Everything I Need to Know I Learned from Deoderant
Advertising copy is a strange, because while I'm sure it is among the most edited and examined forms of writing, it is also one of the most insipid. After all, nobody cares if the text on the back of the Triscuit box makes sense, as long as it sells Triscuits. Strangely enough, the key to moving products is, apparently, showering potential customers with an almost random arrangement of words.
My favorite advertising copy is the stuff that has the least to do with the actual product. Many promotional materials, particularly websites, now include other random information to help you enjoy your long and fruitful relationship with their company. Healthful cereals, for example, often provide food pyramid diagrams and healthy lifestyle tips. Apply the same principle to laundry detergents, fruit drinks, shampoo and drill bits. Sure, they sneak in a lot of references to their product, but they also purport to be providing real information. And it's some of the most substance-free writing I've ever had the pleasure to read.
The key to a happy and fulfilled life-- fresh-scented underarms.
I recently found myself, through a series of coincidences too bizarre to reveal here, surfing a website for a brand of deoderant. The site was divided into four areas, "Social," "Self," "Work," and "Family," all arenas I believe to be too broad to be tackled by deoderant. And I was right.
The "social" section contained only a list of things you ought to keep in your house in case you ever have unexpected overnight guests. It's the sort of insightless list that you could simulate given 90 seconds to brainstorm all the things a guest might need (pillows, towels, etc.), which, I imagine, was the writer's exact situation. I guess unexpected guests is a social situation, but it seems kind of specific to me.
"Self" is an even broader topic, and the topic of the self page was equally specific: a list of packing tips for travel. The writing is sub-girly magazine quality, as are the tips themselves. Most of the information was reasonable if not spectacular, but there was the occasional lemon.
By far the worst of these tips has to do with shoes. I'm no expert on travel, preferring to stay at home and watch TV as drool slips from my slack-jawed mouth, but even I know that this tip is stupid: "Unless itís a hiking trip, ditch the sport sandals and running shoes. Opt for classy flat shoes or elegant sandals that keep you moving in style."
No. When you're travelling, you're going to be standing in a lot of lines and walking through a lot of stations and running to catch a lot of forms of transit, and once you get to your destination, you're going to be out walking all around every day from site to store to museum to cafe. If you're out in the countryside, it's worse, because you have to enjoy miles and acres of natural beauty. Who cares how your feet look? You just want shoes that cushion your feet as much as shoely possibly. And you're still going to get blisters.
Why do they want you to wear classy shoes, anyway? This is the same page that advises bringing only loose clothing, because "[t]hose tight jeans look great now, but after a long trip, youíll be too bloated to care." Uh, gee, thanks. It makes me uncomfortable that the deoderant making people believe that I, all women, and perhaps all people, are doomed to suffer stomach problems from travel. The untempered declaration "you'll be too bloated to care" is omenous in any context. I agree that it's a good idea to wear comfortable clothes, as well as shoes, when you're actually travelling, because you have to sit and stand in line, alternately, for long periods of time, and travel days are often extra long. But that's no reason you shouldn't even pack tight-fitting clothing.
The next tip, contradictorily, advises travellers to "[m]ake sure [they] have at least one sexy outfit." One sexy, loose-fitting, neutral-colored polyester shift to wear over my bloated and hideous body. And don't forget the deoderant, Stinkster!
I feel so in touch with my Self.
The "work" page deviates from list form, opting instead to be a long, unreadable paragraph with short, unreadable sentences. It's a brief diatribe about business etiquette--stuff like having a firm handshake and making eye contact. Weirdly, the following is included: "Business etiquette is gender neutral. Social niceties, such as men opening doors for women or standing as a woman enters the room, are not required in the business setting and could unintentionally offend women who simply expect to be regarded as peers." I agree completely, but references to the reader's little black dress and skirt wraps imply that the page is intended for a 100% female audience. Women don't need to hear that men shouldn't open doors for them in a business setting. What do they expect us to do about it?
Family, because they had nowhere else to stick it, is the obligatory "keeping the romance a-kindle" list. Let's examine some of these items.
Flirt shamelessly. Itís flattering and exciting.
Go on a date. Spend time together talking--but keep it light!
Dance slowly. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers have nothing on you!
Dine by candlelight. See how your appetite improves.
Write a love letter.
Watch a sunset, instead of the television.
The most disturbing thing about this list is that its title is "Sibling Rivalry." Ewwwwuuucchhh.