Archive for October 2009
Why is it that the only people making positive commercials nowadays are hard liquor makers? Anyways, another celebration of the connection between a committment to excellence in the smallest of details (the product one sells) and a committment to the excellence of one’s character in general*
If a man can fight squids, pull up barrels from the depths, and surprise everyone at his own funeral, then he can certainly make a good drink.
* The fact that he thinks of his woman as “the crew” – that he holds them in the same level of esteem, even if he doesn’t kiss them like that – is a nice extra little bit of celebration for the integrated man.
This commercial is excellent. The style – especially the music – is engaging. The entire advertisement says to the viewer “Look at this, this is important.” And it is important. While the connection between such Earth-shaking events like the birth of human flight, or the Civil Rights movement and making whiskey may not be obvious, there is a connection; and this commercial demonstrates it beautifully.
Purposeful, rational action – of any sort and on any scale – as the commercial observes, requires the same state of mind and movements no matter what. In fact, it is of such small, seemingly innocuous action, such as making whiskey, that great movement, such as profound political changes, are made. The types of people who strive for excellence with the tasks immediately before them are the same types who are willing to fight for excellence in the broader, less personal aspects of human existence.
Congratulations to the Wright Brothers of the 1900’s, the New York City construction workers of the 1930’s, the civil rights marchers and the astronauts of the 1960’s, and the anti-communist Berliners of the 1980’s. They all deserve a toast. Thank goodness that the whiskey maker Johnnie Walker, in the 1840’s, took his love for great spirits and followed through with them – else that toast couldn’t be made.
Ignoring the reasons why many airlines charge for luggage (they, like banks who charge petty fees and the excessive sponsorship seen in professional sports, are so strapped for cash, so burdened by a taxation and regulatory system stacked against big businesses that they’re desperate to try anything to turn a profit), South West Airlines is doing something that, in the grand scheme of things, isn’t all that remarkable. So why are they able to promote it as if it were?
Of course, in a free market, a competitive advantage such as this one is a wonderful thing which should be openly and unapologetically promoted. However, what South West has done in this commercial – with it’s confrontational, revolutionary, and most strikingly proletarian tone – is not to promote their own airline’s value, but instead to smear their competitor’s (alleged) lack of it.
The implicit message throughout this commercial is that the only reason why a passenger would ever pay an extra fee to have his luggage transported is because of plain, naked, irrational greed on the part of the airline. South West appears to be denouncing that greed, and in doing so, it hopes to cash in on the anti-corporate, anti-profit sentiment so much of the public holds. They’re saying, in effect: “We may be a corporation too, but really – deep down in our hearts – we’re just like the rest of you. We agree that in an ideal world nothing would cost anything, and we’re trying our best to live up to that ideal.” This is amplified by the fact that they have the baggage handlers themselves, instead of management, narrarating the commerical.
Why can’t SouthWest simply explain, in a succinct and artistic way, why it’s profit margins are not so low that it has to charge for luggage? Why do they have to, instead, turn an innocuous economic detail into a pseudo-social protest in order to appeal to the public?
Yet another example of short-term thinking capitalists appealing to anti-capitalist sentiment in order to make a profit. With capitalists such as these, it shouldn’t be a mystery why America is becoming more and more socialist with each passing day.
This is an easy, but important commercial to analyze. The man at the Town Hall meeting is angry about something he shouldn’t be angry about. In fact, he should be happy. He’s getting exactly the same tasting cup of coffee in a fraction of the time. Nevertheless, he’s mad. Only people who get irrationally upset by progress have attended the recent Town Hall meetings, is the implication. Ad hominem, basically. More specifically, the message is “you must be crazy if you oppose The President’s health care reforms.” Certainly not the type of low brow humor you’re expected to expect from the sophisticated liberals who make up Starbuck’s clientele. Those who don’t pay close attention to liberals regard them as above the frey, so what gives?
Starbucks is saying that it believes Obamacare to be a good thing – progress – and that it’s so obviously progress, any complaints about it by it’s opponents has about as much credibility as someone being angry that his coffee is ready sooner than he had expected.
This is one of the last remnants of the left side of the culture’s long-dying, long-discredited claim that they share the pro-progress, pro-wealth, pro-industry American outlook, but merely differ upon how to achieve it. A planned economy versus as free economy. It’s not a coincidence that the only leftists who still try to make this claim to other leftists are the corporate leftists trying to make a buck selling coffee.
This commercial pokes fun at the pretentiousness of the fashion world. The message it communicates is that we here at Taco Bell, like yourself, are not taken in by all of their false sophistication, and see fashionistas for what they really are: very good at taking something senseless, dressing it up, and thereby giving it an appearance of intelligibility and cultural legitimacy.
Taco Bell is attempting to capitalize on the average person’s dislike of such pretentiousness by giving him an amusing outlet for the resentment he all too often feels after he is suckered into trying to live up to the fashion world’s “high” standards. Inevitably, he is forced to realize that because those standards are actually arbitrary, that they exist precisely to get him to try to live up to them, and that he will never be able able to.
There’s just one problem: Taco Bell, in selling the Black Jack Taco, is doing exactly the same thing they are criticizing! In attempting to parody those who create things for not other purpose than to be envied, so as to give themselves a niche from which they can gain social and financial success, all Taco Bell has done is to inculcate in their target demographic the very same vulnerability to pretentiousness that the fashionistas exploit.
The black shell of the new Black Jack Taco has no unique qualities other than it’s color. It tastes exactly the same as the yellow shell (or the red shell of the “Volcano Taco”, for that matter), and yet the consumer is expected to purchase it because it is unique. By purchasing one, the consumer is allowed to indulge his desire to be on the cutting edge of food consumption, current with all of the latest mainstream trends (the latest one being the trend of making fun of people concerned with trends), and thereby achieve exactly the same feeling those in the fashion world recieve when they do something new and unique – even if senseless.
The demographics might be different, the level of income and particular method may be worlds apart, but what drives a person living in Manhattan’s SoHo to attempt to pass off a black eye as fashionable is exactly the same thing that drives a highschool senior living in small town America to try out the Black Jack Taco before any of his friends have.
Instead of selling a product by emphasizing it’s quality (eg: it’s nutritional value, it’s taste, or even it’s price), what a person is really doing when he orders a Black Jack Taco is paying tribute to Taco Bell’s advertisers for giving him an opportunity, even if just for the span of a television commercial, to believe that he isn’t just as responsible for the success of the fashion world as those directly involved in it are.
Jack in the Box is running a promotion, as most fast food chains do, which involves peeling stickers off of the sides of their soft drink cups and possibly winning prizes. The incredulity expressed by “Jack” in the commercial has to do with the fact that our culture is so sexualized that his company can’t even run a contest and call it “Big Rip-Off” without people misinterpreting that to mean that one must rip off one’s clothing in order to play.
Why is the culture so sexualized? Because of advertisements like this one. It is true that popular advertising reflects what already exists in the culture, but beyond a certain point it becomes part of the culture, and the two form a symbiotic relationship. Jack in the Box can hide all it wants behind a feigned incredulousness, but that they are willing to use something they claim to despise in order to promote their promotion, and thus sell soft drinks, proves that they aren’t really as bothered by it as they say they are. This commercial is a type of gallows humor. Jack in the Box is laughing at the hypersexualized culture not because they pity it, but because, choosing to become a part of it, they see no escape from it.
This commercial is yet another instance of a company attempting to sell it’s products not based upon their value, but by trying to become friends with the customer. Trying to get the consumer to believe that the people who are selling it are just like them. To get him to think something along the lines of “these are my kind of people, so that must be my kind of restaurant. That must be the kind of food I think tastes good.” Companies have to do this because the notion that any type of productive person is your kind of person (assuming you’re one too) – even if you don’t happen to need or prefer his particular product – is not a prevalent one.
The fast food industry, in particular, seems to employ this tactic much more frequently than do other industries. Why that is is an interesting question to ponder.
Here we see the parastical nature of evil. Evil must not just appropriate the material values which it’s victims produce, but also it’s spiritual achievements as well. It does this by distorting their subject matters, perverting their meanings, and cutting off the result from the achievement’s original intent.
The dialogue in this piece is a heavily attenuated, slightly edited, poem by Walt Whitman entitled, unsurprisingly, “Pioneers! O Pioneers!” Originally published in 1865 at the height of Manifest Destiny, it was meant to inspire moral confidence in those youths of Western Culture. To spur them on, beyond the devestation and disllusionment of the Civil War, and to continue their achievement of conquering nature and building a nation.
The best that could be said of this commercial is that it is a eulogy to that long dead spirit, but because it is selling blue jeans, the only objective conclusion to be reached is that it is attempting to christen the current spirit of the youth as equally noble to it’s predessessor in order to “fit in.” Observe the senseless, purposeless, primitive actions, symbols, and facial expression of the youths in the commercial. Notice how all of the shots feature youths entering to commune with – as opposed to entering to conquer – nature. This is clearly meant to elevate a lack of achievement to equal prestige with that of actual achievement. To further inculcate the already prevalent multiculturalist notion that a primitive lifestyle is no worse than a modern one.
Levi’s, like most well-established companies, believe they cannot afford to do anything except adapt to the philosophical conventions of the time. Nevertheless, this particular compromise may be especially sad. It is likely, given that company’s unique history, that it wishes desperately to believe that the worst about the youth of today isn’t true – that they actually are the same sorts who bought their blue jeans over a century ago, in order to continue doing exactly what Mr. Whitman exhorted them to do in his poem. Perhaps Levi’s believes that by celebrating that spirit, even if in a heavily distored way, that they will reignite it. Unfortunately, ultimately, this desire, if it is there, is not enough to do so.