A lot of anger over that hair advert has been directed at Clicks. But they didn’t make the ad. Let’s not forget where it all originated. Here’s something I wrote a while ago about the industry that caused the trouble.
Word on the street is that the advertising industry subsists on a diet of pure cocaine. I don’t believe it for a minute. Their coke, like everybody’s, is cut with headache powder and phenacetin, a yummy substance virtually guaranteed to give your children an early inheritance.
Personally I don’t give a hamster’s rectum if creative directors stuff crushed seal testicles up their nostrils. I do, however, have a problem when the substances they ingest result in the rest of us having to bear the consequences.
If the pony-tailed product pimps with pinprick pupils are dipping into the pharmaceutical goodie bag to help them come up with ever more ludicrous ideas, then the least they can do is provide us with drugs to help us cope. Every time we renew our TV licences (which should be never), we must be offered a year’s supply of the neuroleptic of our choice. I’ll take the Thorazine, thank you. It helps with mania and depression, illnesses common among those who are too lazy or stupid to hit the mute button when the commercials come on.
Advertising is not a science. It is witchcraft. Creative directors and copywriters are sorcerers by trade. They are spellbinders and dreamweavers. They are voodoo merchants trained to control minds. Bloodletting rituals have been replaced by coke-chopping rituals and instead of using bile of bat and eye of newt, they use aerial shots and digital effects.
These necromancers gifted in the dark art of enticing and entrancing do not go short in life. For their power to turn people into sheep, the warlocks and witches are richly rewarded by the kings and queens of commerce. They drive, use, wear, drink and eat everything that made it into this year’s Top Brands list. First they create, then become their creations. They are like glittering mortal gods.
Television advertising has encroached so deep into programming that you’re unsure whether the blonde repeatedly washing her hair is a new character in the movie. It has also become more obscure, more deranged, more … of the same. Bigger, better, faster, more. But nothing new.
I tried watching a movie the other night. I have no idea what this was about because for every six minutes of movie, there were four minutes of people shouting at me to buy a new car, change my deodorant, drink something else or switch to “the bank that moves you”. Yes, indeed. You will find yourself moving about a week after you miss a bond repayment.
Hang on. What this? By purchasing a Natura laxative I could win a free trip to the Maldives? Woohoo! Even if I miss my flight because of a prolonged bowel evacuation in the airport toilet, the experience will have been worth it.
A woman with glycerine eyes showed me how easy it is to get chocolate, grass, egg yolk, engine oil and blood stains out of my sheets. What the hell is going on in that house? Where I live, semen and wine stains are about as wild as it gets.
My palpitations had barely subsided when a silver car came rocketing out of a riverbed, up a mountain, down a cliff, through the sea and along a beach. I was told that dozens of motoring journalists had voted it Car of the Year. I wasn’t told that motoring journalists would sell their sisters on eBay for a prawn cocktail and two shots of whisky.
Just when I thought the movie was about to come back on, the screen was filled with half-naked women carrying on as if the world were suddenly free of men. Were they celebrating the end of genital mutilation in Somalia? The end of death by stoning for committing infidelity in Saudi Arabia? The end of gender-based salary discrepancies everywhere? No. They were celebrating the end of dry skin.
I was suffering from the onset of dry throat so I went to the kitchen to fetch a fresh six-pack. I returned just in time to see a woman coughing as if her swine flu had developed tuberculosis. Should this happen to me, I was advised to speak to my pharmacist without delay. Then she keeled over onto the bed. Dead? I hoped so.
A man appeared, stroking his unshaven chin. Not unshaven like a homeless man, but unshaven like a man who has been too busy negotiating a good price for Necker Island to bother about shaving. Our hero reached for the hydrogel nanoparticles that would leave him soft and smooth and ready to single-handedly overthrow Egypt’s military junta.
By now I had forgotten what movie I was watching. Oh, look! A Formula One racing car has just pulled into a petrol station, filled up and roared away. This is clearly the car to drive if you want to avoid having to wait for a surly attendant to finish his mutton curry pie and get off his fat arse to ensure that you miss your appointment by washing your windows and dropping your change.
Then the movie came back on. A giant anaconda was eating an entire village. Once it had finished it waddled back to the murky waters of the Amazon and a man in a white coat looked me in the eye and recommended that I change my toothpaste. He was deeply concerned about my dental health and urged me to visit my dentist regularly. He said it would put the smile back on my face. But it won’t. My face will be numb for days. It is my dentist’s face that will be smiling. Open your mouth in a dentist’s chair and the first charge incurred will be for infection control. When your dentist goes to Bangkok on holiday, he will convert this money into baht and buy a bag of condoms. So you end up paying for his infection control as well as your own.
Back to the movie. Damn. Missed it while looking for an opener. But what’s this? A family is camping out in the bush. They are sitting around a fire. Maybe this is the movie. That won’t keep the anaconda away. Maybe they had guns. But they didn’t. They had Snuggets. Blankets with arms sewn into them. Of course. Why didn’t I think of it?
For all these years, whenever I felt chilly I put on my jacket. Sure, my jacket had arms. But it wasn’t fleecy and purple, nor did it reach all the way down to my feet. In the pre-Snugget era, I would sometimes wrap a blanket around myself when the weather turned really cold. But then I found I was unable to use my arms. The only way I could eat was to shove my face into my plate and grab whatever I could with my teeth. Eating soup was hell. I could never hug anyone or point at anything. I couldn’t even read because my hands were trapped inside that damn blanket – the blanket with no arms.
I no longer cared what happened to the anaconda. I am addicted to infomercials. The longer I watch, the more it feels like I am hallucinating. After the first minute my head starts spinning. The colours become sharper and my heart begins pounding. It’s like being on acid without the blind terror or uncontrollable laughter.
It’s not just television, either. Much like men, newspapers are getting thicker by the day and my heart leaps when I see a fat, new one sprawled in the shop. I mean a newspaper, not a man. Next to women and beer, I love newspapers the most. If I see a woman drinking beer and reading a newspaper, I am finished.
But when I take it home and open it up, it is – like so many of the women I have brought home – filled with nothing but lies and empty promises. Sandwiched between the feature on lesbian Panda bears and the latest corruption scandal is page after page of stuff that I have to possess if I do not wish to become a lonely outcast whom children pelt with stones on the rare occasion that I stray from my wretched hovel in search of a half-jack of gin and a couple of loose Lexington’s.
Oh, look darling, we simply have to acquire a case of 25-year-old Chivas Regal. It’s going for only R5 499 a bottle! This is a family newspaper, for god’s sake, and I don’t mean the Oppenheimer family. Does Patrice Motsepe circle the specials in the Ultra Liquors insert while checking his gold shares? Perhaps, but I doubt it. Ordinary people like you and me, well, you mainly, need to know where to find semi-sweet white wine in plastic bottles.
Normal people want supplements advertising guns with their serial numbers filed off. They want to know where they can get hijacked cars, stolen cellphones and speed that isn’t cut with strychnine. They are looking for pirated appliances and clothes that are cheaper to throw away than take to the laundromat.
Most of the supplements I come across are filled with glittering baubles and glamorous gizmos that I will never be able to afford. A Toys R Us supplement is enough to plunge me into a black depression. Growing up in a cardboard box on the N2, the only toys I had were the marrowbones I scavenged from packs of stray dogs once they were done sucking on them. And now I am too old for toys.
What the producers of merchandise and their marketing hit men are doing is akin to bombing Sudanese refugee camps with Woolworth’s food supplements. The longer I gaze upon these glossy pages offering a lifestyle I will never have, the more I realise what a waste it has all been. If only I had worked harder at school. If only I hadn’t overslept that day of the interview. If only I had enough rope to hang myself with.
Hold on. What’s this? Rope World has a special on nooses! What extraordinary luck.