The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

December 5, 2009

This Christmas, Give the Gift of Filtration

Filed under: Advertising, Holidays — Brian Lutz @ 3:12 am

Not sure what to give your sweetheart for Christmas this year?  Look no further than the gift-giving experts at the local Volkswagen dealer for all your Holiday needs.  If you watch TV around this time of the year, by now you’ve probably seen about half a zillion of those thoroughly clichéd “give someone a new car for Christmas”  commercials (complete with the luxury car in the driveway with the big red bow on it) that have been done to death by now.  Oddly enough, this e-mail, which I received in my inbox yesterday, isn’t one of those.  Instead, their gift suggestions seem to be a bit more, shall we say, unconventional.

I guess we can skip the costly auto loans and the ridiculous giant red bows this Christmas, because apparently all your sweetie wants this year is oil filters and floormats.  In fact, that’s such a wonderful, brilliant, guaranteed not to leave me sleeping on the couch for a week idea that I’m going to call them up at $shop.phoneService and order right this very minute…  Or at least I would if I could ever figure out how to dial that dollar sign thingy on my phone.  On the other hand, if for some reason you managed to put off your Christmas shopping until AFTER the last minute (I wouldn’t recommend it, by the time you find yourself wandering the aisles of the Rite Aid at 9am on Christmas morning you can safely assume that you’re pretty much doomed) these people just might be able to bail you out.  Just order by December 31st, and they’ll deliver by Christmas (although we can safely assume that there’s got to be some sort of charge involved here if you’re going to get the thing delivered by last Thursday.)  Whatever your shopping end up being, just remember that clean oil is an investment that will last you a lifetime (or 5,000 miles, whichever comes first.)

October 3, 2009

Three Nifty Ones from 1951 – Classic Car Ads

Filed under: Advertising, History, Recycled Newspaper — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 12:16 am

One of the things you notice when you spend a fair bit of time looking through old newspapers is that oftentimes, there are a lot of advertisements for things which just don’t exist anymore, be it companies that are about three mergers removed from their previous form or just plain disappeared three decades ago, brands that have passed (lamented or otherwise) into the dustbin of history, or products whose time has long since passed.  In particular, you see a lot of car advertisements, many for makes of automobiles that no longer exist, especially as you go further back into the archives to the days when a lot more brands of cars existed than you will find now.

Recently (well, sort of recently, I haven’t had much time for this recently) while I was browsing through 1951 issues of the Bellevue American for nothing in particular, I noted the significant concentration of new car ads in those papers, and thought that some of these would be interesting to post.  Generally, when people these days think of Fifties cars, it’s the finned land yachts of the late Fifties that are the first ones to come to mind.  In the early Fifties these designs were still many years away, and in fact many of the products being offered were still incremental changes of pre WW2 models. 

In spite of this ad’s promise of thrilling power, back in these days the Pontiac brand was often advertised more on its comfort and durability than its rubber-burning prowess.   A number of other Pontiac ads that I found in these papers touted cars built to last 100,000 miles (which seems like a lot, but these days it’s not uncommon to hear of cars lasting 200,000, 300,000 or even more miles.)  It wouldn’t be until the mid Fifties that the Pontiacs would be completely redesigned.  The Pontiac brand is expected to be phased out by the end of 2010, a victim of the recent upheavals in the automotive industry.  Nonetheless, Pontiac has managed to outlast a lot of other brands over the years…

Including Studebaker, a longtime poster child for extinct auto manufacturers.  Here we see one of the many different cars to bear the name of Studebaker Commander over the years, and one that shows the distinct yet (in some circles) much maligned Studebaker front end that has inspired many a joke over the years about not being able to tell which end was the front of the car.  Although it’s a bit tough to read here (the photo was a tad blurry) the ad copy touts a victory for the Studebaker V-8 in a contest of fuel economy, which is always a nice thing, but probably didn’t matter quite as much back in the days when a gallon of gas could be bought for 20 cents (which translates to roughly $1.64 in 2008 dollars and a whole heck of a lot less than we were paying for gas back in 2008.)  From what little I know of my family history on my Dad’s side (which has never been all that well documented) my Dad’s grandfather once owned a Studebaker dealership.  There is also an apocryphal story I have heard once or twice over the years of my grandfather getting himself in serious trouble when a policeman came in to buy a Studebaker one day.  The officer then told a story of how he was chasing a speeder, and while he was doing so, my Grandfather blasted by both the officer and the speeder in one of the Studebakers from the lot.  Somehow I doubt the story is entirely true (at least in the form that I remember it,) but I can definitely say that cars do run in the family (as evidenced by the two posts below.)


Other brands chose to emphasize victories of a different sort, as is seen in this ad for the Hudson Hornet.  In 1951, NASCAR was still in its infancy, and the Fabulous Hudson Hornets absolutely dominated the series.  Driver Marshall Teague would drive a Hornet to  wins in seven NASCAR races and 27 of the 34 stock car racing events he was entered in that year.  Another Fabulous Hudson Hornet would propel driver Herb Thomas to two NASCAR Grand National championships in 1951 and 1953 (although Thomas started the 1951 season in a Plymouth, and raced in an Oldsmobile as well,) and Hornets driven by a number of drivers were also dominant in 1952.  Unfortunately, the “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” theory could only take Hudson so far, as the Hudson brand was dropped by AMC as the company’s various brands were consolidated under the Rambler name in 1957.

I’ve got a fair number of other ads from this era in my archive, and perhaps if there is enough interest, I might make another post or two out of these.  I suspect there would probably be much more interest in ads from the late Fifties and the muscle car era, and perhaps I might revisit those as well.

August 18, 2009

A Lesson in Fiscal Irresponsibility

Filed under: Advertising — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 12:06 am

For some reason I haven’t ever really figured out, I still listen to the radio in the car a fair bit.   I’m not sure why, to be honest;  I’d probably be perfectly fine to just leave it off and forget it, and even if I did want to listen to music I’ve got a 6-disc MP3-capable CD changer in the dash, or my Zune that I could listen to instead.  The problem with the Zune is that it’s just a hassle to deal with plugging it in, turning it on selecting stuff to play and fiddling with the volume and shuffle settings unless I’m going to be spending a significant amount of time driving.  The CD changer isn’t much better, since most of my MP3 CDs date back to my first portable MP3 CD player I got for Christmas around 2003 or so, and “Disc 3, folder 21” means nothing when you’re trying to find something specific. 

As far as convenience goes, radio is still hard to beat.  About the only station I bother listening to these days is KZOK, so I just leave it there.  On the other hand, it does have one big disadvantage:  Commercials.  Over the years, I’ve become a lot pickier about trying to avoid listening to ads, which means that probably at least half the time I just keep the radio off, mostly because a good chunk of the ads found on the radio these days are either played incessantly for at least six weeks after they have been run into the proverbial ground, or they’re just so insipid in the first place that you can almost feel your brain rotting just listening to the things.I’ve already ranted in depth on the topic some time ago, but this evening while I was out for a short drive I came across a commerical so thoroughly ludicrous I thought it warranted mention here.

The commerical seems to be trying to tell a little story, and starts off with a spendthrift young woman who had been saving up to go to France, but instead ended up blowing all her money on overpriced fashions, and was thus unable to save up enough to go on the trip.  Her mother, sensing her disappointment about this situation, has a few options in this situation.  She could:

  • a): Use this as a valuable lesson to teach the importance of being fiscally responsible;
  • b): Just pay for the trip, leaving  her daughter none the wiser (and all the more spoiled) for it; or
  • c):  Just say “deal with it” and move on.

While all three of these seem like plausible outcomes for this scenario in real life, none of them would make for a good radio commercial (aside from the first one possibly being turned into some sort of public service announcement, although it would work out much better as some sort of high school Home-Ec film for when the teacher wants to take a nap in class.)  Of course, this being a commercial, Mom had other ideas, leading to:

  • Option d): Take her daughter out to the casino.

And since the whole exercise would be otherwise completely pointless, Little Miss Spendthrift proceeds to win a jackpot on the slot machines, and gets to go to France anyway (and blow a whole bunch more money on expensive fashions in the process.)  As I’ve said before, I don’t necessarily have anything against gambling (in fact, I’ve been known to do a bit of it myself, although only when I’m on vacation and on the assumption I’ll lose everything I put in,) but this whole thing sounds pretty dang close to the worst possible lesson to be teaching here.  It’s stuff like this that turns an occasional “drop a few bucks on the Roulette table here and there” gambling habit into a “trying to pawn off your internal organs on the street corner” gambling habit.  Of course, none of the Tribal Casinos ever seem to bother with any sort of problem gambling disclaimer on their ads;  Apparently it’s only possible to get addicted to the Lottery.

I couldn’t find the radio spot anywhere on the Internet, but a video version of the same story (with a few details omitted) can be found on this page (#35.)  Either way, this just sounds suspiciously like exactly the wrong message to be sending, but it’s not like that ever stops anyone anyway…

July 15, 2009

At Least We Know Their Marketing Isn’t Half-Baked

Filed under: Advertising — Brian Lutz @ 11:14 pm

Tanning salons seem to be the type of business that comes with a built-in image problem, especially during the Summer.  Aside from the fact that basically they are trying to compete with the sun itself for at least three, possibly four or even five months out of the year, there’s also all the pesky “tanning is evil” propaganda from the usual set of scolds they have to contend with.  I really don’t have an opinion either way on the whole subject, but while waiting to catch a plane out of Salt Lake a few weeks ago there was one of these joyless heliophobes lecturing on the inescapable CNN airport feed, and man she was tedious to listen to.  I stopped paying attention (as much as you can avoid CNN in the airport, which is often very little) around the time she started explaining why it’s necessary to wear sunscreen every day (even in the dead of winter) and why you really shouldn’t ever be going outside for any reason whatsoever anyway.  But I digress.

In order to try to drum up business in what must be their slow season, one of the local tanning salon chains sent out this flyer in this week’s batch of dead tree spam, complete with an allegedly happy couple exhibiting some serious tans and complexions that must have taken hours to photoshop into that level of perfection.  If I ever had the inclination to try to attain that level of tan, I’d probably be a lot more likely to end up burned to a vaguely leathery crisp.  I suspect the reality of the whole thing is a whole lot less glamorous than they’d like you to think…

… probably something more like this.  I’m not sure if that’s supposed to be some sort of light, or if she’s just fallen asleep and been in there for three hours, but the combination of the blazing red skin tone and the dark vacant stare of those UV goggle things makes her look like she’s about to rise from the dead to go snack on some brains.  The text on the back of the flyer advertises the availability of all the latest UV and UV-free tanning beds, but unfortunately doesn’t say much of anything about zombie-free tanning.  I think it’s best that I not take my chances with that one, thank you very much.

June 30, 2009

Just a Bit Too Unique For Their Own Good

Filed under: Advertising, Bellevue, Food, Out-of-Context Ads — Brian Lutz @ 10:10 pm

While I work on this week’s Recycled Newspaper post (which, since it’s 4th of July related, better be finished this week or it’s going to be just a tad pointless) I thought I’d go ahead and include this little appetizer from one of the 1976 East Side Journal issues I’m working from.  In this ad snippet, we are promised a “unique” restaurant  on Bel-Red Road (the address would have put it next door to the Coca Cola bottling plant.)  Based on the description, there doesn’t seem to be anything all that odd here.  Tthe various menu items enumerated in the ad make this place sound like a pretty typical pub, presumably one of many in the area.  And yet, just by looking at the place’s name (included after the jump,) one begins to get the sneaking suspicion that they might not have exactly been on the road to success.


June 16, 2009

Out-of-Context Ad: The Steaks Are High

Filed under: Advertising, Recycled Newspaper — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 1:48 am

Once again, I offer my apologies for the relatively light (and/or nonexistent) posting over the past week or so.  Between my recent return to work and a number of other things going on (and a bit of writer’s block on the side just to complicate things) I haven’t had a whole lot of time for Blogging recently, and is going to put a serious crimp on my ability to do a whole lot of research for a while.  It’s too bad, because since I started working in building 30 at Microsoft recently, I found out that this particular area used to be a sawmill back in Redmond’s early days, although about the only things left of it (at the site at least, apparently the mill equipment got moved out to Cle Elum and remains operational) are a historical marker of indeterminate origin and the thoroughly rusted remains of a ’29 GMC truck out (or what’s left of one anyway)  behind the building  with a tree growing through the middle of them and what I’m sure would be an interesting story behind it.

Anyway, since I don’t have much else to post right now (unless anyone wants to hear another long-winded lament about my chronic singleness) here’s another out-of-context ad in which dinner seems to be served with an extra side of drama.  I’d suggest that you speculate wildly about this one in the typical fashion, but to be honest I’m not sure if anyone’s actually reading this stuff.  If anyone wants it, I might even post the solution to the last one (if I can find it again on my rapidly growing collection of SDHC cards, that is.)

Oh, and by the way, if you didn’t notice already, by semi-popular demand I have gone ahead and started a Twitter feed, which you will find over to the left or at  I might even update it every so often…

May 21, 2009

Out-of-Context Ad: Celery Might Do That to You

Filed under: Advertising, Recycled Newspaper — Brian Lutz @ 2:32 am

For a kid hauling groceries, this little guy seems to be awfully happy about the whole thing.  Just what might this kid be so happy about?  As usual, the full ad will be posted sometime in the next few days.  In the meantime, speculate wildly.  A new Recycled Newspaper is also coming in the next day or two, taking a look at another 1968 crime in Redmond (well an attempted crime anyway) which not only puts the ones covered in the previous Recycled Newspaper installment to shame, but also received a significant amount of coverage from the Seattle newspapers and even made the New York Times.  Stay tuned…

May 7, 2009

Out-of-Context Ad Solution: Tuning In and Dropping Out are Optional

Filed under: Advertising, Recycled Newspaper — Brian Lutz @ 3:15 pm

As you can see above, last week’s out-of-context ad featured this very Sixties-looking family which seems to have a suspiciously large set of plans enveloping their home, a development many of us might find a bit disconcerting.  These people seem oddly unconcerned about the whole thing though, apparently being too preoccupied by the funny pages to really notice.  But what exactly would this ad be trying to sell?  The full advertisement is posted after the jump.


April 29, 2009

Out of Context Ad: Some Things You Just Have to Plan For

Filed under: Advertising, Cars, Recycled Newspaper — Tags: — Brian Lutz @ 10:55 pm

This week’s out-of-context ad comes from a 1968 issue of the Sammamish Valley News (which is also what this week’s Recycled Newspaper post will be looking at,) and shows a happy little family relaxing in their presumably groovy home, blanketed by the plans for…  well, we don’t exactly know for sure, but whatever it is, it was presumably groovy.  Apparently, the creators of this ad would like you to think that it wasn’t just the Age of Aquarius dawning at this point.  Anyway, as usual, feel free to speculate wildly on what might be going on here.

Also, for those of you looking for the solution to last week’s Out-of-Context Ad (scroll down a few posts if you missed it,) you can find it after the jump on this post.


April 23, 2009

Out of Context Ad: At Least They Aren’t Using Phony Lures

Filed under: Advertising, Recycled Newspaper — Brian Lutz @ 12:40 pm

Between last week’s roadtrip and this week’s dogsitting, I still haven’t quite managed to get everything back on track here yet, but there should actually be a Recycled Newspaper post coming sometime later today.  In the meantime, here’s a quick out-of-context ad snipped from 1959 (although I suspect it probably wouldn’t have taken too much guessing to pin down the approximate year on this one) that seems to suggest that  even in 1959 dollars, the cost of one of those big fancy chrome-laden land yachts that were all the rage back then could get a bit pricey after a while.  Of course, there’s got to be a cheaper way, and the rest of the ad this comes from would be more than happy to let you know what it is.  Feel free to post guesses (or wild speculation, whatever you prefer) in the comments.

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