The Myth of Advertising

A Swedish Retail Opportunity

A Swedish Retail Opportunity

I had a bit of a Sheldon Cooper moment the other day. If you don’t know who Sheldon is, let me tell you: he is a wonderful comic creation who appears on the American sitcom “The Big Bang Theory”, played with relish and palpable glee by Jim Parsons. Sheldon is a genius but, with that brilliance, comes some annoying (yet funny) tics such as never being able to leave anything unfinished (be it food or games of noughts and crosses), or having to knock on any door three times, no matter what. He is also borderline-religiously pedantic. It is this last quality that my SC moment involving the IKEA advert above relates to.

I saw it and almost immediately thought – “that doesn’t add up to a hundred, does it?” I have no idea why, that at that precise moment, I was channelling Sheldon, but there we are.

Have your own SC moment and you’ll see what I mean. Look at the cupboards and notice that they are, in fact, a kitchen-installed histogram. Presumably this is because IKEA don’t sell fitted kitchen cupboards. Or maybe the guy doing the company Excel spreadsheets was bored. Anyway, I found a ruler and actually measured where the tops of the columns in the histogram reach on the y-axis (much to the amusement of thesnailofhappiness). I would expect the numbers of subjects that people talk about most to add up to 100% and they don’t – it’s nearer 108%. I would expect one subject to be talked about “most” per person, otherwise you can’t say “most”, hence 100%.

For some reason, this inconsistency annoyed me. It’s only now, as I look at the advert again that I see that the clock looks a bit iffy too (at ten to two, the hour hand wouldn’t be exactly on the two) and heaven knows what meal is taking place (dry bread and dodgy-looking cup of machine coffee). And why is there a light on over the bowl of tomatoes?

It’s what annoys me about advertising – it’s never quite right. Adverts are invariably a bit like a science fiction novel, where the author bends the current understanding of a piece of science to allow the existence of easy-to-use jet-packs, self-driving flying cars or a public railway system that doesn’t use quantum mechanics to set the fares.

Most adverts are like some politicians* – entertaining but never quite on the level.

But then, thinking about it, I guess bending the truth is part of our civilisation isn’t it? For example, these three questions will invariably produce answers that live at the parliamentary end of the spectrum of truth:

  1. How many units of alcohol do you drink a week?
  2. How many hours a day do you spend on the internet at work?
  3. How much television do you watch a week?

When people ask you how much television you watch, I generally say “Oh, not much, maybe the news once or twice a day, and then not the whole news just the headlines and the weather”. This may be true but I have failed to mention that I watch a lot of stuff on DVDs, boxed sets of Warehouse 13 and Eureka and West Wing and…

So why do we, on the whole, understate the answers, particularly to question 3? Are we embarrassed in some way, as if we should be saying “Why no, we don’t watch anything all we do is read and act out plays in our living room”? Television can be a wonderful medium to either escape the world or have it brought into your living room.

So, my honest answers to these questions are:

  1. Very little when compared to a great deal of other people/continents (although when I gave up drinking for a week, France went into recession)
  2. I work from home mostly, so any internet time doesn’t count as being at work
  3. Loads, but it is all for research purposes for my next novel so doesn’t count, no really, it doesn’t count

I have wandered a little from adverts though. I suppose my slight distrust of them comes from my childhood – my Mother did not allow myself or my brothers to watch commercial television (back then just ITV) because of the adverts. I have no idea what she thought might happen to us – perhaps we would start insisting on a certain brand of washing-up liquid on the grounds that we wanted our hands to be as soft as our respective faces (which at that tender age, they still were) or demand fizzy drinks on the basis of their being too orangey for crows (and presumably other avian families).

Both the snail and I were amused at a fairly recent advert for a sleep-inducing product called “A Party Political Broadcast”, no wait, for a tablet called Nytol. In it, the main character who appears to be some kind of plasticine golem (so not a real person then) is suffering from what is obviously, even to an untrained medical eye, a very serious insomnia-type condition that means she feeds the carpet and hoovers the cat at 3 o’clock each and every morning. She, albeit only a claymation creation, clearly needs proper medical help. So, in what can only be a hidden message from Aardman Animations on their view of the NHS, she asks her friend.

I concede that the advert was not long enough to establish the full medical credentials of said friend or indeed whether she was a rep for the company itself, but when the suffer expressed her alarm at taking a tablet as a cure (“Tablets?! Oh no!”), her friend’s answer was “look, give ’em a try, they work a treat for me”. After which in-depth clinical explanation, our plasticine insomniac was throwing the pills down her throat in handfuls and then sleeping to her heart’s content.

So, presumably, if a character on the TV can be convinced to take drugs because their plasticine friend does, so can all of us.

It’s one of the reasons I don’t have Sky (the TV broadcaster, not the thing that holds clouds up). On its adverts, Sky tells me to “Believe in Better”.

So I do.

I believe in much, much better. I believe in real life. As long as it doesn’t clash with Doctor Who, Boston Legal, Battlestar Galactica…


* Naming no names for fear of not being able to think of any.

Categories: General silliness | Tags: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Post navigation

6 thoughts on “The Myth of Advertising

  1. What he hasn’t mentioned is that he got me to add it up too… just to be sure. My the long evenings just fly by here chez snail (and you wonder why we need the wine).


  2. They don’t come much better or funnier than Sheldon, but probably not more annoying either. I’m glad it wasn’ t he who noticed the inconsistencies in the advert.
    Did the SoH count in rows?


  3. I’m glad I’m not the only one who counts the percentages! 🙂


  4. Pingback: Turn up, Turn out, Turn in, Turnip | writinghouse

  5. Pingback: Good News! UK nearly generates more Electricity with Renewables than Gas | writinghouse

Put pen to paper (well, fingers to keyboard)...

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

%d bloggers like this: