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How the Rapture Is Like Clairol Hair Conditioner for Men

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I'm really sorry now that I sold all my worldly possessions last Friday, and especially that I drank my last bottle of expensive scotch on Saturday morning. Now it's clear I'm going to have to replace all that crap with new crap and stock my liquor cabinet again. There will be no Rapture. Or rather, if there was Rapture it passed me by entirely. I feel kinda used, I don't mind telling you.

I saw the outdoor advertising campaign. I'm sure you did, too. The billboards were everywhere, and they weren't too subtle. In fact, they were quite specific. Saturday. End of the world. Be there. I was. And it wasn't. So much for truth in advertising.

This wouldn't be the first time I was bamboozled by a comprehensive advertising campaign.

When I was a kid, I sent away for a giant tent. It looked boss. A huge, khaki room that you could put in your backyard and be a world away. After a few months of waiting, I rushed out to the mailbox one morning to find a beaten-up box with my name on it. I ripped it open with trembling hands. Inside was a bunch of crinkled, messed up plastic sheeting with some sticks, the kind you used to make a cheap kite. I threw the whole thing away.

A few years later, Clairol came out with the first hair conditioner for men. It said it would make your hair silky and manageable. I had a lot more hair then, and let's just say it was neither silky nor manageable. I imagined how much more sexy and popular I would be if my hair sported increased silkiness and manageability. I purchased a tube of the stuff and spent a long time in the shower the next morning super-conditioning my hair. The result was not what I was expecting. For the rest of the day I sported a nimbus of fine, straight, flyaway insanity. There was no evidence that my sex appeal was enhanced even in the slightest.

And so it has gone, year after year, with promises made by advertisers that produced purchasing decisions that turned out to deliver something less than what was expected. Cars that got less mileage than they claimed. Diets that left me just as fat as ever. Cologne that did not get me laid.

And now there's this Rapture thing. It turns out that Harold Camping, the guy who spent millions and millions of dollars promoting the end of the world, owns more than 50 radio stations to which this campaign was designed to drive traffic. I'm sure it succeeded, short term. But in the end, you don't keep a customer's loyalty by making promises you can't keep. You can fool the American consumer once, maybe even twice, if he or she wants to buy what you're selling, but in the end you have to give the public the real thing or it's going to just move on and leave you in the dust, waiting for the second coming.

Get more Stanley Bing at The Bing Blog, www.stanleybing.com.