Commercial Analysis

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“Pfft, What?”

with 8 comments

Now, the first thing that should be pointed out is the man-hate (the idea that men are perpetual children) of this commercial, but because that’s become such a common theme in advertising in recent years, pointing it out should suffice. It could be analyzed all by itself, but something else – something more broad – is worth noting here.

Man or not, the customer in this commercial is portrayed as taken in by something which has nothing directly to do with the product (the break dancers). Sears manipulates the customer by putting him or her into a good mood with something non-essential and, once that’s been achieved, Sears’ item looks better and the sale is more likely to happen. That’s the theory, anyways.

It’s an insidious tactic – one which, if the consumer finds out about it, makes him or her dislike the company for using it. So what is Sears’ solution? To employ it, but employ it indirectly. The man and the woman in this commercial serve as foils, meant to distract the viewer’s attention just enough from the fact that Sears is using dancers to sell a washing machine (a complete non sequitor), but not quite enough that once they realize later on that they’ve fallen for it, they’ll be angry with Sears. The consumer is able to recall the dialog between the customers and the sales person and think “no, I’m just imagining things. Sears wouldn’t ever exploit my silly weaknesses. They’re on the same page as I am when it comes to profane sales gimmicks. They’re a good company populated by down to earth people.”

In other words, Sears gets to have it both ways.

Why increasing numbers of advertisers, including such storied and mainstream companies such as Sears, have had to resort to this kind crude psychological manipulation is a complex subject. It has much to do with the irrational and precarious structure of America’s financial situation – where tomorrow’s sale dwarfs the importance of next year’s – but it also has a cultural component. As has been noted on this blog before – particularly in regards to beer commercials, but also with others – American culture has grown increasingly irrational, superficial, and impressionable in recent generations. This tactic of “pointing it out before it’s unable to be ignored” is seen by many as a way of staving off the fact that it’s true for as long as that excuse will suffice. If a man’s self-control is lacking, at least being aware of it, some how makes for it. It’s passed off as progress – as men being increasingly aware of their emotions – but what it really is is something much worse.

What? From the arch-villian Ellsworth Toohey in Ayn Rand’s “The Fountainhead”:

Then there’s another way [to kill man’s soul]. Kill by laughter. Laughter is an instrument of human joy. Learn to use it as a weapon of destruction. Turn it into a sneer. It’s simple. Tell them to laugh at everything. Tell them that a sense of humour is an unlimited virtue. Don’t let anything remain sacred in a man’s soul – and his soul won’t be sacred to him. Kill reverence and you’ve killed the hero in man. One doesn’t reverence with a giggle. He’ll obey and he’ll set no limits to obedience – anything goes – nothing is too serious.

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Written by commercialanalysis

February 5, 2010 at 10:27 pm

Posted in Durable Goods

8 Responses

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  1. The commercial is quite entertaining. Marketing is a very powerful tool. I doubt many people would actually watch a commercial that explained how a washing machine is better than another. There would also be a backlash of Big Bad Sears picking on a company that doesn’t do business with them…. kind of a lose / lose for Sears. There is an old latin term “caveat emptor”, Sears just needs you to gain an interest in their product. It is up to each consumer to do their due diligence through research. It falls under the umbrella of personal accountability Then there is the idea of getting out of the chair and away from the t.v. and computer. There’s bigger issues by far, earthquakes, methane gas releases in the Artic Ocean…. this is trivial.

    azuma

    March 9, 2010 at 10:24 am

    • Yes, there probably would be a backlash against Sears if it did such a thing, but the state of today’s culture doesn’t change the objective nature of advertising. It has a logical role to fill, and psychological manipulation is not it. Being entertaining and being informative (advertising’s primary purpose) are not mutually exclusive. Also, I am aware of the existence of “caveat emptor.” Nowhere in my post was it ever even hinted at that I thought Sears should be prohibited from airing such commercials, or that a consumer who is taken in by them isn’t responsible.

      commercialanalysis

      March 10, 2010 at 12:32 pm

      • Hi.
        I’d like to make clear, that my statement is more toward the general feel of this thread, not one person’s views. I am not a fan of corporate America in general.
        There are few bits of marketing I find outstanding. Each stands on its own. Hardee’s milkshake; New York Life with the domino effect; Dupont’s Stainmaster carpets with the housepets; and Supermodel heroine addict from the Ad Council. Some of these are over a decade old, and made quite an impact. This one, while somewhat entertaing will probably not stand the test of time.
        While our government has to keep beating us in the head with “transparency”, I feel holding Madison Ave to that level is expecting a bit too much.
        I feel a greater good can be served by going old school, as a nation. Boycott…. my folks and many people did it in the 70’s: coffee and sugar come to mind, when those industries decided more money was their agenda.
        Railing against the machine has proven itself to be a waste of energy. The overall outcome is usually a weak attempt at placating people.
        Whirlpool’s Calypos washer was brought in with ethereal CGI commercials, kind of the same thing as this one.
        I am not posting this as an attack on anyone. I just like to see people empower themselves.

        Have a great day.
        Dave

        azuma

        March 10, 2010 at 1:22 pm

  2. i really like this commercial and i dont care what you say about it!! pfff what!!!! why do you care what they are trying to do, i think its hilarious!!!!

    Mindy Hayes

    March 3, 2010 at 2:38 pm

  3. That seems to sum it up pretty well. The first time I saw this commercial all I could think was, “okay, but you didn’t explain how its motions improve clothes washing”. Ads that offer you up actual information about a product to consider are so rare. I’m left with the impression a motion washer could just be a gimmick.

    The humble apology of the man is also an obnoxious trend in comedy right now, of which Jon Stewart is the current reigning king.

    Richard

    February 8, 2010 at 11:45 am

  4. Excellent analysis. I’m really enjoying your blog. The man-hate you mentioned was not the main problem with this commercial but it is a phenomenon that is literally everywhere in the popular culture. This is the consequence of feminism’s war against masculinity which is itself the consequence of the egalitarianism which is killing our culture which is itself the consequence of the epistemological subjectivism unleashed by Kant. Its amazing how all this is playing out right before our eyes.Our commercials reveal our philosophic souls.

    madmax

    February 6, 2010 at 2:11 am

    • Thanks so much for your comment. I appreciate and agree with it. I have a long list of commercials to analyze, so it’s nice to know that this blog is beginning to catch a bit of a spark.

      commercialanalysis

      February 6, 2010 at 2:31 am


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