Jonathan's Soapbox

This page first posted 17 November 1998.


I have always associated England with wit in advertising. When I visited there in about 1980, I was struck by the energy, cleverness and smartness in ads. I still recall the ad for lifesavers that was about in the tube. It was in the form of a job advertisement for machinists with the skill to produce lifesavers with the exacting tolerances demanded of a quality product, and it included full engineering drawing with dimensions. There was also the advertisement for a VCR that could be programmed to record TV programmes for the whole English Summer---three weeks.

Here in the US wit is more surprising when it is found because you don't expect it, because you think that TV programmes like Baywatch and concepts like canned laughter are indicators of the national intelligence. There is intelligence here, and there is smart advertising, though I imagine it may not pay back in Arkansas. Perhaps one of the more modern forms is the slogan that is a one-line epithetical summary. An example is the tag line, such as the description of a movie, for instance Aliens: "In space nobody can hear you scream". Clever, and in one clause you know what sort of a movie you are about to see. Like poetry, it is very economical on words, but it has that twisted view of sharp humour.

The coffee shop in the HP canteen has a beauty: "Friends don't let friends go to Starbucks". You have to know that Starbucks is a chain of coffe shops and coffee restaurants that bill themselves as the best America has to offer in coffee. Yeah, like McDonalds is the best it has to offer in food! Our morning radio station (KGRP, `The Grape', 100.9FM) has the catch-phase "More rock, less talk". What's funny? It rhymes.

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