Posted by: Brad Nixon | May 18, 2018

It’s All My Fault

I’m sorry. Mea culpa. Je regrette. Mi dispiace.

It’s not just me, though. There are a lot of us: All of us who were born after World War II and up to 1960 or so. Some call us Boomers, although the Boom may’ve lost some of its oomph and may be more of a Bip or a Bop. We can’t be the Bop generation, though; that’s already taken. Gladys probably copyrighted the Pips, so that’s out.

We’ve gotten a few things right, although if you look at the pack of miscreants and nincompoops of our generation running the U.S. federal government right now, you’d never know it.

With so many of us around, we get a lot of attention from the marketeers, although our purchases of record albums and blue jeans may have fallen off recently. Our priorities have changed, and the impact of those shifting needs sparks this blog post.

I’m not taking responsibility for every problem you have. I can’t do anything about your mortgage rate, your ignorant boss, your lemon of a car or your insistence on getting the largest bucket of popcorn with extra artificial butter when you go to the movies.

What, then? It’s the disclaimers — my god, the disclaimers! Open a magazine or watch television in those early evening hours while the pharmaceutical commercials are running, targeted to my generation. I can just hear Roger Daltrey now, singing the updated version:

Talking ’bout m-m-my demographic!

You know the products I’m talking about: the ones with wacky names like GeezerEase, Fogeyum or Fleebadril. The pattern in the ads is always the same:

An attractive, healthy group of people — a family or a group of friends — are having a great time: grilling in the back yard, playing Skee-Ball at the county fair or summiting Nanga Parbat without ropes or oxygen. Ah, how they laugh! These are active, happy people.

EXCEPT for one member of the group whose vague, unspecified condition sets them apart. They stand at the edge of the jolly scene, but really out of the picture, scowling slightly, hand placed on abdomen, back of head, wherever it is that something’s wrong.

Suddenly you — unsuspecting reader or viewer — realize that you, too may be suffering from the dread specter of commercial disease (whatever ailment it is GeezerEase or Fleebadril is supposed to treat)!

But fret not: Fleebadril’s the answer! After just one application (not shown onscreen, but suggested in the cutaway to a consultation with a white-coated doctor), the stricken party is BACK: flipping a burger over his shoulder and catching it on a bun behind his back, shooting that SkeeBall into the impossible-to-hit 100 hole or clinging by one hand to an icy outcropping at 26,000 feet on Nanga Parbat, smiling, freed of the curse of commercial disease.

Whew! That was close. For a moment there, you thought you had whatever it was that Fleebadril’s meant to cure ….

Then it comes: the disclaimer. It’s not a cure. Read as quickly as humanly possible:

Fleebadril may relieve some symptoms under certain conditions which can include whether the patient is male or female, young or old, rich or poor, has insurance or can recite “The Song of Hiawatha” from memory. See website for complete list. In some cases, using Fleebadril has been known to or may cause or exacerbate backache, earache, stomachache or heartache; along with color blindness, tunnel vision, ringing in the ears, frothing at the mouth, uncontrollable weeping, laughter or logorrhea; rising gorge, high stool, falling expectations, low wattage; echolalia, Ambervalia, onychogalea, narcolepsy, epilepsy, Dizzy Gillespie, dizziness, ditziness, denseness, existential emptiness; Ewing’s Tumor, earworm, Oedipus Complex, Munchausen’s Syndrome or Factitious Disorder; loss of sleep, loss of signal, loss of confidence, hair loss, weight loss, weight gain, mission creep or other symptoms, conditions or inconveniences not fully evaluated, verified or disclosed here because thirty seconds are up.

Disclaimers. They’re our responsibility. At one time, the world was ours; we dictated tastes and upended the mores, values and mindset of the culture. Everyone switched to wearing blue jeans! The world lay before us like a land of dreams: so various, so beautiful, so new. Now we’re here as on a darkling plain, watching Wheel of Fortune, Jeopardy! and the 6 o’clock news when this stuff airs.

Don’t watch. Leave your TV off until nine o’clock and then turn it back off again promptly at midnight, because many Boomers can’t sleep and watch TV, looking for reruns of Gunsmoke and Bonanza; the ads and their disclaimers are there for us, not you. Don’t look on YouTube for music acts from the 60s. You’ll not only get the ads, but one of the surviving, aging band members in your favorite ol’ group is probably the spokesperson for Fleebadril. Before you open that magazine in the dentist’s waiting room, consider carefully: Is its target demographic someone who knows precisely where they were and what they were doing when JFK was shot? If so, it’s full of disclaimers — pages of them! Put it down. There’s a nice copy of Highlights for Children over in the rack. Read that. Much, much safer.

Use as directed. Results may vary. Consult your doctor if side effects persist more than a few days.

© Brad Nixon 2018


Responses

  1. Don’t knock ’em so! They were one of my favourite things about America while I was there. Listening to the radio was like an endless comedy channel: after every advert came the auctioneer-paced horse-racing commentary disclaimer. It was hilarious. Granted, I only had to put up with this for one-week stints, and seldom on TV, so I can understand that it would eventually get a bit much.
    They’re starting to appear on UK radio now, except that they’re often put on before the advert proper, which adds to the appeal – the game is to try and figure out what they’re going to advertise based on the disclaimer…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Disclaimers are intended to protect the product from lawsuits. Disclaimer: product disclaimers may not be successful in all cases.

    Like

    • Use only as directed. If your product suffers from liability, unreliability or irregularity, consult your lawyer.

      Like

  3. I agree, the radio versions are even worse, with the reading of the disclaimers coming at auctioneer speed at a pace making it incomprehensible. Surely there are teams of legal experts ready to pounce and argue against the teams of legal experts that created the hyper-speed reading of legalese.

    Like

    • I think we can assume those disclaimers are taken very seriously and get an enormous degree of scrutiny from the legal department. There are almost certainly legal firms that specialize in reviewing disclaimer language. I always learned a lot when something I wrote in the corporate world needed review by the legal dept. Usually it started with, “Here’s why you can’t say that.” But there was usually a good reason I hadn’t previously known. AND, some number of voice over pros earn a living reading at that speed, although I assume there is audio compression software that removes even the tiniest gaps of silence from between words.

      Like

  4. HaHa! Love it!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t see much TV, but I recently spent a day working in an airport hotel in Queens, NY, and I left the TV on whilst I typed away; every third commercial was exactly as you described! Doing the screenplay for these ads must be the easiest one ever…

    Liked by 1 person

    • The tough thing is getting the production crew and gear up onto Nanga Parbat. Thanks for the perspectuve, and for “whilst,” which we don’t have here and have to import.

      Liked by 1 person

      • It’s a great word, as is “whence”! More “whilst”, less “awesome” would be my slogan if I were to campaign for office.

        Like

      • Whilst you were campaigning, someone else would promise tax cuts for the wealthy, whence cometh your likely defeat.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. After first reading this, I heard on the radio that NBC will broadcast a special program celebrating the 50th anniversary of Elvis’s return. There were jokes galore being made about the nature of the commercials that would be aired. There’s little doubt who the target audience will be, and you nailed it with this post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Boy oh boy, it wouldn’t be a stretch to write about all Elvis, all the time … and I’m certain there are some untold number of blogs that do. I’m just late enough in the Boomer cycle to have missed the core excitement of The King. I couldn’t have been more than 7 — perhaps younger — when the oldest neighbor boy, Larry, already a teen-ager, INSISTED on teaching us not only the words to “Hound Dog,” but PRECISELY how to sing them. Gotta get that “Crah-in all th’ time” exactly right! It’s mostly people a bit older than I am sitting in the living rooms decorated with the Elvis photos and whiskey decanters, because he quickly got a lot of competition in the “pop space” (if there is such a thing).
      That ’68 “return,” launching his Vegas years, sort of slipped past me in that last year of high school, and I more clearly remember the big live telecast from Hawaii in my last year of college, ’73.
      But, yep, if I were the marketing director of a product or service targeted at the that demographic, I’d be all over it. And glad I’m not! Thanks for the programming note. I’ll look for it. He IS still the King, in many regards.

      Like

      • I began playing the clarinet in 3rd or 4th grade. By the time of my first solo recital in 6th grade, I was allowed to choose the piece I would perform. Everyone rolled their eyes, but agreed that “Love Me Tender” doesn’t sound too bad on the clarinet.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. …..Shortness of pants, internal bleeding, and death may also occur, take only as directed.

    Wonderful, Brad, just wonderful!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Dang. Sorry I missed shortness of pants. That’s really good. Naturally, death was in the list of items, but it’s a family show and didn’t make the cut.

      Like


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