Do scare tactics, the F-word really add to idea diversity?

By Published on .

One of the great things about America is the way that we celebrate the diversity of our views.

So let's celebrate Bob Garfield's bizarre approval of AARP's series of outbursts decrying any change in our Social Security system. The TV spot Bob singles out for favorable comment shows a house being demolished just because the drain in the kitchen sink is clogged. What a crazy thing to do, and the voice-over man acknowledges that "if you had a problem with the kitchen you wouldn't tear down the entire house. So why dismantle Social Security when it can be fixed with a few moderate changes?"

Now if I didn't know any better after seeing this ad, I would think that Social Security was being bulldozed into oblivion.

Bob says that "yes, hyperbole is by definition exaggeration. But there is a difference between demagoguery and figure of speech. Here is the main assertion, that the president's plan is draconian, appeals more to reason than fear."

But Bob, since when is tearing down your house an appeal to reason over fear? Since when is claiming that Social Security is going to be "dismantled" an appeal to reason over fear, especially since older people's payments won't be changed one iota?

AARP is hardly a disinterested party here. The nonprofit organization has a wide range of investment instruments available to its members. Could AARP be so self-serving it's worried that if people were to divert a portion of their Social Security funds to private investment accounts they wouldn't have as much money to spend with AARP?

I have another celebration of opinion diversity that I'd like to share with you. The hot Miami ad agency Crispin Porter & Bogusky wrote an ad for our sister publication, Creativity, on behalf of the Miami Ad School that used the "F" word in the headline, as in "The best f--- ad ever made."

The agency's strategy, I take it, was to discuss the elements of what makes a great ad in an ironic and exaggerated fashion. Says the ad: "We took stock of all the various elements and notions that comprise the best print advertisements of all time. Then we embedded each and every one into this ad." Also included was a "shocking visual" of a baby with a tattoo on his/her back and a cigarette dangling out of his/her mouth.

What's interesting to me is that we got very little response, fewer than a half dozen letters about the ad. They had differing views (all negative). One guy wanted his subscription canceled; another objected to the continuing decline of morality in our culture.

Two others understood the tongue-in-cheek nature of the ad but objected to it on more substantive grounds. Steve Richardson, a VP-account planner at the Tombras Group in Knoxville, Tenn., found the ad "incredibly insulting and trite. And unnecessary.

"Now with the precedent Creativity has set by publishing this ad, I'm concerned about what comes next-as writers, interviewees and advertisers attempt to out-shock the CPB effort."

My old friend Dick Criswell, who ran an agency in South America before selling to Leo Burnett Co., made the point that the ad "clearly underscores the problem with much of advertising today: focusing on awards rather than consumers. But just in case you missed the point, "The best f--- ad ever made" states in conclusion, "see you in Cannes."

So there, Bob. So there, Crispin Porter. In the celebration of diverse opinions, we rest our cases.

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