Friday, March 24, 2006

Happy Ea$ter

There were two wonderful publications that I read when I was a "tween." One of them was Mad. The other was Penny Power (later Zillions), subtitled "Consumer Reports for Kids."

These publications had a surprising amount in common. Both frequently featured the great artwork of Angelo Torres. Most people know that Consumer Reports does not accept outside advertising; likewise, Penny Power/Zillions did not. Few people realize, however, that Mad accepted no outside advertising, and obviously no donations, for years and years and years and years. Remarkably, this black-and-white, hand-illustrated magazine with the rough pages, in spite of the attempted censorship of less-enlightened schools, libraries, and parents, stayed afloat on the strength of its own sales (and also cost significantly less than many other mass-market magazines of the time). Both PP / Zillions and Mad heavily mocked advertising through the use of humor.

Times change. Zillions ceased publication in 2000. A few years after the death of founder William M. Gaines, Mad "revamped" in 1997 and began accepting paid advertising in 2001; the magazine is now in color, and with glossy pages. Consumer Reports still exists, of course, relying both on sales and donations to stay afloat, and ironically, like many of the advertisers it mocks, sends sensationally-subject-lined e-mails to Arabella's inbox and endless snail mail to her mailbox.

The legacy of Penny Power / Zillions and Mad lives on, though. Each left an indelible impression in the mind of a sad, sarcastic, suspicious, and yet smart preteen girl (who was also fond of alliteration). To this day, I love to deconstruct advertising.

I purchased a Wusthof chef's knife set for Ty for Christmas over the Internet. Because, four months ago, I bought a gift for someone who likes to cook, I now receive e-mail "updates" from Williams-Sonoma touting everything from marshmallow-making kits to scented laundry detergent. Yesterday, one such update appeared in my inbox. One of the products it was touting was "Easter grass."

This "Easter grass" is made of shredded paper.

It costs $5.00 for three ounces.

Now, if I'm going to be spending $5.00 for three ounces of something, you can bet that it's going to be liquid, and burn the back of my throat at least a little.

In honor of the legacy of Penny Power / Zillions and Mad, please do yourself a favor this Easter season. If you want fancy "Easter grass," run a few sheets of colored paper through a paper shredder and put the extra $4.96 in the bank for your kids' education.

Or put it towards educational literature such as this.

10 Comments:

Blogger mama_tulip said...

Dave was thrilled, I mean *thrilled*, when he picked up a stack of old MAD magazines somewhere a few months ago. They're in mint condition and when I'm, uh...in the bathroom, I get a kick out of looking at them.

9:51 AM  
Blogger Jess Riley said...

Hey, I used to subscribe to Penny Power!!! I still remember a feature they did on how kids in other countries spent their allowance, and what you could get for your money in countries like Turkey and India and Argentina. Good stuff.

12:07 PM  
Anonymous TB said...

Ha! Not to mention you have to pay them to ship it to you.
I like the way you brought this one around :o)

1:34 PM  
Blogger DebbieDoesLife said...

I loved Mad Magazine. My older brother used to get it and I would just steal it to read when he wasn't looking. If he caught me he would try to punch me and then I would have to hit him with our youngest brother's hot wheels race tracks.

6:42 PM  
Blogger IzzyMom said...

Oh man...I used to love MAD, especially the thing you would fold to make a new funny picture. Good stuff!

2:46 AM  
Blogger Brooke said...

I loved the MAD foldy thingamajig too!

(But I thought Easter Grass was plastic??)

8:08 PM  
Blogger wordgirl said...

Madvertising! So cool! Mr. Half's mother threw away his collection of MAD Mags and he's been griefstricken ever since. The least I could do would be to buy this book for Father's Day.

9:29 PM  
Blogger Mignon said...

W&S Easter Grass. Yet another example of how people with too much money have no imagination.

12:08 PM  
Blogger Tink said...

I used to beg my Mom for MAD magazines. They always remind me of going to the laundry mat :).

1:03 PM  
Anonymous TB said...

I hope things went well this weekend and you are recovering.

1:13 PM  

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