The Pretender


Jackson Browne – 1976

“I’m going to be a happy idiot

And struggle for the legal tender

Where the ads take aim and lay their claim

To the heart and the soul of the spender

And believe in whatever may lie

In those things that money can buy” 


I am one of those people who pretend to avoid TV commercials as much as possible. If I am watching a program or TV news broadcast, I usually have a book in my lap and I automatically focus my attention to the book as soon as a commercial comes on. Since I am letting you peek at the real me, I’ll confess that the book is really an iPad that gushes forth advertising even more efficiently than its big brother the TV. I just like pretending that I read books and watch TV simultaneously.

When my professor asked our class to make a log of every advertisement we encountered on a particular day, I grumbled inwardly but flashed a happy smile when she finished announcing the assignment, remember, I am the consummate pretender.

The only type of advertising that I truly despise is junk mail, because it is a pesky intrusion that always threatens to conceal a crucial piece of correspondence, and that is the only reason I pick through it, honestly!

The first thing that I do when I come home is stand beside the trash can double checking the junk mail for an important bill or letter before tossing the entire stack of paper in the trash.

However, junk mailers are clever enough to know that people automatically toss the bulk of their efforts, because some of them try to disguise their advertisements in official looking envelopes.

I own a Toyota FJ Cruiser and I simply love the vehicle, but recently, I got a letter from Toyota in what looked like an official US Government envelope.

On the envelope there was a cryptic return address, a seal that resembled the US Presidential Seal, and a stern warning to anyone attempting to interfere with the delivery of this letter to the intended recipient, that a five year prison sentence was a possible consequence.

Of course, I immediately ripped open the letter thinking the IRS or some other government agency was after me. Nope, nothing of the sort, my Toyota warranty was about to expire, so the fine folks at Toyota just wanted to be sure that they got the chance to offer me an extended warranty.

Although Toyota ticked me off with that little stunt, I’ll forgive them because they make a damned fine automobile, and because I am a staunch capitalist at heart.

Seriously, how can I hold a grudge against Toyota when P.T. Barnum is one of my heroes?

Yes, Barnum, who promoted hoaxes and who was widely credited with coining the phrase, “there’s a sucker born every minute” is one of my heroes. I try my damnedest not to be a sucker, so when an advertiser hooks me with something clever, it is hard not to give them a nod for getting through my defenses.

Let the advertisers battle for my attention and brand loyalty, it makes me feel special and important. It even allows me the opportunity to pretend that I am far too sophisticated to be a sucker for a slick and cheesy marketing ploy, but we know the truth, don’t we?


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  1. 🙂 I remember making an advertising friend very angry by saying advertising was only required for products we didn’t really need.

  2. I have high respect for those brands that can get your attention without some kind of deception. 🙂 But yes, we fall for them more than we would want to admit.

  3. Hi Riz,

    Believe it or not, advertisers and marketers do maintain an industry-wide set of standards. Most of the time, they do a pretty good job of policing and regulating themselves.

    When they push the boundaries and trample all over their guidelines, it is usually a competitor that is the first to blow the whistle on them.

    We humans are truly a curious species, we communicate with each other in ways that even we, don’t fully comprehend.

    I think what scares me is that advertising agencies have staff members who are very sophisticated in knowing what I will, or will not respond to.

    Thanks for stopping by to comment!


  4. “Let the advertisers battle for my attention and brand loyalty, it makes me feel special and important”….

    That was an excellent post, Chris… Ads are awful nowadays I’d say that they also lack of consistency when it comes to achieve their goals… I have been wondering which is Coke’s main aim when they decide to put on names and last names on the labels of the bottles… And my further question is if it does increase sales?… Well, that one is just an example… In general I think that advertising strategies nowadays seem inchoate and rudimentary~

    All the best to you! Aquileana ⭐

    • According to the Wall Street Journal, that ad campaign was credited with a 2 percent increase in sales, and reversed a 10 year decline in their annual sales.

      It also made great use of social media because it benefited from a substantial amount of free advertising when people started posting photos of coke cans on Instagram.

      It was a clever campaign because it prompted people to buy coke for their friends. In this instance are selling a novelty item, more than they are selling the actual product.

      Coke is such an iconic brand name that it is hard to imagine that the company could be experiencing difficulty, but it is actually a predictable pattern with mature companies.

      When a brand is over 100 years old, they are going to have problems staying relevant.

      Although I do hear you about half baked ad campaigns, some of them don’t make much sense.


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