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Friday, June 20, 2014

Truth in advertising

The other day I made the mistake of picking up a bag of "Red Delicious" apples. They was nothing wrong with them, they were simply lacking in taste. But really, why else would some marketing maven have bothered to come up with that name?

Six years ago my son and I drove through North Carolina. We stopped off in Fayetteville. A large sign greets you as you turn off the freeway: "Fayetteville -- a Family Town." At the time my only reaction was, hmm, I guess these Southerners really like to stress family values. Then we drove down the main thoroughfare through town. I've never seen so many strip clubs, tattoo parlors, pawn shops, gun stores, and used car lots in one place. Fayetteville is the home of Fort Bragg, and Army bases naturally attract these types of businesses. But the part of town we saw sure didn't look like the kind of place you'd want to bring up small children. That, of course, is why Fayetteville felt obliged to advertise itself that way.

Speaking of strip clubs, why do they always advertise themselves as "Gentlemen's clubs?" Here's the Google definition of "gentleman": "A chivalrous, courteous, or honorable man." Getting drunk and paying women to take their clothes off hardly squares with most people's idea of chivalry or courtesy. So why call jiggle joints "gentlemen's club's?" Club owners want to make their patrons feel better about themselves, so call them the opposite of what they are.

The misleading phrase which has received the most attention recently has been Islam billing itself as "the religion of peace." Of course, had Christians committed thousands of terrorist acts in the past ten years  in the name of Christianity, had Jesus had people killed for insulting him, if the Bible taught that non-Christians were less than fully human, and were the Baptists and Presbyterians waging a bloody holy war against each other, some church functionary would undoubtedly have felt obliged to brand Christianity as a "religion of peace" as well.

Just as with potential prison pen pals, whenever you see a label with editorial content included, beware. It's most likely an attempt to counteract reality.


Steven said...

I ate some blueberries the other day. It said on the plastic tray something like 'hand selected for intense flavour'. These blueberries were notable for their watery lack of intense flavour. But at least I could be happy somebody bothered to select them by hand.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Ha! (How can one tell by sight that blueberries are tastier? I've never been able to select good peaches or oranges by sight.)

Glen Filthie said...

Oh I dunno John. Every second kid these days has a sleeve tattoo. And gun stores? I consider the shooting sports healthy and wholesome. Trap and skeet are truly gentlemen's sports and a number of fine ladies are getting into it as well. I don't see anything 'anti-family' about used car lots myself.
One could argue that family values are being socially re-engineered. Yesterday's whore is today's 'sex trade' worker. Yesterday's family had (at a minimum) a mother, a father and at least one child. Today families have multiple mothers, common law parents, and everything in between to care for the children. I'm not saying I agree with all this...but family values may not be what we old farts think they are. That sign may simply have gone up in better times, put there by better people.

John Craig said...

Glen --
Fort Bragg was established in 1918; that definitely predates the sign. And sporting goods stores like Cabela's can be wholesome places, but the gun stores I saw in Fayetteville, especially in proximity to all those pawn shops, did not give that impression. Fort Bragg is the headquarters for the Special Forces, so I don't think these gun stores catered to criminals looking for Saturday Night Specials to mug someone with. But I don't think the majority of guys who bought guns there were thinking in terms of skeet, either.

And yes, the definition of a family has changed, but I don't think the Fayetteville town fathers were thinking interns of any new definition; they were simply trying to counteract reality.