Wednesday, September 02, 2009

A Tale of Two Tubs

I do not approve of the Cialis commercials and I felt the sudden need to share my aggravation. For those of you who, like my husband, can not abide by a single commercial and TiVo everything so you can fast forward through the ads, Cialis is a drug like Viagra, for erectile dysfunction. Cialis is the company that makes the ads which always conclude with the happy couple outside, in the middle of nowhere sitting side by side in old time, claw footed, cast iron bath tubs with no apparent plumbing anywhere in sight. The tubs have been on the beach, overlooking a lake, in the woods and in a meadow. It's always sunset. I guess it could be sunrise, but for some reason I always think of sunset.

These commercials irritate me to no end. They make no sense. Usually they start with an older gentleman and his lady friend. The people are never very old. They sort of just hint at oldness and they always, even the token African American couple, look like the sorts of people who live in fancy country club communities where they play golf, complain to the HOA about everything, attend secret swinger's parties and drink from the time they get up in the morning.

So these very country-clubbish folk are always about to get busy when someone interrupts them, meaning that business time must be postponed. If this happened in real life the people would be way more annoyed than they are. In the commercial they know everything is going to be ok because the man took Cialis, which means his weiner will work for the next day and a half and they can just do it later. I don't really know how realistic this is. Personally, I'd like to see the man trying to deal with his erection as his family or some rude, unannounced guests show up. Surely there would be some awkwardness.

Unfortunately I know because I have been in this exact same position and I am still traumatized by it.

One evening a few years ago I made the absolute, God awful, unforgettable mistake of showing up unannounced to my grandparents' house and catching them in the middle of some sort of activity. I don't know exactly what it was, but it was activity, and I don't want to consider it any further than that. There is not a word in the English language for how awkward and horrible this moment was for everyone involved.

I'd like to see something like this depicted in the Cialis commercials.

After the interruption, the commercials show the happy couple engaged in all sorts of non-sexual activity looking perfectly ok that they were cock-blocked by their grandkids. Then they end up outside in a pair of separate bathtubs with no plumbing, relaxing in the water looking at some kind of lovely view.

I have never understood the bathtubs. Why the tubs? Why two separate tubs? The ridiculousness of this is unfathomable. Who in the world of advertising came up with this nonsense and how does it suggest sex? Because it has to be trying to suggest sex. I get that obviously the commercials have to be subtle and that they can't show some people getting all nekkid and crazy all up on one another. Of course not and I'm really glad for this. I don't want to see that. I don't want your children to see that. But to put the couple in separate bath tubs outside just doesn't suggest anything logical. Why not just show the couple, fully clothed, sitting outside with their arms around one another smiling coyly? Show them hugging contentedly. Let them walk arm in arm. But separate bathtubs??? Who has ever done that? Where on this planet are there two, identical, side by side claw foot bath tubs in the middle of nowhere without any pipes or faucets? The only answer I can come up with is that if this scenario exists, that the only place it could be is some kind of a scrap yard.

Taking a bath separate from my loved one, yet right beside them, is not my idea of a good time. In fact, the fact that these people would want to do this suggests to me that the Cialis is actually not working.

"Honey, the kids are gone. Let's do it now!"

"Ehnn. No. I think I'd rather just go in the woods and lay in a bathtub. By myself, if you don't mind. I mean, you can sit in your own tub right beside mine, if you want, but make sure you stay on your side."

Back in undergrad I took a class all about advertising and all we did was analyze print ads and commercials. Turns out, pretty much everything is nothing but sex. Advertisers use all kinds of codes for sex in order to appeal to horn dog consumers. Most of it is subliminal, or at least subtle, but once you know what to look for it's completely obvious. I wrote a paper on a mascara ad that featured a prominent photo of a black stiletto heel. It was obviously phallic. The message was this: buy this mascara, fix yourself up and you will get some action. Get our mascara = Get Laid. I got really good at distilling ads down to their basic, most primal, filthy and pornographic messages. In fact, I confess that I got a little addicted to it.

Yet the Cialis ad stumps me. The only thing I can come up with is that the tubs are a phallic symbol. That's obvious with their elongated, twinkie-like shape. They have water in them and water in ads means sex for some reason. Usually though the water in sexy ads is erupting or splashing out of or onto something. The Cialis tubs are eerily still. Maybe it's the cast iron. Take Cialis and your ding dong will be as hard as a bath tub? Could that be it? And why are there two? And why are the couple kept separate by several inches of cold, inpenetrable metal? This is the very opposite of sexy and suggestive.

Readers, I just don't get it. Apparently, I'm not alone. the Cialis commercials bugged me so much that I actually looked it up. Turns out, lots of people have wondered the same thing. What is the meaning of the bath tubs in the Cialis commercials? There is much speculation, yet no one that I found had been able to come up with any convincing explanation. There is, however, much hilarity to be found in the many interpretations. My personal favorite analysis of the Cialis dilemma comes from Larry No. Larry is as confused about these ads as I am and he's pretty funny. I wish he wrote more.

33 comments:

elizabeth said...

I'm going to guess it's because people are generally nekkid in a bathtub. But, it's hard for more than one person to fit in a single bathtub. So, 2 bathtubs, with 2 halves of a couple. Suggesting that they are together and nekkid.

MtnMama said...

I'm going to share my idea of what it is "supposed" to mean - because I'm with you; I think it is stupid.

The bathtubs are code for being naked, since they don't want to show them that way - plus it would supposedly turn us off, and they are outdoors because that is "free" and "earthy" - like what the Baby Boomers who are their customers supposedly think. The separate tubs were the only way to show them relaxed (post coital, of course) because you wouldn't be relaxed trying to share one tub, and the water is still because they're "done" and relaxed. Water, as you said, is always "sexy" - back to the earthy thing - primordial, etc.

Personally, that stuff grosses me out, but I think the ad men came up with this "winner" and they ran with it. Just like McDonalds persists with the inane and insulting "Lovin it" campaign, even though it is a huge turn off.

Alicia said...

I am so glad I am not alone in my annoyance of these commercials. Not only the bathtubs, which are the height of stupidity, but also the fact that the woman is always touching the man's face, even in the bathtubs.

I hate hate hate these commercials and I feel better knowing I am not the only one who finds them seriously confusing.

UmmFarouq said...

Is this the same commercial that announces (during prime time, mind you, when kids might be watching) that "If you experience an erection lasting for four hours or longer, please call your doctor." I almost hit the ceiling when I heard that. Luckily, my kids were oblivious.

FreeDragon said...

I kinda thought the tubs represented female sex organs.

BusyBee said...

Well, I think YOU are funny and I wish you wrote more. :)

xtine said...

post-coital cleanup on Aisle 3?

Sally said...

While I too think two bathtubs is absurd, I do have an idea for the stillness of the water.

Perhaps it's to evidence the solid, steadiness of the drugs effects? That you can relax, and there will be time for that later?

Of course, you are alone, and there is time for it now, get in your wife's tub makes more sense, but whatever!

Unindicted Co-Conspirator said...

Awww. Your grandparents have as much to get it own as we do. On second thought, perhaps more. She was a hottie, and I should know. But I'm with you about the tubs. I've tried to do it in the SAME tub, so I can only imagine how hard it is to do it in adjacent tubs. But rest assured Big Pharma knows what's what. The demographic that ad is targeting gets it. Awww, again.

kerry said...

Not only do the tubs irritate me, marketing drugs to the consumer irritates me. Now you get people asking their doctors for specific drugs, instead of the docs (who actually are supposed to know what is a good treatment and what is not) deciding. It also irritates me that they frequently don't tell you what the drug is supposed to treat. Granted, Cialis does tell you, but a lot of them don't. It's just "ask your doctor if this drug is right for you."

Jeannie said...

You immerse yourself in a bathtub - a bath is pleasurable - you immerse yourself in pleasure using Cialis - the nakedness of course magnifies it - and the 2 bathtubs? Well, both participants get pleasure - it's not just for the guy or that they have to share the pleasure.

But I'm making that up - I was just as stumped as you and thought it was a pretty bonehead ad (I've only seen one)

Last Minute Lyn said...

OMG I have been complaining about those dick hard commercials for some time..never as eloquently as you did tho

paintlady2424 said...

You remember the name of the drug and what it does. The add works. If you remember how great the add was but not the product, think of all the money wasted. The Burger King add creeps me out and makes me think twice about getting a whopper. I don't know of anyone who likes that one.

Anonymous said...

These commercials irritate me to no end as well, but not nearly as much as those damn Capital One and Geico ads. Both of them have no point, barely manage to convey what the hell it is they are trying to sell and look like they were written by an in-house team of 18yr old frat boys on their 9th case of Natty Light. Thank Christ the caveman ads mostly went away.

Of course, my Dad was in advertising for years and years so I am probably more critical than most.

dee said...

wow, i thought i was the only one bugged by those commercials. good to know i am not in this bath tub, oops, i mean BOAT, alone!

Anonymous said...

I had to analyze print ads over the course of the 20th century for a women's studies class. And, yeah, I can never look at any ad without immediately seeing the sexual context.

The bathtubs still confuse though.

Ms. Marcia said...

I've always said "What the heck does sitting in a tub have to do with sex!" Ridiculous! And, for the really old guys, Medicare picks up the cost of these ED meds! And those poor slobs who say, "I should have done something" after having a heart attack or nearly having one! I either change the channel or put the ads on mute because I'm sick of these stupid ads!

I've written to Burger King TWICE about their totally stupid, sexist ads ... especially the bourbon burger showing a supposed doctor having a "shot of bourbon" prior to going into surgery! WHAT? They must get a lot of complaints because the ads don't last too long ... thank God for that!

Thanks for speaking out about these inane ads ... you should write to the companies and voice your total dislike!

Ordinary Housewife said...

You're hilarious, as usual. The bathtubs are no whim. There's a reason for everything in advertising. I went to a lecture/speech by the author of Subliminal Seduction years ago and you would be amazed at how much effort and reasoning goes into every element of every single single ad. Whatever the reason for the tubs is, though, it comes off as being absurd.

the Bag Lady said...

Obviously, the commercials are serving the purpose - they've even gotten YOU blogging about them!

The Cialis ads in Canada do not end with the bathtubs. They are amusing (the first time), and depict much younger couples than it sounds like yours do. I've always wondered why such young'uns would need the assistance...

That said, the commercials (at least, the one I'm thinking of now) annoy the hell out of me because they make no sense. Bathtubs (but not the side-by-side cast iron jobs you've mentioned) running over, filling the house with water... lawnmower left running amok in the yard... I could understand it better if they were commercials for diarrhea medication!

TK said...

Hilarious post! I'm always thinking "Huh???" too.

I think you and previous posters got a good interpretation of it, and I'll add one more. Since the tubs are long and white, and the couple is "naked", it's also a more delicate substitute for showing them sitting up in bed naked covered only by sheets and smoking cigarettes. They use white tubs and water instead. My age group grew up with that image of the post coital cigarettes in bed as shorthand for having done the deed (cigarettes as tiny phallic symbols). No one 18-49 (the target group for tv so they can't be offended!) wants to see "old people" in bed, claw foot tubs are sexy, and smoking is not pc. So tubs. Stupid. Yes.

You might be too young to really remember all the commercials and tv shows from the 80s, when all the writers were snorting coke. Everything made about as much sense as these commercials, and when something made no sense at all they'd cover it up with a Phil Collins soundtrack to distract you. My friends and I would ask each other "What the heck were they on when they wrote this dreck??!" Only we used a different word.

Hysterical! Thank you!

AlexMac said...

In Forensic Psych, we had the "pleasure" of looking over what a jailed pedophile had managed to get for his own enjoyment. I will never look at magazine ads with kids in them the same way again. I can honestly say that while Women Studies' section on ads opened my eyes, Forensic Psych definitely made me look at things differently...

However, I have to agree, I go bonkers almost everytime I see a Cialis ad. Bathtubs? What the hell? No one gets it. I got the "subtle" football thrown through a tire swing for Levitra, but not this tub trouble. And Vigra? Could they stop that stupid jingle? That would be great.

Little Miss Domestica said...

Wow. I've never even seen these commercials. In Canada, Cialis must be running a different ad campaign.

It is much more clever and understandable than these darn bathtubs. Check it out

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S-BMuy1IcHY

and in Quebec, they call Cialis "le weekender" because it lasts far longer than viagara. :)

Anonymous said...

Bathtubs . . . besides bathing what do adolescents do in bathtubs? Could it be masturbatory fantasies? So we have two older but not to the point of old where sex is a joke/gross (unless you're that freakin' old and mostly you want the orgasm and just hope something doesn't cramp on your way to getting one.) The connection is what they did in their youth in the family bathroom. This also explains the situation comedy joke of "what are they doing in there" when the house has one bathroom in the house and no privacy in a child's bedroom (often shared with siblings or the expectation that the door be open to prove nothing bad is going on in there.)
While the sexual revolution was in high swing many Depression era parents were very concerned that their children's eye sight would be damaged and their palms would go hairy (and their daughters enjoying an orgasm would mean that they'd grow up to be the Happy Hooker or worse a Lesbian) this attitude/ reasoning kept a close watch on their children; with the exception of course when they spent hours in the bathroom . . . alone in the tub . . . because after all cleanliness is next to godliness. But mostly, thank God for orgasms because sometimes everyone just needs a little less tension in their life. Does that explain it for you?

Monda said...

I'm no expert, but it seems to me that having a lot of folks talking everywhere about bathtub/sex/erection dysfunction symbolism is a lot more effective than no one talking about it at all.

Maybe the angle IS the question.

My particular fascination is the "wedding ring" requirement in all ads. No one - and I mean NO ONE - mops a floor, eats a burger, or has interrupted E.D. sex without flashing that band on the left hand.

Serenity said...

"Take Cialis and your ding dong will be as hard as a bath tub?"

Funniest thing I've read in awhile.

Johnny Virgil said...

Midgets with snorkels. It's the only possibility.

Karen said...

From a Freudian perspective, the tub is female. Any body of water is female. My run at it from a marketing perspective? The shared bathtub is a quiet, intimate moment, and refers to the kind of intimate moment that none of us really want to be privy to out here in the viewing audience. The nakedness and immersion are letting us all know in as nonthreatening way as possible that thanks to this drug, these legally married people can still share that moment. But on a symbolic level, this somehow makes the drug about women. It's men who take it to deal with men's dimming potency, yes? And yet, these commercials specifically don't deal with men's desire for enhanced sexual performance. They're not about tracking down a woman (like that Viagra one with the man and woman going in and out of shops). These commercials are all about cleaning house together and wearing wedding rings and shared intimacy. Could they be trying to defuse women's fears that if older men are potent, they will cheat? Why else would these commercials echo what are traditionally thought to be women's values?

mcgrimus said...

Well, to appeal to men, they want to suggest a naked woman without actually showing one. But I think the commercial also tries to appeal to women, since they might be the ones who are frustrated with a less-than-stellar sex life and might be more apt to do something about it. The setting is romantic (or is supposed to be), but the tubs are very womblike. They subliminally suggest a woman's younger, more fertile days, and perhaps a time when they felt more desired. Water = younger (not dried up and old). There's also the lubrication angle, but I won't get into that.

Hilda said...

OMG! I am so glad I read this. I thought I was the only one peeved by these commericals. I'm not bothered by the separate bath tubs - my issue is the lack of plumbing! WTH?

Let's take the post-coital scenario several have posited. What then, they schlep bucketloads of hot water outside a bunch of times - enough to fill two bathtubs? That's not relaxing - that's exhausting, and if you're older and you've just done the ñaca ñaca, potentially fatal. I'm just sayin'.

Or do they have domestic help who are charged with bringing said bucketloads of water and pouring them into the bathtubs, possibly with the naked post-coital older couple in them?

As annoying as the "Viva Viagra" commercials are, at least they end reasonably with the couple playfully going into the bedroom and shutting the door.

I feel so validated. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Having just returned from a holiday in the States to Australia, I can't say I saw this ad, but I did see one for medication for depression a LOT - it has a mother, and a wind up doll that looks like her. That part of the ad isn't so bad, but I was astounded by the next seemingly 20 minutes of the ad, which was a male voiceover talking about the risks and side effects of the drug. It seemed like the only person the drug was suitable for was the woman in the ad! Can't believe I missed the bathtub ad - it sounds pretty special!

Anonymous said...

Good morning! And lets dwell on the bathtubs for a moment, shall we? Perhaps they merely symbolize what a cigarette used to symbolize?! A calm moment to catch ones breath and revel in the aftermoment? Nah, I figure the people have already done "IT" and now its time to clean the organs! And the older you get, the more wrinkles and folds for which the sex stuff gets in and if you do it for a long time, then that stuff dries! And probably it dries 'hard'!! So you kind of have to soak it for a long time and if you don't get it cleaned up, the smell is probably like the Tahitian fish market on senior citizens day! So what do you think?

Dave said...

Perhaps it is just 2 people chillin before sex. In any case it is a provacattive ad and isn't that what ads are suppossed to be. We are all texting and blogging about the 2 tubs but we all know the drugs name - Cialis. That is the point and they got us all.

Marcie said...

I haven't laughed this hard in a long time! I absolutely love your reasoning. I too have wondered for years now what is up with the tubs. Then it came to me. It's really quite simple.

You can relax and feel content no matter where you are, even though your plumbing doesn't work, as long as you have Cialis.

These commercials still make me cringe.

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