Friday, May 11, 2018

Keep it simple?

I know what you're thinking. He's writing about salad dressing again?!?

Actually, you don't need to worry because this isn't really about salad dressing. It's about advertising, which, honestly, I write about slightly more often than I do about foodlike elements, both being close to zero until today.

I mention it because I had an emotional response to something that, for some reason, I didn't see coming. Which naturally made we want to share it with you, because that's the sort of creature I am. I remember emotional reactions and want to opinionate about them. You too? How odd.

The commercial in question was for some salad dressing which is supposed to contain only natural ingredients. Now imagine you are the advertising agency and you want people not to snooze through your commercial. Do you tell people that it is better for them to consume natural ingredients because natural ingredients are less likely to corrode their stomach lining and cause you to glow like Three Mile Island on a very bad day? Wrong! Try again. Do you tell them that natural ingredients tend to actually biodegrade in landfills sooner than the middle of 2085 and are more likely to allow some life to continue to exist on planet earth past next Tuesday afternoon? Bzzz! Boy, you don't get humans at all. Try this: it's simple that way.

Why I didn't see that little non sequitor is beyond me. It isn't a new trick. Many years ago an ice cream company did the same thing in a commercial featuring a befuddled customer trying to read the multi-syllabic ingredients from a rival ice cream container. These feats of pronunciation culminated in a confused stare as she read out the words "locust beans?" and then had to repeat them to assure herself that something so bizarre sounding and apparently foreign was actually in her ice cream.

This has been a major advertising strategy before and since, which is why the company in question decided to take a pass on the benefits of consuming their product being that it's healthy or responsible and decided instead that you'd like to keep things simple. Their rivals would like to do the same and have simply decided that artificial ingredients are cheaper and will make them more money. A suitably honest slogan for them would be "artificial ingredients--cheaper for us" only the first rule of advertising is that you never tell them what's in it for you. The best way to get rich quick has always been to promise to tell other people how to get rich quick, and then to sell them the method--in easy installments.

This creates a bit of a problem for the world of art. It isn't an accident that the words art and artificial are conjoined. There is an irreducible complexity about trying to get people to more fully experience the reality of existence with their hearts, souls and brains. The Symphony tries to get around this by their alliterative concert titles--Bravo, Beethoven! and Mostly Mozart. They tell you how exciting going to a concert will be. Last year in Pittsburgh it was Saint Saen's "Thunderous" Organ Symphony, which is only thunderous in a few places and features a few long chords on the organ only in the final movement. Some people that had actually gone to the concert felt cheated.

But these little twist-a-plots are at work every day, circumventing logic, and making us think that somehow buying a bottle and then pouring it over our salad will be easier if we get the one with the natural ingredients. Not better. Simpler.

What a relief to hearken back to the old days when everything was better, when we could mill around our personal Edens without a care in the world.

When we thought everybody was telling the truth.

this week on we're featuring the organ (mostly) but there's a nice recording of a piano piece by Louis Moreau Gottschalk and a curious story about how music came to be written down. It's all true! Also, the organ is a perfectly nice instrument. Trust me.

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