As our young children and I watched television Saturday evening, I saw a commercial for a new product called Oreo Fudge Cremes. My sweet tooth was sold by the visuals in the ad, and I told the kids we would have to buy these fudge-coated cookies soon.
But a few hours later, after the kids were in bed and my wife and I were watching TV, the commercial played again. This time my ears heard the words of the ad, and I was not impressed.
The specific words that caught my attention, an exclamation uttered by the mother in the ad, were “Shut the front door!” They may look innocuous in written form, but the inflection in the mother’s voice and the context of the ad made me think she was sending an entirely different message — and a vulgar one at that — to myself and millions of other viewers.
The “f” in “front” sounded like code for the “f” in a four-letter word — one of the few dirty words the FCC still won’t let people say on TV.
I had never heard the euphemism “shut the front door” to imply “shut the [expletive] up” before, so I gave Nabisco the benefit of a doubt. Before making an unfair judgment, I Googled “shut the front door”; I was not surprised by the results.
That I had to turn to the Urban Slang Dictionary and Online Slang Dictionary to answer my question speaks volumes about the etymology of the phrase. But what I learned is that proud-to-be-crude radio host Jason (Buckethead) Bailey coined the phrase precisely as a way to curse while avoiding FCC sanctions for indecency on the air.
I also learned that the makers of the Oreo ad clearly knew this and willfully chose to degrade America’s commercial culture another notch. The ad immediately caught the attention of advertising industry experts, undoubtedly part of the target audience.
The Adweek analysis gets to the heart of why I hate this Oreo ad so much: “Mom’s ‘Shut the front door’ line will surely be repeated in actual, nonhyperbolic families during the course of the spot’s TV run.”
Yes, and our impressionable, home-schooled children, who know neither the f-word nor the subtle techniques of worldly ad wizards, may be among those who repeat it in ignorance, thinking it’s just a goofy exclamation. And they may think me a fuddy-duddy for insisting that saying “shut the front door” makes people hear something they wouldn’t want to say.
“That’s distracting and not really humorous, at least to this mom,” Dallas Morning News arts editor Leslie Snyder said after she saw the ad.
So Nabisco, you hooked me with the promise of a tasty new treat, but you blew it with your too-clever-by-half ad strategy. Don’t expect to sell any Oreo Fudge Cremes to my family — and do expect me to warn our wholesome friends that you’re no longer a family-friendly advertiser.
Filed under: Advertising and Business and Food and Home Schooling and Parenting and Video