An ad for the University of Chicago

July 26, 2022 • 8:30 am

Yesterday, while tending my waterfowl, I came across this student hitting the books—or rather, the computer—on a table next to the pond. On the pond ledge right in front of her, Audrey and her entire brood of 12 were resting. (They’re almost all grown up now, and all of them can fly.)

Normally the ducks wouldn’t tolerate anyone being this close (except me with food), but the student was very quiet and didn’t disturb them. I complemented her on her respectful behavior, and we had a brief chat about the ducks. There are two types of pond-frequenters: those who love the ducks and those who couldn’t care less. She was in the first group, and had lots of questions. When I told her I was looking at a mother and her entire brood, the student became even happier, and was elated when one of the “babies” fell asleep with its head tucked under its wings—a very cute posture. Note the big smile on the student’s face (I asked permission to take the photo). It’s genuine.

Anyway, when I looked at the iPhone snap later, I realized it would be a great ad for the University of Chicago, with a header like this:

Scary Australian ad promoting vaccinations

August 12, 2021 • 12:45 pm

Trigger warning: could be disturbing to those who don’t realize this is bad acting.

According to the New York Times article below, this Aussie government ad promoting vaccination got some pushback. But the article, besides describing the new surge of virus in Australia, also gives some disturbing information. First, only 9% of Australia’s population is fully vaccinated. Second, you can’t get the Pfizer vaccine there unless you’re over 40; otherwise you get the less effective AstraZeneca shot.

I find the ad overly dramatic and, to me, not that effective. Better show either more gruesome shots or, as i’ve suggested, show instead the verbal testimony of real people who have lost those they loved to the virus, urging people to get vaccinated. (You could also show recovering victims still in extremis, testifying about the need for vaccination, but I think you need the hint of death for an ad like this to be effective.)


Some pushback: a tweet from a former member of Australia’s Labour Party:

h/t: David

Et tu, L. A. Times? Trader Joe’s decision to keep brand names is touted as “breaking your heart”

August 5, 2020 • 12:00 pm

As I reported recently, Trader Joe’s grocery emporium has been accused of racism for using names like “Trader Ming’s” for its Southeast Asian foods, “Trader Giotto’s” for Italian foods, and “Trader José’s” for Mexican food and drink. There’s apparently also a “Baker Josef’s” line of baked goods, like pretzels, imported from Germany. The company first agreed to ditch those names, but then reversed course and said it was keeping them.

When I added a readers’ poll asking you to weigh in on whether the company should ditch these names, the results (below) were heavily in favor of keeping the names, with many readers saying the equivalent of “lighten up” in the comments. I think I agree now, as I can’t see anything damaging to people with these names. It’s not like Aunt Jemima’s pancake mix or syrup, which had an old-time Mammy stereotype as a symbol. Seriously, if you think buying “Trader Jose’s Cerveza” is a racist stereotype, and call it to the attention of the company, you probably have too much time on your hands.

So the company’s decision not to truckle to the Woke was a welcome but rare instance of fighting back against social-justice mobbery. Some, however, have not taken this reversal well. One is the Los Angeles Times, whose business writer penned a whole article about how Trader Joe’s product names can “break your heart” (click on screenshot to read if it’s not paywalled).

The weird thing about the article is that it interviews three people, only one of whom is opposed to the “racist” names—yet the headline implies that hearts are being broken throughout the U.S. Further, the paper took a poll:

More than 80 of the 100-plus readers who responded to The Times’ call for opinions said the labels would not change their feelings about Trader Joe’s or its products. Several said that the controversy was overblown, that the labels were simply part of the chain’s whimsical brand or that the packaging paid proper tribute to cultures.

No hearts broken there! And the author of the article even concludes that “the controversy isn’t expect to cause the chain lasting damage.” So why the weaselly headline, which appears to be some editor’s or author’s opinion that isn’t reflected in the story itself?

Here’s the one offended person:

“The packaging is just the bottom of the barrel, the low-hanging fruit” that’s easy to change, said Huerta, a 30-year-old transportation planner from El Monte. “This is really a time where companies need to reflect on what their goal is in this movement and how they can push forward racial justice in their day-to-day operations.”

Grania used to tell me, when we were discussing campaigns like this, that I should judge their value by asking myself, “If the offended got their way, would things change for the better?” And in this case I can’t see that it would. If “Trader Ming’s pork dumplings” become “Trader Joe’s Pork dumplings”, will racial equity be advanced? Have people confected stereotypes of Asians based on that name? I can’t imagine they have.

One person even liked the German name, though she was a German immigrant, but she was careful to qualify her words:

As a German immigrant, Roswitha Koeper, 32, said she liked seeing bread products and pretzels imported from Germany on Trader Joe’s shelves, some of which were branded “Baker Josef’s” — though she emphasized that her experience as a white German immigrant was very different from the experiences of people of color.

“It always kind of makes me happy to see that [Baker Josef’s label] because for me … that means that they just went out of their way to see where this product comes from,” she said.

Now I don’t read the L.A. Times as it’s always paywalled, and three subscriptions (WaPo, NYT and Andrew Sullivan’s Dish) are enough for me. Is it just as woke as those first two newspapers? If not, then some editor, or the author, slipped in an ideological statement in a report whose contents contradict the headline. Broken hearts, indeed!


h/t: Paul


Gwynnie’s summer luxuries

July 10, 2020 • 1:30 pm

I know you’ve all been asking yourselves, “What on earth is Gwyneth Paltrow doing this summer?” For we always want to know what the rich are doing because, as Hemingway said, they’re different from you and me.

Well, Gwynnie has put up a post documenting her summertime activities, which of course involve products she’s bought, many of them sold on her goop website.

And so we have Gwyneth, her hubby, and her children’s (Apple and Moses) “summer at home”:

Gwynnie tells us that she’s been “living in this very soft G university sweatshirt“, adding that it’s “having a moment right now.” Well, maybe a moment for her bank account for the sucker costs $195. For a sweatshirt! And it’s not cashmere or anything, just 60% cotton and 40% polyester.  And seriously, Goop University? Woo 101? The motto appears to translate as “Goop: We are Pharos”, whatever that means.

Son Moses got a boob jigsaw puzzle (not from goop, but from jiggy). For only $40 the lad can indulge in fantasies while perfecting his motor skills as well as becoming acquainted with all manner, shapes, and ethnicities of the female breast. What a progressive and liberated mom she is! I hope Moses said, “Thanks for the mammaries!” (But what did Apple get?)

Gwynnie gives a summer reading list, which we’ll mercifully leave aside, but what did she give herself? Well, for one thing, a number of different “cleanses”, as she’s into detoxing big-time, even though it’s totally bogus. On top of that, she purchased herself a fine Gemstone Heat Therapy Mat, retailing at goop for the bargain price of $1,095. This is said to approximate a spa experience. Those gems and pulsed electromagnettic fields, as well as those good negative ions, will tone you right up! The deets:

Approximate an at-home spa experience with this heating mat. It combines five natural therapies: hot stones, far-infrared light, red light, pulsed electromagnetic fields (PEMF), and negative ions. And it’s designed to temporarily promote local circulation, ease muscle tension, and maintain overall relaxation and well-being. Lie back as the amethyst, tourmaline, and jade gemstones warm up against your skin. Feel yourself unwind in the infrared heat. And let it out: ahhhhhhh.

  • LED Display Controller: Time and Temperature settings, 3-6-12-hour auto shutoff timer

  • Number of layers: up to 21 functional layers

  • Materials: High-quality, nontoxic

  • Voltage: USA power 110-120V (available in 220-240V upon request), 220W

  • 13 lbs of natural amethyst gemstones; 33 tourmaline ceramic gemstones, 30 natural jade gemstones

All of this was reported on Page Six, which adds some juicy details:

“I’ve made a commitment to start writing every day for five minutes because I’ve always been scared of journaling and don’t often write things down. It’s a daily micro mental challenge,” the 47-year-old wrote.

The “Politician” star recently told Town & Country that she is well aware that her Goop empire is constantly criticized but she couldn’t care less.

“The people who are triggered by me — ‘I don’t like her because she is pretty and she has money’ — it’s because they haven’t given themselves permission to be exactly who they are,” she said.

No comment on the “micro mental challenge” or the huge achievement of writing for five minutes a day, but I love her explanation of why people don’t like her.  No, I don’t dislike her because she’s pretty and rich; I dislike her because she’s vacuous, self-absorbed, and, above all, pushes onto her credulous followers woo like jade vagina eggs and gemstone relaxation mats.


The Lincoln project’s latest anti-Trump ads, one in Russian and the other about Russia

July 4, 2020 • 12:00 pm

As you probably know, The Lincoln Project is a PAC (political action committee) composed largely of Republicans who oppose Trump’s re-election in November. They endorsed Joe Biden earlier this spring, and are known for their hard-hitting videos (collection here) that The Atlantic has criticized this way: “personally abusive, overwrought, pointlessly salacious, and trip-wired with non sequiturs.” Well, I don’t fully agree. Personally abusive? Overwrought? Remember who we’re talking about here!

At any rate, here are two recent ones, so judge for yourself. The first, described on The Week, is entirely in Russian voice with English subtitles. As that article notes:

 On Wednesday, the Republican operatives behind the Lincoln Project released another ad attacking President Trump — in fact another one tied to the growing scandal over Russian bounties for slain U.S. troops in Afghanistan, indirectly — though this one’s a little different: It’s entirely in Russian. In case you were curious, the ad “is actually in good Russian and voiced over by a good Russian actor,” says Russian-born U.S. journalist Julia Ioffe.

Tovarich Trump! I don’t see this as fitting The Atlantic‘s description at all. It’s strong but not pointless, not salacious, and not abusive.

And here’s an ad about the U.S. bounty that Russia supposedly placed on American soldiers killed in Afghanistan by the Taliban. Now none of us have seen the evidence that this is true, but given that the leaks came from the intelligence community, I think the report can be considered credible for the time being. And certainly it was called to Trump’s attention a long time before we heard about it.  Nor has he said anything about it.

Just as Thomas Henry Huxley was known as “Darwin’s Bulldog,” since Darwin was mild-mannered but Huxley took it upon himself to gnaw the tushies of Darwin’s detractors, so the Lincoln Project could be considered Biden’s Bulldog. And again, I see nothing unseemly about this ad.


A pro-science ad from Pfizer: “When science wins, we all win”

April 16, 2020 • 8:30 am

You will perhaps pooh-pooh me for putting up this ad, which I saw on the news last night, but I don’t think you should. Sure, it’s produced by a “Big Pharma” company—Pfizer—but its message is still on the money. Just listen to the words and forget that, in the end, it’s advertising.

If it just makes people realize, as New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said, when speaking to CNN, “We’re talking about a reopening that has a public health plan and an economic plan totally coordinated. Our behavior has stopped the spread of the virus. God did not stop the spread of the virus. And what we do, how we act, will dictate how that virus spreads.”

Even Big Pharma can speak the truth. Or would you prefer that they produced an ad extolling the power of religion?

This is why people dislike Gwyneth Paltrow

December 11, 2019 • 1:30 pm

Have you ever seen a more off-putting Christmas ad than this one from goop, featuring their consciously uncoupled (but now remarried) Gwyneth Paltrow? The funniest part is what she gives herself for Christmas.

On Saturday I’ll show a much better Christmas ad: the one from Sainsbury’s a few years ago that featured Mog the cat.

Anyway, watch and weep. And realize that there are a lot of people who like this stuff. . . .

National television networks refuse to air First-Amendment commercial featuring JFK

September 11, 2019 • 10:00 am

A news release from the Freedom from Religion Foundation (FFRF) tells us that while this FFRF commercial featuring John F. Kennedy was played three years ago on the ABC television network, it was rejected by ABC for airing during the Democratic debates in Houston tomorrow.  This was after ABC refused a much more provocative ad, one featuring Ron Reagan, the former President’s son (see it here).

From the FFRF:

“Every year we ask the major networks to reconsider and run our commercial,” explains FFRF Co-President Annie Laurie Gaylor. “We were disappointed, but not surprised, when ABC once again refused to run the Reagan endorsement spot.”

But, Gaylor says, she was shocked that ABC next rejected a commercial largely featuring a video excerpt of a famous speech by John F. Kennedy. As a presidential candidate, JFK gave a talk to a gathering of Protestant ministers in Houston in 1960, intending to allay their fears that as a Catholic he would be beholden to the Vatican rather than to the Constitution.

In his strong remarks in favor of secular government, JFK said: “I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute.” FFRF’s commercial leads with footage from his speech, then states: “Let’s restore respect for America’s secular roots. Help the Freedom From Religion Foundation defend the wall of separation between state and church. Join us at FFRF.ORG. Freedom depends on freethinkers.”

The ad concludes with the strains of “Let freedom ring,” as FFRF’s emblematic image appears of a Lincoln penny with the words “In Reason We Trust” instead of “In God We Trust.”

FFRF produced this commercial, which first aired on “CBS This Morning” and the “Monday CBS Evening News” in 2012, in response to a remark by then-presidential candidate Rick Santorum, after he said JFK’s remark “makes me want to throw up.”

Ironically, FFRF had no trouble placing the JFK spot nationally on “ABC World News Tonight” on Sept. 24, 2016, to protest Pope Francis’ joint address to Congress.

Note that this ad is quite unprovocative. All it does is show a former President affirming the church/state separation principle of the First Amendment. Apparently the networks are so sensitive about Militant Atheism that they won’t even air an innocuous ad like this:


Steve Pinker’s new humanist ad for the FFRF

March 30, 2019 • 8:30 am

As the Freedom from Religion Foundation explains, this is the first time they’ve done a national television ad in a long time, and reader Paul just saw it on the Colbert show.

The ad debuted in January in about 18 regional markets during “The Late Show.” In February, CBS agreed to run the ad nationally. This will be the first time an FFRF commercial has aired nationally on CBS since 2012. FFRF’s ad featuring John F. Kennedy’s famous remarks as a candidate endorsing the separation of state and church was shown then on “CBS News Sunday Morning” and the “Nightly News.” However, CBS has refused to broadcast FFRF’s commercial featuring Ron Reagan, in which he describes himself as “an unabashed atheist, not afraid of burning in hell.”

I’ve put Reagan’s ad below Steve’s:


h/t: Paul

The power of the web for targeted marketing

May 9, 2018 • 4:40 pm

by Greg Mayer

One of the creepiest things about using the internet is how many businesses seem to know where you’ve been on the web and what you did there, and on that basis insert ads on other web pages you view. This ability to precisely target particular subsets of people for advertising is, indeed, the raison d’être of the advertising companies, such as Facebook and Google, which control most of the internet. Sometimes I can see where an ad is coming from (for example, when I get ads for aquarium supplies, since I have purchased them online before), but others, such as the following, make no sense.

I literally have no idea what this ad is attempting to sell. “FIs” and “AML” mean nothing to me. “Onboard” is not a verb, but I gather it’s intended to mean something like “making a purchasing contract with”, since vendors are involved somehow. Perhaps the intent is “Tips for choosing vendors”, although I don’t know what the vendors are selling, or who is making the decision.  Maybe this ad wasn’t intended for me, but if it was, it has badly missed its mark

Now, get off my lawn!

(Well, I know AML is a type of leukemia, but I can’t imagine that’s what it means in this context.)