• David Bernhart

I have a love/hate relationship with advertising. I value the information and entertainment that the traditional advertising-based revenue model continues to make available at reduced or no cost. At the same time, I try hard to ignore ads, especially radio and television commercials.

But once in a while, something gets my attention despite my best efforts. An example at the moment involves, of all things, bacon.

Besides the crusade in recent years by pork producers to rebrand bacon as not nearly as detrimental to health as the science indicates, there are marketing campaigns as we speak for multiple products completely unrelated to bacon that nevertheless employ bacon references. Here's a commercial for Hulu, the streaming service:

The insurance firm Wawanesa has a radio ad airing currently that also begins by mentioning bacon, then gets down to the real business of the message. It would have been fascinating to sit in on the strategy sessions in which Hulu and Wawanesa decided that images of bacon would give audiences a warm, fuzzy feeling and have them opening their wallets before the sales pitch even began.

Of course, it isn't as though I just discovered an approach to advertising never used before. This technique is called “association” or “transfer” and involves transferring positive associations about one product to the product being marketed. The technique also has a lengthy history of utilization in politics. I'm reminded of then-councilman Eric Garcetti's 2013 campaign for mayor of Los Angeles. Garcetti delivered a double dose of association in radio commercials about riding as a boy with his family in their wood-paneled station wagon to Farrell's Ice Cream Parlour. All baby boomers remember the Ford Country Squire and Farrell's is a name guaranteed to induce soft-focus nostalgia in anyone who grew up in L.A. in the 1960s or '70s. And it worked; Garcetti won.

On a more sobering note, I see that Farrell's, which once boasted 50 locations on the West Coast and more than a hundred nationwide, now has exactly one restaurant left to its name, in the Orange County city of Brea.

If only they'd mentioned bacon in their ads ...

  • David Bernhart

Irving Berlin wrote a charming number, "I Can't Tell a Lie," for the Washington's Birthday sequence in his 1942 film musical, "Holiday Inn." Fred Astaire and Marjorie Reynolds minuet while Bing Crosby, jealous of Astaire's attempts to kiss Reynolds during the dance, tries to sabotage them from the harpsichord.

My plan was to share the number here on February 22, this past Friday. I located a clip of "I Can't Tell a Lie," saved it to YouTube and prepared to include a link to the video in this blog post. Within minutes, however, YouTube notified me that visibility of the video was being blocked because it contained copyright-protected material claimed by NBCUniversal, the current owner of "Holiday Inn." I could see the video, but no one else could.

I never intended to violate copyright law. If the owner of an example of intellectual property, such as a movie clip, has determined that the presence of that clip on the Internet would be damaging to the movie's value, I fully support the owner's authority to take action.

Interestingly, though, NBCUniversal does not object to a post containing just the audio of "I Can't Tell a Lie." I present such a post herewith. It isn't the complete experience of sound and sight that I'd envisioned, but I think the charm is undiminished. Close your eyes and imagine Astaire and company in powdered wigs:

  • David Bernhart