Category Archives: Advertising

Doorbusting leads to headbusting

You can’t sit in front of the tv with a nice cup of tea and a lapful of knitting without a reminder that this Friday — the day after U.S. Thanksgiving — Americans are encouraged to drive to shopping centers and malls, kick in their doors, and scramble over their neighbors and store employees for great deals on everything they probably don’t need.

They’re called “doorbuster sales” and typically occur on Black Friday, the day after we’ve given thanks for family and friends around tables groaning with the weight of the turkey, squash, mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy, pumpkin pies, and a host of other traditional dishes. I’m in my late 40s, and I remember Thanksgiving Thursday being one of the holidays when nothing was open. I mean nothing. It was always eerie driving back from my grandparents’ house and seeing our downtown transformed into a ghost town. No lights on, no gas stations open, even McDonalds was closed. And it wasn’t long ago that the day after Thanksgiving marked the official start of the holiday season in a more gentle fashion than we see these days. The stores would open around 8 a.m., maybe a couple hours earlier than normal. The Christmas decorations would be up for the first time, and the holiday music playing in the background felt appropriate. The stores were brisk with business, but not mobbed.

It’s not so today. I was watching tv the other night and saw that some of the big U.S. retailers are treating Thanksgiving Day as the new Black Friday. Almost every major retailer will be open on Thursday and they’re all pushing sales. On top of this, the Black Friday sales, which used to start at 8 a.m., have started earlier and earlier each year … 6 a.m. … 5 a.m. … 3 a.m. Now some of these stores aren’t even bothering to close once they open on Thanksgiving.

Frankly, it disgusts me.

Personally I can think of nothing more distasteful than shopping with crowds of people at a department store. I already get stressed out trying to park in the parking lot at some of these places on a Tuesday a.m. (fewest shoppers according to my non-scientific observations), and when I consider I might get a karate chop to the head should I not move fast enough or be in the way of someone who wants a $25 microwave, the appeal is even less so. But hey, some people like to shop and Black Friday is something they look forward to all year, so we can agree to disagree.

But what really bugs me is that come Friday — heck, maybe even tomorrow! — we’re going to be hearing “shocking” news reports about security guards being trampled, fights breaking out between shoppers, injuries and even deaths because of lax crowd control. And what do retailers do to discourage these kinds of incidents? Very little. In fact, I’m surprised they haven’t yet been sued for inciting violence by producing print and television ads touting “doorbuster” sales. What kind of image goes through your mind when you hear the word “doorbuster”? I’ll bet it has something to do with pushing, kicking and shoving, some glass breaking, and maybe if you’re hyper-imaginative, you see people being trampled upon as the door busts open.

I’ll end my rant by pointing out the irony that Toys ‘R’ Us has doorbuster sales. So much for teaching our children not to hit others to get what they want.


Subaru to hockey moms: When you die, you can go to hell


Did Subaru’s advertising agency pay attention to what Shane McGowan is singing in If I Should Fall From Grace With God?

Although it’s one of the catchiest sounding songs ever IMO, the lyrics are pretty depressing. It’s a song about what should be done with the singer’s body after death if the “angels won’t receive [him]” and he can’t be buried in consecrated ground. “Coming up threes boys” must have given them the idea to put three cute little boys in the ad, when really, it’s a reference to the old wives’ tale that drowning men come up for air three times before succumbing; bad luck and death also come in threes.  The song has references to the longstanding Anglo/Irish conflict, and if I understand the lyrics right, McGowan is basically telling the English they can go to Hell with him (“Let them go down in the mud/where the rivers all run dry”). (ETA: I reread the lyrics and the “them” could also refer to “our fathers.”)

I’m guessing like most Americans, the agency creatives love the energy of the music. So do I! I’m sure some of them were in college in the 80s and remember getting shit-faced at parties, the Pogues cranked in the background. Still, every time I see the ad I can’t help but think they’re telling hockey moms to go to hell. In which case, maybe they wanted to slip a sly sense of humor past the client.

Settling in

Has it been nearly a month since I posted? Unpacking has taken much longer than I suspected it would. We’ve moved to a house with less square footage, and although we have a large storage container on our 2 acres to hold our overflow of “stuff,” we’re stuck doing a lot of sorting and deciding. It seems that every day I’m dropping flattened cardboard off at the recycling center or donating household items to shelters. It never ends.

Some random photos:

My cookbook collection, about 80 percent of it. There are a couple more boxes of books out in the storage container. Sadly, this is my collection after culling — I donated roughly 100 books before our move.

The livingroom is looking a wee bit more settled, but still there’s a lot of work to do. This is the scene that greeted me this a.m. after my son’s raucous playdate from yesterday and some furious knitting (mine) from last night. The sofa has been stripped of its slipcover for a washing, thus contributing to the disarray. The rattan chest a/k/a coffee table is going to be replaced shortly, and our tv stand, which is not in the photo, is awaiting a coat of paint. I can’t wait to do the big reveal on this project!

Lastly, I’ve discovered our Victorian-style wall sconces are excellent tools for sock blocking! This sock is one half of a pair destined for my step-mother down in Connecticut, a pair of Elizabeth Zimmermann Woodsman’s socks.

I’ve been doing a fair bit of knitting but unfortunately most of it is holiday related so no pictures. I cast on Thea Coleman’s Irish Coffee a couple weeks ago, but had to put it aside to focus on gift knitting. However as a reward for knitting three four hats over the last week, I purchased Anne Hanson’s Fartlek hat pattern a couple nights ago and will be knitting myself a nice warm cap for the holidays. Ok, yes, I find the name “fartlek” amusing (and so does my son), but I really like the design and have the perfect yarn for it:

It looks a bit more colorful in the photo than it really is. The lighting today is quite poor.

In other Anglophile news:

  • My hopes for the coming season of Downton Abbey on PBS next month have been dashed by this review in the Telegraph. SPOILER WARNING: Read at your own peril.
  • Speaking of Downton Abbey, this Daily Mail article about Julian Fellowes’ decidedly unaristo ancestors is a fun read and shows us the class divide in England is still alive and well.
  • Did you know that November was Wovember, a time to wear and celebrate wool? (I know I dug out my woolies!) Here’s a fascinating expose of retailers who erroneously label clothing or fabric as “wool.” I think this mostly happens in England; in America, wool means fabric made from the fleece of sheep or other fleecy animals or it refers to yarns spun from animal fleece. Will double-check on this!
  • Lastly, I’ve been enjoying — nay, loving! — the CraftLit podcast, which I listen to when I’m slogging though stockinette hell or walking our local bike path. Why it rocks? Half the podcast is taken up with craft talk, mostly knitting, and the other half is a recorded book from the public domain … and yes, my Anglophile friends, the books are mostly British! Host Heather Ordover has the most evocative voice and spot-on delivery. I’d listen to her read the ingredient list on a spray bottle of Roundup. And the lady knows her literature. I love that she prepares a little introduction to each chapter, offering tidbits on the social history of the time, explaining political history and etymology of words. (Who knew that Bram Stoker got off on the word “voluptuous”? I didn’t.) Anyway, it’s definitely worth a listen, and I heartily recommend Dracula, even if you’re not a fan of horror fiction. The readers are excellent and it’s truly a scary book.

Two countries divided by the same films

Here’s something I’ve been thinking about for the past few months. What films out there portray Anglo/American relations? The U.S. and the U.K. get along fairly well okay as political allies, but in films, directors and writers like to examine our cultural divide, often with amusing results. Here, the list I’ve come up with. Do you have any films to add?

1. The Patriot – I watched this film with my youngest brother when he was 10 or so and remember explaining to him that we once hated the British, going so far to bring him over to the Old North Bridge in nearby Concord to give him a little learnin’. I love The Patriot because there are so very few films that explore this time in American history. Bonus: it’s also the late Heath Ledger’s breakout film.

2. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Much furor arose over an American movie star (Renee Zellweger) playing a beloved British book character. But I think, as do a lot of people on both sides of the Atlantic, she killed the part. Score one for the U.S.! Bonus: Hugh Grant finally breaks out of character and plays a sleazebag.

3. Notting Hill – British bookstore owner (Hugh Grant) falls in love with an American movie star (Julia Roberts). Hilarity ensues. Truth be told, I didn’t enjoy this film when it came out. Maybe I should give it another try because it ends up on a lot of favorite rom/com lists. I guess I should also add Four Weddings and a Funeral here as Hugh Grant, yet again, ends up with an American, played by the wooden Andi McDowell.

4. A Fish Called Wanda – My husband and I firmly disagree on this film. I think it’s one of the funniest movies ever — brilliant even — and I watch it whenever I need a good laugh. He had to leave the room at the fish scene and it has caused him to distrust my taste in movies ever since. There’s lots of good stuff in this film about what it means to be British and it pokes fun at the stereotypical ugly (stupid) American. Kevin Kline steals the show. Best lines:

Archie: I used to box for Oxford.

Otto: Oh yeah? I used to the kill for the CIA.

5. An American Werewolf in London — I never get sick of this film and watch it every couple of years. Although it’s 30 years old, the makeup and special effects are still awesome. Great shots of the Moors and London’s Underground — you’ll never want to travel the Tube at night after seeing this movie. Beyond being gross, it’s funny and charming: “A naked American man stole my balloons.” And a confession: I used to have a major crush on David Naughton. Anyone remember him in the Dr. Pepper ads of the 70s?

6. The Ghost Writer — I don’t admire Roman Polanski as a man, but he’s a fantastic director. The Ghost Writer was one of my favorite films released last year. There was a nearly palpable anti-American feeling to this film — from the stony, cold exterior shots* to the portrayal of nearly every American character in the story.

*Since Polanski runs the risk of arrest should he set foot on American soil,  scenes that portray Martha’s Vineyard and suburban Boston (Newton) were shot in northern Germany.

The ad that’s making Britain weep

I read this morning that this minute-and-a-half television ad may propel Billy Joel’s “She’s Always a Woman” back on the charts. Oh no! Not one of my favorite Billy Joel tunes, which explains why I didn’t shed any tears watching this. I’d much rather listen to “Only the Good Die Young,” but I suppose that’s not the message John Lewis is aiming for.

Did you cry watching this? What do you think of the ad? I’ve seen similar ads here in the U.S. — can’t remember for which brands, though.

Keep calm and carry on. Or not.

keep_calm_carry_onI’ve mentioned my love of the Keep Calm and Carry On posters in the past and have kept my eyes open for the spoofs now that the posters have become ubiquitous. Some of my new favorites:


Keep calm and rock on $25.99.


Now Panic and Freak Out $15

More parodies here. I want the Now Panic and Freak Out on a coffee mug!

The couple the British press love to hate

And I’m not talking about Fred and Gladys.

A couple years ago, I became addicted to a show called Perfect Housewifes on BBC America. The host, Anthea Turner, a blond Brit, took a Martha Stewart-like role to challenge two slovenly housewives to clean up their abodes to win that episode’s title of “the Perfect Housewife.” Turner seemed harmless enough — she wasn’t bawdy like Kim on How Clean Is Your House?, but she was sexier than Kim’s counterpart, Aggie. She seemed like a perfect ratings draw for a reality show.

Then I started picking up on news stories in the UK press about Turner and her husband, Grant Bovey. They were criticized for taking corporate sponsorships to fund their wedding and honeymoon; a photo of the couple posing with a Cadbury bar at their reception drew boos and jeers. Bovey had also left his wife and children to marry Turner. They bought a huge home in the country (where Turner’s housekeeping show was filmed), and the press gleefully reported on the couple’s ill-fated battle with their local council about the tennis court they’d built. Eventually the council demanded that the tennis court be dismantled. But it didn’t matter because by the time that decree came down, journos were drooling over Grant Bovey’s spectacular business failures, which resulted in the sale of their estate to a Russian businessman. Now the couple has moved to a smaller home more fitting to their severely reduced circumstances, a home with a reported £5 million mortgage, while waiting for a buyer for their European vacation home. In the meantime, the press reports they’ve pushed their way in to Simon Cowell’s box at Ascot, been served with papers by the bailiff (Bovey), and forced to shill for cleaning products (Turner).

Why the intense dislike of this couple by the press? Is it that they take themselves too seriously? Tabloid targets like Katie Price/Jordan and Posh Spice shrug off negative press … use it, even, to their advantage. Then there are people like that Geldof girl, who’s rich and famous for being the daughter of someone rich and famous … at least Bovey and Turner have worked, and I’m not going to ridicule someone who decides to take a job to pay the bills, as Turner has done with her advertising contracts. Maybe they’re loathed because they had an affair before they were married? Good grief, then, how many celebs haven’t done that … or worse?

Explain the intense dislike in the comments section below.