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Truth in Advertising:

Labels in America


What is it with the American need to label everything, including people?


I perhaps defy categorization but it hasn’t stopped people from trying to stick a label on me, throughout my entire life. I recall one Suburban Snob trying to pin the most accurate, sure-fire label on me in the early 1990s.


“You’re not one of those Christian Conservatives,” she eyed me. “But the way you talk about taxes you’re definitely not a Liberal.”

The mere inability to peg me aroused suspicion in this haughty woman who believed that General Franco had been great for Spain! And the 1970s were fantastic economic times!


I smiled in her vain face about her vain attempt to label me. “Keep trying!” She undoubtedly is, with yet another person who presents the face of reality to her.


The con man and the con woman know perfectly well this need of American A to pin a label on American B so that American A will safely know whether or not he can — ha! — trust this fellow citizen, who was once known as a compatriot.


We’ve almost gotten to the point in the U.S.A. where we will demand Warning Labels on innocuous individuals, although clothing type, for now, suffices. Use at your own risk! Branding takes on an entirely different meaning!


Thus we get Super-wolves in the most exorbitant of sheep’s clothing, exquisitely tailored and coiffed, immensely plastic-surger-ied while they go intensely after the Injur-ied (as spelled by the Personal Injury Attorney in my region). The Injuried are the Victims in America with not only physical wounds, but emotional ones as well. The emotional carnage keeps on piling up that way!


The situational ambulance chasers of the American Life road-scape are not the plaid-suited vulgarities of yesteryear, the hucksters with the flashy smiles. Oh, no. They’ve been re-packaged and re-labeled in the most demographically-diced of ways. They assess, or rather their Handlers assess, the best look, the most in-trend, the most on-topic topic and the most syrupy cause to espouse: the Payola Promotion that will click with buyers and with voters (whose votes are bought). The sellers of the latest hype are now the Advertisers of Internet Tripe.

Advertising as an industry is an American invention, an original outpouring of its ingenuity and productivity. It has its up-sides and it has its down-sides. It now has only a grotesque side. It’s become America’s gum on the sole of your shoe: You can’t avoid it or get rid of it!


Once clever and efficient, Advertising in America has become instant PDF downloads on how to con the latest group — The Multi-Culti-Millennials — many of whom have yet to trust banks or even acquire a taste for spending! Ergo, get them now and brand them! Just look up “Advertising Techniques for Millennials” online sometime, if you’ve got sufficient hours of spare time!

I’m not sure if these preposterous gimmicks are new or old because I never was a target for any advertising, but I do believe that my free-range buying ways anticipate these hard-to-rope cattle of the Digital Age. Re-branding this Group might take some effort. From personal experience, I’ve witnessed the Millennial in My Life mourn the demise of more than one retailer. It’s rough! It’s hard to grieve.


The geniuses of the financial world who pioneered the Subprime Spending collapse have undoubtedly shifted into Advertising Agencies that can’t sell anything — but the ad contract lasts just long enough for the agents to get their money and run with it! Businesses in America are really giving themselves the business!

This morning at breakfast I was reading portions of a biography of Milton Berle, “Uncle Miltie”. In 1951, Berle signed an exclusive, never-heard-of-until-then (and never-heard-of-since) 30-year contract with NBC-TV — for 1 million dollars a year. That’s a million smackeroos annually, starting in 1951 and ending in 1981!


I read this tid-bit to Dear Husband and I immediately said:


“I don’t care who you sign a 30-year contract with, or for what, even for marriage. That kind of agreement reeks of entrapment on the front end and being dumped on the back end.”


Later I had to calmly clarify to my spouse that “till death do us part” was, and is, for me, a perfectly acceptable clause in the marriage contract. Any time-limit or time-limitation indicates a shelf-life, a sell-by date!

Mr. Television did have a re-arranging of the shelves with the sponsors at NBC (first Texaco and then Buick). Berle was finally reduced to hosting Jackpot Bowling, with a smile and a quip, to fulfill the terms of that unprecedented contract.


By that time, the complaint about Uncle Miltie by the TV executives was that the comedian’s persona had changed in ways that left the viewers unhappy — and un-tuning into the network at that time slot. The Suits had obviously misjudged their audience, big-time. And Berle was blamed for being the professional that he was, as he attempted to re-pitch his schtick to capture, or re-capture, the laughter.


Berle really didn’t care at this point, as long as he was earning money. He eventually decided to go the Vegas route, long before it became the glitzy, go-to-slush machine for media-created stars that have passed their fizz-by-date and then have to start arranging dates for their stage-craft in the artificial arenas of Las Vegas.


To go from an A-list Pop Culture Formulation to B-List Preening Vegas Stage-Bait, complete with wardrobe changes, some of them onstage, is a big hit to the egotist. For Berle, however, it must have been a sobering realization that the tastes in America were becoming tasteless. He packed ‘em in at Caesar’s Palace, the Sands, and the Desert Inn, but the laughs must have rung a bit hollow for this New Yorker who had started a career in entertainment as a child actor in silent films.

His long run as a funnyman during the Golden Age of radio, during the Golden Age of Hollywood, and during the Golden Age of television produced labels that were diverse. They were certainly golden!


Those labels for Milton Berle were perhaps too diverse and they’d become too bankable. It appears that NBC, in an early goof that would become standard and routine for the Peacock, mis-judged the static “demographics” involved in anyone watching TV for 30 years!

His comic routines contained no profanities, along with a natural sense of timing, and a dramatic acting ability that was often overlooked because of his comedic skills. Berle was too original to wear a label other than his own name. And that’s the only label any individual ever needs. The Suits might get a clue about that marketable truth in the U.S.A.


Presently, the Corporations don’t have a clue about what sells or doesn’t sell in America, mostly because the Corporations are no longer authentically American. Even if they are headquartered in America and even if they consist of American workers, the Hired-Heads are so horribly disengaged from the American people that they hire high-priced pollsters to percentage-out the population according to likes and dislikes, fears and phobias, good-touch and bad-touch, all of which are still out-of-touch with the American People.


I’m not touching any of it, even with my 10-foot-long closet pole. My closet is holding pat on my old clothes. I at least know what their labels say: natural fibers, classic designs, sometimes even made in the U.S.A. My pantry always looks half-bare because I do not know where to buy the products and brands that I used to buy just 10 years ago!

Advertising is all about demographics. When the Suits hit the jackpot on them, they look like geniuses. When they’re so far off-base that the consumer won’t even look at the product being peddled (be it a dress, a movie, a truck or a sodie-pop), they look like ignoramuses (or ignorami).


At present, the Advertising Suits and the Corporate Suits would get a better rate of return on their money if they bet on the roulette wheel in Vegas. They make up another group of experts who look like pompous idiots. I’m tempted to label them! They’s so slippery, however, that a label won’t stick!