Show Me Your Wares
When I'm home in the US for a visit I find that I have very limited time to watch television and that's understandable. No one wants to fly 5,000 miles to see folks you only see every few years and then spend one's time watching TV. I do watch it though. I like HGTV and try to catch a few programs here and there. I watch the news. And if there's some special program I try to catch that as well. But what I really love to see on TV are the commercials. I'm fascinated by them.
When I first moved to Germany I liked to watch the commercials because they showed me products I'd not seen before or maybe products that I knew but have another name. It's where I learned that Dawn dishwashing liquid is called Fairy in Europe. Downy fabric softener is called Lenor. What we call a Milky Way in America is called Mars in Europe and Milky Ways in Europe are something else entirely. Vicks anything is called Wick because you definitely want it pronounced how English speakers pronounce Vs and not how German speakers pronounce Vs. It's where I learned that canned soups are usually not condensed, hard liquor is advertised on TV and it's possible that you may see a naked butt in a margarine commercial. You're liable to see a naked butt or even boobs in any sort of commercial.
After a while the commercials in Germany became passe and I tuned them out. Then I went back to the US for a visit and my interested in American TV commercials rose and with each subsequent visit my interest only continued to rise. I liked some commercials because they were simply amusing but my interest was really in what they were selling. I didn't want what they were selling but I loved seeing what there was on offer to the American consuming public. There were new products. Improved products. The same old product but with a different packaging or label. There were new stores and services to offer. I could watch American TV commercials and get a mini refresher course in American pop culture. And if I happened to be in the US near a big holiday like Thanksgiving or Christmas then I'd get a feeling of nostalgia. There's nothing like seeing a commercials for Cool Whip and Pillsbury crescent rolls to make me think of Thanksgiving.
I have an application on my computer that live streams British TV and what's the thing I like best to watch? The commercials naturally, and for the same reason I like watching them in the US. I just like seeing what they have to offer. I feel like I'm getting a glimpse into ordinary life in Britain when I see what they consume and what shops and restaurants they have and what services you can get. There are lots of products for sale in Britain that you can buy in Germany. Some of them use the exact same commercial - we just see them dubbed in German. It's funny to hear how the jingle for Calgon water softener uses the same tune as is used in Germany but the English lyrics don't fit in quite as well as they do in German. But what I find irresistible are commercials for things that to me are very British. I got such a kick out of seeing an ad for frozen mince pies. It's not something I'd see in Germany or in the US.
Christmas is coming and the commercials for the holiday have already started. I'm nearly as excited to see the ads as I am the special Christmas movies and programs. Too bad that that even the most clever commercial can't sell me their product.