Bayer Verks Vunders, Part 2: Der Text

Thanks to the archival zeal of, we can all now view Bayer’s bizarre new bug-spray ad. (To read Chatterbox’s earlier item about the ad, click here. To read Moneybox’s earlier item about the ad, click here. And to view the ad itself, click here. This last will require you to download a QuickTime media viewer if you don’t already have one.) Prior to writing his earlier item, Chatterbox was unable to view the bug-spray commercial because Bayer and its ad agency, the Atlanta office of BBDO, wouldn’t fork over a copy. As a result, Chatterbox had to rely on the memory of a Slate staffer who’d seen it. Based on this colleague’s recollection, Chatterbox concluded that the ad, which depicted an anthropomorphic bug choking to death on bug-spray fumes, was an idiotic publicity move for a company descended (as Bayer is) from I.G. Farben, the German company that during World War II manufactured the Zyklon B used to gas Jews to death. Moneybox further concluded (and Chatterbox heartily agreed) that even without the Nazi-past angle, Bayer was foolish to slap onto a bug poison a brand name previously associated with curing headaches.

Now that Chatterbox has seen the ad, he can report that his Slate colleague’s memory of it was correct in all essentials, but incorrect in one detail: The ad isn’t a conventional cartoon (in the classic Road Runner genre), but rather, a “live-action” cartoon using what appear to be real ants (in the more recent genre of films like Babe and Stuart Little). The New York-accented voice-over does indeed anthropomorphize the doomed ant, however–indeed, somewhat more realistically (hence more disturbingly) than would probably be the case in a conventional cartoon. Here it is, in full:

Narrator: To better protect your home from bugs, we got inside the mind of the bug.Ant: Yes, I’m in! Now where’s the kitchen? It’s snack time!Narrator: Introducing Bayer Advanced Home Pest Control. It kills bugs on contact.Ant: What’s this?Narrator: And because bugs keep coming, it keeps on working for up to six months.Ant[addressing a swarm coming up behind him]: Turn back while you can!!!! [The bug coughs and falls to the ground with a bang.]Narrator: Bayer Advanced. Better thinking. Better results.

A few days after Chatterbox’s first Bayer item ran, Slate received this rather flattering  e-mail from one Sally Heffner:

Hello,I was just admiring some of Timothy Noah’s work. Is there any way I could have a bio/résumé on him? Noah has a distinct way of writing, researching, and composing his articles. I would love to learn more about him. Could you possibly put me in contact with him or send me some info at your earliest convenience?Thank you so much


Chatterbox delightedly wrote Sally back with a link to Chatterbox’s bio. A bit later, Chatterbox realized that the domain on Sally’s e-mail address indicated that she worked for the Atlanta office of BBDO, which made Bayer’s ant spot. BBDO’s information-gathering gambit struck Chatterbox as a good deal worse than Chatterbox’s earlier assurance to BBDO, when grilled about why he desired a copy of the ant spot, that he wanted to learn more about Bayer’s move into a new product line. The reporter’s code: Fudge, but never lie.