You’ve probably seen the TV commercial for Jack FM that’s been running the last few months. Jack FM is owned by Rogers which explains why the commercial is in heavy rotation on cable TV.
In it, an older, obviously past-it grandmotherly type is carpet-sweeping the shag in the rec room while listing to the gramophone, er, radio. The fuddy-duddy tune she vacuums to is David Clayton Thomas crooning Blood, Sweat and Tears’ 1968 cover hit of Laura Nyro’s And When I Die. Granted, it’s not Communication Breakdown by Led Zeppelin, but Nyro’s work can hardly be classified as music for old fogies. Still, the music's moribund enough to cause Grandma to drop dead in her slippers.
Enter a clearly pissed-off hip, young grand-daughter (think: really annoyed Avril Lavigne), who marches up to the stereo, yanks the radio dial from Q — very clever, that — to Jack FM, and stridently starts rocking out to Green Day’s Holiday. As Angry Avril pouts into the camera, a voice-over hammers home the hard rock radio station’s catchphrase: “Playing what we want.” A check of the playlist posted on the local Jack FM website http://www.925jackfm.com/ indicates that, to be wanted, one must be white (the singer from Counting Crows and the Rolling Stones’ hired black bass player notwithstanding).
Now, I’m as transgressive as the next guy but I can’t imagine how showing someone die in a commercial reflects positively on the product being advertised. Years ago, I worked in TV commercial production. One of the most famous commercials I had an extremely behind-the-scenes part of was a campaign for Jello that featured a tree that grew giant fruit made of Jello. In the original spot, a group of cute six-year-olds — one of them a very young Molly Johnson — sneak into an orchard to climb this fabled Jello tree. Just as they do, a scary farmer with a pitchfork chases them away, yelling, “Hey you kids, get out of my Jello tree!”
Three months after airing, sales of Jello plummeted. The reason the brains at the ad agency came up with? It must be that damned Jello tree! So, they reshot the commercial, but now the kids were met by a friendly farmer who said, “Welcome to the Jello tree!” Jello sales returned to their normal level.
I was half-watching CNN the other day when Jack FM’s dead grandma commercial came on yet again. And again, I’m flabbergasted that someone paid by Rogers thought killing off an old lady no matter how much in a sense of fun was a good idea when grandma, instead of keeling over, sits down in a chair, huffs from an inhaler, and gives Avril a dirty look gets up from the floor and smiles straight into the camera. She’s alive after all and rocking in the free world! It would appear that wiser heads have prevailed and the Jack FM commercial has now been re-edited to have a happy ending.
And people wonder why I got out of advertising…