Monday, August 14, 2006

Head's up

You might remember a commercial for the Buttoneer from long, long ago. I think it was a Ronco product, although I'm not sure if Ron Popeil is willing to take credit for it. The product put buttons back on clothing.

But the commercial was memorable. The announcer came on the air and said, "The problem with buttons is that they always come off." Then, in case you missed it, he repeated it: "The problem with buttons is that they always come off."

People remember that extra reminder. Apparently they remembered it from 40 years ago.

When the makers of "Head On" wanted to introduce the product, some marketing research indicated that repetition worked. Or, should I say, still worked. So the ad consists of a hurried voice saying, "Head On -- apply directly to the forehead. Head On -- apply directly to the forehead. Head On -- apply directly to the forehead."

That's it. No indication of what the product does. Just buy and apply.

It's apparently for headaches. The same company has similar adds for arthritis and hemorroids. They aren't quite as annoying. Then again, they couldn't be. You can find them all on the Internet if you look a little.

The manufacturer has spent millions on advertising, usually going for quantity over quality. In other words, it's hard to avoid late at night. The campaign has gotten attention. In fact, Countdown on MSNBC did a segment on it.

By the way, someone described the remedy as "homeopathic," a fancy word for "doesn't do much" because it has no active ingredients. But you have to give the company credit. As Keith Olbermann pointed out on Countdown, those Madison Ave. guys spend millions on a campaign, and Head On gets our attention by repeating a sentence.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

This just in...

Whenever I put on one of the all-news channels, I'm often reminded an incident that dates back to my college days.

There, the radio-TV students sometimes made fun of the speech patterns of one of the teachers. They used an episode from one of the classes for demostrative purposes. In order to make the fake newscast more dramatic, the student had inserted the words, "This just in..." Upon reviewing the newscast, the teacher said, "If the news isn't just in, you can't say that it's just in." He said it in a voice that was difficult not to imitate -- I'll bet the students still can do it 30 years later -- but hopefully they learned the lesson while they were having fun.

That brings us to the words "breaking news."

The three news channels use some form of that constantly, whether there is a degree of urgency or not. I know, the words are designed to make you stop and watch. Still, the overuse of the phrase deadens its effect.

When an important story really does take place, like the arrests of those in a terrorist plot to blow up trans-Atlantic flights, it doesn't have the impact at first glance that it should. If everything is important, nothing is important. And when the phrase is used for a story hours old, it becomes easy to be cynical about that particular news operation.

By far the worst offender in this department, though, is Nancy Grace's show on CNN Headline News. Whenever I turn that program on at night, this is a "breaking news" graphic. Every night. Along with it comes text along the lines of "exclusive interview concerning kidnapping from three months ago in which there's nothing new but we got a family member to come on live." Well, almost.

All-news stations are big monsters that need feeding, day in and day out. They really do have to make national stories out of Scott and Laci Peterson's saga at times. But the words "breaking news" imply that something is happening now and it's important. When it's neither, credibility is shredded. That's not a good thing for a news department.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Thank you, Mr. President

I believe I wrote in this space a while ago about how football coaches are some of the dullest people in the world.

It's awfully nice of Nick Saban to help prove my point.

You may have heard this week about how President Bush paid a visit this week to the Miami area, and set up a dinner with former Miami Dolphins quarterback Dan Marino. A few other football types were coming; Jim Kiick was one, I believe.

Saban, the current coach of the Dolphins, turned it down.

There are plenty of people who would turn down the chance to have dinner with this particular President. I know some of them. They are Democrats who are still trying to figure out how we elected this particular man twice.

But this has nothing to do with politics. (I find myself wondering how many football coaches have bothered to register to vote. After all, election day is in the middle of the football season.) Saban said he was simply too busy with training camp to spare the time to have dinner. He wanted to teach his players something about commitment.

What a missed opportunity. Saban could have taught his players a valuable lesson about perspective.

He could have reminded them that there are bigger things in the world than their jobs, that the chance to break bread with the most important person in the world might be a higher priority than to spend hours 13 through 15 of a day watching some more video of the same practice.

Besides, it's training camp. Coaches like to say that rookies who miss a practice because of a contract dispute will never catch up and their careers are doomed. Those same coaches have those same players in the opening day lineup. Think a head coach might be able to miss a little time at night? Me too.

Saban, of course, is the same guy who has left orders for the front office staff of the Dolphins not to say hello to him in the hallway. Too distracting.

Nick Saban is an excellent coach, and I have little doubt he will turn the Dolphins into a winner in the near future. But he certainly gives people good reasons to root against his team.

Not that we here in Buffalo ever need a reason to root against the Dolphins.