Stupid Ads and Other Semi-random Things That Bug Me

[set rant=1]

I feel the urge to vent. Haven't unleashed a decent tide of invective in far too long, and the pressure cooker's about to pop...

Exhibit A - am I the only one to find the current Bell Solo print ads gob-smackingly stupid?  In particular, they're currently running a series of full-pagers in most of the Toronto papers, with the central pitch being that their youth-targeted mobile phone plans are splendidly affordable. To illustrate this, their creative compares the cost of a Solo package to a range of other things; the hook being "Less than the cost of..."

The particular ad that really has me shaking my head is one in which the cost of a monthly rate plan is pegged as "Less than a day of feeding the meter", with a nice big shot of a parking meter to hammer home the point.  My beef: why on earth would you want to affix a good statement about your product to something most people really hate and resent having to pay so much for?

OK, so maybe I'm just being cranky.

Exhibit B - I found a flyer in the mailbox the other morning, promoting a kind of warehouse sale of Persian rugs. The top line on the flyer managed to flip my pedant bit the moment I saw it: "Enjoy the Colors". This is Canada, mate - we still know how to spell words like "colour" up here.

From there, things just get weird.  Overleaf, the flyer leads with: "Iran U.S. Trade Embargo Is Over".  My first thought was: "Um... but that's not actually true. Is it?" I'll confess I was a little shaky on this; as far as I knew the U.S. trade sanctions against Iran were still in place. A little deep Googling turns up the news that a specific sanction covering the importation of "certain foodstuffs and carpets" was indeed lifted. In April 2000.

Now this isn't directly stated, but the clear suggestion is that the ending of the embargo is recent news. I know one shouldn't necessarily expect absolute veracity in advertising copy, but leading your pitch with what amounts to a brazen deception? That seems plain evil.

The angle for the thing is explained further: "Due to the direct trade of rugs Between U.S. & IRAN a large shipment Of rugs which normally would have Gone from Canada to collectors in New York And L.A. has been assigned to our company To liquidate them by the way of public sale, All types."

(That's verbatim, btw - including the bizarre, random capitalization.)

Examine this pitch for a moment. Starting with a false premise, intended to suggest that there's a wonderful flood of new rugs into Canada due to the easing of trade sanctions in the U.S., they then imply (if I'm reading this right) that their company was previously involved in the illicit business of importing rugs in breach of trade embargoes, using Canada as a back door to American collectors. Is that about the size of it? Or am I still being bad tempered?

Perhaps they're just brilliantly creative. The heck do I know about advertising? Truth is, I probably wouldn't have given this sleazy little flyer a second thought if it wasn't for their use of one other awkward North Americanism; one that is guaranteed to push my grumpy button every time.

Towards the bottom of the copy it says: "First come, first serve". Grrrrrrr....

Those who arrive first will be the first to be served. If that's what you mean, remember the 'd', dammit. 

Unless you were actually suggesting that the first to come would get the first chance to serve later customers. Perhaps you were. Not content with importing dodgy rugs, perhaps you're running some kind of pyramid selling gig here too, where the first come serves the second, who serves the third, and so forth. Enterprising of you.

This particular bit of phrase-buggery sits right up there alongside exclamations such as "that's a twenty dollar value!" - a construction I had never encountered until I moved to Canada. Even though I hardly watch the box these days - just the news and Studio 60 - I can still hear a well-known TV pitchwoman singing out "That's a two hundred dollar value, absolutely free!"

Your discount might be worth two hundred dollars in value, or you might conceivably say that your $200 freebie is a great value - but the construction "a [X] value" just makes my teeth itch.

It's at this point I wish I'd paid closer attention back in the fourth form, to Ms. Williams' endless lectures on articles, determiners, quantifiers, and the adjectival use of nouns. I've forgotten many of the rules, but years of BBC-fed conditioning mean that I can still instinctively hear the flaw. Can't tell you precisely why this particular phrase chafes me so, I just know it's bollixed up somehow.  I'm sure one or other of my more erudite readers will be able to label the error for me.

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