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May 27, 2017

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Consumers are not nincompoops

Cartoon ads are everywhere to cater to young and mentally young people's love of anything untraditional, but ad designers nowadays have simply gone too far. One case suffices to show how hard and vainly they are trying to attract the attention of viewers of their masterwork.

An ad displayed on Taipei Metro trains shows two caricatured presidents of the United States. One is former President George W. Bush and the other President Barack Obama. A caption on the left side of Bush with his hand holding a plastic cup (of juice) reads: "Bu C (不C)" "Bu C. (不C)." Of course, the caricature does not claim it is Bush, but the designer or designers make it appear like Bush. The other caption quotes Bush as declaring "not all juices contain C." Actually, "C" is meant to be pronounced "sh," while "Bu," which means "No," is a homophone for "Cloth (布)," the character used in Taiwan to represent former President Bush (布希). The other caption quotes him as declaring not all juices contain "C." One of the two captions for Obama asks customers "not to buy at random," whose Hoklo equivalent is o-pe-buei (黑白買), literally meaning "black-white buy." The other caption identifies the caricatured image as Ou-ba-ma (歐巴馬)in Mandarin, which the designer or designers caution their viewers to read as Au-bue-be in Hoklo.

Ou-ba-ma certainly is close enough to Obama. Au-bue-be isn't even close to O-pe-buei. Probably the inventor of what he believes a kind of pun isn't a native speaker of Hoklo. If he is, he doesn't know his mother tongue well. The character Ou (歐) in Mandarin is pronounced "Au." The last character "be," meaning the horse, is the last character in the transliterated name of President Obama's (Barack isn't transliterated). It can be pronounced as "ma" as well as "be" in Hoklo, but the inventor wants it to sound like "buei (買)" which means "buy."

The downright idiotic ad makes it impossible for would-be customers to decipher what "Bu C" means. That C is the C of vitamin C. The last character in Bush's transliterated name is xi (希), which means "to wish." "Bu C" then means "no wish." Logically, the deciphered words seem to call on the consumers to give up on Bush and listen to Obama, who warns against "buying (juices) at random." Do the designers want people to shun any juice that contains no vitamin C? It's ridiculous. As a matter of fact, every brand of fruit juice contains vitamin C, which a Nobel laureate mathematician once advocated as a preventive medicine people had to take to keep a common cold away. Even worse, the designers specify how rich their product is in vitamin C. If they want to promote their vitamin C-rich product, they have to mention what good it's going to bring to the consumers. Moreover, the ad does not reveal that product or its maker.

The painful truth is that nobody knows what that ad stands for. Perhaps, the designers want to serialize ads like a cartoon or comic strips. They may plan to come up with another ad revealing those products people should avoid — that however, is against the fair trade law — and still another telling their target audience what the product promoted is as well as who its promoters are. Serializing costs money. Do the unidentified promoters have a business large and lucrative enough to afford an ad series? At any rate, one is at a loss what to make out of the ad displayed on the Metro trains.

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