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July 2010: Driven by Reason

Extra Fine Points Index  ]

BY DON FLUCKINGER • There have been a couple of pop-culture references to pen collecting this year on television. The first was on the television show Modern Family, in which pretty nearly every character gets skewered at least once an episode for an object fetish, be it Phil’s iPad lust or Cameron’s — you guessed it — enjoyment of antique fountain pens.

I give the scriptwriters who insulted me there a free pass; no one gets away with anything on that show. They’re like Don Rickles or Archie Bunker, equal opportunity jokers.

It’s just not clear how Acura’s actually selling vehicles with those ads. Extra Fine Points

The latest Acura television ad campaign, the “Driven By Reason” sales “event,” however, doesn’t get off so easy. It crosses over into major annoyance. The gist of the promotion goes like this: See these dorks that collect fountain pens, watches, and listen to tube amplifiers? Don’t be losers like them. Buy an Acura!

Granted, that guy in the commercial is kind of dorky, worshiping his ballpoint. But we get the picture: In Acura’s mind, pen collecting is an “excuse” to spend money, but buying an Acura is a “reason.” Without any extras, taxes, dealer prep or destination fees, the Acura RL clocks in at $54,250. Reason? With that kind of cake, I could roughly purchase:

Let’s say 54 large dropped in my lap. As a dad, I just couldn’t justify doing any of the above, if I were truly driven by reason. In order to sleep at night, I’d have to sock away the cash for my kids’ college fund, which I’d desperately like to do because they are four and six years old. The compounding interest on that chunk of change might even cover a semester by the time they’re ready to go.

I could do all that, or I could do what those ad men desperately wish I would: Sign for a sedan that will instantly lose about $20,000 in value once I drive it off the lot, and within a few years depreciate down to vapor. And that’s not counting the costs of maintenance, registration, and fuel.

It’s just not clear how Acura’s actually selling vehicles with those ads. If Pelikan launched an ad campaign with the “Don’t be a loser! Buy our pens!” message front and center, they’d probably not make many friends — or much revenue.

It certainly hasn’t inspired me to take a test drive. In fact, after seeing those commercials, I have decided to continue driving my used Corolla and plow more disposable income into more pens. I’ll be at the D.C. show. Who’s with me? Leave your Acuras parked at home, thanks.

cover Further Reading: Fountain Pens : Their History and Art, by Jonathan Steinberg
If fountain pens are so silly, why is so much written about them (as well as with them)? Steinberg takes you on a trip down Excitement Street, with great pix of pens and (proving that there's more to pens than just the pens) ephemera.

Don Fluckinger lives in Nashua, New Hampshire, and is the son-in-law of Richard Binder. His articles have been published in Antiques Roadshow Insider, The Boston Globe, and on the collectibles Web site. Please note: Any opinions stated in this column are Don’s alone and do not necessarily reflect those of Richard Binder or this Web site. Don Fluckinger
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