“Green Eggs and Ham” as an advertising textbook

by david

A couple months ago, my mom sent me a box of old stuff of mine she found around the house. Mostly it was books from when I was a kid. Among them was my copy of Green Eggs and Ham. My daughter loves it. I read it to her a few times a week, at least.

As I read it, though, I can’t help doing what I do to every other thing I come across: question its every motive and premise. It doesn’t matter that I have nothing but adoration for Dr. Seuss. He’s a good guy: a Vonnegut or Twain, or more appropriately, Silverstein type. There’s a part of my brain that treats all passing text the way an Iron Chef approaches the secret ingredient, quickly running through every use to which it might be put. Unlike an Iron Chef, my concoctions are usually ill-conceived and unpalatable.

Now, as I read Green Eggs and Ham, I can’t help but notice that Sam-I-am was ahead of the game as an advertiser. Well before it became acceptable to use annoyance as an advertising technique (“Head On: Apply directly to the forehead”), Sam was badgering poor picky eaters with relentless presentation of a product until they succumbed.

Sam is a complex hero. His constant smile and helpful manner belie a dark side. It may be said that his cause (try new things!) was noble, and that he bravely refused to take no for an answer, and, entertainingly, wreaked havoc of Michael Bay proportions en route to getting his target to willingly eat tainted but delicious food. But where does he get off, thinking he knows better than the poor picky eater? What motivates him so? Is he in the pocket of Big Pork? Is he a buzz marketer? If Sam were online, his Klout score would be astronomical. Though I agree with his aims, he’s kind of a dick.

I read and wonder: how many annoying things was I reluctant to try, but then opened myself to because of repeated exposure? American Idol? Energy drinks?  Google+? A Petco loyalty program card? I didn’t like any of them. On the other hand, I got Sam-I-Am’d into Twitter, farro, the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes, and the Grateful Dead, all of which far exceeded my expectations.

I feel for the poor picky eater, and think he had it right at the beginning AND the end of the book. He DOES like green eggs and ham, and he should say it with pride. But he should still be able to say, “That Sam-I-am. That Sam-I-am. I do not like that Sam-I-am.” Because, really, that guy’s a menace. The picky eater should feel free to apply his fist directly to Sam’s forehead.