Baseline: Maybe I’m just not getting it

As the O.J. Simpson trial drones on and on, live, but never lively, cnn cuts away to another commercial.The screen is filled with shots of jet fighters doing barrel rolls and blowing red, white and blue smoke rings. High-tech-looking satellite stuff...

As the O.J. Simpson trial drones on and on, live, but never lively, cnn cuts away to another commercial.

The screen is filled with shots of jet fighters doing barrel rolls and blowing red, white and blue smoke rings. High-tech-looking satellite stuff swoops and tumbles around in slo-mo space.

Cut! Cut! Cut! Ta-dah! Ta-dah! Strident marshall music!

Just as you’re wondering when Tom Cruise will show up, a little super pops onto the screen. That’s leadership! That’s Lockheed! Boom, over!

Yeah, wow, okey-dokey!

‘Scuse me, but just what am I supposed to do on account of this information? Something? Or nothing? Anybody?

Bitch, bitch, bitch! We complain about advertising when it’s venal and crass and belligerent.

And we complain about it when it’s vague and nebulous and banal, too?

Oh, what the hell, why not?

Clearly, Lockheed’s not so crazy they think the drooling millions glued to the O.J. saga include many in the market for a new jet fighter. (It’s not like this was, say, Guatemala or Yemen or Uganda!)

So we put on our little Marketing Expert Shit-Piercing Goggles and say it’s the stock! it’s the stock! Lockheed wants us to buy the stock!

Well fine, but couldn’t you do a spot a wee bit more, um, focused on how and why shares in Lockheed are gonna make billions for wise mutual fund managers and their sheep-like investors, if that’s who’s ultimately going to consume, or not consume, the Lockheed product?

Because right now, the spot is Top Gun outtakes, minus Tom. And how many 17-year-old mutual fund managers do you know?

Also making me feel I’m not getting it are the Micrcsoft spots.

That adenoidal vee-oh lady was enough of a downer with all those images of age-challenged and distinctly downmarket Third World types being asked Where do you want to go today?

(All together now: anywhere but here! please!)

But suddenly that spot seems to have vanished from the rotation, and we’ve switched gears to a microsoft salutes the indomitable spirit of american business theme that would make the original Rockefeller and Morgan robber barons blush.

business is the engine of society! bellows the bullish-on-America voice, and roars on about jobs! and profits! and my goodness we’re in a goddamn train station! only there aren’t any winos or death-of-a-salesman guys going back to Cleveland to wither and die.

We’re slipping back into the 19th century, fellas!

So what’s this got to do with me buying a copy of Microsoft Word? Damned if I know, unless whoa! put on the goggles! this isn’t a commercial! it’s bill gates’ mash note to the new republican majority!

A billboard has appeared across The Big Land. It’s signed Canadian, cn, The Bay and (fed flag) Canadian Heritage.

It’s got a picture of The Canadian Flag on it. And the headline reads Our flag. 30 years of pride (French translation follows.) Yup. Big news all right. Our flag, you say? Hmmmm. so whaddaya want me to do about it?

Another board just has the word violence in black type on white, with the letters smudged a bit, and a pink rubber eraser lying next to it.

rub out violence! Okay, we get it. Whadda we do with it? What can we do with it? Nothing! Zero! Nada! Zip!

That’s it! It’s the seinfeld thing! This is politically correct advertising that’s about nothing! It says nothing! We do nothing! It’s perfect!

Remember Ries and Trout, the guys who invented Positioning? They also observed that of all the many ways to waste time and money, one of the most effective is to advertise your aspirations. They’re so smart.

Barry Base is president and creative director of Barry Base & Partners, Toronto.