fire bob garfield is back

PSA Won’t Change Perennial Parental Bleacher Creatures

This just in: advertising won’t automatically make everyone in the target do what the advertiser wants!

In other news, I have been away from Garfield columns for too long…

bob garfield

Little League Effort Is a Well-Intentioned Swing for the Fences

Baseball is here, and what does that mean?

It means that the boys at Fire Joe Morgan are hilarious, it means that the Minnesota Twins are two seasons away from leaving the Metrodome and it means that the House of Biz softball team will start to play soon.

It means renewal. It means optimism. It means spitting. It means San Francisco is going to have a very bad six months.

Oh, right. Well, I guess it means those things too.

That’s because the Giants stink, substantially because their best hitter is a Giant no more, but an unsigned free agent, languishing at home with his all-time career home-run record and tattered reputation.

Bob, you really need to get the hang of this research thing. Last year, even with Barry Bonds, the San Francisco Giants were a pitiful 71-91 and finished a full 19 games out of first place.

I am pretty sure that they suck now, like they did last season, for reasons other than Barry Bonds.

Yeah, Barry Bonds, the most prolific slugger ever, can’t get a job because he’s been denounced as a cheater. Very good power to all fields. Very bad role model.

Is this an article about advertising or about baseball? Because if it’s about baseball I have a lot of thoughts about Bonds and his two-sizes to big head, more body armour than a U.S. Marine and general dickishness…I just won’t share them on my advertising blog. Because I write about advertising.

Baseball’s steroid scandal has robbed a generation of children of so many heroes. Bonds, Jose Canseco, Mark Maguire, Roger Clemens, Miguel Tejada — tainted by drug allegations all — have left a trail of disillusionment. Baseball may have long since ceased being the true national pastime, but it is still uniquely situated for role modeling. Every player’s approach — swing, delivery, batting stance — is distinct, and therefore prime for imitation by the kids who see it again and again over 162 games.

Advertising is about being quick and to the point. Advertising criticism, however, clearly is not.

But we digress.

Were you having trouble hitting your word count this week?

So if a kid can’t believe in Barry Bonds, then who?

Why, Dad, of course. He’s the instructor, the mentor, the No. 1 fan and the voice of encouragement in the stands.

Are we ever going to start talking about advertising?

Or (sigh) not. Because with spring comes another annual rite: the obnoxious Little League parent at a kids’ game, behaving like a jackass. He screams at the umpire. He hectors the other team. He second-guesses the coach. He berates his own child. And he can’t claim he was doped covertly.

He’s a dope all by himself.

Haha, good joke. That joke is the most fun that I’ve ever had with my pants on. It is way more enjoyable than Splash Mountain at Disneyland. I think I am going to re-read it again and again.

None of this is lost on the Little League itself, which is airing a PSA on ESPN designed to discourage Bleacher Rage.

Finally! We are going to talk about advertising!

That’s right folks, it took more paragraphs to lead in to the part about advertising than paragraphs about the advertising itself. In an article by an ad critic. Writing for Advertising Age.

A short but pointed 15 seconds, the spot from DCode, New York, focuses on a 10-year-old at the plate. From the stands, we hear the kid’s father chiming in, more or less perfunctorily, “Come on, son. Hit the ball.” The boy rolls his eyes and spins around to face his dad. Then he starts hollering:


In my commentary on Garfield’s commentary I am going to say something about the advertising first: This is a really good spot.

Personally, I always wanted my Dad to be more like Jimmy’s Dad because Jimmy’s Dad always let Jimmy have soda and a hot dog after a game when I had to go home and have regular dinner. Jimmy also always had new gear and I had to wait for mine to wear out because my Dad said that it was fine. To top it all off, Jimmy’s Dad drove a Corvette and my Dad had a sensible car.

Later on I realized that Jimmy’s Dad was going through a mid-life crisis and otherwise kinda sucked.

Digression over. And in fewer words than Garfield’s.

The title cards punctuate the obvious: “Now you know how it feels. Just let them play.”

Well, yeah. And the turnabout does nicely sharpen the point, along the lines of the 45-year-old “Like father, like son” PSA, which showed a little boy mimicking his cigarette-smoking pop. With other role models performance-enhanced and reputation-diminished, more than ever we need Dad to set the right example. Could the prospect of creating pint-size douche bags be a moderating force?

Well, considering how it turns the situation on its head to illustrate just how out of line and ridiculous it is, not to mention the breakthrough “kid screaming at father” situation and well-written title card, I think that it just might drive awareness of the issue.

Which is what PSA spots are supposed to do.

Not likely. This spot is a game effort, but boorishness is not an affliction much sensitive to consciousness raising. In all of human history, this conversation has never taken place:

Person 1: “Don’t be a dick.”

Person 2: “My, have I been? My error. I shall endeavor in future not to shame myself.”

This conversation has never taken place because people haven’t said a sentence like “I shall endeavor in future not to shame myself” ever. Not even in freshman English papers about Jane Austen.

People behave like dicks not because they are uninformed, but because they are dicks.

They also behave like dicks because they know that they can get away with it without social approbation.

It used to be okay, decades ago, to use racial slurs in public…why is it not okay now? Because people were willing to step up and call out those who used them.

And they won’t be eradicated, least of all by advertising. Like daffodils and misplaced optimism and wads of spittle, they are perennials. They pop up every spring.

The children’s sports fan dicks do pop up every spring (what a weird visual…I blame Bob). The key for the continuing “bloom” is that rarely does anybody say anything.

No, advertising will not convince everyone it targets to do exactly what it says, but it is a start on the road of making it completely beyond the pale to act like this. These spots are beginning the process of making it unacceptable to act like this. These spots are making it easier for people to have a quiet word with offenders and shut them up. These spots are raising awareness of the problem…which is what they are supposed to do.

In Garfield’s view, this spot won’t make people immediately do what the ads want them to and is thus ineffective. He sounds like he is pitching Direct Marketing to a CMO.


One response to “fire bob garfield is back

  1. Man, Garfield is a douchebag.

    It’s a pretty good ad and will cause some people to think. Which is exactly what it’s supposed to do.

    Has this guy worked in advertising, other than writing critiques of advertising?

    That’s a serious question.

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