Friday, September 05, 2008
Today, I want to talk about Ivory Soap, politics, and comic books.
Ivory Soap is, of course, the greatest triumph that advertising has ever had. Even greater than the transinframetatextual product placement in Eureka (which is so stunningly bald that you have to consider it a PLUS rather than a negative, particularly since it means lots of Sheriff Carter shirtless *swoon*).
Ivory Soap is the greatest triumph of advertising -- and will always remain so -- because its makers took the product's overwhelmingly damning defect and made it the very selling point of the product. "So pure, it floats."
If you think about for even two seconds, it will hit you; soap isn't supposed to float. For soap to float it has to be less dense than water, and for it to be less dense than water, it has to be ... full of air. Which, of course, Ivory Soap is. That's why a bar of Ivory Soap the size of a miniature Dachshund disappears after about one week of shower usage. Not only have you been convinced to buy AIR, you been convinced to buy Ivory Soap precisely because it's full of air.
This takes a special kind of Harold Hill-ian chutzpah. Oh, perhaps, there was a time (say, 1891) when there actually was a great utility to the floating function, because most people took baths instead of showers. Even then, two seconds of thought could undo that advantage, but, of course, advertising's goal is not to allow you to think that long, anyway. You aren't supposed to think about the product, just feel about it, and feel good.
This takes a little cleverness: "Ivory Soap: it's full of air!" is not a particularly good slogan. "It floats!", however, is 99 44/100% genius, and had Proctor & Gamble cleaning up for decades. It's BS so pure it floats.
Once you recognize the principle, you can recognize it everywhere in salesmanship. The aforementioned Harold Hill sells band uniforms will the promise that there's no extra charge for the four weeks of anticipation that it takes for them to arrive. I "sell" Things That Made Me Happy by touting that it doesn't give you information you want.
And in politics the principle is in full swing. Inexperienced candidates are "fresh outsiders". George Bush isn't dull-witted, he's "a man of the people" or "not elitist". Instead of being a guest on Jerry Springer, Sarah Palin becomes an example of middle-class family values, precisely because her underage daughter got pregnant and now has to marry the baby-daddy.
Selling its candidates on the virtue of their flaws is more a Republican tactic, I think. The Democratic Party simply denies that its candidate have flaws at all, or pushes the idea that those flaws are private and utterly unrelated to their function as our representatives. In short, in this regard, the Republican Party is Marvel, and the Democratic Party is DC. There; that'll give you something to argue about at the comic shop today!
But enough of me on my soapbox. None of this is the real point of this post. The real point of this post is:
Armed with the Ivory Soap Principle, how would you sell some of DC's characters?