Superbowl Ad Work

February 7, 2007
Posted by Jay Livingston

TV commercials are compressed version of some aspect of our culture. After all, if you’re going to spend $2.5 million just to get your ad on the air for thirty seconds, you want to be very sure that it resonates with widely held ideas. The straight commercials embrace the dominant values and give them a big kiss — Coca Cola’s everyone-happy-together, Chevy’s America-is-best. The funny ads take a more critical view of the culture.

Several of the Superbowl ads were about work. On the straight side was the GM robot ad. A robot drops a screw, loses his job at the GM plant, and descends first to holding up signs, then working in a fast food joint, and finally committing suicide by jumping off a bridge, all while the soundtrack plays the mawkish “All By Myself.” The only spoken words in the ad come at the end: “The GM 100,000 mile warranty — it’s got everyone at GM obsessed with quality.”

A full minute showing how capitalist competition benefits consumers and makes workers virtuous. It’s one of the core ideas of conservatism. For example, here’s David Frum (he worked in the Bush White House, even wrote a book about W. called The Right Man, and writes for The National Review)
The great, overwhelming fact of a capitalist economy is risk. Everyone is at constant risk of the loss of his job, or of the destruction of his business by a competitor . . . Risk makes people circumspect. It disciplines them and teaches them self-control . . . Social security, student loans, and other government programs make it far less catastrophic than it used to be for middle-class people to dissolve their families. Without welfare and food stamps, poor people would cling harder to working-class respectability than they do now.

The Career Builder ads offered a less laudatory picture of competition in the workplace— the one about performance assessment and this one about promotion.

The most curious ad in this category was At first I thought it was going to be another spoof on the success-worshipping worker. I thought that the incredibly successful salesman— red Ferrari, boss’s invitation home for dinner, etc.— was going to be held up to ridicule as the obnoxious guy that he seems to be. But no, he’s the one we’re supposed to identify with. He’s supposed to make us want to use the same product he does.

I wonder if SalesGenie wasted several million dollars on this one.

1 comment:

Brad Wright said...

Did you read that the robot ad was found to cause stress for viewers? Oops.