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The Hard Sell

March 21, 2005

TV adverts are something we have gotten used to seeing on a regular basis: used as they are to disperse our programmed viewing. We are aware of their purpose as a way of bringing new products to our attention so that we can be subliminally urged to purchase them; but we are accepting of them because from time to time, they educate us, entertain us and make us laugh. Or so I thought.

But this was before I had viewed the adverts on New Zealand television. Where, it seems, the advertising exec’s aim is to shock you, make you gag, or scare the bejeezus out of you. These are no mere trifles of entertainment sprinkled in to provide the mandatory toilet breaks; or even just to allow you a little breathing space from the emotional upheaval of watching “Shortland Street”(*).

(*) A native soap that’s a cross between EastEnders, Coronation Street and Casualty; but with the climate of Home & Away. I have never actually watched it, but if the trailers are anything to go by, I get the impression that:

a) there are 5 too many storylines being run each episode;

b) anyone with the slightest tendency towards depression or self-harm should be banned from viewing it lest they be moved to slit their wrists before the first ad break due to the torrent of trauma that the characters are tormented with.

And it seems that Auburn and I are not the only ones to feel bludgeoned by these exceptional miniature performances.
We heard on the news the other day that UK parents are calling for a new Marmite advert (made in NZ) to be banned as it is causing their children to have nightmares! And I am not surprised. It comes to something when at 30, you have to accept that there are some TV adverts that you’ll have to view with your eyes shut(*2) – if only to ensure that you can sleep at night!!!

(*2) Either that or leave the room – some of the accompanying soundtracks merely transmit the terror of the particular advert directly into the vulnerable parts of your cerebellum

Allow me to share with you the ones that particularly stick in the mind.



Interior of a bright family kitchen/dining room. We follow a mother as she emerges from it into the living room (Admiring the easy open plan design as we go). She stops just inside of the conservatory doors to shout words of encouragement at her 2 young sons playing happily and loudly in the back garden sunshine. She then turns to talk to the camera: telling us how hard it is to keep the house clean what with 2 young boys, but how her chores are made easier with the help of some specific cleaning product or other.

She is so proud she turns and indicates the general clean and sparkling condition of her home with a sweep of an arm. At which point she stumbles … and falls … head first onto the low glass coffee table that is the centrepiece for the room.

There is a moment of absolute silence(*3). Then a softly spoken male voice-over proceeds to tell us – whilst the woman’s body lays TWITCHING amidst the debris of glass and whatnot (This is no word of a lie) – that 90% of accidents take place in the home and that we should all think long and hard about getting some home insurance RIGHT NOW.

Now granted, the point being made is a valid one, but I can think of simpler (and much gentler) ways of selling home insurance. There are other variations of this advert, but I will not mention them here – it’ll only make you nervous of the shower(*4).

(*3) Followed by the sound of your shocked intake of breath; followed by the sound of you retching up your evening meal

(*4) “Psycho” has nothing on this advert. At least the film scenario involved a convoluted plot; the premise of the advert could happen anytime



#2: Ingham’s Chicken

Another family kitchen. A mother is busy preparing dinner when her lively 8yr old son comes bouncing in from school proudly displaying the Lightsaber he made in art class (Think kitchen roll tubes, foil and lots and lots of sticky tape).
Mother marvels over his contraption and praises him on his creativity and imagination. The boy asks if he can go play in the living room and she sends him off with a word about dinner won’t be long.

Mother continues with her cooking and in the background we can hear the swoosh of the Lightsaber in action (Sound effects courtesy of Lucasfilm). After one particularly loud crash, Mother is drawn into the living room to investigate just what her son may be up to.
Her jaw drops when she enters to find the room utterly trashed: the table lamp has been knocked to the floor; the coffee table overturned; the pictures hang limply and at awkward angles from the wall and the sofa lies collapsed and cleaved in half. The boy is standing over the TV (which has been decimated) pushing the Lightsaber into the gaping hole where its screen should be.

Mother’s anger shakes her out of her daze whereupon she strides up to her son (admonishing him for messing up the room) and furiously snatches said ‘saber from his grasp. Her annoyance causes her actions to be rough and SWOOSH: she cuts of her own her arm (just below the elbow) with the schoolroom blade!

There is a moment’s pause as she looks from the ‘saber to her arm and back again. And then a voice-over speaks the words: “She wasn’t prepared for that; but she is prepared for dinner”. Cut to: dinner table where father and son are seated, looking expectantly at the plates set before them. Mother approaches bearing a baking tray from which she scoops up a piece of chicken and places one tenderly before each of her ravenous kinfolk. Please note the stump of the left arm being used to delicately balance said baking tray with folded tea towel.



Night time. A man and woman – mid 20s, healthy and at a good point in their relationship – are spooning in bed asleep. Strange noises are heard off camera and the couple are startled from their slumber.

The young man gets up to investigate. He walks down a hallway, turns round a corner and a figure suddenly materializes in front of him(*5). The man is startled (Cut to a close-up of his face looking decidedly peaky and suddenly ashen). The camera pans back to the figure – which since it’s female, dressed in Victorian primness, is transparent and floating several inches off the floor – leads us to conclude that she is a ghost.

She lunges at the young man; he takes to his heels. The camera follows the chase round the house and we see him stumble as he makes his way past boxes stacked round the fairly empty rooms as he tries to escape in the dark.

The apparition is exceptionally fast and the viewer is in no doubt that she will soon catch her prey what with her running through walls and all (And you are dreading what will happen to him when this happens).

The young man bursts into a room and looks round in a fluster. The only exit is a door situated in the far left corner of a dark red wall on the far side of the room. He takes a quick look over his shoulder, realizes just how close the ghost is getting and pegs it – this is make or break time.

The tension is at fever pitch now: as the young man reaches the door, the phantom puts on an extra burst of speed and heads straight towards the wall. As the young man’s legs disappear through the doorway, you are fully aware that by the time he gets to the other side, she will be there waiting for him.

The ghost runs straight at the wall then… SMACK! She hits the wall (The sound makes you jump) and then rebounds backwards onto the floor on her back: where she lays, out for the count.

After a couple of seconds, the young man peers round the door to see what’s going on and spots Little-Miss-Pale unconscious on the floor. Whereupon the tagline bleeds up (White font against the dark red wall colour): “Nothing repels like new Dulux Wash & Wear”.

Yes folks, this scary Mofo of a trailer is in fact a commercial for paint. You know, that substance that you smear all round your domicile to make it homely and comfortable? They actually thought that this was a good way to advertise it. *shakes head in disbelief*

(*5) The unexpectedness and speed with which this person appears causes my bladder to release involuntarily despite the fact that I have seen it before. Think of all the made-you-jump moments in “The Sixth Sense” and you get the idea



So there you have it. A little taster of some of the things we are being daily subjected to in the name of marketing. I’m assuming the writers and advertising execs sleep well nights…

I would appreciate your feedback on developing my travel writing style. Please use the Rate This and Like This buttons as the quickest means of leaving an opinion. If you have time or feel moved to, please leave a comment. Thanks muchly for your time and your criticism. 🙂


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AUTHOR: I am might war. I have a love of music, the written word, travel, Anime, polar bears, people and “sticking and colouring”.

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