Garrett Harris 10:11 p.m., May 23
Discount Doublespeak, er, Double-Check & 50% More Crap, er, Cash!
There are two commercial advertising campaigns currently as hot as any others on what were formerly the free American television airwaves, but which are now mostly the costly private property of cable monarchs, among them some pasty guy who is, I just read, the largest private landowner in the country. The man owns more land than Rhode Island is big. I can’t imagine how small his Richard must be. Two specks of dust and a millimeter of thread, I’d assume. Wildly inflated numbers aside, these two TV ad campaigns come to us by way of State Farm Insurance and Capital One Bank, corporations as large as any in their respective games. The first game is insurance, or, as many customers call it, charging people to send them bills. The second is banking, an industry already as popular as Ebola, and in Capital One you’re talking about a predatory lender on par with a hyena raping a baby impala just for fun before eating it, and then being fined more than two hundred million dollars for illegally doing so. Mmm, tasty.
Yes, we’re talking about “The Discount Double-Check” and “50% More Cash!”
Honestly, I wish I could bury both of these phrases and campaigns alive, then spit on their graves. Or worse. But most of you have seen the commercials (I think tribes in the wilds of Papua New Guinea have seen them): the State Farm spots feature Green Bay Packers All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers having his touchdown dance pilfered and used as financial fertilizer by a company that once had as its jingle a soothing chorus singing the comforting line “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there…” (maybe they still use it, I don’t know, but the neighbor these days seems increasingly more like the one with all the bodies buried under his game room floor, the one you thought a mensch when he offered you free steaks); then there’s Capital One, the ubiquitous online bank, that pays huge money to Jimmy Fallon and, of late, Alec Baldwin, to pitch their credit cards, which they tell us will pay fifty percent more cash back on our purchases than any other bank’s card.
Wow! 50%! Can it really be true, Aunt Bee?
Of course it can, Opie. And it means absolutely nothing. You realize this if you take a few moments to ponder what former president William Jefferson Clinton and every one of my elementary school teachers would call the math. Let’s just say that for the average consumer, the target audience of all this marketing, you are literally talking about a pittance, 1% back on all your purchases, which will for most people be a few measly dollars. You’d have to run up ten grand in credit card purchases (debt for most people) on Capital One’s card to get a hundred bucks back. Now there’s a real wow. Plus, once they have you hooked on their card, their capital drug dealers start calling and trying to hook you on all of their other financial junk. Which is probably why they bother with poor credit saps at all, just to get their phone numbers, so they can then try to suck out what little marrow is left in their customers’ dwindling bones. Pinch you, I know, it sounds like a credit consumer’s dream.
There is no surer sign of a business with nothing to offer the average American than a financial institution that will spend millions of dollars on an ad campaign, then more millions on the star talent to pitch their Big Nothing of a message, a message which goes like this: “Listen, you’re not really worth much to us, or anyone really, you’re poor and getting poorer, but we’ll give you twelve cents a year and the other guy only gives you eight. So let us nickel and dime you instead. Because that’s all we’re talking about, nickels and dimes, so you can’t lose that much anyway. Just look how cute Jimmy Fallon is. You know you love Jimmy Fallon. And it’s four more cents. Real copper. Come on, make the call.” It reminds me of going to Disneyworld in Orlando and standing at the ticket booth perusing the “discounts” offered on purchasing multi-day tickets. As I recall, one day cost you about ninety bucks, the two-day discount was a dollar less a day.
One freaking dollar.
Tell you what, Mickey, why don’t you just keep the dollar and smack me in the face instead, I think I’d feel like I got more for my money.
In much the same way, Capital One is spending their money to smack you upside the head, too. And for even less reason. I mean, at least the Magic Kingdom has rides and snacks. What does Capital One have? A late night talkshow host getting Cheerios thrown in his face by a toddler in a high chair. The end. (It should not go unnoticed, however, that the toddler is the only one who rejects Fallon’s offer of a Capital One card and 50% more cash. So I guess there is hope for the future, after all. I do wish, however, that instead of cereal the kid had thrown his doody-filled diaper at Fallon’s shameless mug.) To any current customer of Capital One, these ads alone should be physical proof that they don’t deserve your business. They are all but giving you the finger as they snort coke through your rolled up twenties. The rest of your cash they’re using to line their proverbial birdcages. But they couldn’t possibly own that many birds, you say? They don’t need to. Vultures require much bigger cages and a lot more lining.
Translation: get thee to a credit union. Yesterday.
And then there are the Discount Double Check spots from State Farm. I have to admit getting a smile out of the latest of these, which features former Chicago Cubs pitcher Kerry Wood doing a Wrigley Field ivy double check before a game, pulling from the fabled foliage an aged Andre Dawson, who shows us the ball, “Caught it! Woo!!” It’s funny, I can’t deny it. But still, I’ll say it again: think about it. State Farm is spending millions on an advertising pitch, paying top athletes to be the faces of their product, and what do these commercials have to offer the customer? Well, it starts with an interesting premise: it seems that the most intellectually bereft salespeople the company employs are responsible for signing new clients to new policies. But “intellectually bereft” is being far too kind to these inbred cousin critters. We’re talking morons, the kind of folks who wear ripped jeans to a job interview, then offer the HR person a shot of whiskey from a rusty flask. These addled halfwits can barely read, and when it comes to finding discounts for new customers, please, they couldn’t find their own asses at a hemorrhoid conference, much less a discount for a new customer sitting across the desk from them. In spite of this, and by what feat of mind control it is not known, these new policy holders continue to be signed up. A week or so later, or a month later, perhaps a few years later, maybe even after your house has already floated down the Mississippi, I don’t know when they get around to this, they don’t say, but at some point a more qualified agent from State Farm will arrive on the scene to literally “comb through your policy” to make sure you get all the discounts that the idiot crew down in new accounts never could’ve spotted for you, what with all the whiskey shots and inbreeding.
I imagine the phone calls from your insurance agent (the good agent, that is, the one who knows how to tie his own shoes and find discounts and not have sex with his biological relatives) would go something like this: “Bob, I can’t believe it, but the third letter in your last name is an N, and that means you pay nothing this year, not a dime, congratulations!” And just like that you’re going to be saving so much money you’ll be able to buy a billiards club, or a walnut orchard, or a small child from any number of struggling countries, our own soon to be included. After all, State Farm would never want to make more money on you than they needed to. Never. Perish the thought. Just don’t perish without upgrading that life insurance policy, the one with the “struck by a meteorite” exception. That Perseid shower spooked me this year and I need to upgrade.
I know, I know, I’m sure there are people who forget their wife has died, or that they’ve moved, or bought a new car, and that they need to change the insurance, and I do think these people deserve quality service from their carriers, so please don’t accuse me of indifference. The only people who seem not to care are the people creating these advertising campaigns and the executives approving them. These must be the same people in new accounts at State Farm. Which makes sense. If you have to waste all those millions buying TV time for those vacuous spots, you better start consolidating departments to save money. It’s free market efficiencies. New accounts is now marketing is now janitorial is now laid off.
So it’s really about fiscal prudence, my friends. And by that I mean, of course, it would be fiscally prudent to avoid all companies whose advertising campaigns are predicated not simply on assuming you are stupid, but that you are fully catatonic with your wallet balanced atop your head for the taking. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go open my shoe store for the day. Our current special is “Buy One Loafer, Get the Second Loafer Free.” Come on in and save at Dadler’s Foot Up Your Arse Emporium.