Archive for November 2014
The exclamation “We did nothing!”, at the end of the commercial, is obviously intended in a sarcastic way, but that’s merely a disguise. What Wendy’s is trying to do is to make it seem like they’re not actually suggesting that you should consume their sandwich for no good reason – by overtly making an over-the-top claim that you should – because they calculate that people will conclude that if that really was what they were suggesting, then they wouldn’t be so open about it. Their sinister motives are “hiding in plain sight”, so to speak.
But that only raises an obvious question: why do they think that such a tactic will work?
People know (if, by nothing else, than through “that little voice in the back of their heads”) …that something as decadent as The Bacon Portabella Melt actually is something that they should earn (ie: it should be the reward for doing something notable, not trivial). This commercial is expected to be funny – and therefore memorable – precisely because it allows people to tell themselves that even though they actually do rationalize indulging in such things in response to such (trivial) things (ie: “nothing”), at least they’re able to acknowledge it and laugh at themselves (and therefore, somehow, they’re better than the caricatures in the commercial).
What makes such a rationalization possible? Low self-esteem (and specifically, the desperate situation that people with low self-esteem find themselves in, which makes them open to virtually anything – no matter how obtuse or contrived – which will make them “esteem” themselves; even if only slightly).
What, philosophically, causes chronically low self-esteem?
Kantian philosophy. Today’s most widespread and dominant philosophy, teaches that while there might actually be an objective reality, man’s senses necessarily distort his perception of it, so for all intents and purposes there might as well not be one. The practical result of this is subjectivism and relativism in morality, politics, and aesthetics. People feel free to do anything, no matter how irrational, since the claim that it’s “wrong” only applies to the individual making the claim, not the one who’s the subject of it (even if his circumstances are identical).
Psychologically, the practical result of moral subjectivism and relativism is low self-esteem (since being merely “expressing oneself”, or being “accepted for who you are” by others – as a matter of philosophical principle, without judgment – can never replace the profound sense of self-respect which comes from actually accomplishing things and proving to oneself one’s fitness for existence).
This commercial exploits that philosophically-induced low self-esteem.
The following is simply a (virtually) verbatim copy of an analysis of an earlier commercial. It seems as though two and a half years later, the same phenomenon still rules the day, unfortunately.
While the existence of this commercial appears to be proof that the American spirit of independence and a hatred of (overbearing, unnecessary) authority is alive and well, it is actually proof of the exact opposite. Many Americans, rightfully, are unhappy with the treatment they receive from airport security, but are any of them doing anything about it? Have there been notable or widespread incidents of civil disobedience? Ballot measures? Articulate criticisms? Pressure on policy makers? (To say nothing of a demand for decisive, ruthless military action against foreign individuals and states that perpetrate violence against Americans – rendering defensive “security measures” against Americans unnecessary?) No, there haven’t been. None of these things have occured.
To date, the best protest Americans have been able to mount against being pushed around by their government and it’s otherwise-unemployable, petty tyrant lackies is to mock them on talk shows and in commercials – while the abuse of their civil liberties by these people continues. This commercial is not a celebration of the American spirit, it is a confession that the American people have lost it.
What this commercial does is appeal to American’s guilt and self-contempt for having let themselves be reduced to this. It allows them to feel, for a moment at least, that they don’t deserve it. It tells them, in effect: “No, you are not a passive, spiritually-defeated person. Even though you don’t do anything about it, and even though you have the power to, you don’t like it – and that’s enough.” The company then holds out buying their product as “doing something about it”, in the hopes of channeling (misdirecting) an appropriate desire to defend one’s freedom and dignity into a petty, trivial act of principled action (the refusal to compromise on quality [or price] in the selection of [razor blades]). It flatters the viewer, and (hopefully) endears the company to him.
It is a disgusting, pernicious way to sell something – and it stinks of desperation. If [Dollar Shave Club] really cared about the fact that every day Americans “put up with alot”, they wouldn’t be willing undermine their incentive to resist putting up with more just to make a buck.
This commercial is just another tired – if particularly poignant – example of the “get out in front of it” tactic of marketing which has been written about extensively elsewhere on this blog. It is, unfortunately, one of the most prevalent forms of advertising in today’s unpredictable, desperate macroeconomic environment.