Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Cracking the Viagra Ad Code

In my college American Studies classes, we used to look at all manner of cultural artifacts from high culture literature to low culture like newspaper and magazine articles and advertisements.  We would analyze these artifacts from a cultural history perspective, articulating what the existence of these items at a given point in time said about the culture at that moment.  Even though I rarely need such skills these days, my brain is trained that way.

Even though I wasn't looking for it, I had a cultural history epiphany watching a Viagra ad the other day.  Among the little traditional TV that I watch, live sports predominate, which means I see a disproportionate amount of erectile dysfunction pharmaceutical ads.  Of course, the male protagonists of these ads are all men of a certain age with wives who represent the most beautiful age-appropriate spouses the industry can find.  Actually, that's not universally true.  In Cialis ads, our good lady with the beautiful smile appears up-front.  In Viagra ads, Ol' Jim Handsome is alone most of the time with the twangy guitar underneath the narrator.  More about how these ads end in a minute.  

The Viagra campaign, in particular, has this thrust (pun not intended, but also not edited out) about these handsome salt-and-peppers getting stuff done.  That's about as much as I'd paid attention until Sunday when I saw a more elaborate pattern.  Maybe the theme I'm about to unveil has been patently obvious to you, but it wasn't to me until the other day.

It's not just that Ol' Jim (maybe I should call him Ol' ED) gets stuff done.  It's that something that had been working suddenly stops working, and he's just the guy to get things back on track.  Once he gets things sorted, he heads home - in no particular hurry - to find the upstairs bedroom light on (or getting turned on if you know what I'm saying).  That saves money in the casting of beautiful forty-six-year-old ladies, no doubt.

Maybe you've already gone through the collection in your head, but in case you haven't, here are the ones I can think of:
  • The truck hauling the horse trailer gets stuck in the mud.  Ed gets out and hooks the horses up to pull the truck out and get back on the road. (see bottom of post for that one)
  • There's massive bridge construction with klieg lights everywhere...until they all go out.  Ed knows just which switch to flip to light the whole place back up.  That's apparently his only job because then he heads home.
  • The printing press is churning out some printed matter (inserts for prescription bags?) when something gums up the works.  Ed straightens out the machine, wipes his hands on a rag and goes home to look at the upstairs bedroom lights.
  • The lighter breaks on the beach while Ed's lighting a campfire with a tent in the background.  Is that gonna stop Ed?  Heck no.  He goes cave man, gets his folding knife, a rock and some dry tinder and lights that fire.  Once the narrator has told us about the side effects and when to call our doctor, the light goes on in the tent.   Mrs. Ed is actually silhouetted spreading out the sleeping bag in this one.  Seems like she's pretty tired tonight.
The message is clear.  This is nothing to be ashamed about.  Just push the right button with this pill, and everything will be fine again.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014


Obviously, from a genetic perspective, Paige and I contributed equal parts of DNA to our boys.  In some ways, we all four have a lot in common.  But there are some distinctions that up to now align Charlie with Paige and Teddy with me.  Thinking about things that differ between me and Paige and between the boys, I then made a McKinsey & Co.-worthy matrix.

This list felt a lot longer and more definitive before I actually stopped to write it down.  And yet, I still can't think of a single thing to put in the Paige/Teddy box.  I've been sitting on this for a while, but I'm not getting inspired with more entries.  So I'll just put it out there and let people (especially Paige) weigh in.

Parent-Child Attribute Alignment

Paige Jeff
Charlie needs glasses
thick hair that can be shaped
freaky good memory
puts ketchup on food 
sleeps in

likes Taco Bell
wears emotions on sleeve
soft, flimsy hair
perfect vision (so far)
gets up early pretty much every day