Showing posts with label holidays. Show all posts
Showing posts with label holidays. Show all posts

Thursday, February 12, 2015

A note on Valentine’s Day


Generally speaking, it’s easier to be kind when people are kind to you. You worry less about your kindness being wasted or unappreciated, and you don’t fret about being taken advantage of when you can see your kindness being returned, even indirectly.

People talk about how one small act of kindness can have a lasting impact or how you get the love you give, and a lot of that does sound like motivational poster horseshit or Western culture bastardizing Eastern theology.

But to be charitable, I think this is all they mean—being kind to people helps them care for others fearlessly. It helps people overcome some of the insecurities and worries that stop them from exercising their selfless, compassionate, empathic impulses and lets them, at least for a moment, tap into a better part of themselves.

And it’s one of the purest acts of love to help someone have as many of those moments as possible.

Have a happy Valentine’s Day. Be kind to people. And go get laid maybe.

No, you don’t understand! It’s a consumer protest! I swear I’m not a terrible boyfriend!


I mean, it makes sense from the retailer’s point of view: the store advertises an item at a discounted price, but you need a reward card to get that price. It’s free, the retailer assures you, and you can earn points! So you sign up, get some discounts, and maybe even get a coupon worth a few bucks after you’ve accumulated enough points.

In exchange, you’re letting the retailer compile a very specific (and creepily accurate) consumer profile on you. By analyzing your spending patterns—what you buy, when you buy it, how often you buy it—companies can figure out a lot about you: your relationship status (frozen dinner for one tonight?), your income (do you buy the store brand or the name brand?), your family situation (how many diapers do you buy?), your health issues (picking up another Abbreva and a home HIV test?), your sex life (stocking up on condoms and Plan B?), your sexual orientation (you’re a girl and you’ve purchased the last five issues of Maxim?), and who knows what else.

Better still, all that information is attached to a specific name, phone number, and address—and all this information is easily exportable to an Excel spreadsheet for the retailer to sell to another company for the right price.

In response, many people sign up with “dummy” accounts with fake names and phone numbers. Or, since many retailers let you use your card by punching in your phone number, some type in their area code plus “867-5309” (and claim that they’re named Jenny), which has almost certainly been registered by someone.

My (admittedly ineffectual) protest has been to buy products that I don’t need whenever I have coupons that make such products free or nearly free, just to screw with the profile they’ve made for me. It’s completely futile, I know, but it makes me feel a little better.

Sometimes, though, it leads to awkward, dissonant purchases. I guess what I’m getting at is, I’m pretty sure the cashier at Walgreens now thinks I’m a terrible boyfriend who’s planning the Worst Valentine’s Day Ever.

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese, KY Ultragel

Guys, they were free. Don’t be judgey.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Well, I guess I own pizza underwear now

Look what arrived in the mail today, just in time for Valentine’s Day!


On a completely unrelated note, is there a way to make my credit card company text me a riddle or something that I would have to solve before they authorize any purchases made between 2 AM and 4 AM just to make sure that I’m actually fully awake and capable of making sound sartorial decisions? I’m asking for a friend.

* * *

Actually, what fascinates me most about my new pizza underwear is this warning label.

"Not intended for children 14 years of age or younger. Non nestiné aux enfants de 12 ans ou moins."

I don’t know what’s more confusing: the fact that this underwear has a minimum age requirement for some reason, or that the age requirement inexplicably drops by two years if you happen to speak French.

(They probably meant to write “non destiné,” not “non nestiné.”)

* * *

I am, of course, joking when I say that my new pizza underwear arrived just in time for Valentine’s Day, because I’m afraid I am once again single and bitter and going to shame-eat a lot of hamburgers this Feb. 14.

But I’m thinking, what if I happen to be wearing my pizza ‘pants on a date that goes particularly well? Ideally, I’d be with someone who shares my enthusiasm for pizza-themed undergarments, and the night will go splendidly.

It’s just as plausible, though, that my ridiculous underwear could put the brakes on the evening. I’m not sure what I could say to make things better, but, as is usually the case, I certainly know what I could say to make things worse. Here are five, in descending order:

5. You know what they say—even when it’s bad, it’s good.

4. Look, it may start off as a Totino, but I swear it becomes a DiGiorno once it’s heated up.
3. “Thirty minutes or less”? I’ll come in half that time, guaranteed.

2. I know you drove all the way out here, but I can’t promise a big tip.

1. You might want to dab it with a napkin first.

Before you judge me, I would like to point out my restraint by neither going for any sausage or pepperoni double entendres nor making any references to “Papa John’s” sounding vaguely phallic. And I didn’t even mention the fact that Pizza Hut kind of rhymes with “piece of butt” if you slur it.

On second thought, judge me; I guess I deserve it.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

This McDonald’s coupon is so profoundly sad, it makes me want to cry

This McDonald’s coupon—and all that it implies—is so profoundly sad, it makes me want to cry.

"Valid February 14th only" "BURGER LOVERS" "49¢ Hamburgers & 69¢ Cheeseburgers" "Valid February 14th only" "Limit 10 per customer." "Must have coupon for redemption."


Notice that McDonald’s doesn’t even bother to use the phrase “Valentine’s Day.” It’s like McDonald’s is just saying, “You know the drill, lardass.”

And the worst part is, they cap the deal at ten hamburgers. Listen, if somebody is spending a part of their Valentine’s Day at a McDonald’s and they feel like eating more than ten hamburgers, it’s obvious it’s been a really shitty day. Just give them the fucking burgers, McDonald’s.


Anyway, this is the awkward part in which I mention the reason that I have the coupon so neatly torn out is because as soon as I saw it, I put it in my wallet because I’m about 99 percent sure I’ll be making use of it on Feb. 14. Yes, on Valentine’s Day, I will be lovin’ it because, sadly, no one’s lovin’ me. Okay, now I really am going to cry.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

If your holiday sucks, I hope you’ll consider letting us know on social media

I hope you have a genuinely lovely holiday, filled with warmth, love, and joy. But if your holiday sucks, I hope you’ll consider letting us know on social media.

The ability of Facebook, et al. to make everybody miserable is well-documented. People present the best versions of themselves on social media, downplaying or completely omitting the negative aspects of their lives and exaggerating the positive aspects. When others compare their lives, warts and all, to the ostensibly perfect lives they see in their News Feed, it compels them to put on a similar façade on their own Facebook page—and the process repeats, assuring a cycle of perpetually stolen joy. It’s not a problem social media created, but, as this short film by the Higton Bros. demonstrates, social media has certainly amplified it.


This is particularly true during the holidays. Posts about perfect families and perfect Christmas trees and perfect gifts are everywhere, and, for the most part, it’s easy enough to contextualize or ignore. But if you’re already feeling down, no matter how often you remind yourself that it’s madness to compare the real you to the fictionalized them, it can be impossibly difficult not to take it all as more evidence of how inadequate your life is.

And while we can all roll our eyes whenever people post stuff that’s obviously hyperbolic (“This is the worst Christmas in the history of humanity!”) or intentionally vague (“I will never forgive you—you know who you are!”) or complainbragging (“Ugh, my new Maserati is such an ugly color”), there’s something to be said about simple, matter-of-fact statements about a holiday that isn’t going so great: This Christmas is a little rough; I’m kind of lonely this time of year; I wish I could’ve afforded better gifts for my family this year.

After all, shared joy is nice enough, but it can be facile and fleeting. It doesn’t require looking beyond oneself, and it doesn’t necessarily engage any empathic impulses. The connections forged from shared joy are often tenuous, which isn’t surprising—I’m doing great and you’re doing great! is pretty hard to sustain, and those connections can break as soon as someone starts feeling less than great.

Shared misery, on the other hand, is a much more powerful force. It requires two people to get out of their own heads, even for just a moment, and extend a bit of kindness to each other. It’s a much more daunting task because it’s hard enough to get a handle on the contours of your own sadness, let alone figure someone else’s out (to misquote Tolstoy badly, happy people are all alike; every unhappy person is unhappy in their own way). But the result of doing so—or at least trying—is a connection that’s predicated on the strength of understanding and selflessness.

That’s kind of heady stuff for social media, so I’ll just say this: People can post whatever they want to post on social media, and they can do so for whatever reason. When people brag about their holidays, I don’t doubt that many of their loved ones will be happy to hear that they’re happy—but because it’s generally easier to be happy for others when you yourself are happy, those loved ones are probably doing okay. On the other hand, for someone who feels alone and isolated, it’d probably mean a lot more to read that they’re not the only ones feeling that way.

In other words, posting about the things that are great will likely make happy people somewhat happier. But posting about the things that aren’t so great could very well make someone feel less lonely and miserable.

I’m not suggesting that everything you post on social media needs to be an act of altruism designed to make everybody feel better. I am, however, saying that you should feel totally free to break the cycle of projecting perfection, if not for your own sake then for the sake of someone who might really need to see it broken.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Two stories about high school Valentine’s Day fundraisers

One Valentine’s Day, our student government decided to sell cans of orange soda as a fundraiser. Students would buy a can of orange soda for their loved ones, and we’d deliver the cans to the lucky recipients with a note saying, “Someone has a CRUSH on you!”


Unfortunately, midway through the fundraiser, we discovered that some of the orange soda we bought were not cans of Crush, but rather Sunkist. (On one hand, orange soda cans look a lot alike, so it’s understandable; on the other hand, when a fundraiser is predicated entirely on a pun, it probably makes sense to double-check the brand.)

This led to a hasty re-writing of notes saying, “You’ve been SunKISSED!”—which, as a student government whose sole accomplishment was the purchase of completely unnecessary picnic tables, was probably our most brilliant moment ever.

Also, I seem to recall discussions that selling orange soda in a majority-minority school as a fundraiser could be construed as somewhat racist. This led to someone adamantly insisting that the stereotype was grape soda, not orange, and therefore the fundraiser could go forward; someone else pointed out that the confusion likely stemmed from Kenan & Kel. Truly, we were the leaders of tomorrow.



* * *

For another Valentine’s Day, the drama club sold roses to raise money for a trip to New York. In the days leading up to February 14, students would pre-order a rose and sign their name and their recipient’s name in a log book. On Valentine’s Day, somebody from the drama club wrote all the names in little “To/From” cards, and somebody else delivered the roses during lunch.

The first sign of trouble was in the case of a girl named Katie Smith1. Katie had a crush on a boy but was too nervous to tell him. So, when she filled out her entry in the log book, she said she wanted her rose to be anonymous; the drama club kid taking the orders told her to put her name down as “Anonymous,” which she did. The drama club kid then wrote “(Katie Smith)” next to it, presumably for record-keeping purposes.

Unfortunately, the log book keeper didn’t communicate this to the card writer, who then proceeded to write “From: Anonymous (Katie Smith)” on the card. At lunch, Katie was horrified as she watched the boy get the rose and ask, “Who’s Katie Smith?” Horror quickly turned into humiliated heartbreak when one of his friends pointed at her and he glumly said, “Oh, the fat one?” Oooof, that kid was a dick.

But that wasn’t even the biggest problem with the fundraiser. The pre-order system was designed specifically so that the drama club could place a discount bulk order with a flower vendor with the exact number of roses they needed. It’s a smart idea—unless the kid placing the bulk order miscounts how many roses were needed by a couple hundred.

And so, with an already razor-thin profit margin, several members of the drama club were forced to go to the store on Valentine’s Day to buy comparable-quality roses to satisfy the remaining orders at full retail.

I wasn’t in the drama club, but the reason I know all this is because I reported on the fundraiser—which was among the most successful fundraisers in our school’s history in terms of units sold—for our high school’s online newspaper. And this is the headline I chose for the story, because I was an asshole:



“Drama club V-Day fundraiser raises over $6.” And yes, when it was all said and done, their net profit was indeed $6.47.

That story, incidentally, caused the online newspaper to be temporarily banned, supposedly for painting the school in a negative light. But to be fair, we were already on thin ice for our breaking news coverage of the time some kid defecated into a urinal2.


1Not her real last name. Actually, I don’t even remember her last name, but I don’t think it was Smith.

2This was completely true. We seriously got three teachers on the record to confirm the story. God, my high school was messed up.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Hallmark’s V-Day slogan “I Love Us” was totally copied from (500) Days of Summer

This post originally appeared on my old “Joe Dellosa on Advertising” blog.

Developing story: Hallmark's Valentine's Day slogan, "I love us," appears to have been copied from the film (500) Days of Summer -- in fact, in the film, it's used by a greeting card writer in the context of writing greeting cards. Is it a coincidence or plagiarism?

Update on February 4, 2011 at 4:52 p.m.: Hallmark said via its Twitter account that Leo Burnett, the company's agency of record, is responsible for the "I love us" commercial. I've updated the story to reflect this.
 
The folks at Hallmark have unveiled their cute little slogan for this year's Valentine's Day: "Valentine's Day is for saying 'I love us.'" Here's their 2011 Valentine's Day commercial, which, according to a tweet from @HallmarkPR sent to me after I asked, was produced by the company's agency of record, the Chicago-based Leo Burnett:

Can't see the ad? Click here to watch it on YouTube.


As the voiceover says:

Valentine's Day is not for saying "I love you." It's for saying, "I love us." I love who we are together, how we've grown -- from our nervous conversations to the one we two have become. Valentine's Day is for taking the time to say, "I love us."

And here's a screenshot of their Valentine's Day promotional webpage:


Adorable stuff! Or, at least, it would be if Valentine's Day hadn't become a crassly artificial holiday that seeks to commodify our emotions and homogenize the way we express our love as a means to boost corporate profits, while fomenting awkward, hurtful feelings among couples and mopey misery among singles. (Why, yes, I am single this Valentine's Day, how'd you know?)

Anyway, I'll save my rantings about why Valentine's Day is Evil and Ruins Everything for another day, but for now, I'll say this about Hallmark's "I love us" campaign -- they totally stole that line from the movie (500) Days of Summer. Check out this screenshot from the movie:


(500) Days of Summer documents the failed relationship -- from start to finish, though not in that order -- between Tom Hansen (played by Joseph Gordon-Levitt) and Summer Finn (played by Zooey Deschanel). Tom's a hopeless romantic, Summer's a cynic about love, and they meet at the office where Tom works as a greeting card writer. Hijinks ensue (and by "hijinks," I mean "95 minutes of brutal relationship honesty").

About a quarter into those 500 days, when Tom and Summer's relationship is going swimmingly, Tom is filled with such giddy euphoria about Summer that he becomes a font of greeting card creativity. One of those bursts of creativity that's met with delight from his co-workers? "I love us."

Can't see the video? Click here to watch it on YouTube.
If the YouTube link isn't working, click here to watch it on Bing.


Okay, admittedly, "I love us" isn't exceptionally unique, and it's certainly possible that the ad team behind the slogan didn't pilfer it from the movie. But, c'mon -- (500) Days of Summer is an extremely well-regarded movie about a greeting card writer, and presumably, "folks who work for a sentimental greeting card company" is as about a perfect target audience for the film as I can imagine. I find it very, very hard to believe that nobody thought, "Hey, wait! 'I love us' and greeting cards -- sounds familiar!"

For what it's worth, if you Google search "I love us," a reference to the clip linked above is the third result.


And if anybody on the ad team had bothered to begin typing "I love us" into Google, they'd see Google eagerly suggesting (500) Days of Summer:


I should note that I'm far from the only person to make the (500) Days of Summer connection; searching for "hallmark 500" or "hallmark summer" on Twitter offers dozens of tweets using words like stole, rip-off, unoriginal, and swag jacker.

And as far as I can tell from searching, the first person to make the connection on Twitter was @createajess on Jan. 31. @aaronwill also said the campaign was "very original" #sarcastically on Jan. 31, but it's not clear if he was just saying so because of the movie or just in general.

Anyway, with real news happening, it's more amusing than scandalous, although Leo Burnett probably ought to be at least a little embarrassed that their creative integrity is being thrown into doubt with such a high-profile campaign. And besides, if Leo Burnett -- on behalf of a company like Hallmark whose name is often used pejoratively to refer to shallow, commercialized sentimentalism -- wants to steal from a movie, there are few better films from which to do so than a movie as honest and real as this one.

I sent an email to Hallmark through its media inquiry form asking for comment, but I haven't received a response yet. To the credit of whoever operates Hallmark's Twitter account, I received a reply a mere seven minutes after asking them via Twitter what ad agency did their commercial.

You can email me at jdellosa@gmail.com or tweet me @JoeDellosa. And yes, this might be a sign that I've seen this movie way too many times.