Calexis

Many people think that “Stooge” is just a name for the Three Stooges.  Not so.  There are stooges in advertising all the time.  With a new movie out, the Three Stooges have come back to the public’s attention. 

A stooge, by definition, is a shill, a confederate who acts as if he or she is one of the spectators but is there to feed the lead actor or comedian opportunities to look good.

The three stooges got their start as supporting players to a singer/comedian.  They bumbled about the background acting as straight men to the comedian’s comments.  They were, in fact, his stooges.  They became more popular and the comedian forgotten.

Stooges have a long history in advertising. They are a lazy and pretty flimsy way to set up a slam dunk sales pitch.  The stooge expresses weak doubt that the sales pitch can slam through.

In many of the old slice-of-life commercials, the stooge was a neighbour or friend who posed the easy question to the lead actor.  The lead had the sales pitch.

The stooge begins, “Oh Madge, what are you going to do?”  The response was the product promise and support.  Sometimes with a cutaway demo.  The stooge would interject weak protests that could easily be overwhelmed by the sales pitch and emphasize the sell points.

The same technique is alive and well in infomercials and on the Shopping channel.

Stooge (setting the reference price): These knives sell for $100.
Lead: Well we’ll sell them for less.
Stooge: Well they would be a bargain at $80.
Lead: Were going to offer a real bargain.
Stooge: You mean less than $80.
Lead: How about $49.95!
Stooge: That’s impossible!  Really?

The role of the stooge, here, is to establish a standard for comparison that makes the offer look appealing.  This is some of the least creative advertising out there with little credibility in the message.  The stooge sets the bar incredibly low for the lead actor/salesperson to leap over.

As to the Three Stooges, their comedy also set some pretty low standards.

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