Commercial Analysis

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Irony, Plain and Simple

with 14 comments

This commercial, amongst other things, is lampooning the stereotype of the “gold digger.” A “gold digger” is a young woman – usually blonde, usually large-breasted, and always attractive – who marries a wealthy man whom she doesn’t really love in order to benefit financially. The specific type of “gold digger” featured here is the one who marries a very old, very wealthy man who has a very good chance of dying in a short time – thus making her his financial heir.

Nothing is wrong with lampooning this social phenomenon – it is despicable behavior that deserves to be derided – but observe something interesting: the “actress” (using that word quite loosely) who plays the “gold digger” in this commercial is, by her mere participation in this commercial, communicating to everyone else that she too resents such women. Her message is that while she may, in fact, be exceptionally good looking, unlike the majority of women with her appearance, she is unwilling to use her good looks to acquire what she doesn’t deserve. She would rather work (ie: act) for a living – thus leaving her beauty as a value to be enjoyed privately (ie: not something to be made into an asset and exploited).

Is she unwilling? Contrary to the impression this particular woman wishes to give, the fact remains that she is in this commercial because she is pretty. Now, it is true that the commercial would not work if someone who was playing the part of a beautiful blonde wasn’t actually a beautiful blonde, but then the question becomes: should this commercial actually work? Should she regard this as a legitimate thing for her to help come into existence?

Consider what is being sold: satellite television. The purpose of advertising is, fundamentally, the communication of information – from producers to consumers – so that consumer’s rational needs and wants may be more efficiently satisfied (or discovered, and then satisfied). Specifically, the purpose of satellite television – the purpose of any type of television – is to inform and entertain. In short: to enrich the lives of those to who consume it. Is this commercial respectful of that fact? No, instead what it is doing is exploiting the fact that there are, in fact, a huge number of people who value television completely out of proportion to the value it provides them (ie: it is, for them, an irrational desire). What this commercial is essentially doing is telling those people that it is okay that they hold this irrational value (usually in the form of a subconscious habit, but that is irrelevant). The advertisment’s overarching message is “you don’t have a TV problem. If you had a TV problem, you would be doing clearly insane things like celebrating at the reading of the will of a loved one, or feeling happy about being bequeathed something of little value while you were ignored in regards to the high-value things. You’re not doing that, thus, you don’t have a TV problem.”

To put it another way, DirecTV, with this ad, is attempting to use the exact same sort of psychological manipulation that a “gold digger” type woman uses to get something she doesn’t deserve from her rich, elderly husband. What this company is doing, instead of selling products that are rationally needed or desired – and only products that are rationally needed or desired – is “marrying” (ie: entertaining) it’s own “old man” (ie: it’s irrational customers) in hopes that those customers will “bequeath to them” (ie: become contractually obligated to pay) more money than what they’re giving up is actually worth.

The blond “actress'” participation in this commercial is, ironically, exactly the same sort of behavior she is implying that she despises. The only difference in her case being that instead of the “sugar” coming from “daddy”, it’s coming from a large corporation (and ultimately it’s psychologically-ill clientele). If she really believed what she obviously wants to believe she believes, she would have never participated in such a commercial – no matter how much she might suffer (financially) as a result of the fact that there are not very many places where their looks will be irrelevant and beautiful woman will ever be treated with the equanimity that they deserve. There may not be many, but there are some – and that is where a woman who was truly what this woman fancies herself to be would actually be.


Written by commercialanalysis

February 20, 2011 at 10:29 pm

14 Responses

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  1. You are over analyzing these commercials. Way, way over analyzing them.

    This ad for Direct TV is similar to the classic VW Funeral ad. (Look it up on YouTube). All they’re saying is that Direct TV service is so valuable, this guy would rather have it instead of fantastic wealth. That the “bimbo” got the stuff instead of the old lady has no philosophical importance. It shows that the deceased was wealthy. If someone wasn’t unhappy during the fictional reading of a will, it wouldn’t be funny, now would it?

    This is not meant to be taken seriously. It’s a joke. They’re selling a TV service and are telling you about it by making a humorous commercial. It’s that simple.

    I, by the way, don’t watch TV and don’t even own a TV. So I tend to view almost anyone in this society as having a “TV problem” as you describe above. But this ad isn’t telling people that it’s okay to be addicted to TV. Believe me, people don’t need any help in that area.

    It’s just an ad. Relax.


    June 10, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    • Well, since you did nothing but lay out a litany of baseless assertions, I don’t know what to say. Youre right. Its obvious. No need to explain why.

      Oh, and thanks for teaching me that some things are beyond the scope of philosophy – even though philosophy is the science of everything. Very helpful.

      Next time, either make an argument or keep your ramblings to yourself. If you do not, your comments will not be approved.


      June 10, 2012 at 6:24 pm

      • Some things are beyond the scope of philosophy. Like whether to wear a white shirt or a blue shirt, or have chicken or pasta for dinner.

        I’ve enjoyed your site immensely. I’m sorry if you think I’m an antagonist.

        I hope we can meet in person some day. Do you go to OCON?


        June 10, 2012 at 6:34 pm

      • Some things can be beyond the scope of philosophy, but not necessarily. It depends on the context. You really think that, all other things being equal, receiving a DVD collection instead of a billion dollars, a private jet, etc is just as trivial as the difference between chicken and pasta? That one’s reaction to that says nothing about him? That being okay with the fact that some gold digger bimbo manipulated an old man and screwed over a deserving relative – just so long as you get some movies – says nothing about a person?


        June 10, 2012 at 6:49 pm

      • A man who prefers to inherit DirecTV’s vast collection of movies instead 1 billion dollars is indeed absurd. That’s why it’s funny. We laugh at things that don’t make sense. The power to laugh is the power to destroy, right? When you laugh at this commercial, you’re not laughing at or destroying good, positive things. You’re laughing at something that is over the top and ridiculous. The ad is funny because nobody in his right mind would act that way.

        If the man in the ad was a real person, his choice would say a lot about him. But he isn’t real. He’s a character in a TV commercial. The purpose of it is very simple: to remind the viewer that DirecTV offers a lot of channels at a reasonable price. You can do that by plainly stating the facts, which might sound like reading stereo instructions, or you can do something creative with it.

        Even though I don’t watch TV, I’m glad ad agencies make ads like this. Companies have to market their products. Ad agencies have to come up with lots of creative ideas all the time, many of which never make the cut. I bet they had a lot of fun creating these ads, and they earned an honest living doing it. And DirecTV obviously got something they wanted. And the viewer gets free or reduced cost programming. 99% will completely ignore the message about DirecTV. Less than 1% may rationally consider the benefits of service. No philosophical principles have been harmed.


        June 10, 2012 at 7:08 pm

      • Nobody in his right mind would act that way? People give up or forego greater values for the sake of the lesser values and disvalues on TV all the time. Is that funny? Because that is what DirecTv is asking you to laugh at.


        June 10, 2012 at 7:22 pm

      • Let me take a different approach. What do you think we should be laughing at? What do you personally find funny? What jokes, movies, TV shows, comedians, comic strips, etc. make you laugh? Maybe that will help me understand your perspective better.

        I think Seinfeld is hilarious. Now, I have a real life and I watch far, far less of anything that the average person — but really good comedy is a treat. There is an art to it. It’s really something to behold, when it’s very good. Seinfeld is also tightly and interestingly plotted, had a cast with great chemistry, and lots of creativity in the writing.

        If I analyzed Seinfeld in the same way as this commercial, I couldn’t make it through a 22 minute episode. All of the characters have major personality flaws, make horrible decisions, obsess over tiny things that don’t matter, you name it. That’s why it’s funny! In real life, such highly neurotic people would be a wreck and I wouldn’t go near them. But when it’s entertainment, I can see and observe their inane behavior and laugh at the situations they get themselves into.

        So… we already know what you DON’T find funny. What DO you find funny?


        June 10, 2012 at 7:43 pm

      • Seinfeld is entertainment. Its purpose is to entertain. This is a commercial. Its purpose is to get you to buy something. Seinfeld, when it makes fun of neurotic tendencies, is operating on the implicit assumptions that a) they are non-essential within most people, and b) that those people for whom they are essential are non-essential within a culture. That is perfectly fine.

        This commercial, on the other hand, is trying to get people to treat a neurotic tendency (TV addiction) which is essential (ie: significantly disruptive within a persons life and widepreadwithin the culture) as if it isn’t disruptive nor widespread. Its attempting to hide behind the pretense that its just an example of your take on comedy when what it really is is an attempt to tell people that their neurotic tendency is okay, endear DirecTV to them, and thereby make sales.

        Unlike Seinfeld, they aren’t saying that even though you have quirks – which you should correct – on the whole youre a good person. Instead, what theyre saying is that you quirks are good, and that you should indulge them even more – via DirecTV.


        June 10, 2012 at 8:00 pm

      • Can a commercial not entertain AND inform?

        The only message I got is that DirecTV has 6000 shows and starts at $29.99 per month. Because I didn’t view it with the assumption that it’s trying to teach me about life or tell me how to live. And I really, really doubt that DirecTV has such evil intent. They just want you to buy their product. They are not interested in philosophy. Most of their customers just want cheap TV service. Nobody will see this commercial and think “Oh, DirecTV is better than 1 billion dollars.” It’s hyperbole. The average American, believe it or not, is savvy enough to tell.

        So what forms of humor do you enjoy?


        June 10, 2012 at 8:12 pm

      • Of course a commercial can entertain and inform – provided that the entertainment being provided is a valuable supplement to the informational value being provided. If, however, what is entertaining about it is something which is objectively bad for the consumer – to the point where the value added from the product is outweighed by the damage done by the entertainment – it is immoral. I agree that no one will see this commercial and think “DirecTV is better than 1 billion dollars.” They will, however, see it and think – or at lest feel – something like “DirecTV is better than exercising, or playing with my children, or studying for my exams, or doing the dishes”; and they will feel this way precisely because DirecTV is telling them that so long as they don’t value TV more than 1 billion dollars, it’s okay to value it more than those things. To know all this, and to still maintain that it’s good simply because it causes trade to occur, is to advocate capitalism rationalisticly.


        June 19, 2012 at 8:01 am

  2. if you guys only knew how fixated he is on beautiful blonds! he cant help being fixated on the blond any more then the rest of us can help but find this commercial funny…
    he means well, but he is over critical about the wrong things..
    I say let the commercial be funny! or i have an idea.. how about the author coming up with a commercial idea that you an I will find interesting enough to actual purchase the product.. but do not do any of the things you criticize other people for..
    the commercial would be something like…. “buy Oreos because they are politically correct.. they are both black and white”…lol

    Beautiful Blond

    February 21, 2011 at 12:40 am

    • “how about the author coming up with a commercial idea that you an I will find interesting enough to actual purchase the product.

      How about DirecTV coming up with a product that you and I will find interesting enough to actually purchase (ie: prefer, because of quality, over the competition)? Such a statement can only come from a typical mercantilist mentality.


      February 21, 2011 at 12:45 am

  3. I think you are over-rationalizing here. The load of loot is left to his “beloved”…(we see the wife’s face as we hear the name, and the crest-fallen expression tells us it is not her) bimbo. The bimbo is congratulated and fawned over. She seems to have won the day. But wait.
    Then the last bequest is read, and it is the TV contract, and the man who gets it is even happier than the bimbo was with her luxurious spoils.
    The TV contract, this says, is TRUE luxury.

    The bimbo is a minor factor, and only sets the stage. We expect the wife to get the goods, but the bimbo does. Then, we expect the bimbo has gotten the best, but no, the TV contract is even better.

    Your moral about selling ONLY products that are rationally good and needed is humbug. Who says what someone else wants to spend their money on isn’t rationally good?

    I think you’re fixated on the bimbo, though.

    Mindy Newton

    February 20, 2011 at 11:34 pm

    • It doesn’t say that the TV contract is “true luxury.” It says that the guy who got it is less rational than the “bimbo” (but that’s okay so long you – being essentially him – can have a sense of humor about your TV addiction).

      Also, who am I to say that being that excited about the “luxury” of a TV contract is irrational? That question is like you asking DirecTV who are they to be saying to an old man that it’s irrational to be bequeathing his wealth to a bimbo, and not his long-time wife. You can’t defend them and attack me at the same time.

      Thanks for the personal insult, though.


      February 20, 2011 at 11:43 pm

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