Recession Worthy Commercials?

by Katy on March 26, 2009 · 16 comments




I am at The Great Wolf Lodge right now, and with that comes not only endless water fun, but most important , (at least to my kidlets) — cable TV. At home, I have only regular broadcast TV, (although I did get my digital converter box.) The wealth of channels that is cable TV is an real eye opener for me. Because the only TV show I regularly watch is Lost, I rarely catch commercials. I found it interesting that the new trend seems to be to sell a product/ service by tying it into the recession.

Working hard to make ends meet? Then you really need to buy our product!

Amtrak is currently running an “Enjoy The Journey” commercial that shows children playing with toy cars and planes while complaining about traffic and the price of gasoline. One of the kids loudly complains, “Seven dollars for a pillow?” Fear not American travelers, the train is here to save the day!

No traffic jams and certainly no seven dollar pillows.

The message here?

Smart consumers can avoid the headache and expense of car and air travel by choosing Amtrak. (Which truly is a greener choice, even if it isn’t always the most frugal.)

Thumbs up!

Another commercial that caught my eye was for a financial services company that show short snippets of conversation about how different professionals are working to save money. I didn’t actually catch the company name, but one woman is shown getting onto the subway explaining that how saves the hotel shampoos, and that she, “hasn’t bought any shampoo in years!”

Okay, since this advice is completely unrelated to the product being sold, (financial services) I’m giving it a thumbs down. And c’mon Madison Avenue, better advice would be to leave the hotel shampoos where they are, (the amount of packaging for such a small amount of product is wasteful) and bring your own refillable containers from home. The savings here are so minimal as to be almost pointless. (I personally buy White Rain brand shampoo from the dollar store and am very happy with it!)

Thumbs down.

My favorite can-only-see-it-on-cable commercial that tied the recession to a product was for Trojan condoms. This ad, (which we actually turned the channel away from midway because of the kiddos) offered the option of a slap-and-tickle as a recession friendly activity.

You gotta give them credit for it. Although, as a labor and delivery nurse this message of fun without the consequences has the possibility of putting me in the unemployment line

Even so, thumbs up.

The last commercial that stuck in my head was for Clearblue Easy digital pregnancy tests. (I guess if that Trojan message didn’t quite get through.) This new digital test displays the electronic word for “pregnant,” (so as not to confuse the would-be parent with a confusing plus or minus symbol.) With the issues of e-waste so damaging to our environment, this single use electronica is a step in the absolutely wrong direction. (Not really a recession issue, but still an important one.)

Thumbs down.

Are you noticing advertising that ties products and services to the recession? If so, what are your favorite ones? Please share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeanine March 26, 2009 at 2:21 pm

Katy, I know you’re on vacay…but what’s the difference in a digital pregnancy test and the plus or minus one? Don’t they both end up in the landfill just the same?


Angela March 26, 2009 at 3:26 pm

I saw an ad that showed Norman-Rockwellesque photos of children playing and people having picnics and the narrator said that people are “getting back to basics and enjoying the simple things in life.” He was selling insurance, Allstate I think. It was that good-looking actor Dennis Haysbert, he’s got a very soothing voice.

I think the company’s motto is “you’re in good hands with Allstate” so I guess they’re betting we’d like to be in his hands…


thenonconsumeradvocate March 26, 2009 at 4:07 pm


The normal at-home pregnancy tests just have an absorbent material that reacts to pregnancy hormones, the digital pregnancy test is also made with electronic parts.

And yes, they’re both plastic-tastic.

Please excuse the lack of expert researching detail on this one, as yes I am on vacation. (Although I’m taking a break from to 80+ degree environment of the pool area at the moment.)

Katy Wolk-Stanley
The Non-Consumer Advocate


Kristen@The Frugal Girl March 26, 2009 at 5:32 pm

Hmm…if I’d seen any commercials in the last 6 months, I’d be able to answer the question. lol

I seriously haven’t watched any TV or listened to the radio for months.

I do see a lot of advertising in magazines and in coupon inserts about how cooking at home can save you money…like food companies are saying how their convenience products are cheaper than eating out. Which is true, but they’re not as cheap as cooking from scratch. 😉


Wendy March 26, 2009 at 6:26 pm

I’m with Kristen on this one, not having seen a tv commercial in months. Yes! But, I have noticed too on the paper inserts how the manufactures of processed food are tying their pitch to the recession. The theme, before, I believe was linked to time savings, rather than financial value.


S.R. March 26, 2009 at 6:26 pm

I agree about the digital pregnancy tests. Dollar Tree HPT work well they are sensitive to low levels so you are really getting one of those early detection tests for $1. they do come with a little plastic dropper but at least its not electronics being used once and thrown away


Sue Mama March 26, 2009 at 7:23 pm

The one that cracks us up is the TV commercial for the auto dealership, “Let’s get through this together!” Thei idea of “getting through it together” is that you buy one of their brand-new cars, and if you lose your job, you can bring it back. No word on them keeping the mucho bucks you’ve already given them! (D’ya think?)


marianne March 27, 2009 at 4:01 am

i too saw this commercial and laughed. sometimes i forget that people don’t automatically live frugally. i worked in commercial advertising for 10 years and can tell you that right now is prime time for anyone who wants to advertise. Most advertisers are cutting back on advertising in all medias. The clients that are stepping up are the condoms, strip clubs, and affair dating services. yes, i am horrifed at a site called that allows married people to sign up to find a descreet affair. but you know what? their advertising worked. i know their name. and mediums are so desperate to make their budget each month they have laxed their moral standards to do it. we used to only be able to air controversal ads from 7pm-5am. now i hear the morning shows doing ads for these companies. if the money is green, they will take it. just stick to your guns people and ignore the advertising. its just noise in your beautiful quiet day and blocks out the lovely bird sounds that have returned with spring. =)


Kristin @ klingtocash March 27, 2009 at 5:22 am

I watch a lot of news programs during the day on various networks and I’m really tired of all the gold commercials. I think if I see Gordon Liddy trying to sell me gold one more time, I might lose it. It is kinda funny when he crumples up the dollar bill and throws it away. If we do get the high inflation predicted, people will just ignore dollar bills on the street like they do with pennies right now. I wonder if that would ever happen….hmmm.


AnnMarie March 27, 2009 at 7:01 am

Sure, you don’t get the hassles of air/car travel…except the regular delays! My friend has visited me four or five times. Heading east (to me), she has been on time only once. The rest have been 1-15 hours late. One of those also carried passengers farther up the line who were travelers from the previous day as that train had been delayed 24 hours by the time it got to Fargo.

Seems about as troublesome as air travel, and the trip takes far longer (without delays it’s a 10 hour ride), and the hours aren’t great (if on time, she arrives/leaves Fargo around 2-5am). She’s going to fly next time.


connie March 27, 2009 at 9:15 am

The recession worthy commercial that comes to mind has a middle age man in a swimming pool and a Boston Celtic basketball player. They both are trying to do their “personal bests”. The man telling his family that they have no money for a mortgage payment. The basketball player remembering how he stuffed cardboard in his shoes.
The advertisement is for a G2 sports drink (new gatorade?) and is very effective.
There is nothing “dummied down” in this commercial and it sticks with you. I appreciate the human struggle in this and that the advertise doesn’t insult our intelligence. I hope that you can catch this commercial. It is worth your time.


Klara Le Vine March 28, 2009 at 4:35 pm

yikes, doesn’t the sports drink insult your intelligence?? what happened to cool water?? I personally don’t see the “real” connection to the end product.


connie March 28, 2009 at 7:42 pm

The point of advertising is product recognition and remembering the item once you get to the grocery store.
Katy asked what are some of our favorites. I said that you might enjoy the “human condition” in this ad. I didn’t ask you to buy their product.


Klara Le Vine March 28, 2009 at 9:22 pm

My apologies Katy, your posts are so wonderful the last thing you need is a squabble here with your readers. Connie, yes the point of advertising is product recognition and hopefully more consumers buying the product – but the point of Katy’s blog is seeing through all that and being wiser than the ad-man. You’re right Katy did ask what are your favorite ads tying product to recession – but Katy also wrote “Okay, since this advice is completely unrelated to the product being sold, (financial services) I’m giving it a thumbs down” so she also evaluated the ad. Guess I just evaluated it along the lines of frugality. True I haven’t seen the ad (I’m also one who doesn’t watch much tv, and even less commercials) but maybe I too would have been moved by the example you gave.


jamie guner March 30, 2009 at 11:13 pm

Does anyone know the name of the ad the blogger mentions? The saving shampoos from hotels. I saw it myself, but (obviously not a good ad) now I can’t remember the service they were selling- all I can think of is a bunch of people giving pretty lame advice on how to save money. But it is driving me crazy that I can’t remember. If anyone knows it would help.



WilderMiss March 31, 2009 at 10:05 am

I’ve seen a lot of messages from financial service institutions saying things like “I want off the market roller coaster” or “the best way to make a small fortune in the stock market is to start with a large fortune.”

I think these get a thumbs down because they are fear mongering. Plus they come from institutions that manage people’s stock and mutual fund portfolios!


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