"I have been drawn lately to the television commercial, which, though in its rude infancy, shows signs of replacing all the other visual arts." So wrote Gore Vidal via Myra Breckinridge in 1968. And while advertising soon stumbled into its even ruder adolescence, spending the next three and a half decades merrily degrading itself in ways neither Gore nor Myra, in all their twisted brilliance, could ever have anticipated, Myra's thesis--"The relationship between consumer and advertiser is the last demonstration of necessary love in the West"--remains as true today as the day it was written. And so, this week Last Days devotes itself to the principal form of this last expression of necessary love--the television commercial.

MONDAY, NOVEMBER 25 Last Days' Commercial Week begins with the curious new ad campaign by Nikon Inc. Aiming to alert the masses on the ease and quality of its new digital cameras, Nikon did what any tech-based company hoping for a mainstream crossover would've done: hired Val Kilmer. "You didn't think I could be intimidated, did you?" asks a somewhat recognizable Kilmer, admitting that even he, Val Kilmer, was somewhat intimidated by the thought of switching to digital photography. However, thanks to Nikon's Coolpix 2000 digital cameras, Val Kilmer has finally found a digital camera even he feels comfortable using--and he wants to tell the world! The baffling ad campaign (Nikon's first with a "celebrity spokesperson") was created by Source Communications and directed by Jeremiah Chechik, whose film director credits include Benny & Joon and National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. "The flow of the commercial moves the audience's perception of Kilmer and the camera through different phases," reads the commercial's press release, "first showing [Kilmer's] serious side as he confesses to being intimidated by digital photography, and then almost playful, as he experiences the Nikon Coolpix 2000 and demonstrates the camera's easy-to-use features." Which all sounds fine, but does nothing to answer the ad's screamingly unspoken question: Who, in the grand scheme of things and the smaller world of hobby photography, is Val Kilmer, and why are we, as a nation, expected to have preconceptions about his susceptibility to intimidation? For an answer, Last Days turned to our dear friend Mindy, who spent a good part of the '90s working for a celebrity sports agency in New York City. "For starters, there's a slim chance Val Kilmer was Nikon's first choice," suggests Mindy. "Nikon probably wrote the ad hoping to get someone who really does have a reputation for withstanding intimidation--like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Clint Eastwood, neither of whom would get anywhere near a North American TV commercial for less than a gazillion dollars. Val Kilmer was probably down on the list, and after he signed on, Nikon probably didn't bother changing the 'intimidation' lines in the script. But I'm just guessing." Thanks to Mindy for sharing and for guessing.

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 26 Speaking of commercials that feel like mild acid trips: Today Last Days caught the latest celebrity spokespersons to join ranks with the evil empire of McDonald's. In the latest ads for McDonald's National Dollar Menu, superstar tennis sisters Venus and Serena Williams negotiate a dramatic rooftop liaison with the Hamburglar, who informs the sisters he'll be selling the Big N' Tasty Sandwich ("McDonald's flagship sandwich for the Dollar Menu," according to the press release) for only one dollar. "The Williams Sisters are two vibrant, dynamic personalities adept at scoring points on the tennis court," said Bill Lamar, chief marketing officer for McDonald's USA. "We're confident they'll be tremendous assets in 'netting' positive results for our Dollar Menu." Venus and Serena are equally enthusiastic about the three-year merger: "We grew up with McDonald's," Serena told Reuters. "When we were kids going through McDonald's Drive-Thru, picking up dinner on the way to practice, who'd have thought we'd be starring in a TV commercial with the Hamburglar?" (Perhaps the same people who thought Val Kilmer couldn't be intimidated.)

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 27 Just in time for Last Days' Commercial Week, today Newsweek ran an enticing mini-item on Michael Wilke, founder of the Commercial Closet Association, which annually advises dozens of companies--from Miller Brewing to Hewlett-Packard--how to advertise their products without offending homosexuals. For a negative example, Wilke directs Newsweek writer Steve Friess to a 1996 T.J. Maxx ad, in which an obviously nelly man throws a hissy fit--then sits down at a piano and plinks out the notes F-A-G (thereby offending every gay-friendly person with perfect pitch in the entire world). More recently, Wilke's Commercial Closet has taken exception to ads by 7 Up (featuring an array of prison-rape jokes), IKEA (featuring two bickering queens), and DIRECTV (featuring a friendly slap on the ass and a bout of "gay panic"). With gay and lesbian consumers generating an estimated $452 billion annually, corporations can no longer afford to treat homos as punch lines. "Big companies don't want to offend," says Wilke, whose site receives nearly 100,000 new visitors a month. "That's basically the opposite of the point of advertising."

··Speaking of offensive advertising, today Last Days caught the absolutely galling commercial for Elvis Presley's 30 #1 Hits CD, featuring extensive footage of the King in his glory days and closing with the statement, "Before anyone did anything, Elvis did everything"--instantly causing Carl Jung, Louis Armstrong,and Mae West to spin in their graves, and Chuck Berry to kick a hole in his bathroom wall, then furtively videotape women through it.

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 28 Today was Thanksgiving, the day Americans give thanks to God for allowing our ancestors to conquer the Native Americans with such relative ease (and allowing us to live in such relative comfort ever since) that the ruthless killing felt like God's will, or at least a horrible necessity executed with His blessing. Thanks to God as well for cheap booze, crippled spirits, and the genetic predisposition toward alcoholism, without which many more white Seattle citizens would be waking up to find their throats slit and scalps missing.

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 29 Back to commercials--specifically, commercials that make Last Days want to stab our eyes out. At the top of the list is the ad for Bounty Quilted Napkins, in which a monstrous young boy sits alone at a kitchen table devouring a platter of barbecued chicken. With each bite, the boy's face gets coated with barbecue sauce, and after each bite he wipes his face with a wimpy, non-Bounty napkin, then pitches the smeared and tattered rag onto the floor. Before long, there's a mountain of soiled napkins on the floor--and there's still so much chicken to go! Thankfully, Bounty has created a quilted napkin so durable even the monster chicken boy can use it more than once. Despite the ad's many failures as a commercial for Bounty, it must be said that it succeeds exceedingly well as a commercial for abortion.

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 30 Today Last Days learned (via a Partnership for a Drug-Free America ad) that casual pot smoking invariably leads to shooting your best friend in the face.

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 1 Nothing happened today.

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