Random observations and puzzlements #1

Diligent bloggers always have fallback ideas for posts when disruptions of one kind or another affect their schedules. How do I know this for certain? I don’t. I have a creative license and I make things up.

(All writers have such licenses. While I’m not at liberty to divulge the licensing authority or its exact location, each of the 50 states has one. I am permitted to tell you that creative licenses, as with those for driving vehicles, are issued for different kinds of writing, and that only copywriters have permission to pose outlandish statements as fact. Thank you for reading along during this digressive break.)

Licensing rules (And hello! Identity theft!) prevent me from showing my full writer's creative license.

This morning, after a week-plus of old-computer to new-computer confusion, I reached into my back pocket (that’s figurative language; I didn’t actually do that) and yanked out the following post: a brief list of disjointed thoughts.

(Sorry, but one more digression. I’d say I stole the idea for this post from another writer, but the second time a writer looks at a source, it falls into the realm of legitimate research. If you doubt that for even a moment, then know it’s clearly stated on the back of my license, which, unfortunately, I am forbidden to show even partially [unlike the front].)

Now for the list you’ve been waiting (but come on, not all that long) for:

• I don’t understand why Real Simple magazine is 240-some pages each month. Seems to me it should be more like 24.

• Generic products should not be allowed in certain categories. The first one that comes to my mind is in paper products: ultra toilet paper.

• I want a new language choice at my bank’s ATM: Language you chose in previous 10,000 transactions.

• Shooting holes in roadside traffic signs has to be the most moronic and redneck thing in the world to do – with one exception: traffic lights at busy intersections that stay green long enough only for three cars to get through. Motorists should be allowed to shoot these out between the hours of 2:00 and 4:00 a.m. on weeknights.

• I believe the toilet seats in our house contain hidden scales connected to a silent alert system no one has told me about. Within 20 seconds of my sitting down, someone calls my name or a cat scratches insistently at the door.

• Is willfully handing over the remote control so someone can watch a rerun of “Housewives of …” not an expression of love?

• Because I’m confident in my masculinity, I have no problem in stating unequivocally that the best reality show on TV is TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress.”

• Before the Hyundai Sonata became the good-looking, reliable car it is today, I was continually surprised the model did not have this fitting tagline: It’s Sonata bad car.

Next week I’ll be road-tripping through the Deep South with the Daughters Tisdale and hope to post from points here and there. Or just at some point.

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When I helped make safe sex more available

The take-one brochure I wrote. Email me for a free PDF to share with friends and neighbors.

Now for a modest account of the historic role I played in bringing condoms out into broad daylight, or rather the cool white fluorescent lighting of convenience stores. This is a true story: I did breakthrough condom work. Make that breakthrough work in condoms. In the advertising sense, I should add.

It was the late 1980s, a time when family planning sections were few. Condom perusal was an unknown shopping concept, and young men lived in fear of having to ask the adult at the pharmacy cash register to show them the condoms. Then along came the AIDS epidemic, and just like that merchants everywhere became pro prophylactics display.

At the time, I was doing freelance work for Williford, Winstead, James, a small ad agency in Raleigh. WWJ had a niche focus: convenience stores, or c-stores in the parlance of the trade. If a company wanted to get its products into c-stores, WWJ had the expertise to do it.

Carter-Wallace, Inc., the maker of Trojan® brand condoms, wanted to make a splash in c-stores nationwide, and they engaged WWJ to create advertising and sales-support materials promoting the profit potential the leading condom brand offered, plus the small-footprint, countertop merchandiser unit they had designed to tempt the titillated, impulse buyer.

An advertising career can be full of painful disappointments, e.g., this brilliant but doomed print-ad concept for the condom merchandiser unit.

Kristie Freeman, WWJ’s art director, and I developed a sales brochure—“Trojan condoms have come out from under the counter” its cover proclaimed—and a small take-one brochure for a side pocket on the merchadiser. After answering the pressing question of why to choose the Trojan brand, the copy went into “Instructions for condom use. (Reading level: third-grade, stupid about sex.) Step 10—Carter-Wallace wanted to be thorough—read as follows: Remember—never reuse a condom. I won’t even begin to guess at the number of unwanted pregnancies that admonition saved.

I’m proud that I helped bring condoms out of the dark, making safe sex available to more. So proud that I believe a highway historical marker near our neighborhood entrance might be justified. Surprisingly, the Commonwealth of Virginia has not gotten back to me on my application. I’ve heard that some state offices are severely understaffed. Probably a waiting list for historical markers, too, I imagine. If so, I hope my offer to write (or at least collaborate) on the marker’s text moves me closer to the front of the queue.

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