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Adman by Subtraction

By Nicholas S. Racheotes

A long, strange time ago, when I was trying to leverage an advanced degree in history into the wherewithal to buy groceries, I flirted with a career in advertising. Like everyone else in the unfree-from-television world, I had grown up on ads of every sort and degree of cleverness. How difficult could it be to invent commercials for other people’s enjoyment—and for my profit? For practice, I recently worked up examples like the ones below. You be the judge as to why my path led to an alternate career.

Are you sick and tired of breaking clay tablets? Have you had it with rubbing until your hands are raw, just because you made an error in spelling? Now, paper will give you what you have longed for: it folds, it blots, it works with an ink pen instead of a wooden stylus. With the future at your fingertips, you will be able to produce your very own library full of correspondence. Why, you may even have an epic tome in mind that would never see the light of day if it were written in clay! Act now, because sooner or later, it will all be paper.

Are aching feet ripping the sole out of you? After dodging fleet-footed predators all day, do you barely have enough left in the tank to make it back to the sanctuary of your cave? Well, the answer is at hands—that is, thirteen to seventeen hands high. Tame a horse! It lives on gorse. You’ll be riding tall in the saddle to every battle. Besides, what it leaves in the pasture, you can use after—to enrich the soil, to grow that barley, to make that beer, to keep you from being snarly! At fifteen miles per hour, hooves are the beat that will drive our civilization forward. Don’t be a drag; tame your own nag.

Are the cold, wind, and rain getting impossible to bare? Are you tired of burning in the sun and goose-bumping six months of the year? Clothing is the thing you want against your skin. You can make it out of fur—or better yet, give the job to her! While she’s spinning with the distaff to make thread, you’ll know that she is too busy to heed the randy neighbor’s tread. The time has come to get it on, so get it on with clothes.

Picture this: Your husband and children are gathered around the hearth for the daily scorched dinner. It’s always the same complaint: “Mom, this food is certainly burned well enough, but something’s missing.” Well, don’t get your braids in a tangle. The remedy is as near as the ocean or salt mine. Yes, it’s salt. Salt will put the savor in whatever meat you favor. And if you’re a contrarian, it will even improve taste to the vegetarian. Better yet, salt keeps you healthy, even if you sweat. So, before you see your maker, reach for that salt shaker.

I often imagined myself going into a conference with a famous automaker and giving my pitch that goes something like this:

“Sure, you just lost the war. Yeah, your logo is a couple of twists away from being the most feared and hated symbol in human history. Almost certainly, nobody will correctly pronounce your name. The designs of your products are at least twenty years behind what American engineers are doing. Come on—fenders, a rear engine, a flat nose, and a whine that could grate on anyone’s nerves? However, in my hands, even a Beetle could sell.”

I never got to make this presentation, but it would have been great fun (and maybe even profitable) if I had. On the other hand, it was likely far better for all concerned that I found employment in a field to which I was better suited.

— V —

Nick Racheotes is a product of Boston public schools, Brandeis University, and Boston College, from which he holds a PhD in history. Since he retired from teaching at Framingham State University, Nick and his wife, Pat, divide their time between Boston, Cape Cod, and the rest of the Western world.

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