Zappa started his career in the advertising business as a designer of greeting cards. Later, as a composer, he kept criticizing and referring advertising in his work.
"The whole logic behind that is, the only way you can teach an American is by example, because they've gone past the point where they'll believe what you tell them. That's the way it is. They have to get it from a different source. They have to be shown by example. So – in other words, the American advertising system, which is one of the main evils of contemporary society – the whole idea of making people buy things that they don't need is morally wrong. And the only way you're going to mak'em know is to do it, really overdo it – buy, sell, cram. Until they finally say, "What the f*** is this?" (FZ in Frank Kofsky interviews FZ)
"Well, the problem with the youth market is the fact that they go to U.S. schools. And the United States' school system has been turned into a kind of assembly line for really ignorant little consumer clones. I was lucky. I got out of school back when they were still teaching kids to read and write. The market you're talking about now is basically people who can't spell, can't count, don't know anything about economics and think the most important thing in the world is dressing properly and having a party. So your guess is as good as mine as to what sort of music will fulfill the emotional needs of those people. I just think they've been cheated by the government. They're talking about yet another budget cut for education. And things are ugly enough already." (...) "Yeah, well, what they're being taught in school is how to respond to advertising. The enemy of advertising is logic. Anybody with logic or common sense has got to look at what you see on television and say, "This is bullshit." But nobody is providing these kids with the criteria by which to judge between anything with any quality, or even to help them spot bullshit. They just don't know. They come into the whole thing completely unprepared for the tricks that are being played on them by the car companies and everybody else. They're just being used. It's really not fair." (FZ in Dynamo Frank)
Companies and products created by Zappa
- Straight Records
- Barking Pumpkin Records
- Zappa Records
- The Toilet Poster
- Remington Electric Razor
- Luden's Cough Drop Commercial/The Big Squeeze
References to companies, slogans, jingles, advertising, commercials, buying, selling,...
- Hungry Freaks Daddy
- The entire concept and album cover of Absolutely Free
- Plastic People
- Uncle Bernie's Farm: about violent toys
- Soft-Sell Conclusion, references the "soft sell" marketing technique.
- Suzy Creamcheese: "Blew her mind on too much Kool-Aid"
- The title of Lumpy Gravy was based on Loma Linda Gravy mix.
- The title of We're Only In It For The Money refers to the rock industry.
- Who Needs The Peace Corps?: "I'll buy a wig"
- Absolutely Free (The Track): "Escape from the weight of your corporate logo."
- Nine Types Of Industrial Pollution
- Electric Aunt Jemima refers to the product Aunt Jemima
- Bwana Dik: "I am endowed beyond your wildest Clearasil-spattered fantasies, oh oh oh.."
- Do You Like My New Car?: "All that's true, and sometimes I even dig it with a Doctor Brown's Cream Soda..."
- Billy The Mountain
- It Just Might Be A One-Shot Deal
- I'm The Slime: "I'm the tool of the government and industry too."
- Montana: references dental floss
- The scene in Stink-Foot where the poodle brings the slippers was a parody on a TV commercial for Mennen foot spray.
- Penguin In Bondage: "With some Kleenex wrapped around the coat-hanger wire!"
- Can't Afford No Shoes: "Went to buy some cheap detergent"
- Florentine Pogen: "Read 'em and Weep" was her adjustable slogan".
- Poofter's Froth Wyoming Plans Ahead
- Wonderful Wino: "A five dollar bill, and a Florscheim shoe"
- Disco Boy: "She's gonna fall for your line and feed you a box full of "Chicken Delight".
- The Adventures Of Greggery Peccary
- Time Is Money
- Flakes: "All what we've got here is American made/It's a little bit cheesy, but it's nicely displayed."
- Crew Slut: The line "add water, makes its own sauce" is a reference to a dog food commercial for Gravy Train. "So call before midnight tonight" is a typical line from tv commercials. (...)
- Crew Slut and Sy Borg: "It looks just like a TeleFunken U-47."
- Packard Goose: "Maybe you thought I was (...) the Ronald McDonald of the nouveau-abstruse." (...) "Selling punk like some new kind of English disease."
- You Are What You Is (The Track): "He thinks he's got the whole thing down/from the Nivea lotion to the Royal Crown"
- Drowning Witch: the witch drowns in industry polluted waters.
- Valley Girl: "Could you just like picture me in, like, a leather Teddy?"
- Be In My Video: a parody of MTV
- Promiscuous: makes reference to C-Span
- The Blue Light: references Winchell's Dough Nuts
- Do Not Pass Go, a reference to the board game Monopoly.
- When Yuppies Go To Hell
- Agency Man
- Food Gathering In Post-Industrial America: "When the last decrepit factory /Has dumped its final load of toxic waste into the water supply/And shipped its last badly manufactured,/Incompetently designed consumer-thing"
- This Is Phase III: "Remember Haight-Ashbury and how we commercialized on that scene?"
- This Ain't CNN