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 merchandising products created by Zappa
- Straight Records
- Barking Pumpkin Records
- Zappa Records
- DiscReet Records
- The Toilet Poster
- Honker Home Video
Commercial jingles written by Zappa
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.
- At The Gas Station: "And so I got a fifty-six Olds. About the time I got it running decently, she got in it and wrecked the trans... tore it completely up, so I had to get another Oldsmobile (...)"
- The title of We're Only In It For The Money refers to the rock industry.
- On the album cover of We're Only In It For The Money Barbie, Ken and Cindy can be seen in front of the letter "h" of "Mothers".
- Bufferin Man can be seen on the cover of We're Only In It For The Money.
- A cut-out from an advertisement for Medalo Bops glasses can be seen on the cover of We're Only In It For The Money.
- Who Needs The Peace Corps?: "I'll buy a wig"
- Flower Punk: "When my royalty check comes I think I'm going to buy a Mustang. No, I think I'll... I think I'll get a Corvette. No, I think I'll get a Harley Davidson."
- Absolutely Free (The Track): "Escape from the weight of your corporate logo!"
- Nine Types Of Industrial Pollution
- The Air: "We can crash in our Nash."
- The album cover of Weasels Ripped My Flesh was a spoof on an advert for razor machines.
- Would You Go All The Way?: "A '59 Chevy that his father just sold."
- Bwana Dik: "I am endowed beyond your wildest Clearasil-spattered fantasies, oh oh oh.." and "My dick is a Harley. You kick it to start!"
- 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: mentions Studebaker Hawk, Jack-In-The-Box, Kaiser Broiler Foil and Aunt Jemima.
- 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
- Nanook Rubs It: "A fur trapper who was strictly from commerical!"
- The scene in Stink-Foot where the poodle brings the slippers was a parody of a 1974 TV commercial for Dr. Scholl's 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: "Deep in the street she rode a '59 Morgan" and "Read 'em and weep" was her adjustable slogan".
- Debra Kadabra: "Turn it to Channel 13!"
- 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"."
- Punky's Whips: "In today's rapidly changing world, musical groups appear almost every day with some new promotional device . . . Some of these devices have been known to leave irreparable scars on the minds of foolish young consumers ..."
- The Adventures Of Greggery Peccary: "Every morning little Greggery drives his little red Volkswagen" and "Big Swifty & Associates: Trend Mongers!"
- Time Is Money
- Flakes: "All what we've got here is American made/It's a little bit cheesy, but it's nicely displayed."
- Joe's Garage (Track): "In the corner over by the Dodge".
- Catholic Girls: the phrase "Kinda young, kinda wow" refers to a flagrance for women called "Charlie".
- 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" and the quote "Mercedes Benz!"
- 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
- Clowns On Velvet: "....specially since his TV wife, Opal, be in de next room drinkin' Jack Daniels..."
- The Blue Light: references Winchell's Dough Nuts and Straw Hat Pizza
- Approximate on YCDTOSA 4: "There's a '39 Buick' blockin' the drive!"
- 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"
- Ronnie's Booger Story: "We used Ajax to get this damn things off..."
- This Is Phase III: "Remember Haight-Ashbury and how we commercialized on that scene?"
- This Ain't CNN