Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Ads on my ankles

Last month my wife watched as I shoved my heal through one of my worn-to-a-veneer socks. In her wisdom, she concluded that I could use replacements for my birthday.

Replacements I got. Nice socks but they come with little polo ponies and their teeny polo players embroidered on the ankles.

In case you are wondering, I have not, do not and never intend to play polo, at least not in this lifetime.

So what are these ponies doing on my socks?

I’m sure you can guess. They are Ralph Lauren “Polo” brand socks — made in Turkey as a matter of fact. As far as I know, polo-playing isn’t a big deal in Turkey. The Turks have their hands full with the Kurds.

As it turns out, the itsy-bitsy ponies and their minute helmeted, mallet-swinging riders aren’t visible to the casual observer, so they don’t exactly pass as advertising. We aren’t talking in-your-face Nike Swooshes here.

So what are they? Why are they there?

Bear with me while I channel the brand manager who ordered the sock designer (yes, there are such people) to position Ralph’s steeds on my ankles.

The designer: “Why are we cluttering up a perfectly good pair of socks with Ralph’s logo?”

The brand manager: “Clearly you don’t know Ralph.”

“Enlighten me.”

“He wants people to see his logo — a lot.”

“But no one will see the logo except the wearer, and then it will only be when he puts on or takes off his socks.”

“And how often does that happen?”

“Well, minimum, twice a day, maybe more.”

“There you have it.”

“There I have what?”

“There you have brand exposure and product purchase reinforcement. The wearer thinks about Ralph at least twice day. That’s more than my kids think about me. Clever huh?”

“ If you say so.”

“Believe me, I do. It pays the mortgage.”

There’s one flaw in all of this. The brand manager is right, of course: I do see the little logo twice a day plus when I put the socks in the washer and dryer and take the socks out of the washer and dryer, and harness them in pairs and put them in their sock stable in the top drawer of my dresser.

Face it, these socks are a major part of my existence.

What the brand manager (sodden thought: How much do they pay these people?) has failed to consider is what I think about when the logo leaps into view. Each time I see the horse and rider I think what an egotistical, polo-obsessed, interloper Ralph Lauren is.

I didn’t ask my wife what she paid for the socks. I don’t want to know, but I hope there’s not some price-inflating cachet associated with the ponies.

Actually, cachets, brands and polo aside, they aren’t bad socks.

We’ll see how long it takes me to wear them down to a nothing and to put the ponies out to some landfill pasture.

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