Now More than Ever
The time was approximately five minutes after the plague descended upon us, changing everything, driving us all inside to our homes, where we replaced former activities—like working—with new ones—like ordering surgical masks and nitrile gloves and watching nonstop television. That five-minute mark was the moment when advertisers, without missing a beat, began seizing on this new opportunity to hawk their wares.
But this was a somewhat delicate undertaking. With citizens fearing for both their livelihoods and their lives, advertisers certainly wanted to avoid appearing mercenary. After all, they wouldn’t want potential buyers perceiving them as crassly opportunistic, cashing in on a crisis for the sake of filthy lucre. That is not to say they weren’t doing exactly that; they just didn’t want to be perceived that way. That could hurt sales.
Still, a new opportunity to sell is an intoxicating tempter, as irresistible to companies as squirrels are to dogs. They simply had to come up with a clever angle. Enter the “now more than ever” advertisement. By acknowledging our current circumstances with oozing floods of well-crafted sincerity, advertisers were now able to solicit sales from their captive audience of home-bound, worried citizens/potential buyers.
These commercials are remarkably similar. Nearly all start with a lonely solo piano, and nearly all draw from the same collection of very sincere words and phrases: “now, more than ever,” “family,” “in these uncertain times,” “together, “We’re here for you,” and so on. (Someone edited together a damned funny montage illustrating this eerie uniformity.)
At first, there seemed to be at least some sensible correlations in how the products applied to our circumstances. With many of us ordering online rather than risk venturing out, for example, it made sense to hear from our friends at companies like Amazon, FedEx, Seamless, and Grubhub. And with most of us now only staying in touch with loved ones virtually, it was nearly tolerable to see these sentimental ads from the good people at AT&T, Facebook, and other communications companies. But when we started seeing ads—all claiming to care deeply about us personally—for companies and products that had absolutely no particular current relevance, the approach very quickly escalated to code-red-level annoyance. Many of these messages are a real reach. Here are some examples of these more desperate attempts to link unrelated products to “these uncertain times.” Treat yourself.
And finally this, from an advertiser so desperate to show concern that it discouraged people from using its service:
Advertising is expensive, so it strikes the Curmudgeon as more than a bit silly that, rather than hunkering down and cutting excess expenditures, this is what these companies chose to do with their funds. (Mind you, I’m sure many of them laid off employees at the same time.) For WeatherTech to make a commercial for its allegedly virus-proof floormats—a product we don’t currently need for cars we’re not currently using to take trips we’re not currently taking—fails the use-your-brain test. As in most things, they should have asked me. I could have saved them a bundle.
I don’t think we’ve seen the last of the “now more than ever” spots. Prepare yourselves for mind-boggling pitches like “Now more than ever: Home Depot. Stay at Home. (Get it?)” or “Now more than ever: Stainmaster, installing carpet for you and your loved ones to walk on while you’re stuck in your house.” Maybe they won’t even bother trying to connect the two ideas: “Now more than ever: pencils.” “Now more than ever: underwear.” “Now more than ever: buzzsaws.” “Now more than ever: Spam.”
Now . . . more than ever . . . the Curmudgeon wishes people were ever-so-slightly less idiotic.