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Monday, February 20, 2006

Blame Potsie Weber: commercial success

July 14, 2004

Blame Potsie Weber. That ditzy, lovable Happy Days character inspired this week’s column.

Let me explain.

A few weeks ago, I was boring my co-workers with talk of one of my favorite Happy Days episodes. It was the one where Potsie wrote a song to help him learn the complicated circulatory system. Just as their eyes were glazing over, I broke into his catchy little ditty of Pump Your Blood, that I can still sing 25 years later.

Of course, no one knew what I was talking about, which proves just how sad I really am. But I was vindicated a few days later, when out of the TV, I hear Potsie singing the circulatory song in a commercial for St. Joseph aspirin.

The ad got me thinking about other great commercials. You know the ones. They’ve embedded themselves into popular culture with catch phrases that have made the advertised products instantly recognizable.

Remember these:
“Where’s the Beef?”
“They’re GREAT!”
“Melts in your mouth, not in your hands.”
“Got Milk?”
“I’ve fallen and I can’t get up.”

The measure of a great commercial is that it’s so memorable, it makes us want to buy the product. And boy, have I been suckered more than once. Oh, like I’m the only one who fell for the Clapper and the Chia pet? (Clap on! Clap off! and Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia.)

My first experience with persuasive advertising dates back to my childhood.
Watching the Breck girl fling her long beautiful blonde hair from side to side sent me rushing to the store to buy her shampoo. I was convinced that if I used the product, it would somehow miraculously transform my kinky curly frizzy hair into a sleek smooth shiny mane. No such luck.
Then, there was my fixation with Life cereal, inspired by little Mikey guzzling it down like it was chocolate. And of course, I just had to try Coca-Cola, after Mean Joe Greene traded his jersey for it. But that couldn’t top the grinning Kool-Aid pitcher that seemed to be the life of every backyard gathering. Even my grandmother couldn’t resist the temptation of a good commercial. She used Crisco Oil to make her Sunday fried chicken. If it was good enough for Loretta Lynn, it was good enough for her.

One of my all-time favorite commercials involves a swamp and talking frogs. They mostly croaked “Bud-Weis-Errrr” in between squabbling with the local lizards, Frank and Louie, but it was highly entertaining.

Some other memorable commercials don’t involve talking characters, but some of the best voices in Hollywood. Who could resist Kathleen Turner’s chocolate Dovebar vocals, James Garner’s poetic Chevy ads, and Tom Selleck and Sam Elliot, whose husky voices could seduce me into buying just about anything. Which I would get around to doing, if I could just get Pump Your Blood out of my head.

“The right atrium’s where the process begins, where the CO2 blood enters the heart…”

It’s enough to make me want a St. Joseph aspirin.

Originally published 7/14/04 in The Exponent Telegram newspaper.


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