Bait and Switch… and Switch… and Switch
These two commercials employ the same trick that these commercials employ. Taking a legitimate character trait – a steadfast refusal to suffer political oppression – and trivializing it. The problem isn’t that there’s anything wrong with having standards about relatively unimportant things – afterall, the purpose of creating and maintaining a free society is so that one can live and be happy, and meeting one’s standards is an integral part of achieving happiness – but there is definitely something wrong with exploiting those who only have standards about relatively unimportant things.
These commercials are expected to appeal to the American public because the American public, for the most part, allows itself to be pushed around politically (and in fact most readily contribute to the “pushing”, provided it benefits them personally). Most Americans (correctly) feel anxiety and guilt about that. They know (or at least subconsciously sense) that if the “pushing” continues, eventually it will have direct consequences. They also know – or sense – that they could do something about it (even if that means “compromising” one’s standard of living because of a steadfast refusal to be part of the problem). The result of these feelings should be pledging their “lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honors” in order to change things, but McCormick and Terminix would prefer that such emotional energy instead be directed at grilling and pest control.
McCormick and Terminix are hoping that their commercials produce the following rationalization: “I must not be part of the political problems plaguing America today, because if I were, then I wouldn’t have standards. I’m refusing to compromise here, so I must have standards about everything.” That rationalization is hoped to produce a moment’s relief from the (deserved) anxiety and guilt, and then when it comes back – which it will, since it’s a response to facts – the companies hope that the public associates the escape from it not with changing those facts, but with their products – so that in the event that the consumer happens to be in the market for them, they will think of their particular brands.
To employ this trick, ironically, is McCormick’s and Terminix’ contribution to the “pushing around” which is plaguing America, and if one day not even those tactics will work anymore (because the economy will be so bad that people won’t have any option but to compromise on grilling and pest control), they will deserve the consequences.