FPR reader Howard Merrell has been watching television ads and finds a glimmer of hope. Here’s why:
I don’t know who first said it. I heard it attributed to the late George Burns. “People are impressed with sincerity. If you learn to fake that, you’ve got it made.” Everyday, in the advertising world, highly paid, very creative people get together and try to effectively “fake it.”

Still, I’m impressed with a couple of ads I’ve been seeing lately.  One is fairly drenched in sweat.  It talks about how America used to make things–products produced with skill, ingenuity, creativity, pride, and hard work.  The commercial builds to the punch line and shows pictures of its product.  A voice that sounds like it is coming from someone who knows how to work, says something like, “This was once a country where we made things, beautiful things, and so it is again . . .”

The other ad features a voice I love.  Sam Eliott must get up every morning and gargle with a mixture of broken glass and turpentine.  It is just the voice to hark back to a time when men made deals based on a handshake.  I have no doubt that if I went to buy the vehicle the gravely voiced spokesman is promoting there would be a lot of paper I’d have to sign, in addition to the hand-clasp, but, still I’m impressed that the ad looks back to a time when people’s word was their bond.
It’s highly possible–to the point of near certainty–that these ads are no more sincere than the quintessential promises about the used car owned by a “little-old-lady . . . .”   Still, even if the commercials are smoke and mirrors, I see hope based on the buttons Madison Avenue is seeking to push.  Could it be that there is a growing awareness that work–labor that actually results in something of value–and honesty are virtues worth preserving?  And that our salvation as a nation depends not on more clever accounting, and even slicker speeches, but on hard work and honesty?
I hope so.
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Local Culture


  1. During recessions there are always a slew of ads like this, only to be replaced by ads featuring young people ecstatically buying worthless crap the moment things “get better.”

  2. Well, television–especially the ads–are the thing to watch, since this is our true education system, and far more effective then the 12 years of compulsory school that we must endure.

  3. there is a real “buy American” vibe in those ads –

    of course any ad has but one goal – to get you to buy. But since we must endure such ads then at least let them tout ideas that have real value – better to persuade people that Americans do make beautiful, durable things as a message to buy a car rather than “hot girls will flock to you if you buy this car”.

  4. Empedocles, The optimist hopes the pessimist is wrong, the pessimist is quite sure the optimist is wrong. I’m a realist which means I’m a pessimist most of the time. You may be right.

    John, just think. We don’t have to pay taxes to support TV–well there is PBS.

    Cecilia, you are right. Ads have but one goal. The junk people buy– that Epedocles speaks of–is evidence that the people who make the ads know what they are doing. That this is the button they choose to push gives me hope–a little–at least until the light in the tunnel turns out to be the approaching train.


  5. I’ve had a TIVO for a decade, and the advertisements I’ve watched since getting it could be counted on one hand. The ad-free life: I can’t recommend it highly enough.

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