Today in Advertising…

30 Jan

This Dr Pepper commercial does several things that annoy me:

The ad doesn’t bother detailing the virtues of the product because it has none. Its second ingredient is high fructose corn syrup, which will keep you on track for diabetes and gout. It also contains phosphoric acid that will strip away the enamel from your teeth. And its primary purpose is to serve as a delivery system for a psychoactic drug.

There is enough wrong with soda that you wonder why their commercials don’t look like a pharmaceutical ad.

Maybe in 30 years or so we’ll view today’s soda ads with the same disbelief we have for cigarette ads from the 1960s.

Odd that the pharmaceutical ad is the most honest of the bunch. Like the cigarette ads of yesterday, the Dr Pepper ad pushes a lifestyle and worse endeavors to make the consumption of its product somehow admirable. It’s even generous enough to ask that you go on Twitter and use its focus-group crafted hashtag to help spread the word.

Selling consumerism as individualism is not new. Apple did it in 1984 with its famous Super Bowl ad inspired by the George Orwell novel. There’s no information about the actual product and how its superior to the competition. No, all you need to know is that the competition offers conformity and Apple offers freedom and individuality. Not too much individuality, of course, as the company wants to sell some computers but popular individuality, which is what every American teen desires.

Watching this ad again, the dystopian society depicted resembles an Apple factory in China but with breaks for organized TV viewing.

In 1987, Nike co-opted The Beatles’ “Revolution,” a song about non-violent social change, to sell high-priced sneakers — as if there is something revolutionary about spending lots of money on articles of clothing. This was basically the Reagan era telling the 1960s counter culture: “We won.” Kids bought into it, though. Some died, as a result.

The Super Bowl annually combines two of my least favorite things — professional sports and conspicuous consumerism. Three, if you count the ritual humiliation of once-great musical acts. At some point, people started paying more attention to the ads that aired during the game than the game itself. I watched these professionally for 10 years. There’s not one legitimate emotion revealed or original idea explored. It is a collection of lies and untruths with one common theme — buy.

The big ad this year is a Honda spot featuring Matthew Broderick in a parody of his role in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Yeah, Broderick’s almost 50 now but so was Alan Ruck when he played Cameron.

This has upset some people on the Internets. MaryAnn Johanson at Flick Filosopher laments that the ad is just Broderick hawking cars while the 1986 movie was “about nonconformity, breaking out, being a rebel.” I respectfully disagree. These “rebels” used their freedom to drive through posh Chicago in a sports car and dine at an exclusive restaurant the film’s antagonist Ed Rooney could never afford. Is it bold and individualistic to skip school? And to face no repercussions for your actions? Rooney doesn’t pursue Ferris for unjust reasons — it’s not like he’s a poor kid Rooney unfairly resents at the magnet school. Ferris is actually guilty.

I suppose it doesn’t matter because the presentation of the movie is designed so that you’ll ignore the actual substance. It’s a feature length commercial, which is why it’s impossible for the Honda ad to “sell out” what Ferris Bueller represents. Ferris is commercial culture. Now go buy a Dr Pepper.


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