the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Category: Advertising and Marketing (Page 1 of 7)

The Golden Era of Advertising


I didn’t read many blogs when I started Citizen of the Month in March, 2005.  My initial model for my blog was the late Andy Rooney of “60 Minutes.”  Every day I would write a short post based on some personal off-kilter observation such as, “Why do we still lick envelopes in the 20th Century?”  It’s a tried and true comedic technique.

Seven years ago this week, my father died.   I was blogging for a little over a year.  Sophia, my wife at the time, sent a message to my blog readers that I was called back to New York.  There was no Twitter or Facebook at the time, so I used my blog as my diary, writing about my emotional state at the time, detailing all the chaos, the sadness, and even the frequent bittersweet humor of dealing with a parent’s death.

My father’s passing completely transformed my view of blogging.  Writing a personal blog was not the same as writing a short story or a magazine article.  It certainly was not like Andy Rooney doing his shtick on “60 Minutes.”  For one thing, blogs had comments, and the feedback from others were frequently more interesting than the original post.  Readers also CARED about me in a way that I never cared about Andy Rooney.   And I CARED about my readers.  Blogging was something revolutionary — a hybrid of writing, community forum, therapy, and friendship.

Life continued on, as did my blog.  My writing changed in tone to reflect my experiences.    Sophia dealt with breast cancer.  Sophia’s mother passed away.  Sophia’s step-father passed away.  Sophia and I divorced.  I moved back and forth between Los Angeles and New York.  I flew to New Zealand to meet a new woman.  Life.

Last night, I put an advertisement onto the sidebar of my blog, or more accurately,  I installed a Javascript “advertising-tag” into the code which sends you creepy Big Brother-like advertisements tailored JUST for you, based on the cookies in your browser.    At first, I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong with the code, because the advertisements didn’t show up in my browser.  I realized that I was using the Chrome Extension, Ad Blocker, to hide YOUR advertisements, so I was blocking my own ads!  I turned off Ad Blocker, and BOOM, it appeared — a 160×600 banner ad for Buick.

I glanced over at my last few posts.  One was a mediation on happiness.   Another was a photo essay.  The third was a conversation with my cock.   I turned to the Flashy Buick ad and… I started to cry.  It wasn’t an unhappy cry.   It wasn’t a happy cry.   It was just an emotional release, of what I can’t tell you.

Placing this advertisement on my blog is a very big deal to me.  It scares me, but it also gives me a slight thrill, like I’m losing my virginity to a prostitute or going bungee jumping.  Will I keep the advertisement on my sidebar?   It depends on how much money I can earn by keeping it there.  If we are talking less than ten bucks a month, it’s not worth it.

I know my eight year obsession over putting advertising on my blog is crazy, and has annoyed the shit out of some of you.   I realize that most of you couldn’t care less what I do.  But I’m pretentious.   It’s one little secret that I try to keep to myself.  My blog is powerful… to me.  It is a reflection of my life, my manhood, my attitudes towards money and ambition, and an expression of sex and desire.   My blog is also about my father, the kind man who died seven years ago this week.   And my father would never put advertising on his blog.   So, it’s a big change.

The Sequence That They Edited Out From the Dove Video

The Title of this article from says it all, “Dove Video PROVES women are more beautiful than they think!”

But was it truly proven? Citizen of the Month was able to obtain certain material that was edited out of the final video, such as this interview with LAURA, a thirty-five year old accountant and mother of two from North Hollywood, California.

Dove: “A forensic artist wants to draw a sketch of you. He is hidden in another room. Please describe yourself to him.”

Laura: “Well, let’s see. I am decent enough for someone my age. But I never really liked my chin. My friends used to call me “Jay Leno.” I’ve also gained some weight since college. I’ve never liked my big nose, and my hair is too curly and unmanageable. On a scale from 1-10, I would rate myself a 5. I wish I were prettier. My mother never thought I was pretty. She always told me to stop slouching. I slouch too much. I’m disappointed in myself and the way I look.”

Dove: “Interesting. Now, while you were in the waiting room, you were sitting next to another woman. Her name is Cheryl. The forensic artist now wants to make a sketch of her based on your description. Please give him your honest description of Cheryl.”

Laura: “Cheryl? That woman in the waiting room? Wow! That woman looks like she’s really let herself go. She was dressed in clothes off the rack from Walmart. Girl, at least go to Marshall’s and find something half-decent! She was — I can only describe her as fat, like she hasn’t walked a block in years. She needs to go to the gym. I would never let myself go like that. I mean my chin is bad, but at least I exercise. And what’s with her eyes? Is she cross-eyed? Her thick glasses certainly don’t help. Contacts, baby, contacts! She needs a fashion makeover ASAP, and cosmetic surgery or at least some Botox. She’s probably only around forty, but looks more like sixty-five. I feel bad for her husband. All in all, she made me feel more way prettier in contrast. I guess I’m not so bad.”

Dove: Uh, thank you.

[sequence deleted from film]

Moral of the story: Some people see the best in you. And others are just assholes. Don’t let others define who you are. Nothing proves nothing. Especially in edited marketing videos. Define yourself.

It’s Called a Prune

One of the changes in my life is to start to think big. For example, earlier this week was the Jewish holiday of Purim. While other Jews simply dressed as Queen Esther and ate prune hamentashen for the holiday, I decided to “step it up a notch” and dress as Queen Esther AND make a promotional video for the prune INDUSTRY!

Luckily, I erased that first video and made this one instead — an entry to go to the Mom 2.0 conference in New Orleans next month and be a representative of Sunsweet Growers, one of the sponsors. I wanted to give it a try, and do something new. You have to promise not to laugh.

I’ve seen some of the other entries — confident Moms serving Sunsweet D’Noir Prunes to their grateful families — so I am a long long shot in getting this gig. But like the Mets possibly winning the pennant this season, you gotta believe! I find out tomorrow.

Good luck to the other Queen Esthers vying for the spot!

Word and Image

I am in McDonald’s staring at a poster for the new McRib sandwich.  The photo shows this huge, juicy, succulent rib — the size of half a cow.  The photo is just begging you to buy a McRib.  Although I have never eaten a McRib, I do have experience with McDonald’s hamburgers.  I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about.  The photo shows a thick patty with a watery tomato, pickle, and lettuce packed on high on a bakery-fresh bun, and then when you get the burger, it is… a typical McDonald’s hamburger, a grayish, flacid disc that barely fits in the soft, limp bun.  So, I am asking myself — and you — why is this not considered false advertising?  There are stringent controls on the words that go into advertising.  A company can get sued for lying to their consumers with their words.  I can’t run an ad saying that if you come into my car dealership, I will sell you an Acura, and then give you a Corolla.  So, why hasn’t anyone ever sued McDonald’s for the fakery of their food photos?

My photographer friend, Kim, recently went to a class in Los Angeles to learn the techniques of commercial food photography.  From what she told me, it sounded like a fascinating class, with food photography an art form in itself.  She told me how sandwiches are stuffed with cotton to make them thicker, and food coloring is used to make chocolate look more chocolate-y.  And photographers get big bucks for this deception, on-the-set fakery done before the use of Photoshop.

Do you ever notice that readers like the “real” and “authentic,” in writing?  We like to read about struggle and drama.  On the other side, have you noticed that we tend to love the photographs that should be in a glossy magazine?  Beautiful settings.  And beautiful people.  Our families look near perfect.  Our yards are always clean.  The laundry on the couch is always hidden. Everyone has nice hair.  Special filters are used to create a mood.  Photoshop is employed to rid us of blemishes.

Of course, writing is also fake.  We have our own literary brush tools.  We can completely change the mood of a sentence, but switching a word, or adding punctuation.  Some of us are more poetic in our words.  If I say that my friend was “as angry as a bulldog,” I am giving you a visual picture.  But it is still manipulation, like a yellow filter, or the Hipstamatic app in the iphone.  My friend is not really a bulldog.  I’m not even sure bulldogs are “angry.”

I am not a photographer.  So I am curious.  Are you searching for any truth in your photos? If you take a perfect photo of a perfect family in front of a perfect home, are you trying to express the Platonic ideal of your family?  Are words more suited for communication and expressing truth (if you so choose), and photos more for beauty and glorified image?

I know media images of beauty are always a popular topic with my female friends online.  But I’m not sure we should trust corporate America to determine what is “real” for us, women or otherwise.  When I see those Dove “real women” campaigns, I mostly see photoshopped size 8 models instead of photoshopped size 2 models.

We tend to look down our noses at the use of  “advertising” techniques in writing, seeing them as manipulative, but applaud the same techniques in photography.  Why does beauty always have to be so “prettified?”  Why do we always talk about our search for truth and authenticity in art if we don’t really want to see it or express it in our images?

Does any of this make any sense?  Maybe not.  I’ll tell you one thing — that McRib sandwich looks good!

Indirect and Authentic

(this is a post that is completely rambling out loud with little direction, but I’ve been hearing the term “authenticity in blogging” used a lot recently.  It was even the the subject of the final keynote at a recent woman’s blogging conference, as presented by Karen of Chookooloonks and Brené Brown.  “Authenticity” is one of those terms that makes me uncomfortable, especially because I don’t really understand it, and you’ll notice that this post is a little edgy when I discuss it.  But I am also self-aware enough to know that when something makes me uncomfortable, there is usually a reason I am fighting with it.  So, I hope if either of these two bloggers end up coming here, they don’t think I am being a downer in questioning the idea, but being authentic in taking it seriously, in my own way.)


OK. A “dating” question for women, single or otherwise.   It is all hypothetical, and has really nothing to do with dating, and more about the subject of directness and authenticity. If you’re a straight man, put yourself in the man’s part of the scenario.  Unless you are gay, and then you’re on your own.   Or change the gender.

Hypothetical situation: You’re a woman.  You’re at a bar.  You’re single.  You’re wearing your best dress and sexy shoes.   I approach you.  Or some other studly guy approaches you. But let’s assume it is me. Which encounter would be more endearing and/or successful?

1) Me (indirect and inauthentic): “Sure is crowded in here tonight.  Must be the World Cup game on the TV.  Didn’t realize that there are so many Brazilians living in LA.  You into soccer?…”

2) Me (direct and authentic): “I was looking at you from across the room. I don’t usually say this to a woman immediately, but you have a nicely-shaped ass.  I’m hanging out at this hot, noisy bar, hoping to meet someone, and I’ve picked you out of everyone else here tonight.  I would like to get to know you better. Boy, I am nervous asking you this.   But that ass!  Wow!  Would you want to go to the Chipotle next door and talk?  I know it is only a fast food joint, but I’m a writer and not making a whole lot of money, so I’m hoping that isn’t a big concern to you. What do you say?”

Should I use approach number 1 or approach number 2?

Of course, this is a rather silly example. #2 borders on the rude, even if “the guy” is being more “authentic” in his dumb reason for going over to the woman, and even more direct with his request to leave and go to Chipotle. Why spend a half hour talking about the soccer match when it is all just small talk?


I frankly think the best approach would be somewhere in between the two. I think we need directness AND artifice to effectively communicate with each other, especially in the beginning of a relationship. And I’m not just talking about male-female relationships.

When brands online start talking about being “authentic,” I say bullshit.   Social media is hardly authentic.  We speak to each other in 140 characters. Very few people come out and directly express their motivation.  I know when I write dialogue in a script, the biggest sin is “on the nose” dialogue.  I know that what people say and what they mean are usually two different things.   Sometimes they don’t even know WHAT they want.  Very few people come out and SAY what they really want other than James Bond villains wanting to destroy the world with a solar deflector.

I respect those who want to protect their privacy or business interests, but since when do we call that “authenticity?”  How can there be authenticity when there is also so much selling and promoting.   The very concept of marketing or advertising or “giveaways” involves artifice and manipulation, much like a woman wearing make-up before hitting the clubs.    When consumer product brands sponsor “green” events, they are usually more concerned about good publicity than the cause.   More power to them for doing good, but not terribly “authentic.”  Food stylists making McDonald’s hamburgers looking juicer is artifice.  Clever copywriting is artifice.   I find it odd that as the internet becomes more and more about business and social manipulation, people advancing their careers by touting community, writers feigning interest for connections, more and more people are discussing authenticity. Is it really THAT complicated to be authentic? What does the word authentic mean? Authentic to others? Authentic to yourself?

I once wrote a post about Dunbar’s number, where a scientist theorizes that we can only deal effectively with 150 people.  Doesn’t that mean we are being inauthentic to the thousands of followers we all hear gurus touting on their blogs as a way to show their influence? Why do we want them? If we really cared about helping others, like so many writers like to say, why don’t we just go into nursing?

Here is an authentic advertisement for McDonalds: “Hi there. We are in business to make money. People love our burgers. We know they are not healthy for you, but you like ’em, right? And no one complains when your kids run around and make noise, right? And we are pretty cheap, if you go for the dollar meal, right? McDonald’s. We are authentic (except for the doctored photos of our burgers).

Art can never be authentic. It can strive to be an authentic representation of ourselves. We can be authentic. But very very very few of us  get anywhere close.

By the way, you all have nice asses.

via the fabulous Schmutzie!

P.S.  Just read this post over.  I know it makes very little sense.  And I am using the term authentic all wrong.  Sorry.  My blog.

P.S.S.  Juli from Wellington Road just made an excellent point via IM about the dating scenario that made me see this post in a whole new way.  Talking to that woman in the bar about her ass is just crude,  and not authentic, especially since I would never say that anyway.   The differences in choices  #1 and #2 are about the politeness of the words.  The authenticity comes into play with the ACTION.   #1 could be more authentic if the goal is to get the woman into bed, and this is how I seduce a woman.  #2 could be all bark with no bite.   I might be just shooting into the wind, with no real confidence or adherence to my goal.   My words might be brash and tell it like it is, but I would not be authentically striving for my goal.   The alpha man is not about how strong his words are, but how effectively he takes action.   In the second scenario, it reads like I am trying to sabotage myself.  By acting so blunt, I wonder if my REAL intention is to get rejected so I feel bad, because I am neurotic, or whatever.

I guess if your goal is to become a popular blogger, you are being authentic if you stick to your game plan.  The same can be said if you want to write a novel and are using your blog as a calling card.   I was misusing the term authenticity.  I was expressing the term in the traditional way, where authenticity meant removing the mask in relationships to others.  It appears that the term “authenticity in blogging” means something else — discovering your goal or your purpose and staying true to that path.  It is more about personal journey than community.

Do these two versions of authenticity conflict with each other?

View Single Women in Redondo Beach

Lately, when I open my Yahoo Mail, I get this advertisement. I know personalized online advertisements have been around for awhile, but what makes Yahoo! think I am looking for a woman in Redondo Beach. Have I mentioned this to any of you in my emails? Does Yahoo! know more about me than I know myself?

Another issue. Why does Yahoo! restrict me to women in Redondo Beach? Why not Hermosa Beach, which is only a few blocks away? Or what about Los Angeles proper? Does and Yahoo! think I am so lazy that I will only talk with women who live in a three mile radius from my home in tiny Redondo Beach? I DO have a car. Has become a site for singles without cars? I’m not sure I want to date a woman without a car. Before you know it, I’ll be taking this car-less woman to the grocery store and the airport, and Sophia will be pissed that I am being “used.”

These women (personally picked for me) are also too young for me. Obviously on Yahoo! is run by a man, who assumes that every man fantasizes about a fresh-faced twenty-something, still unaware of the bitter world outside of the college dorm. OK, maybe they DO know something. I never got to sleep with a twenty-three year old the first time around! Maybe I’m just a late bloomer! I needed an extra decade or so to become socialized and learn about the existence of that “clitoris” thing.

But I think I’m still hip enough to date a twenty-something. I read MamaPop. I know the current scene. In fact, I was just wondering when the new Michael Jackson album is coming out.

Next on my mind — who are these single women living in Redondo Beach? And why have I never run into one of them at the beach or supermarket?

livelife3728 looks a little sleazy, like she would give you a BJ on the first date, even if you insisted that you didn’t want one. That scares me. I know it is wrong to stereotype from one photo, but that’s life. You get that one shot to date me, and then it is over. It’s called Branding. And livelife3728 needs to get a new stylist; her hair looks greasy.

iceblue0925 is even more terrifying. Her face says: stalker. I don’t mean a person who uses the name of a grade school classmate as a ATM card password. I mean a person who leaves a dead cat in your mailbox if you don’t return her calls.

I would cross sunny9790 off the list because of her ugly hat. Ladies… men like to see your hair AND your eyes. Wearing a hat that covers both in a photo on a dating site is a major FAIL. It makes us wonder if you are hiding something. Like a Phantom of the Opera face. And apparently you have to join up and pay on Yahoo! if you want to see a full photo of each woman, with the cleavage, which is the REAL deciding factor for most men.

My favorite of the single women of Redondo Beach is probably virgodoc96. I like brunettes.

1) (virgodoc96) Virgos and Pisces work well together.

2) (virgodoc96) She is apparently a doctor, so I know she can at least afford her own car.

3) (virgodoc96) She was born in 1996, which makes her… hmmm… jeez, she can be my daughter!

OK, now let’s be real here. I suspect that none of these girls live in Redondo Beach, and are merely a part of a collection of stock photos. If I lived in Toledo, Ohio, and went onto my Yahoo Mail, I would get a similar advertisment that read “View Single Women in Toledo” with the exact same headshots, right?

Then again, am I wrong, or does allaboutpink21 have a very specific look in her eyes that says, ” I want you, Neilochka! Right now!”

The Walmart Mom Question

Today, as I received yet another email about this post I wrote last week, I understand what it must feel like to be a politician after a story is leaked to the press that YOU DID inhale during that one time you said you smoked pot in college, and now you have to pose  at a press conference, your conservatively-dressed wife at your side, your hooker girlfriend as far away as possible, as you strongly condemn all forms of drug abuse and promise, if elected, to start a new WAR ON DRUGS.

In politics, these leaks always come from an old roommate still pissed at you for stealing his girlfriend twenty-five years ago.  In blogging, proof that bloggers are mostly idiots with no career potential, we LEAK THESE INCRIMINATING STORIES ourselves!

Of course, as blogging becomes more professional, bloggers are growing smarter and more media savvy.   Let me re-phrase that.  Some bloggers are growing smarter.  As we become brand enthusiasts for Kraft and Walmart, we move beyond just telling stories about our lives.   We become representatives of something bigger than us.   A company or a cause.  And that is great.  But it gives me pause.  I wonder if I would have written my post, or many of my posts, if I was a brand ambassador for Nintendo or Sony?  Would my writing feel stifled?  Would there be any repercussions for writing about my past real-life actions?  Is my image, and what it represents to the company, more important to the company than my “real” self?  Is this what the exciting field of social media is all about, turning us all into one-dimensional avatars, the online equivalent of air-brushed celebrities,  so we can effectively market products  to each other?  No wonder why social media mavens love Twitter.   Marketers can speak to many at once, without really interacting with anybody.

Frank Rich, in one of his last NYT columns of 2009, named Tiger Woods as his “person of the decade” because he symbolized everything wrong with a decade where branding, PR, and illusion became more celebrated than the reality outside.  Frank Rich sees the decade as filled with con men, “influentials” eager to bamboozle their gullible victims.

The men who played us for suckers, whether at Citigroup or Fannie Mae, at the White House or Ted Haggard’s megachurch, are the real movers and shakers of this century’s history so far. That’s why the obvious person of the year is Tiger Woods. His sham beatific image, questioned by almost no one until it collapsed, is nothing if not the farcical reductio ad absurdum of the decade’s flimflams, from the cancerous (the subprime mortgage) to the inane (balloon boy).

Enron?  The Housing Market?  The Stock Market?  Baseball players with monster steroid bodies?  “Reality” Television?  Bernie Madoff? That was the decade. The blogosphere mirrored this fakery as marketers, SEO, and PR experts became our gurus, promising us big bucks and millions of followers, but mostly making themselves well-known by writing about marketing.

For six years, Tiger Woods was the multi-million dollar advertising face for Accenture, the big consulting firm.  While this firm has nothing to do with golf,  Accenture liked having their advertising campaign revolve around “high performance,” and Tiger Woods certainly fit that bill. The firm just didn’t realize how “high performance” he was!

Accenture is “a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company,” but who cared about any fine print? It was Tiger, and Tiger was it, and no one was to worry about the details behind the mutually advantageous image-mongering. One would like to assume that Accenture’s failure to see or heed any warning signs about a man appearing in 83 percent of its advertising is an anomalous lapse. One would like to believe that business and government clients didn’t hire Accenture just because it had Tiger’s imprimatur. But in a culture where so many smart people have been taken so often, we can’t assume anything.

After Mr. Woods confessed to infidelities, Accenture had a PR nightmare.  They immediately purged all record of Tiger Woods from their existence.

On Sunday, hours after Accenture ended its sponsorship deal, the golfer’s face was replaced by an anonymous skier on the company’s home page. His name was scrubbed almost completely from the rest of the Web site. The company’s advertising campaign is about “high performance,” and Mr. Woods “just wasn’t a metaphor for high performance anymore,” a spokesman for Accenture, Fred Hawrysh, said.

By Monday afternoon, Accenture staffers had swept through the company’s New York office and removed any visible Tiger posters. The next day, marketing and communications employees around the world were asked to turn in any remaining Tiger-emblazoned posters and other materials. Accenture marketing employees did not respond to requests for comment about the Tiger purge on Wednesday.

This was a relationship based solely on business, not unlike so many of the “friendships” we have online, where we follow and unfollow each other daily, depending on the direction of the wind.

So, basically  — Can a Walmart Mom write a post about the time she stole some jewelry at Walmart when she was 17 and still remain a Walmart Mom?

If I start sleeping with a high class hooker, do you want to hear the stories about my adventures, or do you want me to hide them from you, so that I maintain my good “brand.”

Do I know any of you at all?

The Ideal Gift

I love the holiday season. So much joy and gift-giving. I spent all weekend scouring the internet looking for BlackFriday and CyberMonday deals that I could share with my dear readers.

I love you guys!

I do have something special for you, my valued friends and readers of this blog. This year, why not give the gift that everyone WANTS this Christmas and Hannukah?! Today only, from 9AM to 11PM — run, don’t walk, to the run-down liquor store on any street corner of any high-crime neighborhood to buy this ideal Christmas gift.

A case of Camel cigarettes, in a special Holiday red-and-gold gift box! And remember, just say “Neilochka sent me for the smokes!” for a free Camel keychain!

Plus, as a thank you for participating in the ongoing Great Interview Experiment and the upcoming 4th Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert, I will be giving away one free carton to a very lucky person!

The rules for this giveaway are extremely simple. Just leave a comment telling me your favorite Holiday smoking story, follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr, post three photos of your Christmas tree or menorah on your blog, with links back to me, and lastly, email me a ten page essay on “Why Smoking Isn’t As Bad As They Say,” to my email address at neil@smokingisgood-dotcom.

What are the holidays all about? Egg Nog. Christmas Bells. Santa. And a cool-looking Camel cigarette (as seen recently on the sexy hit TV show Mad Men).

Take a break this holiday season, and enjoy. Make it Camel time.

Courtesy of Citizen of the Month.

(This is a sponsored post, but the small payment I received has no bearing on my honest review of this wonderful product. The fact that I don’t smoke has nothing to do with any “alleged” health fears that were created by crackpot “doctors,” and only with my inability to light a match or use a lighter effectively. It sometimes takes me ten minutes just to get a lighter to work. It is my thumb. I just cannot make the flint click. As for regular matches, I am always crushing the match and throwing it out before I get it to light. If I didn’t have these issues with lighters and matches, I would be enjoying a pleasurable Camel cigarette just like you.)

On a serious note, here is a great video of Schmutzie, saying why she quit smoking this year. Keep it up, Schmutzie!

Disclosure and Transparency

My blogging friend, Mocha Momma, was on NPR yesterday talking about the topic of the day (actually it has been a topic for five months now):  “Are Marketers Ruining the ‘Mommy Blogosphere?”

This “disclosure” issue seems to be embedded in the a rock, stuck without movement.  How can we keep the blogosphere “transparent?”   Is a blogging with integrity badge enough?   As I sat here pondering this, I thought of Shakespeare.   If he were writing a sponsored review of a product, how would he proceed?

As an English major, I am uniquely qualified to answer this question.   I can safely say that I know exactly what William Shakespeare would do in this situation.  Just look at the opening scene of Hamlet.   In that famous scene,  the Sentinels wait for the Ghost of the King.   We do not meet the main character, Hamlet, as of yet.  Instead, Shakespeare uses these secondary characters for exposition, setting up the scenario BEFORE we meet the star.

The same technique can be used in a sponsored review.  Rather than jumping right into the meat of the post with the review, jarring the audience with an overload of information, the blogger/reviewer could take his time, much like Shakespeare does, setting the stage and the atmosphere, and drawing his audience into the story with suspense and needed exposition.

Here is an example of an updated Shakespearean-type introduction for a sponsored review of Welch’s Grape Jelly, using the American English of today, that solves both the disclosure AND the transparency issues in one swoop.

“The following is a review of Welch’s New and Improved Grape Jelly.  The nice people at Welch’s sent me a case of their product, as well as invited me to their headquarters in Concord, Massachusetts, paying for my airfare and hotel, where I enjoyed a blogger get-together and lunch with the entertaining and gracious Mr. and Mrs. Welch.”

BOOM.  That’s it.  This “intro,” as we might call it nowadays, would “set the scene,” explaining to the audience the backstory.   If I was this writer’s friend, I will probably go, “Oh, how nice for you!  I’m curious to hear more!” And I will read your review, and I will believe what you say, because I have seen your integrity IN ACTION.  You have set up the story properly, right from the beginning.   Shakespeare would never put essential information at THE END, like so many of you do, because it makes for bad drama.   I don’t want to read about a product and learn at the END that the writer was paid to write it, or got some freebies!  That is like watching King Lear for three hours, being totally confused by the plot, and only finding out in the last act that he has three daughters!  That is poor playwriting!

So let’s thank Shakespeare for a simple and effective solution to our blogging woes.  Why don’t we just make this the standard, like the intermission at a Broadway show, so then we all are on the same page and there is no confusion?

Or as Hamlet told Horatio in his final moments, “If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart, / Absent thee from felicity a while, / And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain / To tell my story of Welch’s Grape Jelly.”

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