Saturday, November 8, 2008

AD MAN!!!!!!!! (Tribute to Billy Mays)

Click here to listen to the audio version. (On a high speed connection, these podcasts may take up to a minute to load. Be patient. If you're on dial-up, you can simulate a podcast by reading the following article out loud.)

HI!!! BILLY MAYS HERE FOR (fill in the blank with) AWESOME AUGER / BIG CITY SLIDER STATION / C.L.R. / DING KING / GATOR GRIP / HANDY SWITCH / HERCULES HOOK / KABOOM / MIGHTY PUTTY / OXICLEAN / STICK & CLICK / STEAM BUDDY / SWIFFER (just to name a few of the products that have been screamed into your life).

When you are yelled at for 60 seconds, do you feel motivated to pick up the phone to order a bucket of Kaboom in the next six minutes and twenty-two seconds, or forever forfeit the opportunity to get a second bucket free along with a German-made chamois cloth for half price? (THEY LAST FOR 10 YEARS—GUARANTEED!!!!!!)

Apparently, many people do, in fact, react positively to this in-your-face style of advertising, which made me start thinking…

Perhaps the poor sap who has racked up a lousy record in the dating game because he’s too nerdy, too shy, or simply a loser should learn from BILLY MAYS by imitating his successful style. First, grow a beard that Paul Bunyan would be proud of. Then, try the following dialog at dinner in a fine French restaurant:

HI!!! JOHN SMITH HERE AS YOUR DREAM DATE!! AND IF YOU ACKNOWLEDGE YOUR AFFECTION FOR ME IN THE NEXT FIVE MINUTES, I’LL NOT ONLY COME OVER TO YOUR PLACE, BUT I’LL BRING MY FRIEND, STEVE!! AND THAT’S NOT ALL!!!! IF YOU AGREE RIGHT NOW FOR A SECOND DATE, I’LL THROW IN A CASE OF ORANGE GLO ABSOLUTELY FREE!!!

This has all the elements of a first rate infomercial:

  • Every word is shouted at the top of John’s lungs in order to maintain the attention of John’s potential lifelong mate for 60 seconds.
  • John has unequivocally declared that he is the ultimate companion (DREAM DATE!!!)
  • Time is of the essence, for if you do not act right now, there will never ever be another chance to change your life for the better—at this price. (This tactic also prevents her from taking the time to research John Smith in Consumer Reports magazine.)
  • You get not only one, but TWO BONUSES (or is the correct Latin boni?)

Of course, this carnival barker style of selling has been around for a long time. In fact, Billy Mays got his start hawking the Washmatik portable washing machine on the boardwalk in Atlantic City. (Warning: I got this tidbit from Wikipedia, an online resource that has a track record in line with the Free Fone wireless phone holder. I don’t even understand why you would need such a thing.)

I considered what it would be like if politicians adopted the Billy Mays approach, but thinking about it for a few minutes, I realized that this is exactly what they’ve already done. Imagine John Kerry and Maria Teresa Thierstein Simões-Ferreira Heinz leisurely strolling along, hand in hand, in Boston Commons on a beautiful spring day with John describing the daffodils and chrysanthemums and the innocence of young children playing in the grass—IN HIS PODIUM VOICE!!!! Do you think he’s able to turn it off?

So we all have come to accept this boisterous approach to selling Lint-B-Gones, Samurai Shark knife sharpeners, and United States Senators, but would you buy insurance from a snake oil salesman? No. Of course not. For that, we rely on an Australian-accented gecko. What could be more reassuring than a sophisticated, properly mannered lizard recommending insurance products to us? At least he doesn’t shout at us.

BUT HOLD YOUR HORSES, PILGRIM!!!!! The one and only Billy Mays is now shouting his sage advice at potential customers of health insurance from iCan Benefit Group. Yes. Health insurance and remote light switches at the tip of your fingers by calling 1-800… Am I living in some sort of parallel universe? (See him shout at http://www.icanbenefit.com/.)

With the gadgets barrier broken, just what else might fall into the world of Marine drill sergeant style advertising? Do you remember the E.F. Hutton commercials? At a crowded, swanky social gathering, one martini-sipping high brow says to another: “My broker is E.F. Hutton, and he says…” The entire room instantly falls silent, everyone in the room craning to hear what this all-knowing E.F. Hutton broker has told his client.

In the current version of this ad, Billy Mays would burst into the cocktail party during the moment of silence, dressed like a plumber*, and start pointing to elaborately decorated flip charts showing endless upward trends leading to self-actualization.

HI!!! BILLY MAYS HERE FOR CITIGROUP SMITH BARNEY AND WE MAKE MONEY THE OLD FASHIONED WAY, WE EARN IT!!! SPEAKING OF THE OLD FASHIONED WAY, IF YOU HAVEN’T DUMPED YOUR OLD FASHIONED MOP FOR THIS NEW SUPER SWIFFER, I’M GOING TO GIVE YOU ONE ABSOLULTELY FREE WHEN YOU OPEN A BROKERAGE ACCOUNT WITH A MINIMUM OF $50,000!!! AND, NOT ONLY THAT, IF YOU SIGN UP IN THE NEXT TEN MINUTES, YOU’LL GET NOT ONE, NOT TWO, BUT THREE REPLACEMENT SUPER SWIFFER PADS AND A FIXIT CAR SCRATCH REMOVER!!!!

*No offense meant towards the highly respected profession of plumbing.

Copyright 2008 Randy Hunt

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