I love Swiffer. I use Swiffer (the plain ordinary wipe-on-a-stick ones, not the crazy jet ones). But this series of commercials is way screwed up. Take a look:

There's a whole series of these, in which the broom or mop essentially stalks the woman (never a man, notice) who has switched to Swiffer. On the surface, oh, ha ha, the broom and mop are sad that you left them. What a cute-ish commercial! But even if we set aside the fact that the commercial is essentially making light of stalking behaviors (since stalking by a broom is, you know, not very likely), the commercial has another, even more disturbing implication, namely that the woman in question involved with a broom. And a mop. That is at the very least an uncomfortable suggestion and at the most? eww.



2. The Microsoft "Windows 7 was my idea" commercials.

These are the commercials where various regular people take credit for inventing the new Windows operating system, which, as a Mac user, crack me up anyway, because really? You want to take credit for that? But even looking past my own Mac bias (which is large), the message of the commercials is odd. Take a look:

On one hand, the commercials along this vein are awesome, because each of them demonstrates a new feature of Windows 7 and makes that feature look easy to use. On the other hand, these commercials basically state that Windows 7 users are (a) stupid, and (b) not as attractive as they think they are. Oh, and that Microsoft steals ideas from its customers.

For real. The common features in each commercial are these: (1) a Windows user talks about how he or she had this idea for a cool new feature. (2) We see a flashback, in which a hyper-attractive version of the user (not played by the original actor cleaned up to look better, but a totally different, much hotter actor) has the idea. (3) The we're back in the present, where the schlubby user demonstrates the new feature, and (4) then the schlub takes credit for inventing Windows 7.

I'm sure they're trying to counteract those smug Mac v. PC ads that were so successful from a year or two ago** by reassuring their customers that PCs are for normal people. I get that. But really, what these commercials are saying is "PC users are deluded and maybe not so bright." And that's never a message customers want to hear about themselves.

3. The Clorox Mad Men Commercial

I love Mad Men. I do. I've watched it since day one, and one of the really interesting things about it is watching the social attitudes in the show about women's roles, and parenting, and masculinity in the workplace and all those other things that make it feel like a slice of life from the 60s (even though, you know, it's really not). But while I admire the show, many of the attitudes of the characters (about adultery and the treatment of women, especially) aren't things I particularly admire. Don Draper is hot, for sure, but I don't want to be his wife or girlfriend.***

So when Clorox bleach decided to run this ad, I can only assume that it was the result of an anachronistic three martini lunch. Take a look:

Yep, that's right. Here's a laundry detergent company, whose primary market is probably women, married women, suggesting that it's product is best for getting rid of the incriminating evidence of their husbands' affairs.

This one, unlike the two commercials above, isn't a muddled message, it's just a bad one. Unless the product is being marketed to (a) men who have affairs or (b) mistresses who do their partner's laundry before sending him home****, who the heck is this commercial supposed to be appealing to?

What commercials with mixed messages (or just plain bad ones) have I missed? I'm sure there are millions out there -- I do have a DVR and a tendency to skip them.


* That one thing being "this product is awesome and you should totally buy it."

** Although some people would argue that the Mac v. PC ads really just portrayed Mac users as smug hipsters and PC users as cool funny guys like John Hodgman (who, by the way, is a Mac user. True story.).

*** Jon Hamm is another matter altogether, though. Wow. That is an attractive man.

**** I've never been anyone's mistress, but it seems to me that one of the advantages of mistressing would be never having to do the guy's laundry.


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