Thursday, October 9, 2014

Someone must pay

While my San Francisco Giants bounce improbably into the playoffs, advertisers need to sit the bench.

Not all of them. Just a couple need to "grab some pine, Meat!®™" as Giants broadcaster and former pitching ace Mike Krukow is wont to yelp.

Baseball is business, I know, I know. Advertising has been around baseball since a baseball has been round.

We're a generation removed, I expect, from advertising splashed across jerseys, the way professional soccer does now.

Advertising pays the bills.

The Budweiser®™pitch right before the first pitch of a Giants radio broadcast, the one in which play-by-play guy Dave Flemming is contractually obligated to exhort, "Grab some Buds©®?" Clever! I never do — grab Buds™®© or buds — but I can't forget that slogan.

And every change of pitchers during the broadcast of a Giants game has come with the slogan all Giants could recite automatically: "When it's time for a change, think SpeeDee®™ Oil Change and Tuneup."

My really bad impersonation of living legend Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully is of him saying "Farmer John™® hot dogs!" one of my earliest baseball memories.

From long before the first pitch to the final out, sponsors rule, promoting the National Anthem, the possible fifth-inning grand slam, the seventh-inning stretch, the eighth-inning summary, and selected great plays, stolen bases, saves, big hits and fan foul-ball flubs.

Most advertising fits the grain and rhythm of baseball, even when it's aggravating, such as when Krukow, pitching Coors Light©®, must always say, in his strangely invented way, the slogan: "The World's Most Rrrrrrrrrrrr(r's rolling here)eeeefreshing beeeyur!®™©"

Or when Hall of Fame´™ play-by-play radio guy Jon Miller exaggerates his delight for the cheap beer and burgers he must promote, signaling his dislike for having to pitch the products at all.

I take these as part of the game. Most ads — and this is the discomfiting truth about advertising — are just so much white noise between innings. I don't really even hear them.

Two ads, though, stop me dead, and not in a good way.
  • One is Sports Authority®™. It's not their commercials. They're fine, I suppose — I couldn't tell you what they're about, sports stuff probably.
It's the slogan I abhor: "All Things Sporting Good.®™"

( … )
What does that even mean?!

Four words clumped together have rarely proved so inane.
No one uses "sporting goods" anyway, except to describe those kinds of stores. Nor does anyone, under any circumstance, say "sporting good," singular. At all. Ever.

Perhaps "sporting" here is a verb, from the meaning "to wear or display." Perhaps it means, "all our merchandise symbolizes the active lifestyle of sports," or "The stuff you buy here conveys a sense of well-being and goodwill to all."

Perhaps not.
This is classic sloganeering by committee. It had better be, because if this is the work of a highly-compensated advertising firm, the apocalypse is already upon us.

More likely a bunch of Sports Authority®™ decision makers sat around a big table in their big board room.

"The kids these days (10 years ago) say, 'It's all good!' one of them probably said. "How about, 'It's all sporting good?"
The discussion went roundabout, erupting into argument and limp threats until, like your typical organizational mission statement, saying everything and nothing at once, this dumb slogan finally issued forth.
Why a slogan at all? Doesn't Sports Authority®™ kind of say it?
The fact that I'm worrying about the slogan defeats its purpose as a slogan. I'm so slowed down by it that now I bear ill will toward the store.
  • The other grating ad is for the Dolan Law Firm — actual slogan, "The best lawyers we hope you'll never need™®" — a radio commercial that airs only during games. Since I began writing this post it has mushroomed into an awkward advertising campaign; make that mushroom cloud, complete with toxic fallout.

    The original commercial was meant to leverage our collective love for baseball as analogy to tout the powerful benefit of hiring these lawyers.
Instead, it's a 30-second long passive-aggressive melodrama that vomits a little on the National Pastime.
It's a conversation, and you know how natural those sound in commercials! It could be principal attorney Christopher Dolan and his "daughter" had never met before taping. "Daughter" could be a 60-year-old voiceover guy.
(Imagine Wally Cox as Underdog as Christopher Dolan begins:) "Audrey has a question:"
"What does batting .300 mean?" Audrey asks.
— I'll stop here. This sounds like a teachable moment, daughter to father. Dad gets to explain baseball; he gets to say something like, "It means for every 10 times a batter comes up to the plate, he gets a hit three of those times. The best hitters usually hit about .300. One of the best there was, a man named Ted Williams, said the hitting a baseball was the hardest thing to do in sports."
But Christopher Dolan doesn't say that.

He says, his tone wheezy and dismissive, "That means they only get a hit one-third of the time."

"How come they get paid so much money for only hitting the ball one-third of the time,"
the daughter asks. Which, of course, is the first thing a little kid in this conversation is going to say.
— I'm stopping here again. Fair question! I'd answer, "They do make a lot of money, don't they? That's because a lot of people want to see them play, and they pay money for it. Maybe doctors and people who do important and useful things for other people should get paid that much, but that's not how the world works."

Christopher Dolan doesn't say that. He pauses for the briefest moment, and then, channeling his most petulant Wally Cox, says,

"I don't know, dear …"

He then quickly gets to the pitch, " … but at the Dolan Law Firm, we've been hitting over .900 for more than 20 years …"

The commercial ends with the daughter saying, "Go San Francisco, knock it out of the park!"

(… )

Again, what does that even mean? Hey, whole team (or whole city?), generic baseball phrase I just learned!
No no no no no! Sorry, dad and "daughter," you don't get it both ways. You don't get to poop on baseball and more than a century of statistical constancy for your own financial gain, and then try to kiss and make up with the game. And you don't get your "daughter" to clean up the mess with a hackneyed cheer for San Francisco.

This makes fine dinner-table talk. I think players make too much money — so do lawyers — but this is not the way to win the hearts of Giants fans who might need you to chase their ambulance.

A better commercial would be:

"Daddy, who's Willie Mays?"

"He's my favorite player
(see? Winning hearts!), the best ever!"

"It says here he was an All-Star™® for 20 years."

"That's right dear, and that's how long we've been all-star attorneys for our clients!"
Harmless, hardly unique, but it would do the job: "We're lawyers, we like baseball, you like baseball, and in that convivial spirit, we want you to hire us."

Another Dolan commercial explains "we're all terribly excited" for the Giants' chances this season, in a way that doesn't sound excited at all.

Dolan Law Firm has apparently taken some heat for the first commercial, not for my problem with it, but about the math. The first two commercials have disappeared and two new have replaced them, the first a father-daughter spot explaining that getting a hit one-third of the time is a .333 average, not .300.

After which "Audrey" says, "What?! I don't understand that! That's confusing!"

Christopher Dolan follows: "So there you go, everybody. Please stop sending me emails. What's important is that the Orange and Black win." He sounds as if he really couldn't care less.

Dolan follows this with another game-only, cringe-worthy commercial in which he sounds peeved he can't say "Giants" in his paeans to the team, because as a legal expert he knows the team owns rights to the name. He says "Giants" several times but the word is bleeped just as he begins the soft "g" sound. He finishes with "make sure there is a giant win today." (See what he did there?)
(Here I will type, for the first and last time in my life, rofl.)
As his daughter might tell him, let it go, let it gooooooo.
Fall will soon become winter. The Giants continue their improbable quest for a third World Series win in five years. Whatever happens, we will rethink and rest and heal over winter, and get ready to try again come spring, players and advertisers alike. Grab some buds.

We're all terribly excited.

1 comment:

  1. The Dolan Law Firm reminder against roasting one's dog in a closed car has been wearing on me all season. Today I thought: "I bet I can find someone who dislikes their crappy commercials as much as I do."