Truth Without Consequences
The difference between being a naughty or a nice person is much greater than the difference between being a red or a white automobile. Why would someone who’s naughty deserve a gift that is virtually identical to the gift that a nice person deserves? Because of how our economy is structured, the issue of “deserving or not” is no longer relevant in the economy. It’s possible to get paid by being either naughty or nice. That is what this commercial “addresses.”
In a laizzes-faire capitalist economy, because of the wisdom of crowds, the long-term trend is that objectively good (read: truly productive and mutually-rewarding) behavior succeeds, while objectively bad behavior fails. However, in today’s mixed economy (a mixture of freedom and controls), bad behavior is often just as personally profitable as good behavior. It’s perfectly possible to build a business plan on (or at least crucially supplement a business plan with) some bad idea held by a relatively small number of “members” of “the crowd” (ie: politicians or bureaucrats). Instead of spending time figuring out what is a customer’s objective best-interest, and figuring out how to make him see that your product or service serves it, a business can spend it’s resources trying to guess what a politician or bureaucrat thinks is the customer’s best interest, and pander to that without any consequences (because the consumer legally must follow those conclusions anyway). Or, a business can make a sincere effort to create an objectively valuable product, but simply fail – and avoid the consequences by instead, after the fact, convincing the politically powerful that “the crowd” was wrong and that it’s product should be the one (forcibly) “chosen.” The variations are endless.
This commercial appeals to the (often subconscious, unadmitted) awareness of this phenomenon that most people have. It was written about elsewhere on this blog regarding another commercial which appeals to it, but unlike that one – which uses evasion through hyperbole – this commercial uses the trick of “acknowledgment.”
In identifying a portion of it’s potential customers as “naughty”, Mercedes Benz is, in effect, saying to them “we know what you are but it’s okay. Others can see that in truth you are (in whole or in part) an economic parasite (despite your posturing as strictly an independently existing producer), so just admit it.” This message causes the viewer it speaks to to do just that: admit it. But then it tells him that he still deserves a Mercedes for Christmas. Somehow.
In other words: it tells him that so long as he acknowledges his flaw, that that somehow constitutes having fixed it, and therefore it’s okay go on living as if he were truly only a producer and not at all a parasite. This is nonsense, of course (acknowledging a problem is a necessary condition for correcting it but it isn’t a sufficient one), but Mercedes Benz knows that the desire to escape the guilt a parasite feels is so strong that he is susceptible to any rationalization offered to him. The company also knows that that rationalization will fade, that the truth will make it’s presence known again, and that the desire to rationalize yet again will return. They hope that when that happens, the viewer will think of the rationalization which Mercedes Benz gave to him, remember that it was Mercedes Benz that gave it to him, remember that he needs/wants a car, and conclude that he should buy one of their cars.