Ads on an empty stomach

Updated: Jul 31 2006, 05:30am hrs
On On Boston streets recently, the orange detour signs bloomed like daylilies, but they werent the only baffling signage in town. Far above the steaming highways was a billboard blaring a mysterious one-word message: Hungerectomy.

Sounded painful, whatever it was. But a colleague soon clued me in: It was a Snickers ad, he explained, with the candy bar relabeled as a surgical cure for the munchies. But was it a bit, um, tasteless I suppose some appendectomy patients will chortle, he said, but what about women whove had mastectomies

Tasteful or not, the Snickers campaign has achieved advertisings first goalto get noticed. Another goal, apparently, is to reinforce the candy-as-food message its parent company has long embraced, from the decades-old A Mars a day helps you work, rest, and play up to Hungry Grab a Snickers. Three of the new words Ive seensubstantialicious, satisfectellent, and the aforementioned hungerectomyrefer to satiation, though a fourth, nougatocity, doesnt (I think).

But can these new coinages be transmuted into gold Nobody can say. But if taglines are meant to be tantalising, these could use some help.

But hunger isn't metaphorically a possession, a swelling, or a growth; on the contrary, it's emptiness, need, craving, a void to be filled. If youve got plenty of nothing, what does the figurative surgeon cut away Hungerectomy is wordplay for people who arent quite clear on the meaning of -ectomy; that may be the target audience, but Id like to think otherwise.

But then, what do I know The amply paid creators of ads like these must have some idea of what works; maybe hungerectomy is a poetic inspiration that will sell candy, spawn imitators, and end up in our dictionaries. If anything like that comes to pass, the Snickers copywriters will have earned the last laugh.

NY TIMES / Jan Freeman