There are many different ways to hook a person. So many ways we can be had.
(And this is coming from someone who’s obsessed with advertising.)
For example, last week I was so creeped out by American Horror Story’s grotesque advertisements I could hardly stand it. In fact, I was delighted some of our readers agreed that the latex clad creature-man-person reaching towards Connie Britton’s exposed pregnant belly was indeed tasteless.What have I done though? Oh, only the exact same thing anyone does who says an ad’s “inappropriate” – I’ve inadvertently called even more attention to American Horror Story. (Remember the part about no such thing as bad publicity?) And that, when you’re launching a brand new TV show, is exactly what you hope will happen. FX Network? You’re Welcome.
So two days ago I became captivated by another advertisement, a TV commercial, for something that looks wonderful – if puzzling. The Hershey Company makes some of the most popular – and certainly well-known – chocolate products on earth. Now there are plenty of up and coming chocolatiers who’ve tried for years to unseat Hershey’s: from lederhosen-ed Archdukes presenting alpine chocolate with the milk of goats grazing high above the timberline, to those South American cocoa barons whose sugary goodness gets transported through treacherous snake-infested rainforests atop hearty mules. Those guys’ll tell you their chocolate is richer, purer and more chocolat-ey. But for my money, there’s nothing quite like a good old American Hershey Bar. And who doesn’t love a Hershey’s Kiss? Who hasn’t been sitting in a bar when someone you had a crush on asked if you’re sure you wouldn’t like just one kiss, and who hasn’t leaned forward awkwardly, tentatively, only to be presented with that signature chocolate drop? (That really happened. But only once. In 1989. I’ve been 75% cagier ever since.)
There’s a commercial running now for a new type of Hershey’s Kisses. They’re called Hershey’s “Air Delight” Kisses, and according to the company website, “Your taste buds have never experienced chocolate bubbles like these.” Okay. If Nike doesn’t mind the whole Air Delight thing, then we shouldn’t. And the truth is, they sound genuinely legit – tasty and intriguing. The English have been making wafery, air-bubbly chocolate for years. So then I began to ponder these newfangled Air Delight Kisses, and wondered what kinds of chemicals might be involved to make them so heavenly. I soon realized two things. One) given the enormous amount of time spent ‘pondering’ I’d clearly make a dreadful chemist, and two) I’d been hoodwinked by a company who’d “improved taste” simply by replacing mass with um, air. That’s all it is – just air bubbles in place of solid chocolate. Period. End of story. To add insult to injury, the company probably even saves money this way! Can you imagine? I began to consider this hallowed and very old private company, and wondered about what must have gone on inside their laboratories.Who was the young scientist who’d pulled an elder chocolatier aside, tugging on his white lab coat to get his attention before unveiling this new idea that would improve taste and cut costs? With oxygen!
I turned up my nose in disgust at the idea alone, and wondered if that same young scientist – and his boss who’d greenlit Operation Light As Air – could even sleep at night, knowing just how they’d duped consumers. They hadn’t fooled me. This was so not cool.
Then yesterday morning I went to my local convenience store to get a cup of coffee. It was very early in the morning, and there was no one around. As I was paying, I glanced down and wouldn’t you know it, my eyes landed upon… Them. They were right there…in all their deceitful glory. Just resting on the rack, waiting for some unsuspecting customer to appear and try them. Which is when curiosity got the better of me, and I reached down, removed the package, plunked it onto the counter and paid. I put one into my mouth as I left the store, and sure enough, the chemicals – the oxygen – began to take effect. Within seconds I experienced that feeling of weightlessness. It’s subtle. Even nuanced. And as I climbed into the car my anger began to dissipate. I forgot why I’d been so suspicious of these people who’d injected air into their chocolate to cut costs. And by the end of the day, when I’d gone and bought three more bags of the little hoodwinkers (two were for friends) I realized that, um, there are many, many ways to be had. And sometimes, great advertising is where it all begins.