Thursday, December 15, 2005

Dueling Radio Ads

For some inexplicable reason, I often find myself in the presence of a conventional AM/FM radio that is both turned on and tuned in to a local broadcast. I find that much of the time the I spend listening to such broadcasts is in fact spent listening to advertisements. Lately there have been two companies whose commercials have actually broken through the haze and caught my attention: Shuttle Express and AAA. Though they offer services that are somewhat related, the way that they attempt to sell themselves is quite different.

not that kind of shuttleIn case you're not aware, Shuttle Express is a Seattle-area service that offers to show up at your home, blindfold and gag you, throw you in a van and whisk you to the airport. A typical Shuttle Express radio ad presents some scenario in which a person (we'll use the name Joe for clarity) that needs to get to the airport calls their friends or family to ask for a ride, only to find one of the following things about their prospective chauffeur:
  • Has something much more important to do, like sharpening all their pencils or ironing their socks.
  • In fact hates Joe's guts and can't stand to spend three seconds in his presence, let alone the hour it would take to drive him to the airport.
  • Will provide the ride, but only because they feel like they have to, and they can't think up a good enough excuse. They definitely won't enjoy it at all, though.
AAA's offerings are related to Shuttle Express' in that many people would be able to extract similar services from their friends or family, but AAA takes somewhat of a different approach to marketing themselves. In a typical radio ad for AAA, someone is engaged in a monologue directed toward a friend or family member, in which they cover the following points:
  • You're my [son|daughter|brother|sister|best friend], and I want you to know, I care for you.
  • I'd be willing to do pretty much anything for you, because hey, that's what being [family|friends] is about.
  • Like if your car breaks down or you run out of gas, I'd even drive thousands of miles across country, get arrested for those outstanding warrants in Colorado, spend a few weeks in jail, then get out only to find that my car has been stolen, and I have to find a job in a diner cleaning dishes for a husky, gruff-voiced woman named Darla so I can earn enough money to buy a bus ticket to get to you.
  • But I would eventually get to you and help you out, because that's how much you mean to me.
You see, Shuttle Express and AAA both want to convince you that rather than calling your friends or family, you're better off paying for their service. Although Shuttle Express may have painted the more accurate picture of most family and friend relationships, I find their advertisements to be disgusting an unfunny, as they basically come across as saying: "Being friends means never doing nice things for one another. In fact, if you ask for a favor you're a bad friend. You're pretty much on your own, because everyone hates you. Remember that when they come asking for favors, too." On the other hand, AAA's ads amuse me, humorously getting across the message: "While your friends and family love you and are willing to help out, sometimes they're just not very good at it."

Of course, that's not to say I intend to give either company any of my hard-earned money. I have unusually proficient and helpful family and friends after all. But at least AAA makes me smile.
image sourceCategories: Capitalism

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