A Short Catalog of Tagline ADrocities

On those occasions in which some circumstance wedges me into an exchange with someone who knows nothing about me. the stranger–with the ineluctability of sundown–will engage in the short-cut question that practically all Americans intone, the one that will size me up to determine whether or not I carry enough status to make me worthwhile befriending , to wit: “What do you do, Jack?” Invariably, my disappointing answer is, “I’m self-unemployed. (It’s true. A few years ago, I fired myself from my own company, and walked off into the ad-world sunset.)

My answer frustrates them enough for them to betray a measure of annoyance. So, next, they advance, blurting, “Well, what did you do.”

Actually, I pretty much did the same thing that Mad Man’s Dan Draper indulge in, but with nothing close to his sex life.” Yes, for about 30 years I was an ad agency creative director.

I never know where that answer places me on the stranger’s Socially-Acceptable scale, but I reckon it pretty much qualifies me to post the following cavalcade of ADrociously misbegotten themes on TV.

Kraft: It’s the easiest because it’s the cheesiest: Never mind that dictionaries equate the word “cheesy” with things unpleasant. Concentrate instead on the untidy logic of the tagline. Presented with such an arrant non sequitur, Socrates would have summarily exiled its hopeless originator from the Forum. Life sentence.

Liberty Insurance: Only pay for what you need: In the patois of Madison Avenue this piece of ersatz entreaty is known as a U.S.P. (Unique Selling Proposition). It poses as an irresistible customer benefit unique in the industry. Trouble is, any sentient being who pays attention to the options clearly offered by auto insurance companies, knows the claim is anything but unique.

Audi: The Future is an Attitude: Huh? Working for an imaginative client open to mocking humor, I once authored a tagline intentionally lugging to life the kind of high -sounding banality of too many corporate mottoes. It bears a resemblance to Audi’s thematic twaddle. It went: “Where Tomorrow is the Day After Today.” I suppose there is some chance that, like me, Audi is only kidding. But I doubt it.

Subaru: Love, It’s What Makes a Subaru a Subaru: Really?Any time I find myself gagging on this sodden pile of mawkish effluvium, I hear–echoing like a distant bell–the voice of Tina Turner belting out “What’s love got to do with it?”

Nike: Just Do It. This presumptuous injunction underscores the accepted marketing wisdom that–if you arm any slogan with enough monetary ordnance–it will blow into the market’s collective hippocampus, no matter how humdrum it may be. The creative-director progenitor of this tagline actually boasted of its inspirational origin . He claimed he was inspired by convicted killer Gary Gilmore’s death-row command, muttered minutes before his execution, to wit: “Let’s do it.” — an inspiration ignited by a hardcore assassin at the cusp his expiration. Gilmore’s heirs did not collect royalties.

Subway; Eat Fresh. Even before the malodorous tunafish odium, there was something fishy about this tagline. After all, can any processed lunch meat ever–in Subway’s wildest delusion–be described as “fresh.” Besides, when I gaze at the panoply of ingredients set out before on the Subway counter, I can’t help wondering how long the’ve been nestled in their metal pouches. issuing an open invitation to all the bacteria eager to wilt them. How ’bout you?

I dunno, maybe rising out of an earlier ad epoch, I might be leveling too captious an eye on today’s taglines. Yet I can claim that my bygone era placed at least some mnemonic value on clever taglines. Like say, oh, “STP is the racer’s edge.” And, yes,I am boasting; I am indeed its author.

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