Commercial Analysis

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Filling the Unfillable Void?

with 4 comments

“What is the moral code of altruism? The basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to exist for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value.

“Do not confuse altruism with kindness, good will or respect for the rights of others. These are not primaries, but consequences, which, in fact, altruism makes impossible. The irreducible primary of altruism, the basic absolute, is self-sacrifice – which means; self-immolation, self-abnegation, self-denial, self-destruction – which means: the self as a standard of evil, the selfless as a standard of the good.

“Do not hide behind such superficialities as whether you should or should not give a dime to a beggar [as an act of benevolence; a kind of karmic investment]. That is not the issue. The issue is whether you do or do not have the right to exist without giving him that dime. The issue is whether you must keep buying your life, dime by dime, from any beggar who might choose to approach you. The issue is whether the need of others is the first mortgage on your life and the moral purpose of your existence. The issue is whether man is to be regarded as a sacrificial animal. Any man of self-esteem will answer: ‘No.’ Altruism says: ‘Yes.'” -Ayn Rand

Is this commercial the enshrinement of altruism? It’s not easy to say. The truly crippled man is the other men’s friend, so it’s possible that they spend time with him in this way simply because the value of his company outweighs the drawback of having to play basketball in wheelchairs instead of on foot. However it’s also possible that these men would prefer to play basketball in the traditional way, but they do this instead because they know it’s altruistic. Since this commercial is a study in “character”, and since it does nothing to suggest that the wheelchair-bound man is better than the rest of them in any significant way, it’s likely that the correct explanation is the second one (the implication being that despite – presumably – being fair-minded, self-supporting individuals, these men are not moral individuals until and unless they behave altruistically).

The related issue is what – if anything – any of this has to do with Guinness beer. It could be argued that Guinness is attempting to conflate one’s choice in beers with one’s moral choices (ie: that Guinness drinkers are moral people, while others are not), but that’s stretching it. More likely what Guinness wants to do with this ad is remind people that morality matters (since most people, being altruists, are constantly riddled with guilt about being preoccupied with pursuing their own interests), and then – incredibly – think of Guinness whenever they do. It’s basically like – and no better than – using an attractive woman in a bikini to sell beer, but instead of using that irresistible force, they use the (if you’re an altruist) unquenchable desire for moral uprightness to draw attention to theirs.


Written by commercialanalysis

October 20, 2013 at 5:52 am

Posted in Food and Drink

4 Responses

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  1. I think what they’re trying to suggest is that if you have a group of friends and you like to think that you’re all really close and you’d do anything for each other, then drinking Guinness is right for you as a social activity (once you’ve all bonded in whatever way you feel). It asks, “How close are you to your best friends? As close as these Guinness-drinking guys? If the answer is Yes then you should obviously be drinking it too…”

    Argonaut Graves

    October 20, 2013 at 10:22 am

    • That’s a pretty apt summary of the message. The problem, however, is that self-sacrifice (if that is what the commercial is really displaying as moral) is treated as the only indicator of “closeness.” “How do you know you’re close with your friends? You sacrifice your own desires for them. Oh, and you also drink Guinness.”


      October 21, 2013 at 8:31 am

  2. “The related issue is what – if anything – any of this has to do with Guinness beer.”

    The average view is not going to interpret the advert in the way you have. You seem to be too focused on individual trees that you fail to notice the forest.

    A large majority of Guinness drinkers are men who come together to drink beer in the company of friends so the advert plays on that whilst highlighting the value of good friendship. The inclination being that good friends drink beer and what kind of beer? Guinness. Why? Because (as the advert states) “the choices we make reveal the true nature of our character.”


    October 20, 2013 at 8:06 am

    • And what is the value of “good friendship”, exactly? Forgoing the opportunity to play regular basketball in favor of playing a lesser version of it? As was said in the post, that may be an acceptable trade-off – provided that the wheelchair-bound friend’s company is exceptionally worthwhile – but the ad doesn’t indicate that one way or the other. It simply asserts that doing things such as what these men are doing is good, regardless of the quality of the friend’s company.


      October 21, 2013 at 8:29 am

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