Here are some of your responses to Straka's last column...
Sarah H. writes: I have a GRRR that I need to get off of my chest. Why is it that you can't say anything these days without offending a specific group of people? Why is it that we always have to be so politically correct all the time? Why do I have to say "happy holidays" instead of "merry Christmas?" I'm not Jewish, but if somebody said Happy Hanukkah to me, I would smile and say it right back to them because that is obviously the holiday they celebrate, and I definitely would not find it offensive. I just read that a high school choir was forced to stop caroling at a Sasha Cohen event because she is half Jewish and they were afraid she might be offended. Are we that worried about offending people that we can't even feel comfortable with singing Christmas carols anymore? And what about the airport that took down all of their Christmas trees because of one man's threat? Let's just face it, we can't make everyone happy all of the time, so why can't we just resolve to be polite to one another this holiday season, and not take everything so seriously? I celebrate Christmas, so merry Christmas everybody. And if you are offended by that, lighten up.
Amber F. from Va.: My GRRR goes out to anyone involved in the Duke rape case who thinks it still needs to go on. The only things these boys are guilty of is hiring the wrong stripper and drinking underage ... they're boys in college, what do you expect? Funny how the more news comes out about this girl, you wonder what her problem is? She's pregnant (adding yet another "baby daddy" to her income sheet), they found multiple male DNA in her rape kit -- not belonging to the Duke lacrosse players. And GRRR to Nifong for playing the race card and not doing his job.
Hans M. writes: Advertising is a huge waste of money for the companies that pay for it. I qualify this by saying that most advertising, and often the type of stuff you're complaining about, is a waste of money. This type of advertising is most often sold and developed by some "creatives" at well-established and very expensive agencies. Their job is not to sell product. Their job is to sell advertising. While it's not been established that many of these guys even know how to sell product — even if they could, they have no vested interest in selling too much product, or being too cost-effective, lest the deep pockets realize they don't need to be shelling out so much. As long as their advertising has marginal effectiveness, agencies can insist on huge, fluffy saturation campaigns with big budgets and lots of waste and extravagance. Budweiser sinks fortunes into every type of advertising imaginable. Much of it is vanity stuff that goes nowhere, but employs a bunch of people and raises the price of beer. Jay-Z is a phenom in some circles, presumably the hip-hop culture and he attracts some measure of attention. Slash has shock value along the lines of a snuff film or slo-mo train wreck — it's hard to take one's eyes off this pure weirdness. I never knew which car make he was promoting until you mentioned it in your column. That's how ineffective it is as advertising. I've never seen the Jay-Z ad.
JFG writes: You forgot to mention her pals Lindsay Lohan and Paris Hilton, they are skanky, too. Thanks for the truth.
Colfer writes: Not a faithful reader but an occasional one for sure. I for the first time ran into a dislike in your rant/column. I had a problem with this part of your sentence in regards to Jay-Z: "with the exception of a sampling of 'It's a Hard Knock Life' from the musical 'Annie,' I have no idea what the guy raps about." I understand if rap/hip-hop is not your thing, but Jay-Z has very simple lyrics that do not require complex thinking or listening, so I am not sure if you are saying that you cannot understand what he is talking about culturally or you are just not familiar of his music.
Regardless, it seems to me to be a very shallow and uncalled-for dig at a man who has made a business out of himself from nothing. You say that you have no problem with him but with the advertising of him, but this statement that I have quoted of yours comes at the end of your rant/column on him and definitely seems to imply that you have a problem with him.
All I really want to suggest is that if rap/hip-hop is not your thing it is definitely fine but you should do some "research" that will involve listening to the music and "investigating" of the lyrics that will lead you to know "what the guy raps about." This will further let you come to the realization that Jay-Z is back and he is the king of rap/hip-hop.
Jeff Y. writes: Obviously, you are not the target of the advertising if you have a problem with it, but you are still talking about it and can name the products they represent. Hindsight, if Elvis would have been advertising for something when he was at his peak, you would have had issues with it, but 35 years later it would have been genius even though he was a drug addict. The ability to get closed-minded, out-of-touch folks to talk about Jay-Z and other pop culture icons would be considered a victory for Budweiser and Volkswagen. I do not think you would have written this piece if Ray Romano was the spokesman for either one of these products. If these two musicians, Jay-Z and Slash, can get the attention of the good guys at FOX News, I think we should chalk up a victory for the advertisers for the free press. If I could only get these two losers to advertise for my company and have you talk about it on a national news Web site, I would consider myself lucky. I enjoy your work and respect your opinion, but if you really have a problem with this you fell into their trap.
99 Problems write: Mike, this is sacred ground that you are covering. Jay-Z understands that music has evolved from a tape to a download in 10 years. Artists today need to market themselves in any way they can to get their music heard. Minus all of the clothing, fragrance and sneaker lines, they are still artists in a true form. Selling out is a term that only "indie" kids use anymore. Blogging your favorite band to death is the new selling out. And if anyone is selling their bands out it is the indie bloggers. Jay-Z has to maintain his enormous CEO status. And Budweiser reaches every demographic he is after.
GS in Tulsa, Okla.: OK, Mike, this is a first ever for me, responding not only to your GRRR but to anyone else's column, either, but I digress! Thank you from the bottom of my longtime GRRR'd heart for the commentary on advertising gone hopelessly awry. Seriously, has anyone but me decided not to ever buy Sprite or Dasani again? Where are the people gifted with creativity enough to get a point across to the buying public that will actually make us consider buying? Currently I consciously avoid more products than I seek out due to inane, many times outright offensive advertising themes and techniques. But maybe that no longer matters to the ad execs and their clients -- who are we, anyway? Just the consumers GRRR'd enough to take their business to another product line. Thanks for the sanity.
Timothy M. writes: It is obvious you do not know the extent of Jay-Z's influence over hip-hop and music in general. He is one of the most sought-after musicians of the century, along with Dylan, Clapton and the Beatles. He has collaborated with people from all genres of music. I doubt you would like some of his older albums, but his new album is geared toward a slightly older crowd and is less vulgar in the opinion of mainstream media. Jay-Z has had more influence over music in the last 10 years than anyone in any genre. The best part is he did it by himself after his first album was rejected by every major label; now he runs one of the largest labels in the world. He is a very intelligent individual who was able to make something of himself. I am not a fan of the Budweiser commercial, but even though you do not know any of his music, you still recognize him instantly. This is the extent of his influence and why Budweiser probably paid him a large sum of money for the ad.
Ryan C. writes: My current GRRR is every other retailer using classic Christmas songs to promote their dopey store, product, etc. My college major was advertising, so I understand what they are trying to do. Put the lyrics in and hope that they stick in people's minds when they hear the tune. It may be effective, but I for one hit mute or change the channel when I hear any of them. And if I do catch the lyric permeating my gray matter, I simply refuse to patronize that store. I'm all for stores trying to sell, but I see it as a battle. They are trying to convince me to give them my money, and I am trying to resist. Annoying me with their ads will not help them win. Merry Christmas.
Danny B. writes: How about looking at the Budweiser ad with Jay-Z as a means of introducing himself to you and millions of other whites in the country who don't know him as well as you know say Jimmy Buffett or Barry Manilow. His reputation is well established among millions of blacks in this country and now he's trying to rebrand himself to those for whom he's flown below the radar: millions of whites such as yourself. The Budweiser ad may have been ill-advised, but having been a rapper for almost 20 years, he truly understands the value of marketing himself. Budweiser is basically universal to all races, ethnicities and socioeconomic backgrounds in this country, so making a commercial for them was a first step toward gaining a wider audience for himself and his businesses.
Jeff M. writes: Hey Mike, Nancy Pelosi, as Barbara Walters' Most Fascinating Person, was a complete surprise to me too. I would have bet my house on Tom Cruise as being in that loony tune spotlight.
Andrew C. writes: Usually enjoy your column but I think you might be a little out of touch with your comments about Slash. He is currently working with his new band Velvet Revolver on their second album. The first was pretty successful with three singles released and a great tour that I got to experience live. I just think he's a little more than the guy from Guns N' Roses.
Kelly L. writes: LMAO! Funniest ending to a column in months. Get your kids books and sex books in one fabulous holiday gift package. Maybe Barnes and Noble could market it that way.
Matt in Columbus, Ohio: You need to calm down, Mike. I mean, what will you GRRR next? Snow because it's cold? As far as I can remember, advertisers usually go after celebrities on the tail end of their popularity because: 1) their past success gives them name recognition and 2) their current lack of success makes them less costly to appear. As for the "taboo" of using former heroin addicts in commercials, I think that went away when we elected one president who smoked pot and then another president who snorted cocaine. Besides, Slash is a rocker, and they come in two types: former drug addicts and current drug addicts. I'm not saying it's wrong for you to criticize these advertising trends. I just don't want you to give yourself an embolism during the holidays over what seems to be standard operating procedures.
Melissa in Alabama: Big congratulations to Rosie O'Donnell for finally showing her true colors. So let's see how this works: When Kelly Ripa takes a jab at Clay Aiken, it's an offensive display of homophobia. But when O'Donnell takes a jab at Asians (in a manner usually reserved for elementary school playgrounds), she smugly tells us that we're not "grasping" her humor. Ah, I see. It's OK for Rosie to be offensive, but God forbid she misconstrue anyone else's so-called "humor." Bravo, Rosie. Thanks for being there when I need to give my students an example of the word "hypocrite."