DOES ANYBODY really buy a particular brand of skivvies just because Mike Ditka waves them around on television and indicates he wears them? Would you stock up on dog food because the guy from Bonanza claims his pets love it and they're all 107 human years old? Do celebrity endorsements of anything influence you?
Anyone who answers yes to any of the above questions should not be allowed out without a note containing his or her name, address and the phone number of the adult to be notified in case the bearer gets lost in a convenience store.
The words "indicates" and "claims" were used in the first paragraph because there is considerable suspicion that some of the show biz and sports star shills wouldn't be caught dead using the products they endorse.
Do you suppose George C. Scott really drives around in one of those off-brand little buggies he touts so sincerely? What about Mike Tyson? Has he ever even tasted a Diet Pepsi?
Scratch that last one. Tyson is out of the diet soda racket. Pepsi has decided to look for a representative who can buy a leather coat at 4 a.m. without splitting somebody's face or talk to his wife without using a sofa to open windows.
Considering the overall track record of late, it is no surprise that some of the big merchandisers are beginning to wonder if they are spending their money wisely. How much sense does it make to lay out huge endorsement fees to household names when there is no reason to believe any have ever actually seen a nostril unplugged by an inhaler or pumped their own gas?
The beauty of the star system, I guess, is that advertising tycoons don't have to think. Consider the differing approaches in wine cooler commercials. They tell me Seagram has dropped Bruce Willis as its product pusher but they blew a ton of money before they did it.
Willis oozes wise-guy snottiness. Why, I ask myself, would anyone want their alcoholic beverage promoted by a guy who symbolizes every narcissist who ever strutted around a saloon?
Gallo had a better idea. It invented the low key but entertaining Bartles and Jaymes boys. I don't know whose cooler is best but, if I ever want a sissy drink, I'll go with the funny guys, not the hotdog.
Lee Iacocca is his own favorite celebrity. No matter how sincere he is when peddling cars, however, I can never forgive Chrysler for making Marina's 1978 Diplomat.
Give me Joe Isuzu. Sly face. Teller of big lies. Good for a laugh whenever he appears. If I were in the market for a new automobile I'd have to pay Isuzu a courtesy call even though I probably wouldn't buy anything.
James Garner was an enthusiastic salesman for big bloody chunks of red meat. Then heart surgeons treated him to a quintuple bypass and the beef people dumped him. That was unfair.
He also promotes Mazdas. Garner is a very rich person. Who's to say that he didn't get stressed out riding around in those good, but not very big or prestigious, cars in commercials while hoping nobody caught him out on the street in a Ferarri?
Sometimes the quest for originality fails. For months I've tried to figure out a way to describe the ugliest dog since the hound of the Baskervilles. Just the other night a TV comic solved the problem.
"Spuds McKenzie," he said, "looks like a pig with an eye patch." Simple, but eloquent.
Some of the most effective promotions have featured real people that nobody ever heard of before they were hired to do their first commercial.
Clara Peller, the beef-seeking gnome, will live forever as the world's foremost hustler of fast food.
When I think chicken I think Frank Perdue, the meek-looking man who was tough enough to produce tender poultry.
My favorite endorsing athlete will always be Gary Player. For several years when he was at the top of his game he sang the nutritional, muscle building, tee shot boosting characteristics of raisins.
After the sponsor stopped paying him he was asked if he still ate raisins.
"No," he said, "they rot your teeth."
Lorne Greene's dogs say the same thing about Alpo.