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KITTEN VACUUM! [Oct. 14th, 2005|06:07 pm]
themonkeybear has a post with a picture of a car vacuum with a ridiculous amount of patriotic imagery on it. This is the latest in a series of pictures of things showing commercialization of nationalism.

I stopped and thought about the picture for a minute, and I concluded: yep, I'm still boggled.

My brain just doesn't react to this kind of advertising the way that they clearly expect people's brains to react. Obviously, the images are supposed to make me feel good about the idea of using the machine to vacuum my car, and therefore more likely to spend my money.

And instead, my brain thinks, "Dude. That's just dumb."

So I thought about, well, what if it had different pictures on it? What if the pictures were appealing to me in a way that eagles-plus-exploding-flags aren't? What if it had, say, a picture of a really good-looking shirtless guy?

Okay, first, I'm disturbed by the idea that someone might feel about flags the way that I feel about cute bears, but regardless, I think I'd ogle the vacuum, but feel awkward about doing it in public -- so that's no good.

All right, what about something else. Something without social baggage. How 'bout, oh, transformers?

And I think my thought process would be: "Hey, cool, Transformers! ...on a car vacuum? Dude. That's just dumb."

The only thing I can think of that would work would be imagery that was appealing, but also made such a big deal about being non-vacuum related that it was funny. Like, "ZOMG cute kittens you must vacuum your car because KITTENS ARE CUTE THEY MAKE IT MORE CLEANER! KITTEN VACUUM!!!"

That's a machine I'd be proud to put my 75 cents into.

...I'm a bad consumer, aren't I?

[User Picture]From: digdusdownunda
2005-10-14 06:00 pm (UTC)
so you didn't order one then i'm guessing...just for patriotism sake...*grin*
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[User Picture]From: zalena
2005-10-14 07:10 pm (UTC)
My brother and I went to an exhibit on banned political cartoons at the Cartoon Art Museum several years ago. It was shortly after 9-11, so there was all sorts of cartoon that never ran because they were considered "in poor taste." In many cases I agreed.

However, there was one cartoon featuring a Patriotic Bathroom that we both found hilarious, in part because we've actually seen things like toilet paper with American flags on it. People buy it to be patriotic, but use it in a way that is decidedly unpatriotic.

I have to admit I'm getting over being a sucker for Sanrio products. Blame it on my underpriveleged childhood when Sanrio products (which were very hard to get ahold of in Gunnison, CO) were THE status symbol on the playground. Did you know there's a Hello Kitty toaster that actually TOASTS the image of Hello Kitty onto the toast? Where does that fit into your hierarchy of useless product decoration?
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2005-10-14 07:14 pm (UTC)
There are Hello Kitty household appliances that do EVERYTHING Hello Kitty.
You'll have to go to the Sanrio anchor store in San Francisco someday. It's... kinda scary, actually.

Hello Kitty is cool as long as it is completely inappropriate.
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[User Picture]From: zalena
2005-10-14 07:36 pm (UTC)
There was a Hello Kitty store in NY, too, which I always insisted on dragging inappropriate people too.

I always thought the Hello Kitty vibrators were completely inappropriate.
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[User Picture]From: 0nce_and_future
2005-10-14 08:14 pm (UTC)
"Personal Massagers"

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[User Picture]From: dpolicar
2005-10-14 08:19 pm (UTC)
What if it had, say, a picture of a really good-looking shirtless guy? [..] I think I'd ogle the vacuum, but feel awkward about doing it in public -- so that's no good.

Um... yeah.
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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2005-10-14 08:30 pm (UTC)
*GASP!* I'm just going to pretend that I never even encountered the thought I think you're thinking! You... linguistic overinterpreter!
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[User Picture]From: dpolicar
2005-10-14 08:41 pm (UTC)
'tis my fault. I suffer for it.
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[User Picture]From: psyclonic
2005-10-14 10:08 pm (UTC)
When it comes to easily swayed consumerism, it's good to be bad.
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[User Picture]From: ng_nighthawk
2005-10-14 11:45 pm (UTC)
You tempt me, so I must post here what I was going to say on my blog--that ads are often just dumb. I don't mean that their purpose is dumb--I mean they miss their purpose. And, for some reason, it's the subtler problems that bug me more. Clearly, whoever made that vacuum was either aiming at fairly mindless consumers or just decided to express his patriotism at his business.

But take this example:
Grandfather slaps on aftershave in the bathroom with his grandson and says, "If it burns, that means it's working."
Then he takes out Crest alcohol-free mouthwash. He swishes it around, and has an odd look on his face. Cut to announcer explaining product.

They never return to the grandfather. Here's the message I'm left with from the actors: "If it burns, that means it's working. Crest doesn't burn. So. . . does it work? Announcer-guy says so, but the patriarchal figure who is explaining bathroom products to his grandson seems skeptical.

They needed that moment where the grandfather realizes that his mouth is clean without the burning. Without it, you're left with a wisdom figure who gives you the criteria, which the product fails to meet.

This is just one example of many, many ads. I think the best bet for advertizers is just to get your attention and place the product in context of when/how you would need/want it. But so many national ads have mangled messages--I am amazed these advertizing firms continue to get clients.
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[User Picture]From: portlandpiglet
2005-10-15 10:19 am (UTC)
Ahh, but you see...you are assuming that the grandfather is a respected figure of wisdom, where as all the kids today know that being old-fashioned is bad. That is a common theme in advertising: "not your father's oldsmobile", etc. This Crest add emphasizes that new is always better, so their new product should be great. The old ways of doing things cannot compare to the new, brighter tomorrow. And old people are dumb fuddy-duddies.

Obviously, Neal, you were raised better than much of a America.
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[User Picture]From: ng_nighthawk
2005-10-15 10:35 am (UTC)
Actually, I had thought of that. But then, to be effective they should either make the grandfather look like a doddering, senile fool OR they should have the kid discredit him with a patronizing look.

And. . . holy crap, someone already ranted about this elsewhere:

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[User Picture]From: themonkeybear
2005-10-15 06:08 am (UTC)
Kittens?!?! LOL - right on.

Glad I got you thinking though.. that's exactly what those posts are intended to do... (Sans lengthy blow-hard beating my own chest)... well.. aside from the first post of the series where I tried to express myself and did so miserably.

I'm intrigued by your take on the subject though.

You know what parallels it, (the way you put it here)? - Kid's stuff.. Like lunch pales, binders, bikes, etc.

Look at stuff for Kids... they're "branded" with all sortsa stuff that had NOTHING do do with the object being decorated.

So WHY is there a Skeletor™ on your lunchbox Billy? Skeletor is a skeleton and obviously doesn't eat...

Cause he's cool!

Why is there an american flag and fireworks on your vacuum cleaner Billy?

Cause America's cool!

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[User Picture]From: dr_tectonic
2005-10-17 04:17 pm (UTC)
madbodger's comment, below, clarified some of this thought for me.

Sometimes products are decorated. (And some products are more decoratable than others.) And the decorations really have nothing to do with the product itself, but there's no reason the decoration can't be something that's popular and appealing and cool. Why not put care bears on your kid's sleeping bag? It's just as warm as a plain blue sleeping bag, and kinda cute.

But then there's this line you cross, where the decoration itself starts to become the product, and the actual thing being sold is only a vehicle for the brand. Where instead of selling vacuuming, you're selling patriotism -- dispensed in convenient vacuum form. Instead of selling soda (with neat pictures on the cup!), you're selling a TV show -- in drinkable form.

That's when it gets weird and unhealthy. I think that might be the thing that makes my brain go "That's Just Dumb".

Unless it's kittens, of course. Because ZOMG, KITTENS!
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[User Picture]From: madbodger
2005-10-15 12:20 pm (UTC)
I'm with you. The concept of "useful object" and the concept of "decoration" are
entirely separate to me. And I assume any object can be decorated any way. In
the old days, sewing machines would have flowers or faux Egyptian figures on
'em. So I'm thinking a Snakes on a Plane car vacuum would be as logical as
anything else. And it would make me smile.

On the other hand, I've been known to decorate random friends with an
airbrush when the mood struck me.

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[User Picture]From: devcubber
2005-10-15 02:23 pm (UTC)
*snort* Snakes on a Plane....that movie is soooo gonna suck but I do want it on my lunchbox.
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[User Picture]From: dcseain
2005-10-15 06:03 pm (UTC)

Kitten vacuum, indeed

My kitten shreds things, which in turn makes me vacuum. She's cute and makes me vacuum. She washes herself, yet shreds things making me vacuum. Cleanliness all around!
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