[Opinion] - Capitalism Slugfest


As I'm sitting down the other night to watch Agents of SHIELD, the above commercial came on. Like any sensibly human being, I ignore commercials, as they are little more than institutionalised pee breaks. I heard the Siri voice, and assumed that it was another one of Apple's dynamic advertising campaigns (read: hipsterish and annoying). It wasn't until later in the evening that I paid attention, and realised it was an ad for the Microsoft Surface, a decidedly not Apple product. The ad not only utilises the artificial human voice, but features the iPad prominently, and straight up price checks the difference between the two, all the while Siri laments her life choices.

I'm a big fan of this sort of aggressive advertising. Gone are the days of friendly competition, now we live in the cut throat era, one FCC deregulation away from company mascots beating on each other, Thunderdome style. Two products enter, one product leaves.

Hit the jump for more musings on the degraded levels of decency in corporate advertising. Brought to you by Quiznos: because Subway tastes like shit.

Remember the days when an ad campaign might harmlessly reference "the other guys." The litigation proof phrase that allowed everyone to know exactly who they were talking about, without ever actually saying it? Yeah, those days are gone. Long gone. Now we live in an age where, to sway the potential consumers to your side, you need to run smear ads against your competitor with such veracity, you'd think the products were running a primary campaign in a southern state.

The venue where the gloves have come completely off is with the cell phone companies. Time was, the ad would claim "best coverage" or "less dropped calls," and cover themselves with empty stock phrases like "nation wide," or "in the industry." In the last three years though, AT&T and Verizon have taken to calling each other out with the sort of hyperbole you'd expect from a  mid-eighties WWF wrestler. What began as compare and contrast advertising (often with the same statistics, with the figures reversed) has begun to approach the childish name calling phase. I'm sure if they were allowed, the two companies would devour each other with ads proclaiming "Verizon hit a dog and kept driving," "AT&T sold poison milk to school children," or "T-Mobile f$#%ed your mom." I honestly believe the only thing preventing them from adopting a complete Highlander attitude to the marketplace is a last lingering shred of decency (and not wanting to face any fines from the increasingly empty shirted FCC).

My personal favourite is a long running campaign by Pepsi, where a Coke delivery guy drinks from the blue can, and prefers it. Despite being ballsy as hell in prominently featuring your competitor's product in your own commercial (clearly, there is a legal loophole that allows that to happen), the absurdity and meanspiritedness of these commercials never fails to make me giggle. It's not enough to say your product is good, but the other guys must be actively frightened of the potential ramifications of the public finding out about that. Which is the backbone of the current Microsoft campaign. Siri might not be able to discern thick accents, but her programmers apparently designed her to feel fear, as she looks upon the competition with despair.

I'm exactly the opposite of the sort of person commercials are designed for. I'm not swayed by jingles, or psychological ploys to appeal to a sense of humanity. An ad campaign will either annoy me, or cause extreme indifference. But all of that would change if they took this aggressive tone to it's logical extreme. I want companies to fight for my potential patronage. And I mean fight. Have the Wendy's girl compare the Burger King King to Hitler. Ana Gasteyer should pummel Valerie Bertinelli with a sack of Weight Watchers Approved foods. Get John Hodgeman to lay a vicious cane beating onto Justin Long (this should just happen anyway). If they want my money, I want to see blood. I still wouldn't buy what they are hocking, but at least it'd be entertaining to watch. If they are going to be competitive, make it an ultimate competition. Partner with NBC, and broadcast corporate beat downs live on TV (it's NBC, they could use more shit programming). Then watch as a peacock pecks out a single massive eye.

This is the problem with having an advertising based industry in the middle of a recession: people get desperate. And while ad campaigns are only barely above prostitution at the best of times, they've skipped the whole crack-whore phase of their evolution, and went straight to bum fighting. So I say embrace it. Give us something worth not skipping over on our DVRs. Make those 30 second, repeated ad nauseam until we just want to stab out our ear drums promotions as desensitised and pointless as the rest of broadcast network television.

And that doesn't even touch on the current Cheerios campaign, which seems to be attempting to cultivate a Pavlovian connection between the overwhelming sense of grief and sorrow from the loss of a loved one, to breakfast cereal. I don't know which advertising company came up with that idea, but I'm muchly interested to see how it pays off for General Mills, and their new product, Death Flakes (you'll mourn over the end of every meal!)
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About MR. Clark

Adopting the descriptor of "successfully unpublished author", MR. Clark began writing things on the internet in 2012, which he believed to be an entirely reputable and civilized place to find and deliver information. He regrets much.

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